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How Nonprofits Can Leverage Local SEO to Gain Visibility Featured

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Local SEO to Gain Visibility timJ

2020 put the spotlight on your digital presence unlike anything we’ve seen before. With limits on physical gatherings, all organizations were left with was their digital presence. For many, this led to a renewed focus on digital marketing such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is a term you might have already been familiar with, if not, now is a great time to learn. If you are trying to market a non-profit, SEO should be a major component. Local SEO tactics are a great way to start reaching audiences at a local-level.

The purpose of SEO is to deliver helpful content to people actively searching for it. SEO can and should be used to reach your target audience locally and nationally. Local SEO, then, is about increasing the search visibility for businesses serving local communities. For a non-profit, local SEO can be leveraged to engage supporters, drive donations and most importantly, share your mission with the world.

So how does SEO work? To start, you need to understand the four key factors impacting your local search engine rankings. The first is how relevant your site is to the search terms people are searching for. If search engines like Google think you are a healthcare related nonprofit, you are more likely to rank for “healthcare nonprofit” than other nonprofits. The second factor to know is distance. How close are you to the searcher? Search results will look different for people based on where they live. Next, you have to be trustworthy. Google uses factors such as the quantity and quality of reviews, how old your website is, what other websites have linked to yours and the quality of the content on your website to determine trustworthiness. Finally, the prominence of your nonprofit across the web will impact your ranking.

With these factors in mind, let’s talk about some actual steps you can take to improve your local SEO.

1 Leverage Google My Business

Google owns 87% of the search engine market. Therefore, you should prioritize your presence on Google. The best way to do this is by creating or claiming a Google My Business (GMB) page, which is free to do. A GMB page can help your non-profit in Google maps and search. To set it up you need to pull together the name, address and phone number (NAP) for any locations you have. Be sure you use your real business name—the same that can be found on your building and marketing collateral. It’s best to use your local phone number rather than a call center helpline. 

2 Use local business listings

Once you take care of your GMB listing, you can turn to other online listing options. There are plenty of places to get your nonprofit in front of people such as social media sites or business directories. Online business listings such as Facebook, Yellow Pages or an NGO directory are a way to help you reach more customers and ultimately help more people discover you online.

3 Gather reviews

One of the key components of a brand’s reputation is their online reviews. Reputation is extremely important for any organization, but especially for a nonprofit. People want to give donations to an organization with a good reputation. More and more people are turning to the internet to find nonprofits and evaluate their reputation. In light of all this, you should put a review strategy in place. Not only do reviews help build your brand reputation, they will increase your online visibility. As I mentioned before, the quantity and quality of reviews is a factor Google looks to when determining the trustworthiness of your site. When seeking reviews remember to make it easy for people to do. Sometimes all you have to do is ask for one. Don’t ask for reviews in bulk or pay for any - these both go against Google’s policies. Finally, be sure you respond to all your reviews, even negative ones.

4 Develop target keywords and start optimizing

A foundational aspect of SEO is keyword research. Determining what keywords you want to target to rank lays the foundation for knowing how to optimize your website. This requires knowing your target audience - what are they searching and what are they expecting to find. Focus on the keywords that have a high search volume and high intent, in other words, make sure you are trying to rank for words people are searching for often and keywords people are searching to act on. The terms should be ones describing your nonprofit.

Be sure to include these in any business listings like the Google My Business page. With your target keywords in mind, you can begin optimizing specific pages on your website for the keywords. You want to develop content showing expertise, authority and trustworthiness. This is the framework Google uses to determine the quality of content, which influences search engine rankings. Include your keyword in the title of a webpage, description, headers and throughout the page’s content.

There are numerous tactics to leverage SEO, but these are a few of the best, most cost-effective ways to get started. As we begin a new year, consider investing in digital marketing efforts to ensure you get in front of the people who need your services most and the people who can best support your mission.


Kelly Cooper is the Director, Growth Marketing at Moz. She uses data based decision making to develop sound strategy, online marketing channels to promote brand enhancement & engage target markets, and analysis of website visitor behavior to optimize for conversions and usability. Teamwork, coffee and headphones are integral parts of the process.

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