Illustration of writing an article on a laptop

ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Is SEO a Viable Nonprofit Marketing Strategy?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of gaining visibility on search engines, like Google.  As Google now controls the majority of internet traffic, SEO has become a booming business, driving customers and brand visibility to virtually every sector of commerce.

However, at its essence SEO is about profit motive.  No surprise there, as SEO is slated to become a 80 Billion dollar industry by 2020.  Therefore, the question is whether it can be a viable strategy for nonprofits.  Can SEO be a worthwhile investment for charities and other nonprofit organizations? 

The Short Answer – Yes!

Yes, SEO is certainly a viable strategy for nonprofits.  Two general strategies would be most effective for leveraging SEO:

  • “Money” keywords + online donations
  • Content strategy + retargeting/social media nurturing

Let us dive into the specifics below.

“Money” Keywords and Online Donations

This section will bear the most resemblance to standard (profit-based) SEO. Finding popular search keywords that have a clear buyer (or in this case, donor) intent, and optimizing for those keywords.  Just a quick bit of keyword research shows that there are many keywords worth targeting:

  • donate car to charity – 2,400 Searches per month - $33 per click
  • donate money to charity – 260 Search per month - $11 per click
  • pet charity – 390 searches per month - $2 per click
  • cancer donations – 880 search per month - $17 per click

These types of keywords show a pretty clear intent by the user for an almost immediate donation to a non-profit. The cost-per-click (CPC) also shows that there is commercial value in these keywords (i.e. organizations are willing to pay up to $33 for a single click of “donate car to charity”).

For this type of SEO to be effective, organizations must research exactly what keywords are most relevant and popular in order to develop highly SEO optimized landing pages to target those keywords. An SEO agency is generally best equipped to perform these tasks.

Content Strategy + Retargeting/Social Media Nurturing

The next type of strategy is still related to performing keyword research and publishing relevant content, but the keywords are not as directly related to donations (but still relevant to the nonprofit niche or sector).

The goals and tactics around this type of content strategy will be different, but still very effective. Depending on the niche, this could arguably be the most effective way to increase brand awareness and the reach of your organization.

What do we mean by relevant keywords? Performing a quick bit of keyword research we’ve found these general questions:

  • Why do you give to charity?
  • Are charitable contributions tax deductible?
  • How much money do you have to donate to get a tax deduction?
  • What do charities need most?
  • How much money has been donated to cancer research?
  • What has cancer research achieved

These are informational queries (while the previous section might be considered “transactional” or “commercial” queries). This means that a user won’t be ready to pull out their credit card and donate right away, but that is OK. Why? Because it provides tons of other opportunities, including:

  • Social media/newsletter signups – getting your brand/content in front of an audience allows you to capture their email or social media profiles. This is perfect for growing your brand and allows you to nurture them for potential future donations.
  • Retargeting ad programs – “re-targeting ads” means showing advertisements to people that have already visited your site. Not only are these types of ads generally less expensive (because the impressions are fewer than general ad campaigns), but they are hyper-targeted and proven to be effective. They can be leveraged to increase social media or email campaigns, or for donations.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, online publishing allows organizations to reach an audience. Virtually every niche or sector has a target audience that performs some types of online searches. Publishing online, with proper SEO tactics in place, provides opportunity to expand organization reach and influence.

Aligning that reach with the proper conversion actions and effective audience nurturing provides fertile ground for organizational growth, both in the for-profit and nonprofit industries.

Since 2008 Michael has been helping both the largest websites in the world and small local business achieve their goals and grow their business through aggressive digital marketing. Michael founded Darby Hayes Consulting in order to specifically focus on helping established local businesses acquire more customers, grow their business and maintain a healthy ROI (return-on-investment) on all marketing investments..


ASU Lodestar Center Blog