08NTC: Day 3, Search Engine Optimization

Kevin Lee, Didit

Are you Geeky? SEO isn’t really very geeky, but a bit of understanding of HTML is helpful.

Who is your target audience?
Your target audience for your site and your SEM efforts may extend beyond the obvious:

  • donors
  • volunteers
  • the press and analysts
  • foundations
  • government orgs
  • non-profit rating orgs
  • employees
  • potential employees

*Consider the needs and behaviors of all important constituents.

Search, a psychic mailman: search engine marketing is like direct marketing with a psychic mailman

  • keywords are like mailing lists - scarce, valuable
  • search listings or ads are like the envelope
  • your web site and the material are inside the envelope
  • messages hit the searcher at the perfect time
  • the searcher is thirsty for info, leaning forward and open to information
  • search fulfills needs of the searcher

Top organic position is the goal. Being at the top drives more magnitude.

The search engines number one priority is relevance, part Google.

Keep your hand up if you truly believe that you are the most relevant of all possible results for your boss’s keywords?

There lies the SEO quandary. The search engines have a direct interest in making sure you are NOT at the top unless you belong there. Trick is to find where you truly ARE the most relevant, what you’re an authority in. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t expect to be in the top position if you don’t belong there. Too much brainpower deployed against you being there.

Can you give yourself a little edge when your competition does an inferior job at SEO, yes….

SEO is not a game

Content is key. Organic search results appear based on a search engine visiting your site. Alternatively your site may be included in the results partially…

Defining success in organic SEO

Don’t go crazy trying to track and manage organic search position across specific keywords. Instead, get your great content as search engine friendly as possible. you’ll get more traffic and if your content is targeted so-too will be your traffic. High quality traffic drives:

  • donations
  • Registrations and Volunteerism
  • Large number of page views (sticky visitors)
  • Longer time on site (minutes spent interacting and reading
  • Interaction with the site (commenting, blogging)

Success depends on:

  1. how many other sites are seeking to get organic or paid traffic on a similar keyword set and content
  2. how many sites have similar or identical content with better “reputations”
  3. magnitude of resources (human capital, PR and other capital) which those sites are putting into organic SEO
  4. your level of SEO investment and execution
  5. Changes in the algorithms
  6. Whether your supporter assets can be fully leveraged.

How hard should you fight? Ironically for organic SEO, the worse your site is now, the higher ROI you’ll get on SEO investments

Sites with poor SEO normally have some easy fixes:

  • Larger sites have an advantage due to more content
  • Older orgs that are well known have a natural advantage
  • Value of a visitor will impact ROI of SEO
  • Competitiveness of sector will impact ROI. If you are only fighting three other orgs for high position on key industry terms or product terms, your job is easier
  • Do your constituency use search heavily when researching issues?
  • If you are the most relevant and not there: fix what’s wrong. Search engine spiders:

    1. Find good content
    2. Identify that content and separate it from extraneous information
    3. Grade the content for clarity
    4. Extract the essence of the content
    5. Assign the content a source reputation score

    Google webmaster central is a great resource: www.google.com/technology

    The google toolbar for SEO: toolbar shows PageRank plus more useful SEO info. Sites’ back-links, cache, etc.

    Make sure all content is readable by search engines. Text must be in spider-friendly readable formats:

    1. HTML
    2. PDFS (properly formatted)
    3. Word documents
    4. PPT files
    5. Text files/RTF
    6. A few other selected file styles

    If content is embedded in an image, it can’t be seen by the search engine. Any kind of animated graphics. Comments are generally downplayed or ignored. Alt tags are recommended. But limits to what you can put in an alt tag.

    Content search engines can’t read:

    1. Images (only knows name and alt tag)
    2. graphics
    3. animations
    4. fancy flash movies
    5. javascript DHTML content
    6. dynamic content and media (AJAX, iFrames)

    The search engine can’t even tell when you have navigational element that is an image what that image actually looks like to the surfer.

    If you’re trying to rank well for what you’re good at, you shouldn’t need tricks. Tricks usually come back to bite you in the bud.

    Back to basics for optimal site-side SEO: SEO is about going back to basics for textual content so that the engines get what they need.

    • simple
    • compelling
    • descriptive
    • clear
    • complete

    Many old websites do particularly well for SEO because the developers had to rely on text and copy.

    Inverted pyramid style for copy

    Writing for publication in newspapers or magazines or for press releases uses a a concept called the inverted pyramid style. Start with the meatiest part of the story, even the story’s conclusion, and then support that conclusion or the essence of the story with more facts or emotional copy.

    Each page of your site has a concept that describes that page, as well as how that page fits into your site. Keep that core concept in mind when writing the copy for the page.

    The CMS: many of you don’t have control over your CMS. You work with a web vendor and that’s what you get. Consider a blog like the free Wordpress software if you can’t make your CMS spider friendly.

    How to make your site SEO friendly:

    • No javascript, flash or pull-down form navigation unless mirrored in text
    • navigational breadcrumbs and sitemap links
    • text link navigation
    • good url formation - no session IDs
    • Unique title tags, some other meta control

    The almighty anchor tag

    Search engine spiders have moved toward weighing external variables when determining relevance. The most important concepts to understand are. Links from trusted, reputable sites will generally improve ranking (Yahoo, DMOZ.org). An anchor link is one that includes the keyword or phrase as the underlined portion. Most engines consider the words or concepts in anchors when determining relevance. It’s quantity but more importantly quality of links.

    Seen as a “vote” for you. That webmaster is essentially voting for you as worthy.

    Reciprocal linking isn’t good. Good to have partners link back to you - transmitting page rank when there is linkages. But reciprocal linking dampens that “juice”

    Put the human first, and think about how else it could be better for search engines.

    Communities exist online. For every industry or topic, communities.

    Don’t want to be part of a link farm, especially as a non-profit. Build your links with online PR and leverage your support base. Leverage bloggers, volunteers who have sites of their own. Think about supporting foundations. Optimize your press releases. Think about your partner organizations. Mobilize the forces at your disposal.

    If you are using a link directory (gradschools.com), check links to make sure they are going to directly to your site and not internal redirects to just count clicks.

    SEO status research, how am i doing?

    google: site:www.yourdomain.com

    yahoo: site:www.yourdomain.com

    MSN/Live: site:www.yourdomain.com

    This can be done with a keyword:

    Remember Search is rarely spontaneous

    Consumers search because they:

    1. saw media/advertising
    2. read or heard something in the news or magazines, potentially PR-driven
    3. word of mouth conversations (online or off)
    4. Online surfing stimultes a search (content, blogs, etc)
    5. Interacted with an offline mar-com (mailing , event)


    Be specific in your newsletter when you talk to your constituents about where they might be able to help. Make it a call to action. Give by placing our badge on your site (that is SEO friendly). Reach out to partners and big company websites within your ecosystem. Try to avoid backlinks.


    Stay educated on best practices

    Consider a request for services at SEMPO.org or SEMCares.com. Some vendors do pro-bono or reduced-fee work.

    Copies of ppt? kevin[at]didit.com

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