Complete guide to SEO for nonprofit organizations

SEO for Nonprofits: Quick Start Guide

A user does a quick Google search for a program or service that your nonprofit provides.

What if your nonprofit was the very first thing they see? 

Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t just for big for-profit brands—any organization that depends on reaching online audiences to promote its programs, services, and products can benefit from an SEO strategy.

Yes, that includes nonprofit organizations! In 2023, NP Tech for Good found that just 37% of nonprofits have dedicated SEO strategies. Considering the long-term value that effective SEO generates, this is a huge missed opportunity for the sector and communities around the world.

SEO is completely learnable and built on straightforward technical and marketing concepts. We’ll cover them all here:

 

Why take our advice? Nexus Marketing has been helping mission-driven brands grow their online visibility and demand generation for a decade now.

In that time, we’ve seen tons of SEO trends come and go. We know the steadfast best practices that drive real, sustained success, and our goal is to help more organizations cut through the clutter and buzz.

 


What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of technically maintaining your website and publishing high-quality, keyword-optimized content to help a website appear higher in organic search engine results.

Within the broader field of SEO, you’ll encounter some more specific practices:

  • Technical SEO: The practice of improving and maintaining the technical quality of your website so that it’s easily understood by search engines and provides positive user experiences.
  • Keyword strategy: The process of choosing strategically important keywords that your organization wants to rank highly for to achieve its goals.
  • Content strategy: The practice of creating and updating high-quality web content optimized for technical performance, keyword relevance, and user experience.

Quick context: Organic search results are any that are not paid ads (like the Google Ads you’re likely used to seeing). Search engine results pages are often called SERPs, which we’ll use in the rest of this guide.

What are the Goals of SEO?

Organizations of all types and sizes use SEO strategies to rank higher for their target keywords. By ranking higher, they can:

  • Generate more demand and leads for their programs, services, and products
  • Increase traffic and engagement from qualified online audiences
  • Grow their organization’s online visibility and brand recognition

Spoiler Alert: Effective, ongoing SEO has a powerful flywheel effect.

In other words, when your website is a trusted source of high-quality content, it’s more likely to rank higher for a wider range of keywords, further growing your visibility (and incoming customers).

Here’s an example: One of our clients ranked highly for 5 keywords at the start of our partnership. They now rank for 187 of their most important keywords—Google was ready to trust and amplify their brand but needed some nudging (and a stream of fresh, high-quality content)!


Why SEO Matters for Nonprofits

SEO is a smart investment for many nonprofit organizations for several reasons. These include:

Key benefits of SEO investment for mission-driven organizations

  • When done well, it offers a high ROI.
    • SEO is relatively low-cost compared to other marketing channels. It’s possible to make big SEO gains for free when you follow best practices, although many organizations partner with SEO agencies to reduce workload and enhance their results.
    • Another reason SEO offers such a high ROI is that it allows you to target highly qualified audiences. If someone searches for a niche service or program you offer, SEO ensures your nonprofit reliably appears front and center.
    • Compared to pay-per-click online ads, SEO tends to offer the better ROI—between roughly 500% and 1,300%. The results of an effective SEO strategy increase over time, but its fixed costs do not (unless you want to really increase your SEO activities).
  • SEO drives long-term results and brand awareness.
    • SEO is truly a growth investment. As mentioned above, an effective SEO strategy acts like a flywheel—attracting more attention and achieving higher rankings as your website’s authority grows. This kind of organic growth is a powerful marketing force that will establish your nonprofit as a go-to resource in its field.
  • It results in all-around better websites.
    • SEO teaches us to be more thoughtful and strategic about how we use our websites as marketing and engagement tools. When you prioritize SEO and follow a robust content strategy, you’ll create a technically polished website and a library of high-quality web content.
    • These across-the-board improvements make stellar impressions on visitors, no matter how they found your website. Give them a helpful, positive experience, and they’re more likely to stick around and learn more about your nonprofit’s offerings.

TLDR: Like other mission-driven organizations, nonprofits often have tight or inflexible budgets.

SEO offers a lower-cost, higher-ROI way to drive sustained marketing results and increase brand awareness.

 

Digital Advertising vs. SEO for Nonprofits?

Organic search SEO is often weighed against paid search ads, with many nonprofits opting to increase their ad spend rather than launch an SEO strategy.

Is there one right option? No, the nonprofit sector and organizations’ revenue streams are too diverse to generalize about optimal strategies.

However, for some types of nonprofits, SEO is a major missed opportunity. It’s an ideal way to build awareness and demand for programs, services, and products that generate revenue. It’s not a great long-term choice for generating fundraising dollars.

We’ve gathered a few salient points from the most recent M+R Benchmarks Report (our favorite source for up-to-date insights on the state of nonprofit digital marketing):

  • 44% of site visits to nonprofits in the study came from organic traffic (i.e. not from ads, email, social media, or other channels).
  • Nonprofit digital ad spending increased by 13% in 2023.
  • Among surveyed nonprofits, 61% of all ad spend was dedicated to direct fundraising. Only 10% went to lead generation.
  • The only advertising channel where nonprofits decreased average spend in 2023 was Meta/Facebook.
  • The average cost to generate a lead (non-fundraising revenue) through advertising was $3.33.
    • Digging deeper by advertising channel, the report found huge variances in cost-per-lead by channel:
      • Google/YouTube ads: $14.07 per lead
      • Meta ads: $4.44 per lead
      • TikTok ads: $49.28 per lead (!)

The story is different for every nonprofit and mix of revenue streams. But looking at those last numbers, it’s clear that for many organizations there are much more cost-effective channels (like SEO) for generating leads. Looking at you, social media ads.

Here’s how the report summed it up:

There remains enormous untapped potential for many nonprofits. Continuing to expand audiences, executing thoughtful strategy, and making every message matter are the keys to growth.”


Essential Points to Remember

There are a few big-picture points to keep in mind to succeed with SEO for your nonprofit. Here are the essential reminders that we often discuss with our SEO clients:

  • SEO is a long game. You might see fast results (and we often do), but the biggest impact comes in the months and years after you’ve implemented and maintained an SEO strategy.
  • It’s an iterative process. Unlike ads, there’s no need to get your SEO strategy and content 100% perfect the first time! Google constantly recrawls content to check for quality, so you have endless opportunities to study your results and improve.
  • Consistency and quality are key. SEO should be an ongoing priority to keep showing Google and readers that your website is worth paying attention to. Especially in the age of AI (more on this later), excellent content written for and by humans will reign supreme.
  • Understand your SEO objectives. Strategies derail when you focus on the wrong goals, like web traffic metrics. Search algorithms change constantly, some keywords see highly seasonal traffic patterns, and some keywords are just extremely competitive. There are many reasons why leading metrics will distract you from the real objective—generating leads.

Simply put, demand generation should be the overarching goal of SEO, not leading metrics like web traffic.

A Closer Look at SEO Goals for Nonprofits

For nonprofit organizations specifically, SEO is better for marketing some types of your offerings than others:

  • SEO is ideal for promoting:
  • Revenue-generating programs & services
  • Products that your nonprofit sells
  • Revenue streams that pay royalties
  • Annual events that attract broad audiences
  • SEO is not ideal for promoting:
  • Direct fundraising campaigns
  • Other ways to donate
  • Highly localized offerings
  • One-time or very limited events

When you focus your SEO strategy on scalable, sales-based revenue sources, you create a much clearer path to success. Think of it like this:

  • Fundraising is built on building awareness and carefully fostering relationships over time.
  • SEO puts your nonprofit front and center when users already know exactly what they’re looking for—a much shorter path to generating revenue.

While SEO can help build awareness of your mission and brand, perhaps eventually leading to donations if you capture users’ attention and contact information, the timeline of this ROI is extremely long. You’re much more likely to receive a donation from someone with a pre-existing relationship with your nonprofit.

But if you offer specific programs, services, and products that generate revenue for your mission, SEO is the key to reaching your target audiences efficiently.

We advise our clients that short-term or fundraising-based goals are better supported with other marketing channels like direct email outreach, paid ads, social media, or specialized local SEO services. In other words, SEO should be an ongoing, foundational marketing activity on which you layer additional channels and campaigns to support specific objectives.

Want an example of how SEO and other marketing strategies play well together? Check out our write-up of the top ways to integrate pay-per-click and SEO campaigns to drive success.


How SEO Works

With the context squared away, let’s get into the nitty-gritty—how does SEO work? How does a page go from unranked to dominating the SERP?

Here’s a condensed rundown of the basics of SEO:

A diagram of the very condensed SEO ranking process

1. Search engines like Google use crawler bots to explore the internet. They screen content, pick up on keywords and concepts, check out the links it includes, and log all of its contextual information as part of its algorithmic ranking system.

This process is called indexing. If a page cannot be indexed, it won’t appear in Google results and is likely the result of a technical issue with your website.

2. Google pays extra attention to links. When one website links to another, Google considers this a kind of vote of confidence, a little stamp of approval that says, “I trust this source enough to show it to my audience.” Over time, pages accrue backlink profiles of all the other pages on the internet that link to them.

3. Pages are analyzed and ranked for EEAT. EEAT stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It’s a helpful shorthand for understanding how Google defines truly “helpful,” rankable content:

    • Experience. Does the page’s author and/or the website domain have relevant experience with the topic and a history of publishing content about related topics?
    • Expertise. Does the content demonstrate actual expertise, i.e. correct information, relevant details, helpful insights, anecdotes, and more?
    • Authoritativeness. Does the content have links from other high-quality pages across the internet, and are those links contextually relevant (that is, not spammy)? Does the website publish other helpful content?
    • Trustworthiness. Does the website come from a recognized brand, organization, or person? Does it provide transparent contact information? Has it been flagged for improper SEO practices in the past?

There’s some overlap between these concepts, but taken as a whole, they give us a reliable picture of the content Google wants to serve its users.

A combination of algorithmic and human scoring—from real content reviewers—is used to gauge how highly a web page should rank and for which keywords. 

Google also uses AI-based natural language processing systems to interpret content and map interrelated concepts, which has allowed it to better understand content quality over time.

Google’s ranking algorithm is notoriously complex and constantly changing, with hundreds of different ranking factors being tweaked, prioritized, and deprioritized over time. Historically, Google has been secretive about the exact makeup of the algorithm, but a recent leak (huge news in the SEO world!) gave us more direct insight into its current ranking factors than ever before.

 

4. When users search keywords or longer phrases, Google delivers a mix of content. Google makes assumptions about the user’s intent from the keyword—what they’re trying to accomplish with their search—which informs the mix of SERP features that it delivers.

These always include organic results, pages that have organically demonstrated their EEAT to Google. Most SERPs also include pay-per-click (PPC) ads, which are indicated with “Sponsored” taglines.

SERPs usually also include features designed to quickly provide answers and satisfy that particular user intent.

The biggest new SERP features to be aware of are AI Overviews (more on these below), but other common features include:

  • Featured Snippets
  • Discussions and Forum listings
  • Image results
  • People Also Ask suggestions
  • Product carrousels
  • News story carrousels
  • Local business listings
  • And many, many more

Google scrapes relevant content to populate these SERP features. This is usually an indication of high quality. If your page gets highlighted in a Featured Snippet, you’ll secure even more valuable SERP real estate!

 

5. User engagement signals impact the ranks over time. Based on how users engage with the results on SERPs, Google’s ranking algorithm refines its inferences and makes adjustments over time.

When Google users interact (or don’t interact) with results on SERPs, it generates a measurable user engagement signal. The most important examples include:

  • Clickthrough Rate (CTR) – The percentage of users who are exposed to your content on a SERP and click through to view it.
  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of users who arrive on your site but immediately leave without interacting or scrolling further.
  • Time on Site – The amount of time a user spends on your website after clicking through from a SERP and before navigating back.

These metrics indirectly measure how well your content satisfies users’ queries and the search intent for that particular keyword.

Although Google has long denied that engagement metrics play central roles in the SEO ranking process, that story is changing. Many SEO experts predict that Google’s increased ability to understand content, engagement metrics, and their correlations will make engagement metrics more prominent parts of the ranking algorithm over time. The takeaway? User experience and content quality are prerequisites for success!

 

SERPs never stand still for long. In addition to user engagement signals, rankings can change for all kinds of reasons:

    • New competing content gets published
    • Older content on the SERP gets updated and improved
    • Other EEAT signals change (like a page’s number or quality of backlinks)
    • Or the Google algorithm gets updated to prioritize a slightly new balance of factors

It’s important to keep track of your SEO performance and identify slippages so that you can make targeted content improvements—we’ll explain this process in the playbook below.

6. Google comes to recognize some domains as more authoritative than others. As a website publishes more high-quality SEO-optimized content and accrues backlinks, Google will recognize that domain as a reliable source of helpful content about its core topics. It then gets prioritized in more SERPs—a powerful flywheel effect that amplifies your SEO success.

To measure a domain’s authoritativeness, SEO professionals use a variety of proprietary metrics. At Nexus Marketing, we’ve long relied on Moz’s Domain Authority score as a rough gauge for how well-established a website is in the eyes of Google.


TLDR: Google constantly screens content for quality, EEAT signals, and backlinks. Content is algorithmically ranked using complex mixes of hundreds of factors, including user engagement metrics.

Over time, Google recognizes domains for high-quality content about their particular topics and prioritizes them to rank for more keywords.


Key Elements of SEO-Optimized Content

Ok, so you understand how Google ranks content. In tactical terms, what are the specific elements that your organization’s content needs to catch Google’s attention? Good question.

The Nexus team spends all day thinking about, researching, and writing SEO-optimized content for our clients and partners. Here are our top recommendations and the specific elements we always include in SEO articles.

Our Top Advice for Creating SEO Content

Our three most important rules of thumb for creating effective SEO content:

  1. Satisfy the user intent. Understand what users want when they search your target keyword.
  2. Don’t clutter the content. Answer users’ questions without unnecessary fluff and create a positive experience.
  3. Offer real value, expertise, or something new—in the AI age, you have to go the extra mile to stand out.

From these tips, you can probably tell that there is no one-size-fits-all SEO content template you can follow for SEO success. Stuffing keywords into a generic article and hitting publish may have worked once upon a time, but those days are long gone.

Users and Google alike want quality content from trustworthy sources. The length, structure, and complexity of your content should be tailored to the audience’s needs. If the keyword calls for a long, educational guide, that’s what you should create. If the keyword calls for very short definitions and quick bits of information about a product or service, create that content.

Elements to Optimize in SEO-Optimized Content

Even though there’s no single template for SEO content, there are specific technical elements that any web content intended to rank should include. The most important of these are:

The key elements of an SEO-optimized web page

  • The page’s meta title and H1 heading (which may not be the same—always worth checking) should include the page’s primary target keyword.
  • The page’s meta description, or the short excerpt displayed on SERPs, should include a relevant keyword and entice users to click.
  • Other H2 and H3 headings should include a mix of natural keyword variants and organize the content in a logical way.
  • An optimized URL that isn’t too long and includes a relevant keyword that Google can quickly recognize.
  • Alt text for any graphics included in the content that briefly describes what the graphics represent.
  • Content should ideally include links to other relevant content on the same domain and reputable external websites.
  • The page’s and website’s design should create positive desktop and mobile viewing experiences.

Want to see these SEO-optimized content elements in action? Look around you! This very page follows SEO best practices for keyword optimization, user experience, and mobile usability.

Or, check out a comprehensive list of all the content tactics and technical elements that we include in SEO-optimized client content in this complete comparison guide.


SEO for Nonprofits in the AI Age

The rise of generative AI has been a seismic shift for the marketing world, and especially for SEO. The introduction of AI Overviews directly in SERPs has probably shaken up the industry more than any other update in decades.

AI overviews SERP diagram

However, anytime you search “AI in [insert industry here]” to learn more, you’re likely to see a slew of dramatic editorials and conflicting claims. It’s the same in the SEO space, and it’s more confusing than helpful for newcomers.

We want to help you cut through that clutter so you can better understand the real, current state of SEO in the AI age before further investing in it for your nonprofit.

We’ve already written a few guides that spell out our positions on the implications of AI on SEO:

Misusing or misunderstanding AI can create all kinds of risks for your nonprofit’s website. If you don’t have time to read these articles, we hope you take away these key points:

  • SEO isn’t going anywhere, but it is adapting to a rapidly changing search landscape.
  • Do not use AI to fully write website content intended to rank. It will not offer the same value, originality, experience, and human touch that other content will, and Google will know.
  • The introduction of AI Overviews on SERPs means that full-funnel content strategies are more important than ever. This means creating content that covers more specific topics and keywords instead of focusing only on those with very high search volume. Remember, attracting truly qualified audiences drives much more value than simply attracting large audiences.
  • Try to create “information gain” in your nonprofit’s web content whenever possible. What are the unique insights and positions that only your organization can offer? This is the valuable content that AI will never be able to replicate.

Curious what an AI-savvy SEO strategy would look like for your nonprofit? Get in touch and let’s chat about it.


Your Nonprofit’s First SEO Playbook

Ready to get started? Here are the core steps for launching an SEO strategy for your nonprofit for the first time.

The key steps of launching an SEO strategy for the first time, detailed below

1. Check your site’s technical health.

Start with a quick website check-up:

For complete coverage and diagnostics, we recommend conducting a full technical SEO audit. Please contact us to learn more about this process and what it entails.

2. Define your objectives.

What are the core organizational objectives that you want to accomplish with SEO?

Remember, these should revolve around demand generation. Is there a particular offering or aspect of your nonprofit’s operations that you want to focus on first? These might include:

  • Selling more of a specific product or service you offer
  • Promoting a revenue-generating program
  • Securing more registrants for a broadly appealing annual event

Under these objectives, you’ll set more tactical goals, like reaching Page 1 ranks for a certain number of your target keywords or increasing conversions on a specific landing page by X%.

3. Determine your nonprofit’s first target keyword.

Based on your most important objective, choose your first target keyword to pursue.

Ideal keywords for quick wins live in the “Goldilocks Zone” of high demand and low competition. This means it’s a topic searched by qualified leads without a ton of other high-authority websites crowding the SERPs with standout content. Writing a stellar article that educates this audience and introduces your offering can drive value relatively quickly.

SEO tools often have their own proprietary methods of gauging a keyword’s competitiveness. Moz’s Keyword Explorer is one of the easiest to use.

But you know your space (and your competitors and peer organizations), too—reviewing the existing SERPs of potential keywords can also give you a quick idea of who’s pursuing them and the caliber of content you’ll be up against.

Reminder: Don’t try going after a broad, high-traffic keyword yet. In many cases, these are the most competitive terms to rank for.

More specific keywords searched by users who are already lower in the sales funnel will give you the faster wins and momentum your strategy needs!

SEO agencies can help you lay out a more comprehensive keyword strategy and roadmap based on your objectives and the competitiveness of your space. This is one of the first steps that we take with new clients here at Nexus. Thorough upfront keyword research pays off!

4. Develop a user-centric content strategy.

Outline an article that will help you rank for your target keyword. You may already have an article that could rank if you update and improve it!

We recommend following these steps to sketch out a winning content strategy:

Review the SERP for the target keyword and read the content that’s already ranking. What does it include? What does it do well? How could your content go further?

Consider what the audience really wants when they search this keyword—quick answers, a thorough guide, or a product or service page?

Take a look at the additional topics and snippets that the SERP includes, and consider how you can include these topics to catch Google’s attention.

Write an enticing title that includes the target keyword and is between 50 and 60 characters long.

Outline the core topics and subtopics that the article will cover using a logical order of H2 and H3 headings. Make sure to include the keyword and natural variants throughout the headings.

Expand your outline with the same level of (or ideally, more) detail and background that other ranking content includes.

Identify spots to inject your nonprofit’s unique take using relevant data and donor and constituent stories.

 

5. Consider your conversion strategy.

Before finishing your outline, take a moment to carefully think through how you’ll ask readers to convert—take a specific action that supports your organizational objective.

Depending on the context, this target conversion action might be:

  • Purchasing your product
  • Contacting you to learn more about a service
  • Downloading a free digital resource
  • Registering for your annual event

Think about your audience, their goals for searching the target keyword, and how your offerings align with that user intent. Pinpoint sections in your outline where you can promote your offering and ask users to take action.

These calls-to-action (CTAs) are often formatted as buttons, banners, and branded graphics that catch the eye. However you handle your CTAs, make sure they link straight to a landing page where users can take the target action. Common landing pages include contact or signup forms, lead capture pages to collect email addresses, and specific product/service pages.

6. Write, publish, and index your content.

Now comes the fun part!

Draft your article, give it a short and intuitive URL that includes the target keyword, review your draft, and make revisions. Bonus points for engaging visuals and videos—users and Google appreciate them! Make sure that your article is also attributed to an author, ideally a real person at your nonprofit. A more generic byline simply listing your organization can also suffice.

Hit publish, and then head over to Google Search Console. Search your new article’s URL and “request indexing.” This will fast-track the indexing and ranking process for your content

7. Start accruing backlinks to your nonprofit’s SEO content.

Once your content is live, you can begin the process of building backlinks to it.

Remember: Backlinks help show Google that your content is trustworthy, a key component of quality and ranking power.

Start with internal links. Identify several other pages on your nonprofit’s website where a link to your new content would make sense and enhance the user experience.

Next come external links to your content from other websites. This is a diverse practice all on its own. Authority-building by securing backlink placements with external partners is a core part of our process here at Nexus. The most common ways to secure backlinks include:

  • Write short guest blog posts for other websites that include a link to your SEO content.
  • Find mentions of your nonprofit on other websites using a quote search operator, then reach out to those websites to request a link to your content.
  • Take the organic route by more generally building your brand’s visibility as it relates to that topic.
    • For example, social media posts and links don’t directly contribute to SEO success, but they do spread the word about your content and can encourage other websites to build links organically.

Over the years, building backlinks has seen a lot of practices and trends come and go.

There is such a thing as unethical and improper link-building.

Spammy websites may use shady practices to build tons of links to their content in comments, forums, and garbled AI-generated content. Do not use these practices, and don’t hire any SEO vendors that use them.

If it detects that a site is violating its spam policies, Google can issue manual actions. These will directly penalize a website and prevent it from ranking well in the future. Not to mention, Google algorithm updates increasingly combat these practices and the rise of spammy AI content head-on. Trying to take a shortcut will result in headaches, not success.

Instead, accrue backlinks organically. Good content naturally secures links as it travels the internet. Reach out to your actual partners and peers to ask for links and blogging opportunities. These natural-looking links are much more valuable and worth your time.

Building brand recognition is increasingly important for SEO, although often in an indirect way.

In the age of AI, Google pays extra attention to names and brands that it understands to be recognized, connected, and respected in their topic areas. Cross-blogging with other websites is one way to build your nonprofit’s brand, but any positive publicity online can help.

At Nexus Marketing, our extensive partnership network has been a core part of our clients’ successes.

By building relationships with hundreds of high-quality, recognized brands in the mission-driven space, we can plug our clients right into the action.

Other activities like industry speaking engagements, influencer partnerships, and various digital PR opportunities all build your brand’s profile, as well. We’ve even built out an entire community, NXUnite, dedicated to fostering these connections between nonprofits, associations, businesses, and their audiences!

 

8. Track and analyze your page’s performance.

As you continue building links and your brand’s visibility, keep track of how your content is performing.

If you’ve invested in a dedicated SEO tool or professional SEO services, this is easy. You can access performance reports or receive them straight from your SEO agency—check out how we handle reporting with easy-to-use dashboards.

On your own, you can also use Google Search Console and Google Analytics to track your content’s visibility, traffic, and more. Just remember to dig deeper than topline numbers. Actual conversions—the number of users who take your target conversion action—are ultimately the most important metric for success.

This is why it’s essential to have a clear conversion strategy on your SEO pages. When you understand exactly what you’re asking readers to do and link your CTAs straight to the place to take action, you can easily measure clickthroughs to that landing page and the number of form completions.

9. Make improvements over time.

Finally, take the insights you’ve learned from keyword research, the content creation process, and your page’s performance metrics to make improvements over time.

It’s a good idea to regularly revisit your SEO content to audit its performance and compare it to fresher content on the SERP. We typically schedule these kinds of “refresh” activities for our clients because Google highly values fresh, actively maintained content. This is also when you can make improvements to your conversion strategy if needed.

Congrats! If you’ve followed along, you’ve just rolled out a preliminary SEO strategy for your nonprofit.

The beauty of this process is that it’s so easily repeatable. You just need the capacity to make research, content creation, and data analysis part of your ongoing marketing practices—which is why so many brands choose to partner with SEO agencies.


Hiring an SEO Agency for Your Nonprofit

Organizations of all shapes and sizes hire SEO agencies to handle the ongoing and day-to-day work of running an SEO strategy.

Successful strategies take dedicated time and effort, which is why they’re often postponed by busy organizations. Plus, SEO is a long-term strategy—it takes time to reap the full benefits—so faster marketing channels may receive attention first.

SEO agencies bring specialized experience and technical know-how that most nonprofits don’t have in-house. 

Working with experts is the most effective way to get an SEO strategy off the ground, especially when they offer:

  • Technical SEO audits
  • Custom content creation
  • Link-building services
  • Networks of relevant partners in your industry
  • Additional PR opportunities for your brand

These comprehensive services can support the whole lifecycle of your nonprofit’s SEO strategy, turning it from a time-consuming activity for your team to a revenue-generating channel that runs in the background. The right vendor will work with you to develop a custom strategy, maintain the health of your website, and let you be as hands-off (or hands-on) as you want.

So how do you hire one? We recommend these general steps:

As you can tell from this guide, the world of SEO services and practices is diverse.

Different agencies offer a wide variety of services, ranging from full custom SEO engagements and content creation to periodic technical check-ins. Consider the scale of support you want.

Also, consider your timeframe—ongoing strategy execution (recommended for long-term SEO success) or one-time projects (which can work if you have very specific needs). Keep in mind that SEO takes time to bear fruit. Overnight results are not likely.

Learn more about our SEO client engagements to get a sense of the range of services and options available.

Do you have specific organizational objectives that you want to accomplish with SEO?

Or do you simply know that it’s a neglected channel in your nonprofit’s marketing strategy?

Either answer is fine! It’s useful to understand your reasons for investing in SEO before getting in touch with vendors. This will ensure you both come to the table with clear expectations about your needs and the best potential solutions.

Most SEO agency services are paid monthly, similar to other marketing and advertising services.

Although you may ultimately budget a total annual or quarterly spend depending on the terms of your contract with an agency, they typically charge an hourly rate for their services. You’ll purchase a set number of hours for your engagement to be delivered each month, with your total cost based on the hourly rate and projected over the course of the engagement.

This means your monthly budget for SEO will be the most helpful financial number to bring into the research and vetting process.

Now it’s time to start researching potential SEO vendors.

Google searches, chats with peers in other organizations, and calls for recommendations on LinkedIn are all reliable starting points.

Our top recommendation for nonprofits:

Look for SEO vendors specialized in the mission-driven space.

The nonprofit space is distinct from the for-profit B2C and B2B worlds. Your audience has different needs and interests than generalist services will likely be able to satisfy. Link- and brand-building, essential for sustained SEO success, will also be challenging for generalist agencies.

Look for agencies that have:

  • Experience serving nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations
  • A track record of creating winning SEO content related to your industry
  • Networks of connections in your space to facilitate truly valuable link-building and PR opportunities

(Quick note: We check all these boxes, and we’d love to chat!)

When you have a shortlist of candidates, look at their track records. Check out things like:

  • Client reviews and testimonials
  • Case studies about their other client engagements
  • Their history and adaptability—for example, dynamic agencies should be talking about AI right now!

Now, reach out to your top options by requesting information about their services or how they’d support your organization.

At this point, agencies will likely walk you through their approach to SEO and case studies of their past successes with clients. This is also the time to ask questions.

Note that the full process of learning more, looping in the relevant stakeholders, and securing buy-in may take a while and require multiple meetings. The right agency will be happy to adapt and make sure you’re getting all the information you need!

Once you’ve chosen an SEO agency, ask for a more formal outline of the proposed engagement, its terms, and the cost.

The process of discussing the contract’s terms and making adjustments may take some time, but keep in mind that SEO is a long-term marketing investment—it’s always worth ensuring you’re happy with your new partnership!

Congrats! Your SEO strategy is about to take flight. But first, your SEO agency will likely have some onboarding steps and requests for you to take care of.

These typically include providing marketing and branding assets, answering more in-depth questionnaires about your lead generation activities and goals, and granting backend access to your website.

 

Why Nexus Marketing Stands Out

Nexus Marketing is the leading SEO agency in the mission-driven space.

We’ve helped diverse organizations and businesses thrive online, reach the right audiences, and build powerful brands for a decade now. Check out our case studies!

What sets us apart? Deep expertise in mission-driven subject matter and extensive, organic connections in the space. 

Plus, we offer a full range of additional content creation and PR opportunities to take your brand’s online visibility to the next level. Between custom email and video production, our influencer marketing program, and constant industry speaking opportunities, we’ve got you covered. These options allow you to drive both short- and long-term ROI, unique among SEO agencies.

Please contact us to learn more about our approach. Tell us about your nonprofit’s demand generation goals, and we’ll lay out a plan to reach them.

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Learn More about SEO: Recommended Resources

Want to learn more about SEO for nonprofits? Check out our recommended resources:

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. Curious about anything covered in this guide? Have a unique SEO challenge in mind? We’re always happy to chat about SEO and the latest trends!