The SEO Guide for Nonprofit Writers

Search engine optimization guide for nonprofit writers

Attract > Inspire > Convert

The core of what we do as nonprofits is to attract, inspire and convert visitors to our website to become supporters.

As luck would have it, I’m teaching a class about this exact topic today!

I’ll be diving deep into the first step, Attract, today during the first class of my Double Your Audience course. If you missed enrollment this time around, scroll down and join the SmartCause Digital email list. I’ll invite you to join me when the course comes back in June.

(P. S. Would you rather listen to this article? Listen to me teach this article as an audio file!)


To Attract new people to your site, you’ll need help from search engines.

Most nonprofit websites receive a good chunk of their traffic from search engines.

I know you’re busy and you don’t have a lot of time to create original content.

That’s why you owe it to yourself and to your audience to learn how you can use search engine optimization (SEO) to help more people find your content. You have to make your original pieces go as far as possible.

All my trainings and resources are practical, including this one. Start at the top and read as much as your schedule permits. I’ve placed the most important concepts at the beginning, and the “how-to” details later on.


The majority of search engine users find your site via Google. There are other search engines, but Google overshadows them.

The search results on Google are based on a complex and secret algorithm.

Researchers run tests against the algorithm and report on their theories. As you can imagine, keeping up with the many nuances of the search algorithm requires extensive resources.

Companies with vast resources can and do go to great effort to “beat the system”.

As nonprofits, we play it smart. Rather than try to keep up with every new trend and theory, we focus on the cornerstone components of SEO.

The cornerstone components include:

  • Create unique, original content
  • Incorporate lots of relevant keywords and
  • Format the important content.

As a nonprofit writer, you should start thinking about SEO as soon as your start planning your content. Here’s how.


1. When you choose a topic, choose a specific topic.

The more specific your topic, the better your SEO results will be. For example, this article isn’t about a broad topic like SEO. It’s much more specific – SEO for nonprofit writers.

2. Next, identify the relevant keywords that pertain to your topic.

Here’s an example of a broad topic: homelessness.

Let’s get specific and add relevant keywords: homelessness in Chicago, services for homeless men, services for homeless women, health care for the homeless, etc.

This list could get quite long. Remember, you are adding relevant keywords. Don’t feel pressured to add keywords that don’t make sense in the piece or to your mission.

As you write, incorporate the relevant keywords into your copy (as long as it makes sense, of course.)

You’re probably already including keywords as a natural part of your writing. But I want you to explicitly identify the keywords that relate to your topic, and incorporate those keywords in a meaningful way into your content.

3. Add subheadings (with keywords)

Subheadings are a handy way to organize your post and make it easier to read.

Subheadings are also handy for letting Google know which terms are important to the post.

Write your subheadings and be sure to include your keywords within those headings.

Use html header tags (such as h2 and h3) to let Google know which sentences in your article are subheadings.

4. Add links to other pages within your website (with keywords)

There’s a concept in SEO called “authority”. It applies to websites as a whole. It also applies to individual webpages.

There are a few webpages on your site that are rich in content. For example, a page that provides details about one of your projects. Or a blog post that tells the story of a family and their experience working with your organization.

You can contribute to a page’s authority by linking to it.

As you write, look for logical places where you can link out to the content-rich pages on your website.

For example, if you mention a project, link to its page. If you allude to the positive impact your organization makes, link to a testimonial or story from a participant.

Each link you create should include keywords in the link text.

Never use “click here” as your link text. It’s a wasted opportunity and if I see it on your website, I might shed a tear.

5. Add a text backup for content in image, video or audio form

Google can’t “see” all of the content that’s inside an image, video or audio file.

Don’t let that stop you from creating compelling new media content. You just need to add one more step to your process.

To help Google crawl and index your awesome multimedia, provide a text counterpart such as a caption or a transcript.

For a video, for example, you can embed the video on your site, and include the transcript below it on the page.

6. Write more than 1,500 words

If you have the content and it makes sense for your audience, go ahead and write a longer piece.

There is research which indicates that “long form content” (posts with more than 1,500 words) receive an SEO boost.

Don’t write more just to add words.

Do experiment with a few longer pieces, focused on topics that serve as cornerstones in your communications strategy.


Join the SmartCause Digital email list by scrolling down and entering your name & email address. I share articles and resources like this one every week! I’ll also invite you to trainings, like the next Double Your Audience class in June.

yesenia sotelo

About Yesenia Sotelo

Yesenia Sotelo is a digital skills teacher and web developer.

She elevates ambitious nonprofit professionals by teaching them how to use the technology tools of modern marketing.

Yesenia can teach you how to use website analytics or improve your online marketing results.

Her SmartCause Method for building websites is especially designed for the way nonprofits collaborate, make decisions and grow.

She won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) for her work teaching digital skills to nonprofit professionals.