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Search Engine Optimisation for Non-Profits Training Seminar
Written by David Towers   

SEO for charities and non-profits presentation

On Tuesday I spoke at Manchester’s ‘Net Tuesday’ (a Net Squared initiative), the title of my presentation was Search Engine Optimisation for non-profits 101.

As promised I’m following up the presentation with a quick synopsis of what I presented and links to some of the tools I mentioned in the presentation. Steven Flower has also posted a follow up to the SEO for charities session which I recommend checking out over on ManchesterNetTuesday.org.uk!

Here is the outline of the presentation:

Setting the scene

  • Who am I? I'm David Towers, I work at MEC where I co-lead a team of 18 SEO's across Manchester and London. Over the years I have worked with a number a charities including icould and Asialink.You can find out more about me here.
  • Search is huge! There were over 6 billion searches carried out in December 2009 in the UK, and this number is growing every day! Search marketing is definitely something you shouldn't ignore!

What is SEO?

  • Search Engine Optimisation is not some mystic black art!
  • Search Engine Optimisation is simply understanding how search engines rank content and using this understanding to ensure a website or some other digital assets ranks well.

Value of SEO

  • Organic search results drive more clicks than paid search results. On Google’s search result page, Paid search picks up around 25% of the click-share , whereas organic search results account for around 75% of clicks. Consequently, optimising the organic search listings is of upmost importance.
  • Leaked data from AOL showed that number 1 organic search result has a click through rate of 42%, the second result 12%, and the third result 8%. Based on these figures, if you rank number one, you’ll get 3.5x more traffic than if you rank number 2, and 5 times the traffic than if you rank number 3!
  • The search engine market share in the UK is heavily skewed to Google, according to Hitwise, Google have over 90% of the UK market share!
  • Conclusion: Ranking in position 1 in Google UK is the key objective!

How search engines rank content

  • Simply put, search engines crawl the web to understand what web-pages are about in order to serve relevant pages to people searching the web
  • But don’t forget, SEO is an art built upon science. No one knows what all the definitive ranking factors are!
  • Simply put, search engines rank content based upon on-site ranking factors and off-site ranking factors

On-site ranking factors

  • How does a search engine understand what a web-page is about when looking at the page? It considers the following on-page factors including the following: Web-site topic, Title tag, URL, Internal link structure, Internal link anchor text, H1 heading, Words used in first paragraph, Semantically related words, ALT image attribute, H2 heading, Words used in lists, File-name, Text in bold, Text in italics, H3 heading, Meta description, Meta keywords
  • But remember, optimising a web-page is not about keyword stuffing, it should simply involve ensuring that key meaning of the page is easily understood by search engines.


  • A good understanding of keywords is important when optimising a web page. An understanding of the short tail and long tail is essential. Although short tail keywords drive a large volume of traffic across a small number of terms these terms are highly competitive. In contrast, long tail keywords drive small volumes of searches across many terms and as such are less competitive.
  • You can use the Google Adwords keyword tool and Google insights to get a better understanding of what keywords people are searching for.
  • Learning to optimise text is a skill. Think about:
    • Semantically related and topic-related keywords
    • Modified keyword for phrase-based targeting
    • Synonym usage
    • Pluralised keywords

    Off-site ranking factors

    • A website is part of an online ecosystem - The internet is a mass of websites as part of an international ecosystem. Each website has an ecosystem created by one page on a website linking to another. Search engines use this link ecosystem to understand what websites are about and which are the most important websites on the web
    • What are some of the key factors that search engines consider when looking at the links pointing to a web-page?
      • Words used in the anchor text of external links
      • Quality of links pointing to the web-page
      • Quality of links pointing to the web-site
      • Number of links pointing to the web-page
      • Number of links point to the web-site
      • Diversity of link sources
      • Words used on the linking page
      • Relevance of link sources
    • So if links are very important, how can you increase the number and quality of links pointing to your charities websites? Here are the key two main areas of getting links:
      • Link-baiting – Developing assets to draw links. Some examples of this are apps, tools, calculators, media content, infographics and excellent content.
      • Link-building – Going out and getting links. Some examples of this include leveraging partnerships, directory listings, press release syndication and articles.

    Conclusion: Leverage your non-profit status for SEO benefit

    1. Ask for links - Always ask for people to include links back to relevant content on your website
    2. Optimise assets - Think about your target keywords and on-page ranking factors when making changes to the website
    3. Use your stats - Spend a bit of time each week looking through Google Analytics to understand where your traffic has come from

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