Recently, I attended a helpful session on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), presented by Cary Walski of MAP for Nonprofits. The class was mainly focused on the basics of SEO, but it was a good refresher for me, and I learned a few new things as well.

In case you are not familiar with SEO, it is the process that determines where your web site ranks for organic search on the major search engines. While it is a process that is always evolving, things such as keyword relevancy, content, and authority continue to stay at the core. Here are my top three takeaways from Cary’s presentation:

Know How People Talk About You

One of the most important things to understand when trying to improve your search rankings is the keywords that people are using to search for your services. Relevancy is key. Keep in mind, these keywords can be different than the vocabulary you’ve established to describe your organization, so Cary advised seeking someone from outside of your organization to share their ideas about what you do.

During the class, we did a short activity where we brainstormed a few keywords on our own and then used the google keyword tool to help suggest additional keywords that we might not have thought of. The google keyword tool also helps you understand search volume and competition for those keywords.

Turn Keywords Into Key Phrases

Cary shared the importance of translating your chosen keywords into specific key phrases for each page on your web site. It’s important to make sure you don’t overload your pages with keywords. The search engines much prefer 2-3 target key phrases per page. She also talked about the importance of having keywords in your page title (as far to the left as possible), page description, and URL. Search engines use these to determine which web sites to rank for a particular search criteria.

The Importance of Authority

In a nutshell, search engines value web sites with a good reputation (good authority). You can have thousands of visitors and the best keywords on your site, but if other quality web sites don’t deem yours ‘credible’ by linking back to you, you will be lacking a major piece of the puzzle.

Here are some additional helpful resources that Cary shared with the attendees of the class:

5 Free Tools for Competitor Keyword Research

PageRank Checker

How to Turn off Search History Personalization

Have more nonprofit tech questions? Check out MAP TechWorks (A program of MAP for Nonprofits).

What SEO tips would you suggest?