Image of a person with a question mark on a chalkboardQ: Do you know of the best way for my web site to come up on search results when people type in the words “Aids, South Africa, Africa”? I wish to increase traffic to my web site and since this is unfamiliar territory I thought you could help me with this.

A: Great question! I’m not an SEO expert, and I’ve never played one on TV. But here are some tips I’ve learning along the way. They’ll help raise your nonprofit website’s visibility with search engines so that people will find your site much more easily.

  1. Figure out what search terms people are currently using to find your site.
    You could use Google keyword search or sites like to see what similar sites to yours are using for keywords, how often people are using those terms, and how high they rank in search results.

    Once you know what people are searching on, you can determine if the words you thought were the best keywords are really the best or if you can tweak them a bit.

  2. Use those likely search terms in the “keywords” meta-tags.
    This is an HTML thing so you might want to check with someone a bit more technical in your office.

    If you’re using WordPress like I do, check out the very handy All In One SEO Pack plug in. This let’s you easily modify your site’s meta tags. More importantly, it helps you easily create meta titles and descriptions for each blog post or page you put up. (The meta description is the part that shows up in a Google search. It’s also what is grabbed when you post a link to Facebook.)

  3. Strategically use those key in the verbage on your site.
    I’m not advising creating garbage content. You’re not trying to “trick” search engines. You are trying to help them find your site when people search on terms related to your cause.

    When I looked at the pages on in light of search terms I was interested in, I was shocked to see that I talked alot about seminars and trainings but never used the terms “fundraising seminars” and “nonprofit trainings.” People searching on “seminars” could be looking for just about anything. Obviously people that searched on the “fundraising seminars” were a better fit to my site than people just searching on the generic “seminars.” So I tweaked my pages to say “fundraising seminars”!

    You can do the same thing with the terms that would help you. Instead of “AIDS,” you might want to try “AIDS prevention.” According to Google’s Keyword Tool, there were 5,000,000 searches on “aids” last month; only 22,000 on “aids prevention.” That could mean that the field for “AIDS prevention” is a lot less cluttered than just “AIDS.” It’s easier to be found in a less cluttered field!

  4. Write articles on your site, and post them on a regular basis.
    When it comes to search engine optimization, content is king. If you have interesting content, people will link to you and search engines will crawl your site.

    Apparently you have some ability to “train” the “spiders” that roam the web for search engines. They’ll learn to check your site more frequently if it’s updated more frequently. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a blog that you post to on a regular basis. Blogs are an easy way to keep your website fresh.

    Once you’re written an article, you can re-purpose it by posting it to sites like These sites let you link back to your site, which helps build credibility with search engines too.

  5. Google Analytics
    I HIGHLY recommend you sign up for Google Analytics. It’s free and offers a very robust set of tools to help you understand how people find and use your site.

    After signing up, you simply insert a piece of code on each page you want tracked and you get to see who’s visiting, what browser’s they’re using, where in the world they are, what search terms they’re using to find you, how long they’re on your site, what pages are most viewed. It’s pretty amazing.

That is a great starting place. Hopefully I didn’t get too technical!

If you want more, people I listen to on Twitter, folks like @fmbillwatt, @tassoula, @DJNoRequest, recommend checking out:

[Do you have a question about nonprofits or fundraising that you’d like considered for Question Marc? Send it to]

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