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SEO for nonprofits

Guide: Search engine optimisation for nonprofits and activists
6 min read
Last update: Apr 15, 2023

In this guide for nonprofits, we help you optimise the search engine performance of your movement's website. To make it easier for your supporters to find you on Google, we also provided some tools for activists to analyse your website and search analytics.

In this article, we answer the following questions:

  1. Why is SEO important for nonprofits?

  2. How to improve your search rankings?

  3. What tools to use?

  4. How to use Google Ad Grant for SEO?

Why is SEO important?

People use search engines like Google as a primary source of information. If you want people to find out about your digital campaigns, optimising your website to end up higher in the search rankings can really help.

Online activism is not a replacement of real-life activism, as it is very much reliant on big tech. However, we believe that we can use their own capitalist tools against them. In this article we explain how to end up high in the search results โ€“ not to make profit, but to change this world for the better.

Example: At Activist Handbook, we write guides for change-makers. However, there is no point in writing an article about how to organise a protest, if no-one can find it. In addition, we use search analytics to determine what topics activists are interested in.


This is what you need to get started with this SEO guide:

  1. No prior SEO experience needed: We try to explain everything in easy to understand terms. If something is unclear, let us know, and we will update our guide!

  2. No money needed: We only recommend tools that are free or very affordable.

  3. Time & long term commitment: Getting your website to rank high takes a long time and a lot of work. On average, pages that rank #1 in the search results are over 2.5 years old. You need to be willing to invest time in creating good content and continually improve it over the years:

Improve your search ranking

The following things are taken into account by search engines like Google to determine if your webpage should show up high in the search results:

  1. High-quality content

  2. Relevant topics & intent

  3. Quality website

Below we explain what each of these means in detail.

This section is mostly theoretical. If you want a more practical โ€˜how toโ€™ guide on how to improve your search performance, skip to the section below!

High-quality content

Google tries its best to serve people the best content. How do they know? We do not really know, their algorithm is mostly a secret. Make sure to read their own Google SEO guide.

In short: Google does not really want to you optimise your website for Google, because that fucks up their algorithm. Instead, they want you to optimise your content for the reader.

We recommend you to do exactly that: if you do not really know how to do SEO well, your best guess is just to create content that people like. Chances are that Google will like it too. These are some things that Google looks at:

  • Do people like your content? For example, they try to determine this by how many people are sharing links to your site. This can be other people adding a link to your website from their own site (backlinks), or people sharing your content on social media.

  • Is your content well-written? Grammar & spelling mistakes

  • Is your content well organised? Headings, links,

  • Is your content unique? Brings new value to readers

  • Is your content complete? Avoid very short articles

Relevant topics & intent

You should write about things that people are interested in. If you want people to find your article via search engines, there is no point in writing a super high-quality article about a topic that nobody looks up.

At the same time, avoid too general topics. There will likely already be many articles, and it will be harder to show up high in the search results.

The perfect topic is frequently looked up, but no high-quality articles exist about it yet.

Google tries to figure out the intent of the person typing in the search query. In other words: what result are they looking for? Those websites will show up higher in the search results.

For example, someone from Berlin looking up โ€˜protest todayโ€™, probably would like to read news articles about a certain protest that is happening that day in Berlin. Thus, Google will favour webpages from German news websites that have been written on that day. On the other hand, someone looking up โ€˜how to organise protestโ€™ probably wants a step-by-step guide, which is what Google will show in the results.

Quality of website

Google also takes into account website loading time, accessibility, and whether it is optimised for mobile phones. These factors directly impact your search rank. As a writer, these things may be difficult to work on, so this part is mostly useful for developers.

A good start is to analyse the quality of your website using a page analysis tool. This tool scans your website, and also shows real-world data collected by Google Chrome.

Some other factors to take into account:

  • Crawl: To be included in the search results, search engines must first be able to find and crawl your website.

  • User experience: Avoid spammy pop-ups and annoying ads.

  • Title, URL and description

  • Snippets & structured data

โš ๏ธ Urgent request: Please don't scroll away

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Tools for SEO

We know most activists do not have a pile of money laying around. We have made a list of free and inexpensive tools that you can use for search engine optimisation.

What features are you looking for?

There are many things you can do to improve your search engine performance. Choose one of the topics below to see the best tools for that purpose:

  • ๐Ÿ“ˆ Analyse website traffic: Track your website visitors, and find out where they are coming from and what they are doing on your site.

    • Google Analytics

    • Matomo (privacy-friendly alternative)

    • Want the most feature-rich solution? Choose Google Analytics. Care about privacy? Use Matomo.

  • ๐Ÿ” Find search keywords: Find out what people look up on Google, and compare differences over time and geographically.

  • ๐Ÿ‘€ Competitor research: Learn from other activist organisations and opponents.

  • ๐Ÿ”— Get more backlinks: Get a list of websites that link to yours. The more websites link to yours, the higher your search rankings. And it is a great way to find potential partner organisations & do outreach.

  • ๐Ÿ“ Write better content (guide not created yet): Get suggestions on how to write better articles so that you can reach more people on Google.

  • ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป Develop a better website: Make your website faster and more accessible to get better search results.

List of tools

Here is a list of tools for nonprofits and activist organisations to improve their search engine ranking:

Google offers a $10.000 monthly ad grant to eligible nonprofit organisations. You can use this grant to advertise your webpages in the Google search results for free.

You can use this ad grant to promote your pages. If your content is good, people will start linking to them (these are called backlinks). The more backlinks, the higher you will end up in the search results organically.

There is one major limitation: you must maintain at least a 5% click-through rate (CTR). This is the percentage of people clicking your ad after seeing it in the search results. That means that you can only advertise for keywords that are actually relevant to your webpage topic (the less relevant, the fewer people will click, thus reducing your click-through rate).

Activist Handbook makes use of the Google Nonprofit Ad Grant. We maintain a click-through rate of 10% or higher on average. We would love to help your organisation by sharing our experience: [email protected]

Keep into account that search engine optimisation is still important, even if you use ads. Google actually still looks at your page quality when using search ads, so more relevant webpages will be shown more prominently and in turn receive more ad clicks. In other words: if you follow the advice in this SEO guide, you will be able to get more out of your ad grant.

Improve this page

This page about SEO is written by activists like you, and you can help make it better. Here are some suggestions:

  • Using SEO as activist tactic: bringing your message to the public through search engines (perhaps to compete with politicians or companies that you are targeting?)

  • Linking to a guide about privacy considerations when using tools like Google Analytics

  • Perhaps create separate guides about each of the tools (for example: โ€˜Semrush for nonprofitsโ€™), and a separate page about the Google ad grant (though the latter is harder to rank high for).

What are people looking up?

Originally, the title of this page was โ€˜search engine optimisation for activists'. However, almost nobody looks up that search query, so we changed it to โ€˜SEO for nonprofitsโ€™.

This is quite a difficult query to compete for: most people writing articles about this topic are very skilled in search engine optimisation, so it is hard to get this article high in the results. There are also many ads for SEO services and tools.





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