Creating an effective web presence starts with designing a great website. But while a well crafted website will set you up for success, it’s really just the first step towards leveraging the tremendous power of the Internet. After all, what’s the point of dedicating time and resources to creating an incredible website if no one winds up visiting it?
Most nonprofits do a good job of directing existing supporters to their websites using e-mail newsletters and social media outreach, but very few are making the most of their websites as acquisition tools to bring in new supporters. And if you aren’t attracting new supporters with your website, you’re really missing out on a big piece of what the Internet has to offer.
Fortunately, there’s a remedy for this particular problem. Enter inbound marketing…
What’s Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing (as the name suggests) is pretty much the opposite of traditional outbound marketing. Instead of thrusting your message in front of prospects (think TV ads, direct mail, pop up ads, etc.) inbound marketing focuses on getting found by people who are already interested in some aspect of what you do.
In the age of Google, there are millions upon millions of people searching the web every day. Among those millions of people, there are going to be some that are looking for information about an organization or cause like yours. Inbound marketing is all about helping those people find and connect with you.
So How Does My Nonprofit Get Found?
Let’s start with the very basics. Whenever you go to a search engine, you type in what you’re looking for (called “keywords”), you click the search button, and you’re taken to a series of pages that contain a list of relevant websites (the “search results”). As you’d naturally expect, the websites that are listed closest to the top of the search results get the most visitors.
A good inbound marketing strategy will (among other things) focus on getting your website as close to the top of the search results as possible for keywords that are relevant to your organization or cause. The higher you rank on targeted keywords, the more interested visitors you’ll draw in.
Two Keys to Ranking in Search
At a very basic level there are two factors that affect your website’s ability to rank well in the search results: (1) the number of quality inbound links directed at your website and (2) the relevance of your website’s content to the keywords you are targeting.
An inbound link is a link that “points” at your site. When we write a blog at StayClassy about one of our nonprofit clients, any links we include that go back to the nonprofit’s website are “inbound links” for that nonprofit. Relevance to your target keywords is determined by the content on a given page of your website. A search engine will scan the title of the page, the words on the page, sub-headings, etc. and it will determine how relevant that content is to the search keywords.
Content Relevant to Targeted Keywords + Quality Inbound Links = BETTER SEARCH RANKINGS.
Keep in mind that the quality of inbound links matters. Inbound links from more authoritative websites will boost your credibility more. In other words, one link from the New York Times will benefit you a lot more than 100 links from your cousin’s personal blog.
Now, if only there was a way to create relevant content and acquire new inbound links…
You probably already guessed it, but blogging is one of the best ways to create relevant content and build up more inbound links. When you commit to writing a weekly blog about your organization and its cause, you will be continuously creating webpages filled with rich (and relevant) content. The more pages you have with content relevant to the keywords you want to compete for, the better your chances are of moving up the search rankings.
Each interesting article you publish about your organization, is like a new net you’re casting out into the ocean of the Internet. The more nets you toss out, the more visitor’s you’ll be able to capture from search engines. That’s the basic idea at least.
To be sure, blogging to acquire new supporters takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and good blogs aren’t either. If you can make time to start blogging and keep at it though, it’ll be worth your while in the long run.
Even before you’re drawing in new visitors from search engines, there are more immediate benefits that a good blog can bring. A blog creates another point of interaction for your existing supporters. Each article you publish is another opportunity you have to give those supporters valuable information about the cause they care about, to show them more about the behind the scenes of your organization, or to highlight the individual personalities of your staff members.
As you build a regular readership, you’ll naturally strengthen relationships with these people. They’ll be coming back to your site more often than they otherwise would, learning more about you, and keeping you top of mind. Some supporters may even begin to comment on your articles creating another way of communicating and interacting with them.
Blog content can also be repurposed in your newsletters. If you send out a monthly e-newsletter to your supporters, you can include highlights of articles you’ve published on your blog. This gets more people flowing back to your website, and reminds them that you’re regularly producing content (giving them more reasons to come visit your site). You can also use compelling blog content during your fundraising campaigns. Sending inspiring stories to fundraisers at different points throughout the campaign can help remind people what they are working for and keep enthusiasm high.
In general, it’s never bad to be creating high quality content. Even if it will take you a while to bring in new supporters from search, there are plenty of other ways you can leverage your content to spread your message and engage supporters (sharing through social media channels is another good example).
If you’re interested in learning more about how nonprofit blogging, and inbound marketing more generally, can support your nonprofit’s overall marketing efforts, the folks at Hubspot have a great free starter kit for nonprofits chock full of useful information.