Google Changed the Search Engine Rules

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    Online fundraising happens

    …when people come to your website and make a gift. While you can reach previous donors and prospects with email, the vast majority of online donors are not on your email list – yet.

    While you can pay for ads to bring traffic to your website, Google and other search engines will bring the best possible traffic to your site — people who care about your issues.

    That’s why up about 50% of new visitors to a non-profit website come via a search engine, and the granddaddy of all search engines is Google … with more than 60% of the traffic.

    The best way to draw quality traffic to a web page has always been the “simple” way – have great content. With Google Panda, their new search engine, it’s even more true.

    Google used to place more emphasis on links from other sites, especially those that get a lot of traffic. That created the “link swapping” industry, which encouraged links to lots of pages in a reciprocal strategy, designed to create links, even those that didn’t result in clicks.

    Google has changed the way it measures “good content,” from one that placed more emphasis on what other sites thought about your page, to one that places more emphasis on what users think about your page.

    Google’s new “Panda” search engine places value on what people do at your site, as well as how they get there. It measures:
    •  Time on Site: how long visitors spend on pages they get to from Google
    •  Bounce Rate: the percentage of users that leave your site without doing anything
    •  Page views per visit: How much they poke around your site

    It also measures how many times a page is “shared” via FaceBook and other social networks. So make sure that you make it easy for people to share your key pages with tools like “ShareThis” or “AddThis.”

    Finally, it also measures what it calls “Branded Search Traffic” – the visits that result when people enter your site name or organization name in Google to get a link to your site. That implies that people are being directed to your site from offline conversations, and come to Google to find your page.

    Remember that Google ranks web pages, not web sites. So find the pages that get the most “entry traffic” from search engines and review them using questions found on Google’s own blog: Google’s Guidance On Building High Quality.

    What is still important?
    •  Original, useful content – tell your organization’s stories
    •  A meaningful page title (the headline that shows up in search results)
    •  A helpful page description (the first dozen or so words that show up in a Google search)
    •  Good calls to action within your popular pages. Getting people to subscribe to your
    email list, donate, sign a petition, or share your content on FaceBook all reduce your
    “bounce rate” and increase your Panda score. They also produce meaningful results to you.

    Do your own mini search optimization audit to see how your audience will or won’t find you in search.
    1.  Create a list of keyword phrases that describe your issues, e.g. “hunger Cincinnati”
    or “helping left-handed Lithuanians”
    2.  Enter them in Google and see where your top page on that issue scores. See who
    else is ahead of you and look at their pages to find out why.
    3.  Look at your web site traffic reports to see which phrases are bringing people to
    your site, and what pages they’re landing on. Those are the best places to start.

    More questions about search engine marketing? Send me an email!


    Rick Christ has been helping nonprofit organizations use the internet for fundraising, communications and advocacy since 2009, and has been a frequent writer on the subject. He delights in your questions and arguments. Please contact him at: or at his LinkedIn Page