Feb 17

5 Steps to Finding SEO Keywords for Your Nonprofit

In our previous post, we discussed what SEO is and how you can use it to drive website traffic for your nonprofit.

If you're new to SEO, we highly recommend reading that previous post for a basic overview of how keywords and SEO work.


We discussed that one of the ways that Google ranks a page is by looking at the webpage’s keywords, or short phrases that tell Google what the page is about. In this post, we will give you a step-by-step guide to defining effective keywords for your nonprofit to make your SEO strategy even more successful.

Before we start defining your nonprofit keywords, we should discuss what makes a keyword most effective. 

A keyword is a phrase that tells Google and your audience what your content is about. The most effective keywords are phrased in a way that someone would naturally search for, and clearly describe the content you are writing about. 

Keywords typically: 

  • Solve a problem for the audience
  • Answer a question
  • Give information about a product or business

Use these 5 simple steps to find the most effective keywords for your nonprofit!

Step 1. Start Broad

List the main goals of your nonprofit.
Use that to identify the main “buckets” for your website content.

Start by identifying the 3-5 main content "buckets" for your nonprofit. These categories will vary depending on the priorities and structure of your organization, but it's important to find the categories that you focus on in your website.

Here are a few ideas for how to group your content buckets, using NotleyEDU as an example:
  • Programming Types: Events, Courses, Blog Posts
  • Stakeholders: Platform Users, Sponsors, Instructors
  • Content Topics: Fundraising, Board Management, Marketing for Nonprofits


In the following steps, we'll use "Fundraising" as our example content bucket. However, you'll want to complete these steps for each of the content buckets you defined. 

Step 2. Break it Down

After identifying your 3-5 categories, it's time to get more specific.

Are there any “niches” within these categories that your nonprofits specializes in? Do you target a specific group of the population?

Feel free to include as many ideas as you want! 

Step 3. Ask Questions 

It's now time to empathize with your audience and identify how they might search for this topic. A great way to do this is by asking questions. 

Step 4. Optimize for Search 

Once you have a list of questions your audience may be asking, it's now time to rewrite them as short phrases. In our instance, this might look like:

"How do I market my nonprofit event"  "Ideas to market nonprofit event"
"What tools can I use to plan a gala?"  "Best fundraising gala marketing tools"
"How can I have a successful donation campaign?"  "Steps to creating a successful donor campaign"

Don't fret about finding the perfect phrasing just yet, and again, list as many ideas as you can think of.

Step 5. Research Competition

Now that you have a list of keyword ideas, it's time to research which phrases will be the most effective for your nonprofit.

Since the goal here is to find keywords that you can rank highly for, it's important to look for keywords that have low competition and high search volume. When you are researching your keywords, start by Googling them yourself! The best keywords will show websites with popularity and monthly visitor metrics that you can compete with.

This step of the process is tricky, and can take some time to work through. If you're craving more in-depth training on finding keywords, we'd highly recommend you take our free SEO for nonprofits course! You'll leave with a list of researched keywords and an actionable plan for implementing them. 
When researching keywords, a great place to start is by assessing their competition and search volume.  Here are some tools that we'd recommend:

Tools to use:Google Keyword Search Keywords everywhere - has paid features but is a free chrome extension that shows competitiveness + related keywords for searches 

  • Google Keyword Planner - Great for getting ideas on phrasing and other related searches
  • Ahrefs - Their backlink checker is a great place to start when assessing competition
  • The Hoth - Their free keyword ranking tool can help you see what keywords you already rank highly for
  • Keywords Everywhere - Their chrome extension will give you data on keyword search volume, and other related keyword ideas.
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