Nonprofit Digital Communications

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For those doing digital strategy work, including written or multimedia content for nonprofit websites, social media, and e-newsletters. This group is for those digital communications folks who create written or multimedia content for websites, social media, and e-newsletters for nonprofits. Members will discuss topics such as social media trends, digital analytics, developing content, storytelling, planning and resources, content strategy, and more.

Is SEO dead?

  • 1.  Is SEO dead?

    Posted Mar 17, 2018 09:57
    From a post I wrote a few months ago.

    Perhaps you've heard of a thing called search engine optimization (SEO for short). SEO was defined as the intentional manipulation of on-page elements to influence the ranking of a web page in the search results. That definition no longer holds true. When Google first launched, and for several years after, the techniques of SEO worked great! But then Google got smart.

    From Florida to Penguin, Panda, and Fred (names given to the major updates of the Google search algorithm), Google continues to make significant changes to the way they index and rank web pages in their search results. These changes have had a huge impact on search rankings.

    If you care at all about your position in the search results, you pay attention to the changes Google makes. It's a game of cat and mouse.  Webmasters seek out and find a possible foothold to manipulate the search results then exploit it. Google identifies the threat and reacts to level the playing field again. Back and forth and on and on it goes.

    The game is much, much more difficult now. The level of skill and attention to detail required to ante up and play is very high. According to Search Engine Land, SEO is NOT dead. – if you're willing to master and leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence. I don't know about you but those skill-sets are "nice to haves" but not high on my immediate list of priorities.

    The best guess among professional SEOs is that Google uses at least a few hundred different data points to determine the value of web page. Back links, link neighborhoods, social media profiles, click throughs (remember when these didn't matter?), and many more points of evaluation. On top of this, the competition for keywords you're hoping to be found for can be impossible. It's a very complex game of chess and poker rolled into one. Does this sound insane? In my opinion it is. Is this the level you need to play at in order to succeed? No.

    Back when Google's chief spam cop Matt Cutts attended Pubcon I very much enjoyed his attendance. Imagine the sheriff and the bad guys all in the same room – fully aware of who was testing the defenses of the bank and who was in charge of defending it. But back then, the game and the tools were much simpler.  SEO as we knew it back in the early 2000s has since morphed into something completely unrecognizable.

    There are those that still play the game but the bar has long risen far above the skill of most webmasters and in my opinion, I'm glad it did. You can still play effectively if the market space isn't too competitive but it takes a lot of skill and experience. Imagine driving a Formula One race car at top speed. All skills being equal, the one with the best car will win, but one mistake and it will cost you dearly.

    Today, there are so many possible data points that Google could be using. And that's the crux of it. SEO is a guessing game with a very low percentage of players that actually know the game. Personally, SEO is dead for me – I don't have the time to learn all the nuances and suppositions nor can I afford to gamble. The days of Google dances and making a minor change to see big results have long passed. Now it's a game of making a minor change and hoping it has some effect. It takes an enormous amount of attention and effort to earn a win. If you hit it right, you'll win big – today. Tomorrow? The algorithm will change and the game starts again.

    For those of us in charge of our organization's online presence we must ask ourselves, is it worth the time and effort for so little gain? Remember, we're busy with so many other responsibilities – SEO is just a small portion. So is it really worth our time? I say no. It's better to follow Google's guidelines – it's their sandbox. Better to play by the rules and maintain our good standing than to risk it and waste our time chasing something so elusive. If we do our due diligence and produce websites with quality content and good code, we'll be rewarded.

    What say you?



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    Gregg Banse
    Director of Marketing & Business Development
    Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
    Vergennes, Vermont
    https://www.lcmm.org
    https://greggbanse.com
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  • 2.  RE: Is SEO dead?

    Posted Mar 18, 2018 12:43
    Thanks for sharing this. 'Doing something' about our SEO has been on my to-do list in lowest priority section forever :-) This story reminds me of all the tricks you see come and go for beating Facebook's algorithm, when the answer seems to be provide good content and you will do well.

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    Melissa Amarello
    Advocates for Snake Preservation
    Tucson, Arizona
    https://www.snakes.ngo/
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  • 3.  RE: Is SEO dead?

    Posted Mar 19, 2018 11:01
    Thanks for good thoughts on SEO! I'm sure that the vast majority of nonprofit communications people will agree with the sentiment that staying 100-percent on top of the latest SEO strategies is beyond our capacities. My philosophy has been to try to cover at least the basics and stay somewhat current with whatever's passing for the latest strategic thinking.

    We're in the midst of a website overhaul right now, including making the switch from Drupal to WordPress. I've been pressing the design firm for details on their SEO strategy for the new site ... nothing too surprising has emerged so far.

    We've also revamped our Adwords account via Google for Nonprofits. This is a great avenue for experimenting with SEO strategy because the paid ads (which are not actually costing us anything) come with robust tracking analytics and reports. They can be changed easily, which means we can try different things and see what gets the best results. There's even an app that allows me to check on, or change, my ads from my phone.

    If anyone finds a good resource on SEO basics that's up to date with recent changes or strategic thinking please consider posting it here!

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    Mark Eller
    Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics
    Boulder, CO
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  • 4.  RE: Is SEO dead?

    Posted Mar 29, 2018 11:02
    One new item we have been taking a look at are character counts for metadescriptions and browser/page titles. We recently installed SiteImprove for SEO on our Sitecore website platform. The module recommends 160 characters or less for metadescriptions and 65 characters or less for browser/page titles. While I think we all know to keep these concise, I had never seen a hard number before.

    Then, a colleague recently went to a Google Analytics class, and was told a slightly different character range for these fields. So I am not sure it's a hard and fast rule.

    I'd be interested to hear from others if they have been told something different.

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    Sarah Meyer Hughes
    Manager, Analytics and Innovation
    American Dental Association
    Chicago, IL
    Community Organizer, NTEN Digital Communications Group
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  • 5.  RE: Is SEO dead?

    Posted Mar 29, 2018 11:07
    Hi Sarah,
    There is no hard and fast number. Google doesn't give away the recipe of the secret sauce! :)

    The numbers you see floating around for anything related to SEO come from a lot of research, testing, and some trial and error. They are nothing more than informed best guesses. And since the algo is often updated and tweaked, there is no way for us to be sure these numbers are reliable.

    ------------------------------
    Gregg Banse
    Director of Marketing & Business Development
    Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
    Vergennes, Vermont
    https://www.lcmm.org
    https://greggbanse.com
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Is SEO dead?

    Posted Mar 30, 2018 07:34
    We do SEO -- I have been in the SEO game for over 15 years now, and I will say that SEO is NOT DEAD. Harder - absolutely. Dead - absolutely not. While we do not do too much SEO for nonprofits because in our opinion it is not money well spent - and we will never charge for services we do not think will bring a great ROI - we do SEO in just about every other industry and are seeing clients who are by far exceeding their competition because of the investment.

    While we do not typically do SEO for nonprofits -- I do believe they SHOULD be implementing SEO strategies. One thing we do do a bit of for the nonprofits are audits - which can give a nonprofit a great baseline for where they need to improve to generate more organic traffic. That is one investment I do think is worth it for a nonprofit.

    This can offer organizations insight into:

    1) Technical issues -- find page not found errors, redirect issues, code related issues (for example I recently found one website that had a robots text file with a disallow in it -- meaning they were telling the search bots not to crawl the website, the client was clueless but that was the reason their website was plummeting)
    2) Onsite SEO issues - page titles, meta descriptions, content etc. Are you overoptimized? Are you underoptimized? Do you have too many pages trying to target the same topic?
    3) Keywords - an analysis on what your websites currently ranks for versus missed opportunities - what do competing organizations rank for that you do not. How are people searching for what your mission may represent.
    4) Backlinks - critical to growth - but one area nonprofits rarely focus on are backlinks, knowing who is linking to you and finding new opportunities for backlinks is critical

    This month has been catastrophic for a lot of websites due to the mobile first indexing rollout that is taking place, so it has been an interesting month.  Google begins to roll out mobile-first indexing

    With all this said --- you cannot sit and evaluate every single thing Google says. I have been in this world for a long time -- and truth is the way I do SEO is NOT that different than how I did it 10 years ago yet I still see consistently strong results in MOST cases. (Doctors and Lawyers and uber competitive niches are a whole different ball game).

    Basically it is about YOU being an AUTHORITY in the world you are active in ---- and making sure your website code is up to great standards.


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    Jill Caren
    2 Dogs Media, LLC
    jill@2dogsdesign.com
    732.241.5365
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