The words your supporters use are as important as the words you use

Search greenWords are important. We’re clear on that, right? Verbs, pronouns—they matter. They make people feel and act. They are the tools you use to explain WHY you do what you do.

Now I don’t want to bore you by getting technical, but there is another reason why words are important: they are what make search engines work (well, words and a bunch of boring code). Words are what people use to find and learn about your awesome work online. So the more that you use the words –the ones your future donors are searching– on your website, the more likely they are to find you, and fall in love with you.

Now you may have identified some of the logical search terms your audience would use to find you—perhaps something along the lines of “clean water charity”—because it’s fairly obvious. But consider that your supporters of the future might not know they are looking for you. Perhaps they are researching clean water technologies for their high school biology project, or maybe they are planning a trip to Africa where (unbeknownst to them) they will become aware of challenges many villages face in providing potable water to their residents. Should they come across your mission online, they will learn of your work, maybe follow you or sign up for a newsletter. So the key, when it comes to keywords (see what I did there?) is to understand all the many ways people—the kind of people you want to attract—are finding information related to your work in some way.

So how does one access information on the keywords that people use to find stuff online? The search engines analyze and provide (oops) this information to potential advertisers. Because keyword search patterns are valuable to companies making investments in search advertising. And fortunately, this information is also available to you for free.

A great tool to try out is Google’s Keyword Planner. Search for keyword ideas by entering some of your known keywords (the aforementioned “clean water charity” in our example). You’ll find a list of relevant words, some of which you might not have thought of like “how to purify water”, and data like the average number of monthly searches for the terms and competition from websites or ads that employ those words.

I’m not saying you should load up your pitch with a bunch of Google-generated words and phrases. That would definitely have you sounding a like a robot. Just consider using some of these words in how you tell the story of what you do. Expand the diversity of your words to help new searchers find you.


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