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The 3-Legged Stool of Online Success: SEO, Email Marketing and Social Media

The Big 3: SEO, email, Social MediaYou know how a 3-legged stool works, right?

If you're missing one of the legs or have a weak leg the stool will eventually fall to the ground. It takes all 3 for the stool to be successful at it's job - holding you up.

The online world has a similar 3-legged stool - SEO, Email and Social. All three work in harmony to support a comprehansive online presense. If you're missing one, the others suffer.

It's true that each can be successful in isolation, but putting them together yields much better long-term results. The challenge for any non-profit or business is to figure out how to develop a well rounded strategy that includes each - a difficult task.

It takes patience, diligence, perseverance, some technical know-how and a lot of time.

When you take a minute to think about all the hours you've invested you start to get an idea of what it's costing you (are you sitting down?). With that in mind I'm sure you'd like to make sure you're focusing your efforts to achieve the best possible reesults.

Let's take a look at three big focus areas that you should be paying attention to.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

There are more than 280 Million websites on the internet and over 200 Thousand of those are U.S. based non-profits websites. Needless to say, without good SEO, you've got a very slim chance of being found by people searching for things you offer (events, fundraising opportunities, volunteer opportunities, programs, etc). So, what do you want to be known for on the web?

  • Do you run fundraising events?
  • Do you offer local or national programs?
  • Do you need volunteers?
  • Do you create educational material?
  • Do you put on local activities?

Once you've figured out what you want to be know for do two things.

First, use the Google AdWords keyword research tool to do some analysis for words and phrases you'd like to rank highly for in search results. The trick here is to look for words and phrases that have low competition and high month global searches. Once you've identified a few of these words and phrases start using them on your website. And don't forget to produce content on a regular basis so Google continues to crawl your site.

Second, use HubSpot's website grader. This tool will crawl and evaluate your website for a lot of the key elements you should be monitoring. You'll gain some interesting and actionable insights that will help guide how you create content and manage your website with a focus on SEO. Here's a sample for NetWits that I ran a few months back that will give you an idea of what to expect.

Email Communication

Email is Alive and Well! At Blackbaud we saw our non-profit customers send over 1 Billion emails in 2010. That seems like a huge amount, but to put it in context there were 247 billion messages sent per day and more than 2.8 million emails sent every second. Staggering.

The point to remember here is that email communication is a mainstay in the lives of a lot of people. It's critical that you have an effective email communication strategy in order to stay connected with those who've decided to engage with you (i.e. those who found you due to your great SEO).  

A few things to consider when it comes to running an effective program:

  1. Make sure your website has a clear way for people to opt-in to receive emails from you and don't ask people for a lot of information to sign up. Email address only is generally the best practice.
  2. Start a regular (weekly, monthly) newsletter where you deliver content that your supporters need, want, find useful.
  3. Build landing pages (for the calls to action you have in your newsletters) that have been optimized for those coming from your newsletter.
  4. Share what you do and ask for enewsletter subscriptions on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc).

A few resources that should keep you moving in the right direction:

Social Media

Social media is no longer seen as a fad or waste of time or thing that young people do.

In fact, we know that 86% of Blackbaud customers participate on social networks and over 90% of non-profits in the world participate on at least one social network. We also know that one of the largest growing segments is the boomer generation.

But the real key is that social media gives you a way to interact with people (your supporters and people who are trying to learn about you) like never before. Make sure you're actively looking for ways to incorporate social media into your online strategy.

While you're thinking, here's a few things to consider:

  • Claim your land. Think about what social networking sites are right for your organization and go create an account. The, make sure you promote your presence on your website.
  • Brand it. Most social networking sites allow you to do some level of branding - whether it's a a custom background on Twitter or a logo designed to work on your Facebook page you can make your brand presence known.
  • Integrate. Think about ways to bring what you do together. If you're using Facebook pull in your Blog, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts so that you page fans can see where else you participate.
  • Think about incentives. Giving people who "like" your Facebook page is a great way to get them off the fence and taking action. Think about the type of things you could offer (free membership, product, access to Facebook only content, etc).
  • Engage. The is the critical point to remember. Social media demands you participate and engage with your supporters, fans, friends etc.

A few more resources that should keep you moving in the right direction:

What Next?

Now, there's no way I could cover any of the above topics with any level of detail in one blog post so make sure to check out the slides below as well as the links to the other resources I've provided.

Happy digital presence building!



Frank Barry blogs about social media for nonprofits at NetWits Think Tank. Make sure to say Hi! on Twitter: @franswaa


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