Are bad links hurting your nonprofit website?
Now that you have the fundamentals for a successful nonprofit website in place—your website boasts responsive design, the code is bug-free and up-to-date, and easily navigable—let's take a look at another very common pitfall: bad links.
In case you hadn't heard, search engine optimization (SEO) is the litmus test for how easily people can find your website. Your nonprofit should always take SEO principles into consideration when writing and designing your website.
Two of the top criteria the major search engines use for evaluating SEO are keywords and links. While the algorithms have varied and evolved over time, two major themes remain constant:
1) The right number of the best keywords.
2) The right number of the best links.
That is to say, you don't want too many keywords, or too few. Neither do you want your keywords to be too specific or too broad. The goal is to create or curate relevant content and to make sure that your site loads quickly and is easy to use. The same basic principle applies to links.
On the other hand, here are some things to AVOID: overusing keywords (also known as "stuffing"), poor user experience (e.g. too many ads, difficult to navigate), and paid links (as opposed to organic links).
Your nonprofit organization is in charge of which links you place on your own website, but did you know that outside websites might be linking to your page and damaging your SEO ranking?
These incoming links are commonly called backlinks. According to Forbes, "At the simplest level, Google looks at how many links are pointing to a website and the quality of the websites those links are coming from." Recent Google algorithm updates take a closer look at backlinks than ever before and severely punish websites that are backlinked to spammy ones.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to figure out which pages link to your website. Simply go to Google.com and type in link: followed immediately by your website URL. (Example: link:unitedway.org)
You can also gain a wealth of useful information by using the search operator info: as well. Typing in info:unitedway.org into a Google search returns the following prompts:
Google can show you the following information for this URL:
- Show Google's cache of unitedway.org
- Find web pages that are similar to unitedway.org
- Find web pages that link to unitedway.org
- Find web pages from the site unitedway.org
- Find web pages that contain the term "unitedway.org"
So what do you do with all of this information?
First of all, make sure you know how to identify a "bad link" and make sure the website linking to your nonprofit is relevant to your mission. Ensure it is not a vague website that also includes a lot of extraneous information that could be broadly relevant to many different topics.
If you have a blog, are you seeing a lot of comments containing irrelevant text or unrelated links? Are profiles poorly filled-out or completely blank? That may give you a clue as to whether or not you're encountering genuine interaction or simply a "bot" that wants to ride your web traffic for their own purposes.
If you find that there are unauthorized or "spammy" sites that are linking to your own, the best course of action is to contact the site administrator. Build a template email that you can keep on file and make sure that any of your website administrators have access to this approved verbiage.
Another way to eliminate negative backlinks is to make careful use of Google's "disavow" tool. While not a total solution to all of your backlink woes, when used properly, it can cut down on many of the negative effects associated with having your website being dragged down by another.
But the best way to minimize the negative SEO effects of bad links is to focus on building good ones. Talk to peers within your nonprofit or in sectors relevant to your mission. See if they would be willing to form a partnership with your nonprofit in order to build positive web traffic for both organizations.
After all, the best defense is a good offense.