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Best Social Media Sites for SEO: A Nonprofit’s Marketing Strategy

By BKV in Non-Profit, SEO, Social Media on April 30th, 2015

Are your social media and SEO strategies working together to maximize your results?  Learn how you can better integrate your efforts to improve performance.

Social media for nonprofits to aid SEO for nonprofits marketing

The Power of SEO and Social Media Synergy

Integrating your SEO and Social Media strategy can significantly improve results.  The proof is in our clients' website analytics.  Long term agency clients who have used our SEO services back when we began integrating social media tactics saw an obvious increase in organic rankings, traffic and conversions as social activity ramped up. SEO consultants started experimenting with social media as ranking signals around 2006. As of now, all the major SEO reporting platforms include social signals into the breakdown of on-page optimization factors.  A Google - Twitter deal earlier this year gives Google access to all Tweets (which Google previously had up until 2011, but then got shut out while promoting Google+).   At this point, there is no question as to whether there is synergy between SEO and social media.

But with any SEO advice you may read online, success depends on your depth of understanding, strategy and ability to execute with some degree of quality. In this post, we'll provide insight on:

  1. UNDERSTANDING the social media environment across platforms that are emerging and declining
  2. Basic STRATEGY to leverage social media for SEO
  3. Acceptable level of EXECUTION or presence on different social media sites

Social Media for Non-Profits Who Value SEO

A non-profit client asked BKV if LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are crucial to SEO or if it’s okay to go silent on these networks, and also wanted a better understanding of Google+’s role in SEO.

Our response, crafted by Social Media Director Ashley Reed and SEO Director Gregory Lee, is one that is specific to the strategy of this individual non-profit client based on their target audience*; however, in many ways it applies to most major non-profits or charity organizations interested in growing donors and fundraising via social media and SEO.

According to Account Supervisor Madeline Ruffin-Thomas, a seasoned expert who has been working with non-profit organization clients at BKV for the last 7 years, "a similar strategy could also apply to charities or non-profit organizations that share a common audience, or to those unable to dedicate time and resources to the constant management of all the various social platforms".

*The donor base for this client happens to skew older and female.

Non-Profit Social Media Strategy

What follows is our unchanged, direct advice to one of BKV’s non-profit clients to allow readers in similar positions to look over our shoulder and receive BKV’s expertise straight from the front lines. Our response explains how to pick the best mix of social media networks to leverage social media marketing and SEO when a non-profit or charity organization with a similar target audience is faced with limited resources to support so many social platforms.

Minimal edits have been made to the original document to remove the client’s name (referenced as "Client" below).  Note that some tactics may not apply uniformly to all non-profits or charities, especially those who do not share the same audience.

Leveraging Social Media for SEO

SEO and Social Media Point of View for [Client]

Google and Bing (which powers Yahoo search) both crawl public data provided by ALL social networks.  These search engines use “popularity” as a strong indicator among the hundreds of signals that determine organic rankings.  This popularity is measured by links, brand mentions, citations, shares, likes, pins, diggs, or whatever the sharing or voting term is for a particular social platform. Therefore, we suggest the best choices for building SEO signals on social channels depends on where [Client] can find and build engaging audiences for its brand on each specific network. 

[For this reason, it is important that non-profits choose to focus on growing presence on social networks where their target audience is most active. Read on for more information on user demographics across social channels...]

It is also beneficial for SEO to include one social network that shares its private data with Google. Google+ is generally the default choice for this as it provides a means to submit organization and brand information that Google may otherwise discover by crawling websites and third party sources, which can result in an incomplete, unprofessional or inaccurate portrayal of your brand in Google search results. Refer to this list of Google Social Data Hub Partners which  shows all the social networks that provide private data to Google (note that Google+ is the biggest network in this list).

[It remains to be seen if Twitter will become a Data Hub Partner as a result of the new Google-Twitter deal.  Twitter integration into Google search is set for May 2015.]

Social Media Platform Recommendations

LinkedIn

BKV recommends [Client] keep its LinkedIn company page active even if not currently posting status updates, as it requires minimal upkeep and having the page maintains the organization's visibility within LinkedIn users’ searches, thereby continuing to drive incremental site traffic and allowing users to learn more about your cause. Additionally, if [Client] was to remove its LinkedIn company page, employees would no longer be able to link to it within their individual profiles, which may negatively affect brand perception in terms of affirming credibility and legitimacy.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a valuable social network on which to maintain an active presence for a few reasons:

  • Demographic commonalities:
    • [Client's] sponsor base and Pinterest's audience are skewed heavily female (81%)
    • By the end of 2015, 30% of Pinterest's audience will be 45 or older, which is your core donor base
  • Your charitable organization work is often very "visual," meaning images of the organization's work and the impact it has on people's lives is essential to conveying its mission in a tangible, compelling way 

In addition to these considerations, the easily-sharable, content-driven nature of Pinterest allows it to play a unique role for SEO:

  • Boards can be optimized for SEO to allow content to more readily show up in search engine results
  • Make sure to use keywords in pin & board descriptions and make sure each board follows a clear, well-defined theme
  • The “Pin it” button is an enormous traffic driver that refers high quality visitors.  In fact, Pinterest users spend 70% more than other social platforms, and one pin generates an estimated $0.78 and two site visits.
    • Note that [Client] should ensure pins link to its website to experience this benefit, as well as add “Pin It” buttons within site content that is likely to be shared, such as blogs, news, etc., and prices should be added to pins that link to items in your e-store
  • Pins can have a long-term benefit – users will keep viewing well-optimized and interesting pins & boards well beyond when they are initially created, unlike Tweets and Facebook posts
     

Instagram

While Instagram’s audience, like Pinterest, is female skewing, it is also heavily used by a younger demographic (ages 18-29).  Given this, there is a chance that Instagram is largely not where [Client's] audience is, so going silent on this network would likely not be detrimental for the moment. However, you should continue to monitor the donor base and the audience composition of this social network to make sure your organization is not missing out on opportunities to connect with current/potential donors, especially as the role of image-centric content continues to grow in social media.  

(Client Recommendation Continued Below.)

Other Considerations for Instagram

Madeline Ruffin-Thomas explains how other non-profits may decide whether or not to invest in a presence on Instagram:

"I’m extremely hesitant to tell other non-profits to consider getting off of Instagram. It is truly something that should be considered on a case-by-case basis and is entirely dependent on your organizations’ goals and audience.  If the overwhelming majority of your current donor base is older, and you’re also not soliciting volunteers or event participants – who are likely a younger audience than your donor base – (all true for this client), this might be one approach to consider (but only in the short term – the social landscape is evolving rapidly, so you should be re-evaluating your tactics regularly).  But if a good portion of ANY segment of your audience skews younger, jumping off of Instagram is likely NOT an avenue you should consider."

BKV's Social Media Director, Ashley Reed also provides this caveat about a non-profit's decision on whether to engage on Instagram:

"Instagram's user base has grown in the short time since this recommendation was provided to the client.  Like Pinterest, organizations that have rich images to leverage should consider being present on Instagram."

Google+

Brand Signals

Because Google has unlimited access to mine data from Google+, [Client] should at least leverage it to provide all its brand signals to Google.  This will give Google full access to your organization's brand data and assets to display them in search results. The more information and assets an organization can feed Google, the richer and fuller experience Google can provide users about the nonprofit brand.  Additionally, Google+ Local can use any available brick-and-mortar locations to amplify brand signals.  Leveraging Google+ Local to verify multiple locations nationwide or worldwide is a signal that “proves” to Google that the organization is active in those areas and therefore a stronger authority worldwide.

*Note to client: Local SEO slated for the upcoming year will include adding organization headquarters data to the existing Google+ page, which has already been verified and linked to the website.  We will include local and brand signals and echo those on the website using schema tags.

Popularity & Brand Visibility

Building a Google+ audience is a positive signal for SEO.  Popularity is important for Google to understand when it decides which brand is the top authority in your organization’s specific charitable area.  While the Google+ demographic does not align with [Client]'s audience (Google+ skews both male and young), the portion of your audience that is on Google+ may be as engaged as that of any other social media network depending on how your social media team interacts with it.  Furthermore, you have the same opportunity to build an audience on Google+ as your nonprofit competitors do.  This makes a very straightforward signal for Google to compare the organization's audience size & engagement level with that of your competitors when choosing who to reward with greater visibility in search results.

[Client]'s brand visibility is amplified in search results to its Google+ followers and their friends. The default configuration for all Android devices – by far the world’s most popular mobile platform – is to be logged into a Google account. Any user logged in to Gmail, YouTube or any other Google product will receive personalized search results skewed toward brands that individual follows or their friends follow on Google+. 

Content & Engagement

Since not as many companies have Google+ profiles as Facebook or Twitter, your content on Google+ will have far less competition.  And sharing content on this social network assists in it getting found in search.  A shared webpage gets crawled and indexed quicker for display in search results.  Plus, any actual post in Google+ can also appear in search results, and tends to rank higher if it has a stream of comments.  Most recent posts often appear in the right column of Google for a brand search.

To boost engagement on Google+ without increasing efforts, [Client] can do the following in concert with Facebook updates:

  • Use hashtags that are relevant and popular
  • Include influencers in posts
  • Drive traffic to the blog and website
  • Post updates that build buzz for events
  • Search & respond to conversations
     

Next Steps/Additional Opportunities

  • [Client]’s marketing team and BKV to discuss any questions/concerns on the above considerations and recommendations.
  • To further enhance our efforts, BKV SEO agency services could also provide ongoing support for blog posts.  For each post, this would involve researching hashtags & influencers, optimizing the post for keywords and crafting supporting optimized social posts.
  • If you can share a marketing calendar, our Social team can also create a social media calendar optimized for valuable SEO keywords that includes messaging that can be planned for distribution across all platforms, infused with a percent of timely posts based on current news/developments with [Client].

 

A Word of Caution on Google+

SEO should be the driver in any level of participation in Google+. In the time since this document was delivered to the client, the lack of usage and adoption of Google+ has become evident, where as other platforms discussed here have grown in active usage and adoption.  Therefore, this is not a platform on which to spend a lot of resources outside setting up and maintaining the brand page and various local pages. In other words, if an organization does not already have an active G+ audience, we recommend setting up a complete profile with brand and local pages, but not to invest heavily in building and engaging an audience, without careful consideration.

How Your Nonprofit Should Leverage Social for SEO

The recommendations in this point of view are specific to our non-profit client. BKV provides POV's specialized for our clients, especially in areas so fluid and market specific as SEO and social media. The competition and overall landscape in SEO and social media is constantly changing, and we almost never condone an organization implementing a SEO or social media strategy without fully vetting the circumstances and implications of the strategy for that entity.

To find out the best course of action for your non-profit organization, contact BKV for an SEO and Social Media analysis.