How to Find the Right Keywords for Your Nonprofit

Understanding the role keywords play in your organization’s ability to be found by searchers is crucial!

People are looking for your organization. They want to help, and you need to make sure they able to find you. If you haven’t thought about how your choice of words affects the ability of your NPO’s website to show up in a Google search, now is the time to begin!

So, what are keywords?

When it comes to an online search, keywords are the words or phrases that people type when they are looking for something. Once keywords are typed, search engines work to find the most relevant webpages based on the keywords. While search engines like Google typically tailor YOUR results based on your location, whether you are logged in to any accounts (like gmail), your search history and other factors, the main thing to remember is that results are initially based on the keywords you enter.

As we discuss in Nonprofit SEO Basics, there are many ranking factors that go into which sites appear in a given search, and some keywords will be very competitive. For example, you know there must be many animal shelters in New York City, so imagine how difficult it would be to rank for "Animal Rescue in New York City".

However, if you chip away at improving the SEO of your organization's website and work at the other online marketing strategies we cover here, you do have an excellent shot at ranking well in competitive areas on a shoestring budget!

Choosing Keywords for Your Website

If you are trying to build a website or enhance your site's keyword usage, the first thing you need to determine is what keywords would best describe each page. You'll want to optimize your Home Page with the keywords that primarily describe what you do, and shoot for primary and secondary keywords on each of your other main pages.

How do You Find Keywords?

Google Keyword Planner

Once you have a basic idea of the theme of each page, you can use a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner. This is a free tool that does a great job at 3 things in particular:

  1. It gives you basic keyword search volume at your choice of Worldwide, National, State, County, City, or Town-level.
  2. It gives you hundreds of suggestions of other keywords that might be relevant.
  3. It provides a basic overview of the competition that you may face from others when using a particular set of keywords.


Google Suggest

Google Suggest is also a great way to find keywords that people are searching for. All you need to do to use this tool is go to and start typing a search query, but don't hit 'Enter'. You've probably already noticed that as you type, Google will 'suggest' keyword phrases. These are actual popular web searches! This tool is especially useful for coming up with ideas for blog posts, as you can easily find out what people want to know about all kinds of subjects.


Ubersuggest makes good use of Google Suggest and other suggest services. Using this tool, you can instantly get thousands of keyword ideas from real user queries. It also offers results for images, news, shopping, video, and recipes.

Places to Use Your Keywords

You're probably want to know more about where to use your keywords. The answer is really anywhere you choose to market your nonprofit organization online. This means your website content, social media, advertisements, press releases, video, images, nonprofit directories, and any other tactic you use.

However, keyword usage needs to be strategic and organic. You must absolutely write for your readers first and foremost, with a careful nose for strategic keyword placement. In the old days of the internet (as recent as 3-4 years ago!), people would jam their websites full of keywords and get away with it...but not for long. Google and the other top search engines now penalize these practices with lower rankings, so you need to be careful not to go overboard with keywords.

There is still debate about the exact volume, but a general rule of thumb is to use a set of keywords 1-2 times per 600 words of on page content.

  • In your page urls (
  • In your title tag (Animal Rescue Sanctuary| New York City)
  • In your page title (Animal Rescue Sanctuary in New York City)
  • In headers/h tags on the page, which are used to break up content and make it more readable.
  • In the meta description, which is generally 160 characters long and appears in search results, describing your page. This is not a ranking factor, but will help searchers find the content they'd like to check out.
  • In descriptions of your organization on social media profiles
  • In descriptions of your organization on nonprofit directory listings

The truth is that Google is getting really good at detecting what your website and pages are about, and using specific keywords over and over is going to hurt you more than help you. In fact it's been that way for some time! Now, you need to use your keywords very strategically- just make sure that you're offering a lot of excellent, unique content that your followers can't get enough of, and you'll likely see increases in rankings, site visits and conversions.

Have questions about keyword selection and where to use them? Let me know!