How to find an SEO agency for your nonprofit

We’ve had several nonprofit clients reach out, asking why we didn’t warn them about an SEO issue with their site. We then explain to them, the reality is their site doesn’t have an issue, and instead an agency is merely trying to scare them into purchasing their SEO service.

Our VP of marketing Lisa told me about this scenario, and has pulled together some ideas to help your nonprofit avoid falling for this scare tactic. In the end, hopefully you find a quality SEO agency for your nonprofit.

Some of these emails are more threatening than others. The one below is pretty gentle in comparison to others but it usually goes something like this:

seo-agency-scare-tactics

You can pretty much bet on the fact that this agency hasn’t actually looked at your site. They merely used a template email and plopped in your nonprofit’s name. Don’t fall for it.

First you might ask, “why do agencies use this SEO email?”

The major problem is that this email works. SEO is confusing and can take a lot of time to fix, so when people are offered an “easy solution” or “quick fix” they often latch onto it.

This stems from the evolution of SEO. At first, people used “black-hat” techniques to hack Google’s algorithms. They even sometimes worked. But Google, as per usual, has out-smarted those and now penalizes people for those. As a result, there really isn’t a quick fix.

Why these low-quality agencies don’t help

SEO is many things, but it’s definitely not something you can hack. It takes time, content and a true understanding of your audience. If a company is sending you a template email to save time, it’s unlikely they will give your website the individual time and attention it needs to develop quality SEO.

If you really need help with SEO, here’s how to find a quality SEO agency:

  1. Check to see how they map out deliverables: If an SEO agency promises #1 organic rankings overnight, they’re not being honest or realistic with you. Look for an SEO agency that sets realistic, measurable goals.
  2. They should follow modern strategies and best practices: Make sure that the agency you choose, stays current. They should be aware of algorithm updates and changes in the industry and they shouldn’t use any black-hat SEO tactics that may end up damaging your nonprofit brand or reputation.
  3. They shouldn’t be solely trumpeting where they fall on a list: Be cautious of choosing an SEO agency because they were voted “Top SEO Expert” by an organization that you’ve never heard of. These are often paid listings and require no real skills or experience.
  4. Look for a Google Partner Certification: If they are certified, they’ll have a Google Partner badge on their site. This ensures that the agency is staying in touch with digital marketing tools and has an understanding of Google Analytics.
  5. Their style should emphasize trust, transparency and communication Style: A reputable SEO agency will answer your questions and be straightforward. They won’t play games or try to trick you into an SEO program. They will always try to meet or exceed your expectations. Make sure the SEO agency you choose understands your organization and takes time to listen.

The next time you get one of these emails, don’t panic. If you are really concerned about your SEO, this email can serve as a good reminder to research SEO agencies and find a good fit for you. Your nonprofit deserves the best, so hopefully now, you seek it out!

Considering a new nonprofit brand? Start here.

nonprofit-branding

Rebranding is difficult – remember New Coke or The Hut? It’s unlikely that you do: those brands failed miserably. If you don’t roll out your rebranding campaign with a thoughtful plan, your initiatives will most likely fall flat or worse yet, damage your image and undo the positive work you’ve done.

Before diving into a rebranding campaign, it’s important first to understand why you feel your organization needs a rebrand and what you’re hoping to achieve through rebranding. Rebranding is more than a name change or a new logo on your organization’s stationery. Rebranding involves your core messaging, your culture, your attitude and your approach.

There are several reasons to rebrand.

Some of the most compelling include:

  • You’re trying to broaden or reach new audiences.
  • You’ve changed your focus.
  • You are offering new services or products.
  • Your brand is dated and hasn’t evolved as much as your audience has.

Names, logos, messages and cultures are very subjective. What appeals to one person might be a total turn off for the next. For this reason, it’s critical to base your decisions on data.

So, how do you began a rebranding campaign?

1. A good place to start is by talking to key stakeholders.

This might include staff, Board members and volunteers. You should aim to take their overall temperature and find out whether they’re on board. If they don’t agree with the idea of rebranding, find out why. If they agree that it’s necessary, ask them to elaborate.

2. Next, assemble key stakeholders for a branding workshop.

By enlisting the help of staff and Board, you not only get to leverage their insights, but you also reduce the stress of uncertainty that they’ll buy-in later on.

The goal of the branding workshop is to identify the core identity of the organization and uncover any brand equity that may be potentially be lost.

Once you’re done, be sure to review all of feedback and synthesize results to narrow the options.

3. Now you can coordinate a survey with the short list of options.

Please note, this list should be short – 3-5 options. Limiting the list ensures that people taking your survey won’t encounter decision fatigue.

4. Finally, you can make the final decision.

This is tough to do as a committee. Ultimately, one person or a very small group will need to have the final say. That’s why hearing from stakeholders along the way is so critical.


The keys to a successful rebranding campaign are collaboration and allowing time to reflect. Through collaboration ideas will iterate and with time, insights and will burble up and come into sharp focus.

Planning an event for your nonprofit? Consider your millennial audience at every step.

nonprofit-event-planning

For most nonprofits, events are paramount to your organization’s success. A good event can boost awareness for your organization and help you meet your goals. However, a poorly-executed event can damage your organization’s image and turn into a major time suck.

Like most aspects of communication, the key to successful events is speaking to your audience. With this in mind, how can you prepare for the “changing of the guard” (read about what I mean in “Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers)? What can you do to attract this new, younger audience?

There’s more than black-tie galas

We’ve all been to black-tie galas with the rubber chicken dinner followed by the boring powerpoint programming. Don’t get me wrong, it can be effective but there are other options. If you’re trying to break through and attract a younger audience consider a less formal, traditional event. One of our clients, YouthLink, recently held an event that featured whiskey tastings and prize drawings. Though upscale in its own way, this event was a far cry from a traditional nonprofit gala. This makes it stand out.

Depending on your event goals, you may consider one of the following:

  • Activity-based events such as walks or runs
  • Experiential events
  • Pub crawls
  • Food or beverage-based events – food trucks, wine pairings, whiskey tastings
  • Trivia contents
  • House concerts
  • crowdfunding

Be upfront with “the ask”

There are more nonprofits now than ever before. With worthy causes out there competing for donors and volunteers, getting someone to even attend your event, not to mention make a gift, can be challenging.

Some of us tend to hide that fact that we’re seeking donations, but I’d like to argue that it’s important to clearly communicate what your expectations are. If your guests know ahead of time what the goals of your organization are, they’ll be able to budget and consider their options, rather than feel unprepared or even tricked into an event.

Make it easy

Whether we’re talking about registering for the event, subscribing to a mailing list, or making a donation, make it as simple as possible. If there’s any bit of friction, your conversion rates and interactions will decrease. When you’re planning your event, consider your attendees: how do they prefer to interact? Do they prefer to donate online or are they more comfortable writing a check? Would they want someone to check them into the event?


Organizing an event for your nonprofit, takes time and money. Considering your audience will help you to plan an event that resonates with them while also allowing you to meet your goals.

The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility [Event]

AS_web-accessibility_02-1.png

ArcStone’s throwing an event later this month and would like you to come!

The event, “The human, design and legal implications of web accessibility” covers some of the common questions about web accessibility.

  • What does web accessibility really mean?
  • What’s it like to use a screen reader to browse the web?
  • How should a nonprofit or business approach web accessibility?
  • What are the risks for my organization if our site is not accessible?

We have big plans for this discussion!  First we’ll aim for a better understanding of web accessibility in general. We’ll hope to gain new perspectives on the challenges and frustrations for those who can’t access sites they want to visit. And we’ll learn about concrete steps you can take to insure that your site will work for everyone.

Already convinced? Register for the event here.

While access to websites for everyone has always been critical, we’ve noticed that more than ever before, nonprofits and businesses have questions about what accessibility means and are now more committed to having a web presence that can be accessed and enjoyed by all.

“The Human, Design and Legal Implications of Web Accessibility,” event will feature three unique perspectives. This includes full-time assistive technology instructor from Vision Loss Resources, accessibility experts from Accessible360 and two employment attorneys specializing in this area from Fafinski, Mark & Johnson. These two lawyers have experience handling web accessibility litigation and how it pertains to employment law and nonprofits.

We hope you can join us for an afternoon of mutual learning, food and refreshments.

When:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3:00 – 5:00pm

Where:

ArcStone

2836 Lyndale Avenue South

Suite 132

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Excited to have you join us! Register for the event here.

A nonprofit brand strategy that’s often forgotten: Branded SEO campaigns.

nonprofit-brand-seo-strategy

A buzzword like SEO is thrown around a lot when it comes to digital strategy. As a nonprofit communicator, you know you need to understand it, but you don’t often have time to dive deeper. You attempt to stuff some keywords into your website content but that’s about it.

Knowing your time constraints, I want to make sure you don’t neglect the second part of SEO – branded search – as it can help you more effectively than just keyword stuffing would.

How SEO and your nonprofit brand can work together

You may not want yet another priority on your list, but listen up: what’s wonderful about branded search or brand SEO, is it does two things at once. You get people to your website AND you build your brand recognition. Boom done.

You need to first understand how these two goals work on their own to understand how they can aid one another.

1. Branding

For one, you need to ensure people know your name. You want your nonprofit brand to be well-known and remembered so people come to you first when searching for help or opportunity to help. If you need to better understand building your brand, read this.

2. SEO

Secondly, you need to show up when people search “volunteer opportunities” or “best nonprofit for helping ____ (insert your cause here).” The route for this = SEO strategy. If you need to better understand SEO read this.

How branding and SEO work together

Besides just building up common keywords, SEO can build up your brand recognition. When people search your nonprofits name, if you don’t show up as the first result, you may want to listen up.

Brand + SEO = Brand SEO

Branded keywords are simply your nonprofit’s name. For the nonprofit, Feed My Starving Children, one branded keyword phrase is “Feed my starving children” and another is the acronym “FMSC.”

How to start a branded SEO campaign

  • Write more blog content specifically about your nonprofit, including the name in the title, URL, headers, content, etc.
  • Be sure at least some of your photos contain alt text and descriptions with your name
  • If you have time, guest blog on nonprofit blog sites (ehem, like this one!). When Google sees your name in other places, it sees you as more important and helps your own site show up sooner in rankings.

If you need to convince your Board or team members this is worth your time, here are some additional benefits of brand SEO.

  • “Branded traffic is better traffic” as co-founder of ArcStone Lisa puts it. When people are seeking you out specifically with their search query, they aren’t there by accident, just hurting your bounce rates. When they’re coming to your site via a search of your name, they will interact with it and perhaps even convert into a donor or volunteer. This fulfills your goals of conversions and even positively impacts how Google ranks your site. (Remember: low bounce rates, high conversions, high interactions = strong SEO).
  • Brand campaigns help build overall awareness. Think about it: each time your brand shows up on the first name of Google, people are seeing it even when they didn’t seek it out specifically.
  • If you have control over your brand SEO, you can reduce the potential for a negative reputation down the road. Hopefully you never run into a scandal or negative review, but if you do, it’s helpful to have your brand showing up for other reasons besides that one bad article.

If you’d like some help building out this strategy, reach out to ArcStone .