When looking for information, where do you go? If you answered the Yellow Pages, you’re probably one of the few holdouts. But if you said a search engine, you’re in the overwhelming majority. People are searching for organizations, programs, classes and events like yours on the web every day, and the best way to be found by potential clients is with search engine optimization.
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results—as in through people actively searching for your organization or things your organization might offer without being led to your website through digital ads.
Why Do I Need Search Engine Optimization?
The most cost-effective way to get traffic to your website is through utilizing SEO. There are a lot of factors that go into a search engine’s algorithm, and optimizing your website to meet those key criteria is important when it comes to helping you rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). One of the most important criteria your organization’s website must meet is having keywords within your website copy that are relevant to what your organization does. By including these keywords, or even key phrases, you are showing search engine web crawlers that your organization’s website is worth putting in front of the eyes of people who either search for you directly or search for things you offer, such as “summer camps near me” or “swim lessons for kids.”
Think about what you offer your community. What classes, services, facilities and events do you manage, and how are they valuable to the public? Also, think about how your target customer would conduct a search. What would that person want to know? Make sure to include all types of phrases that would lead directly to a buy, as well as others that are research-based. Creating this list of brainstormed words and phrases will direct people right to your organization and its offerings.
Look at Google’s suggestions
At this point you should have a pretty big list of 20 to 100 keyword phrases that you've brainstormed. Now Google the phrases. As you type in the search terms, check to see what phrases Google is suggesting. If you find relevant ones, add them to the list. Google recommends searches that have some popularity, so this is your first step toward homing in on the right keywords to use for your site.
Another great way to utilize Google is by scrolling to the bottom of the results page to see what searches relate to the keywords or key phrases you have searched. If they are relevant to what your organization offers and does, then add them to the list.
Utilize a Keyword Research Tool
Up to this point, you’ve mainly been guessing how your organization’s current and potential clients are searching for you. Keyword tools help you make the leap from what you think people are searching to what you know people are searching. Here are three FREE keyword tools that you can use online:
- Google Keyword Planner - This tool allows you to search for keywords or key phrases most relevant to your organization and what it offers.
- WordStream - This tool utilizes Google’s search data to deliver relevant keywords and key phrases, includes competition scores and more.
- Wordtracker - As with the previous tool, this one also uses Google’s search data and boasts that it is better-designed for SEO.
Other organizations are probably doing some search engine optimization as well. Check out the websites of your neighboring organizations and similar groups. Click around the website to see what phrases are being used often. Also, check the top bar of your internet browser on each page. Any similar organization that has done work on SEO will have its keywords here: Whatever relevant phrases you see, add them to the list. If you see some location-based phrases like “Zumba classes in San Antonio,” change the city and add the phrase to your growing list of brainstormed keywords.
You can also search the name of your competitors in Google and see what the searches related to it are at the bottom of the results page.
Survey Your Customers
This isn't absolutely necessary in the research process, but it could give you some good insight into how your members and customers think. Ask them how they found you in an email survey or one linked to Survey Monkey or Google Forms — or post the link on your social media channels. Ask them how they find classes and programs that are similar to what you offer. This could be really helpful to weed out some of the industry jargon you may use internally. For example, if you and your staff refer to your buildings as facilities, your audience might call them gyms instead. The ultimate goal here is to add keyword phrases to the list from your customers' perspectives.
Choose Keywords Based On Relevancy
Don’t get caught in the traffic trap. As an example, let’s say you are the parks and rec department for Chicago. You see “parks and recreation” as one of the keyword ideas and find it is searched 135,000 times in the United States per month. This may seem enticing, but it’s not a good keyword for you! First, it’s not that relevant because you are only trying to attract people from Chicago and those visiting Chicago. Second, most of the people conducting that search are looking for the TV show. And third, it’s not realistic to think that your website will be able to jump NBC, the Peacock app, Wikipedia, Hulu, IMDB and the NRPA in the rankings. So throw that one out!
Try a much better keyword idea, as recommended by Google: “Chicago recreation.” This phrase is searched at a much lower rate and has low competition. It is also as relevant as you’ll find. Each person who conducts that search is looking specifically for you. Check it off in Google's keyword tool to mark it as one to make your master list.
Maintain Your Keyword List
Once you've checked all of the keyword phrases you want to target, export them to a spreadsheet so that you can get organized. Try to rearrange your keywords into categories like events, recreation, vacation, things to do and rentals, and update it regularly. This will help when you go into phase two: putting the keywords in the right place on your website.
ACTIVENet, ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager, and ACTIVEWorks Endurance will be there for you when it comes to your organization’s needs. Whether that means engaging your community, streamlining operations or managing participation, our software is here to help your organization perform at its best.