For those who remember the frustration of search in the early days of the Internet, times have greatly improved. In the arms race between deceptive websites and blatant attempts to game the search engines, the search engines have done an appreciably good job of keeping ahead of the curve. There is much talk of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and many people have made a living on helping organizations improve their search. Most of these folks are well-intentioned and provide useful information, but be wary of those who would make SEO sound like magic. There is no magic to SEO.

For most sites the process is really quite simple:

  • Write in simple sentences. Use the words that best represent what you do, but write in a natural style. Don't over do it. Just write in a way that clearly explains what you do.
  • Have a trusted third-party editor review your content for easy reading style, flow and relevancy.
  • Get to the point.  Computers and mobile devices are naturally full of distractions, so you only have a few sentences to engage a reader. 
  • Avoid hyperbole. This can draw visitors to your site, but your brand can suffer if your content does not match the excitement of your headlines. 
  • Make sure your site conveys what you do on as many pages as you can.  A visitor who lands on an obscure inner page of your site, should quickly be able to find out what you do.
  • Good design is critical. So many tools have lowered the barriers to creating new reasonbly attractive "modern" websites, but trained and experienced web designers understand how to unify a site and balance content with images. 
  • Photos can help, but only when they reinforce what you do. People like pictures. But they are distracted by photos that don't seem relevant. 
  • Always describe your photos in the alt text attribute. Search engines and people with visual impairment both want to know what is in the pictures you use. Some poorly-designed photo display plug-ins and modules will urge users to use the Alt text as a caption. This is bad practice. The title is for captioning ("Our oaisis always provides the best water for weary travelers including camels!"). The ALT attribute is for describing the actual content of the picture ("A camel drinking at an trough at the oasis. Three palm trees in the background frame the setting sun"). 
  • Share your site on multiple social media platforms. If you have the time and wherewithall to write a regular blog, use this as a way to post information that draws more visitors to your site who would be donors, clients, or customers. The more traffic you can get to your site from links on other sites helps improve your rankings. 

Google provides a useful set of pages on how to improve search. Learn more here

As of April 2017, Google introduced a new system for crowdsourcing search improvement and combatting misleading or false information. Read more here.

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