Does your organization show up in a Google search? To answer this question, it would depend on what the search was. With the majority of people using Google to search online, it’s important to understand what they’re searching as it pertains to your organization, and even more importantly, for your organization to show up in that search as high as you can. You may know this process as Search Engine Optimization (or, SEO) which can sounds scary or technical, but what it really boils down to, is do you show up in a Google search?

Why is this important? The internet often the first place people form an impression of your organization and brand, long before they interact with anyone. April Hunstman, Director of Animal Welfare Insights, shares information, tips and free tools you can use to make to your website to make sure you’re found.

“We want to make sure that when our community members need information about services and programs that we offer, we make it as easy as possible for them,” said Huntsman. “There are lots of considerations in search results. Google decides what websites they’re going to list in a search result.”

Below are some considerations and ways you can have a big impact on your SEO:

  • High quality, relevant content
  • URL structure
  • Website meta title or title tag
  • Website meta description
  • Number and quality of other websites that link to your site

During a presentation on the Shelter Rescue and Support Call, Huntsman shows an example by searching “surrender my cat” on Google. You can see that she doesn’t get to a shelter where she’s located until the eighth result. Ideally, you want to show up as high up in the search results as possible, like first, second or third. She then changes the search to “rehome my cat” and gets completely different results. A local shelter is around the tenth result on this search. This means her local shelters need to be working on their SEO for surrendering and rehoming pets. You can see how just changing “surrender” to “rehome” changes the results completely. An easy way to improve your SEO would be to make sure those popular terms are on your webpages regarding that topic as well as any blog posts or additional content.

The first tool she recommends using is Google Trends. This free tool allows you to compare similar search terms in general and in your area to see what is most popular.

Huntsman’s example compares “Surrender my dog”, “rehome my dog” and “get rid of my dog”. You can see that even though many in animal welfare don’t use “get rid of my dog”, it’s the most popularly used, and so you want to make sure your website is showing up in that search.

“It doesn’t matter what we think about phrase,” she emphasizes. “What matters is that when someone searches that, they find us [your organization]. We need to meet people where they are and leave our biases at the door. For example, Adopt-A-Pet has the term ‘buy a puppy.’ Even though we don’t want people going out and buying a puppy, ‘buying’ is subjective and we want people to come to us so we can potentially help them. This is a free tool that everyone can go play with to start to understand search terms and how you can start to show up more.”

The second tool she recommends is SEO Minion. It’s a free website and SEO audit tool you can run on any website, including your own. It will review your page titles, descriptions and more so you can see how you can make small tweaks to improve. It will also check all of the links on your website, both internal and external; and let you know if any are broken.

How can you get started today? Huntsman recommends the following:

  • Add SEO Minion to your Chrome browser and start running it on your webpages, taking notice of your URLs, meta titles and meta descriptions.
  • Pick one program or service that you want to evaluate your online service for. Adoption? Foster care? Lost pet reunification? List out all of the phrases someone might search around those topics.
  • Use Google Trends to get a better understanding of what key phrases people may be searching related to selected program/service.
  • Ask friends, family and volunteers to try finding your website, the information on the service and to give feedback.
  • Consider recruiting a volunteer specifically for SEO and a separate one for your website. It can be done anywhere as they just need to go to your website.

“Volunteers don’t have to be local,” she says. “What an amazing way for technical people to be able to help animals without having to physically go to a shelter!”

You can watch the full presentation on Maddie’s Pet Forum. Her talk starts around the 29 minute mark.