In pushing on with building on my SEO and digital marketing course from Salford University and SEMPO, I’ve hooked up with two charities as a volunteer to help them with their online presence, and they’re both very different, but the basic issues in terms of online presence are the same.
The first, The Ethical Computer Company, is an IT re-use enterprise in Stoke-on-Trent, taking unwanted or outdated IT from businesses and individuals, refurbishing it and either selling it in the community, sending units on for use in the developing world, or disposing of the waste correctly. From a small charity project started ten years ago bootstrapped themselves to having two shops, diversifying into vegetable oil recycling and operating as a UK Online training centre, with the staff having been previously long-term unemployed.
The second, ICA:UK, is the UK branch of an international charity specialising in facilitation training: the process that enables volunteer and community groups to work together well, make decisions and take action. They offer training courses to charity and community sector clients, and also provide training and support projects for young people and youth groups in and around Manchester.
Traditional SEO advice assumes that you’re working in e-commerce, and that the site you’re aiming to optimise has one focus – selling a specific group of products or services, giving the site an easily-defined overall theme. Very few charities, especially if they function as social enterprises as in the case of these two, will possess such a site. If you’re doing something similar to build your skills with other charities, don’t be quick to criticise your charity for not being single-theme in their web presence: it’s common for charities, especially the smaller ones short on resources, to have a less focussed site, and may have a predetermined CMS-based site that they can’t radically alter.
This is the case with the two charities I’ve been working with, but there’s still plenty that can be done – backlinks can be checked and pursued, alt text added, keywords researched, identified and refined down for effectiveness, and effective tracking of conversions applied via Google Analytics: all, crucially, cost-free except for time, if you’re willing to give it, and see what you can gain from it. So far it’s been a source of sanity as the winding down of my current employer continues, with all the grimness and frustration that brings.