What is all the Yelping About?

So what is Yelp? Founded in 2004, it is a social networking site where people can add reviews about businesses that have interacted with, and frankly it’s growth in traffic should make local non-profits/Volunteer Centers think about how to get involved.

This June, more than 1.4 million people visited its site, an increase of 124 percent over June of last year, according to comScore. The site boasts more than million reviews.

So how do you get involved?
Visit yelp.com and type in your Volunteer Center/nonprofit’s name in the “type of business” box, and then fill in your city. You should see your nonprofit listed, and the first step is to claim your listing, by clicking “edit business listing” and check that you are the business owner. You can also upload photos. There is also a help page that will introduce you to how Yelp works and how as the owner of the non-profit, you should interact with your reviewers.

How can Yelp help me get more volunteers?
1. Your nonprofit is probably already listed on Yelp, and you should be aware of any current reviews about your nonprofit posted online. So you should check Yelp out just to see what folks are saying about you.
2. It’s an easy way to create another link to your website.
3. And if that wasn’t enough for you to get excited, Yelp also has widgets that you can add to your existing website encouraging your website visitors to leave reviews. I’m envisioning an easy way to get great testimonials to use on your marketing brochures.…Simply find your listing and click on “link to this page”.

Other local search sites to pay attention to:
Ok. Yelp is one of many local search sites that you should visit and check to see if your local nonprofit is listed. The other big traffic sites you should check are:

  • CitySearch’s (15.7 million visitors this June),
  • Yahoo’s Local Guide (29.5 million unique monthly visitors)

It takes just a few seconds to update your non-profit’s online listing in these directories, and it is yet another way to capture people’s interest in volunteering.


Work for Google Part time in Your Own Community

Own a camera and looking for an easy part time job?

You can work for Google by helping them document the world!

(All you have to do is) buy a digital camera and a notebook, and walk down the street. Take pictures of every business you see. Then write down the address, hours of operation, method of payment, and a couple of other things. Oh, and be sure to get the contact information for the business.

Then go to the library, get on a computer (if you don’t have one at home), and put this information into a database. The ever-benevolent king of all Internet advertising will thank you for your efforts with $2 for every business you upload and another $8 once they confirm your information is correct.

The whole article about the deal is from a Search Engine Watch article.

Does Offline Advertising Drive Online Searches?

Jupiter Research and iProspect have released the results of a fascinating study about how people use search engines. The whole study can be found here.

The interesting part for me, however is the chart showing which offline advertising/marketing medium influences people the most to go online and use a search engine to find the product/service they were just exposed to via traditional marketing/media channels:

Offline channels clearly influence a significant percentage of online search users….to subsequently perform queries on search engines based on the company name, product or service name, or slogan that appears in the messaging of that offline channel.
…Television and word of mouth are the two most frequent offline drivers of search, …both of these channels influence over one-third of online search users to perform a search.
Even more surprising is that a full 67% of online search users are driven to search as a result of some offline channel.

We’d all be well served to keep in mind that folks are responding to our advertising and marketing by going online, so that ads and collateral should promiently list your website’s URL.

Writing for how People Read Online

Volunteer Centers and nonprofits use a variety of ways to get the word out to the community about their need for volunteers, and the specific volunteer jobs that they would like to fill. Many nonprofits use the media to spread the word, or create a flyer/brochure, or post something online.

While the basic message can be the same for those three mediums (marketing collateral, press releases, online posting) the way the content is written must change.

Writing for Press
For instance, when sending a press release to a reporter, the subject line becomes of utmost importance. Reporters are busy people and get sent hundreds of emails every day, so if your email subject line is not enticing, and if there is an attached press release, they will delete the email without even reading your message.

If the subject line IS enticing, then they you need to be able to answer the question “why should I care?” in the first sentence of your email. This requires a bit of word smithing.

Writing for Online Postings
So how should you change your writing style if you are going to post that information online? You will want to:

  • Use key word phrases that you think summarize your posting
  • Keep content short by using more paragraphs than you would in a written document.
  • Use headings, bold, and bullets to draw the online reader’s eye to the “actionable” spots of your website.

To learn more about writing for the web, feel free to check out these online articles:

Generating a Search Engine Sitemap for your website

What is this Sitemap business?

A sitemap is a free and easy way for you to tell the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) about your website so that it can be indexed more comprehensively and efficiently.

How Sitemaps Work

A Sitemap is an XML file that you upload to your web server and it acts as a marker for search engines to crawl certain pages. It is an easy way to make your site more search engine friendly. You can list all of your URLs (pages on your site) along with other information (such as the last time the page changed). I will improve how search engines crawl and index your website.

I’ve found a very easy to use online tool to help you generate a sitemap for your non-profit website. Once you input your site, the XML Sitemaps will generate an xml file which you have to upload to the server where the rest of your web pages are. Then you can go to the links below to tell the different search engines that you have a sitemap in place.

* Google Webmaster Central or sitemaps info.
* Microsoft Live Search submit page or help info (choose the Live Search Site Owner option from the drop-down box. Sorry I can’t link to the exact relevant pages. Microsoft has this seemingly impossible to bookmark help system)
* Yahoo Site Explorer or submit information.

Where do I start with Search Engine Marketing?

Many folks who have attended my training and leave wondering where they should start when it comes to optimizing their site and marketing it to search engines. I understanding that everyone is busy in the non-profit world, and have created a cheat sheet of what one should do first if they have “no time”, and what task to tackle if you have more time to devote, etc.

Keep in mind all of the items on this list are really Search Engine Optimization and Marketing 101 – the absolute basics. But they give you a sense of where to focus until you’re ready for the 201 level. So here we go:

If you have no time for SEO/SEM:

  1. Collect your benchmark numbers:
    1. So starting today:
      1. how many volunteers do you have in your database
      2. how many organizations, how many referrals are you seeing per month
      3. how many referrals are you getting from search engines and other referral sites
      4. what is your number of one time visitors and returning visitors
  2. Pick some keywords. Make sure to pick a few geographic words. Put those keywords on your site.
  3. Register your site on search engines and in local search
  4. Work on getting inbound links. Start with .edu and .gov
  5. Make sure to send press releases through pr.com, and post on Reddit.com
  6. Measure your success in 6 months.

If you have some more time for SEO:

All of the above, plus:

  1. pick keywords and research if visitors are using those words by using Wordtracker
  2. Get more links
  3. Create a Flickr account, give instructions to volunteers about how to add photos to Flickr account
  4. Post on Craigslist

If you have even more time for SEO:

All of the above, plus:

  1. Create a blog for your Volunteer Center
  2. Write articles for online and email newsletters
  3. Create a sitemap file and upload to search engines
  4. Get a Google grant & post an online ad

Get your Volunteers & Board to Help you Build Links to your Website

Building inbound links to your non-profit’s site can be time consuming, but it’s essential to ensure that your website and your volunteer opportunities are listed in the search engine results pages.

I’ve gone ahead and written a one pager explaining what link building is, and have included an example of a link building email that you can hand out to your volunteers and board members to have them help you build links to your non-profit’s website.