Mideastweb: Middle East

Using the Web for Good Causes and

Search Engine Optimization

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This page is presented by MidEast Web to help people and non-profit organizations promote their causes using the Internet. Anyone who has specific information and tips they would like to offer, or links to similar Web sites, is invited to write us.


Using E-Mail
Using the Web
Getting People to Your Web Site
If you don't have a Web Site
Links, Details and Freebies


Web lore, and "web smarts" are spread by commercial servers to owners of commercial web sites. They explain basic things about how to build a Web site - some of them common sense, some a bit more arcane, and many quite effective-for commercial users. However individuals with personal pages, and nonprofit organizations, rarely get to see these tips or take advantage of them.

The Internet and the Web can be a great inexpensive and effective resource for mobilizing people and popularizing your cause. However, most people and organizations still do not use the potential of the Internet to recruit members, tell about their activities, get support and get people to come to them. Administrators are still afraid of computers and think the web is expensive or only for rich people - and so do grant donors.

As the Web becomes more commercialized, the larger organizations are bound to take a larger share of the Web audience - but there are still plenty of opportunities and room for growth left for us little guys - and plenty of challenges. A bigger Web means a bigger potential worldwide audience. All we need to do is snag their attention. As the Web grows, bandwidth will become bigger and servers and client computers will become faster, so we can download pictures and filmstrips to produce a really interesting cultural experience and get our point across - of course - it requires preparation and effort!

Using E-Mail Advertising

Mail programs and Internet programs are simple enough to be used by little children, and  e-mail is far cheaper and easier to use than post cards. Almost every person you want to reach may have access to Internet at home, through work or through their school or university, and the percentage of Internet users is soaring. You can send an email to a thousand people in ten minutes for a few cents. There are even group mailers that will send mail to thousands of people from servers on the Web. How much would it cost to do this by post, and how long would it take to do the mailings? And how quickly would they be read? Internet notices are often read the same day.

You can send a post-card to friends and members perhaps once a year. You can send e-mail every month or every week to tell them about your activities and remind them that you exist - and to tell them about new things you have put on your Web site or new things you are doing.

If you are a non-profit group, all you need to get started is to collect e-mail addresses of your group members in the same way as you now collect regular snail mail addresses.

Using the Web

The Web has a great potential as a publicity tool and resource for non-profit organizations, but most of us are hardly using it at all. Having a pretty Web site that was professionally designed one time is not enough. In fact, it is almost completely irrelevant.

The most important thing about your Web site is how many people visit it and become aware of your organization or message. If nobody sees your Web site, it doesn’t matter how professional it looks. If you are an administrator and hired someone to make a web site for you, all you need to know is that if less than a thousand people are coming to your web site each month, the site was probably not designed and registered properly. Nobody has discovered the secret of drawing millions  of people to an NGO Web site - or any web site that is not giving away money, music, sex, sex photos, software or technical information. However, there are three important factors in getting at least some visitors:

Content Give people things they want or need. Nobody wants to read about a minor event that occurred two years ago. Do you? Nobody wants to spend their Internet connection time to see stale news and hear all about you, you, you. Tell people about things that are going to happen - or things that just happened - things that they want to know about, give them information that interests them.

Give them reference lists, and facts and news, and op-eds and in depth analyses that reflect your point of view, and they will keep coming back for more. Give them works of art they can appreciate and information that will help them cope with the Internet and jokes to make them laugh and sports scores. Most important – make sure they remember your name.

People have different interests, so you can attract a variety of people with a variety of web pages - politics, jokes, technical hints, religion, art and music, pages for kids and pages for senior citizens. Make especially sure you do not give people the wrong impression - that you are pushy or that you are making a business out of your cause.

Advertising – There are many sites on the Web, all competing for attention. You must take care to advertise your Web site on the web, in newspapers and by word of mouth, and by getting others to link to you. Fortunately, the best sort of "advertising" for Web pages is free. It is done by search engines and it requires search engine optimization of your Web site.

Search Engine Registration and Optimization

Most people find most Web sites through search engines. If your Web site isn't listed, or it isn't in the first page of sites retrieved by one or major search engines, nobody will come to it. If you want to test your site, go to any search engine such as http://www.google.com or http://www.yahoo.com and type some key words that characterize your site. If it isn't listed, read what you can do about it below.

Technical Aspects of Web Site Content

There are a few technical things to pay attention to in building a site and running it:

Legibility – This may sound silly, but make sure people can read what is written at your site. There are quite a few sites where the background graphic or color covers the message entirely!

Language and Writing Again this sounds silly, but check, and double check and triple-check your writing to make sure it is effective and has no errors in spelling, syntax or grammar. If you bore people - they will go elsewhere. If your site has obvious errors in English (or French or German or Hebrew or Arabic) people will not respect you and will probably not read what you have to say. A professional writer can help you make a better presentation of your case and your cause.

Usability - Heavy graphics may look great, but they make the site slow to load. For people using home equipment with expensive and slow ISP (Internet Service Provider) connections this is a real factor! Page layout must be convenient. It must be obvious where the person is supposed to press in order to get to other pages from the opening one. Function takes precedence over beauty. Remember that a graphics-only page that may look great is not readable by search engines. Search engines bring about 90% of visitors to a good Web site.

Compatibility - Check what your site looks like in other browsers - and ask people for feedback. Incompatibility of Javascript versions may cause the page to display an error message and freeze, and various differences in the way browsers interpret HTML can really get you in trouble. If you (or the person who made your page) have left various settings at "default" when preparing the page, some people may be seeing pink fonts on green pages.

Getting people to your Web Site

People are not going to come to your site unless they know about it somehow, and even then, they may come only if reminded many times - or if there is a good reason. Think about yourself - how often do you respond to an advertisement or circular letter? There are definite technical things you have to do to get people to your site and keep them coming.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engines have "spiders" that "crawl" up and down the web, looking at meta name information in the headers of  Web pages, meta-tag content, links and text, to determine whether to index them, and how. Some Web page tools know how to generate these labels on their own, but you must enter the contents.

Different search engines use different criteria for ranking Web pages and these change over time. Google is currently the most popular search engine. It gives a lot of weight to the title

Here is an example of what the header code should look like:


<TITLE>Search Engine Optimization</TITLE>
<META name="Description" content="Search Engine Optimization,Technical advice, links and Software to help you use the Web and E-mail for non-profit work and &quot;good causes,&quot; build better Web sites get more traffic">
<META name="Keywords" content="Search Engine Optimization, SEO,Internet, Technical, Web Sites, Ranking, Search Engines, Positioning, Charity,
Publicity, Computers, Web, Free software, NGO, Non-Profit Organizations, Hit Rate, Download, Warez, Counters, Page Hits, Traffic, Banners, HTML, Keywords, Meta Names">
<META name="robots" content="index, follow">


The title should be brief and should have a keyword that people are searching for

As shown, the "meta names" for Keywords, Title and Description should come at the top of the page, sandwiched in between the <head> </head>  directives.

The description and "title"  should also repeat the key words that you think people will use when they search the index for your web site.

The "robots" keyword tells some search engine "spiders" they are supposed to index the keywords.

The body of the web page should include headline tags, hyperlinks and alt tags with key words than can help boost your page's popularity in Web search engine listings: For example, if the key words are "Middle East:"

<H1> Middle East</H1>

<h2> Middle East Dialog and Peace Education.</h2>

<img src="mewlogo.gif" alt="Middle East Web Logo">

Search Engine Optimization of Web pages and Web sites is an art that is trying to hit a moving target, since search engines change their technology all the time. Accordingly, "tips" that you may get an one point in time may not be valid a year or two later. Search Engine consultants sometimes "invent" advice that may serve their own ends. You should have a basic understanding of Search Engine Optimization before launching a Web site.


Use keywords that are popular - and repeat them in the text, titles and graphics on your web pages. This boosts your search engine ratings. How to you know if a word or phrase is popular? There are services that can tell you, such as Overture Search Inventory.

Submitting to Search Engines

You will need to submit at least some pages on your site to many Web search engines, though Google does not require this. For Google, the only thing you must do is get at least one or two existing pages somewhere on the Web to link to you. The more sites and pages link to your Web site and pages, the more visible your site will be. That is true of most search engines, but most especially Google.

For some engines, submission has to be done by hand. Go http://www.yahoo.com and work your way through the search category closest to your page, and then submit the URL. For many other search engines there are free and paid services that will submit a site or sites to one or more search engines. These services come and go.

Improving Search Engine Optimization

There are numerous products and organizations dedicated to improving search engine positioning - to put your site in the first page of sites found when a given key word is submitted to a search engine.

Telling People – This is an awful thing to say, but you need to be a pest. Tell people about your site. Barge in to discussion groups and give people your URL if you have something relevant to their interests at your site. If there is something new at your site, be sure to go to any relevant user group you can think of and tell them about it. Do not count on word of mouth - or other people - recommending your site or organization or e-mail list. It hardly ever happens. How many people have you told about MidEast Web? See - it hardly ever happens. Do not be too much of a pest. Spam is illegal and annoying - don't send unsolicited mail more than one time, and don't add people to mailing lists who don't want to be there.

Linking - Exchanging links with other organizations is one of the most important things you can do - because it helps synergize the work we are all doing. It is also technically important, because search engines like Google will list your site based on how many links it has. Link to others and they (we) will link to you!.

Testing - You can test out your web page search engine status after a few weeks by typing keywords on some of the relevant search engines, and seeing if you are found. If not, examine the code of pages that are found.  Examine the top-ranked pages to see what gave them that ranking. Some of them are there for no good reason - neither because of content nor because of keywords. Perhaps they submitted very often (more than once a week can hurt!) or they got there first. But usually there is a good reason why a page has a high ranking.

You can also type links:<yourdomain> at google to see who the search engine "thinks" is linked to you. These listings almost always underrate the number of links.

Tracking It is helpful to track site and page usage using either the built in capabilities of your Web server or those offered by different meters. This can tell you where your visitors come from, which pages draw the crowds and what they like. Adfree, sitemeter and many others offer free counters that can be upgraded to a paid tracking system. The industry standard today is probably Urchin statistics, which should be installed in the Web host computer. Google analytics offers a version of Urchin that doesn't depend on the Web host and is free for a limited number of visitors. There are also other devices for tracking pages:

Hitometer $4.99 month http://websitegarage.netscape.com/
FastStats $99.00 http://www.mach5.com/
WebTrends $399.00 http://www.webtrends.com/
WebSuccess $288.00 http://www.websuccess.de/english/whats_new.html/ FlashStats $99.00 http://www.maximized.com/products/flashstats/
Analog freeware (free)

Banner Exchanges Our experience has been that banner exchanges are utterly worthless as means of advertising for NGOs and other non-commercial sites. One reason is that the volume must be much larger. You might get one hit from a thousand banner exposures, but you will have to pay for that kind of coverage. Massive banner advertising will at least make people aware of your existence, even if only a few come to your Web site. We would be glad to hear from anyone who had good experiences with free banner exchanges.

Being Interactive - Your Web Site should have a contact address - but wait!  Do not place  an e-mail or snail mail address at your web site or use it in your publications unless you are committed to having someone answer all the mail promptly and knowledgeably. Be careful about viruses! The purpose of the Web site is to win friends for your cause and organization. If you put a "dead end" e-mail address at your web site, you are certainly not making friends of each person who uses it and tries to contact you. People who come to your site should be able to write to you or your organization and get a live answer - right away - from someone who knows - and there should be a way for people to be able to express their opinions and get their own materials and ideas posted. Sending a "live answer" is the best way to make new friends for your organization.

Other Media Your web site address should be shown in your journals, letters, postcards stationary and business cards.

If you don't have a Web Site

If you don't have a Web site, ask us for guidance. Setting one up is easier then you think and will open a whole new channel of communication for your organization. MidEastWeb may be willing to help make some Web pages for you and host them  - provided:

  • You are a person or NGO involved in promoting education for coexistence in the Middle East.
  • You are non-political.
  • You are non-commercial.
  • You will send us content to post.
  • You will make good use of it by telling people about it, sending us material to post there etc. Write to us.

You can also get free hosting - and free tools for making a web site, on servers such as Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com), fortunecity ( http://www.fortunecity.com )  and tripod (http://www.tripod.com). The free hosting comes with the nuisance of advertising, but that can usually be eliminated  by paying a very small monthly fee. If you want, you can provide us with the basic content and we will create a small web page for you and help you get started - for a small fee. But it will be up to you to publicize it and maintain it.

Links, Details and Free Software

The sites below will give you more information - lots and lots of it - on technical aspects, content, scrunching graphics etc. and also downloadable html editors (free!)

SEO - Search Engine Optimization - A Web site I have begun that distills the experience I have had in making MidEastWeb and other Web sites into top positioned sites and pages in search engines. My Web log that is associated with it: SEO for Everyone

http://goodpractices.com/ - An extremely useful compendium of advice and links about how to build a Web site: graphics, standards, content, free software etc.

www.LGrossman.com   - Leonard Grossman's page includes links to places that tell you how to build a web site, examples of sites he and others have built for good causes and organizations large and small, and some interesting downloadable free software.

http://www.art-teez.org/pro.htm page has links to help check html code, spelling, your links to be sure they work, informative newsletters on promoting a website and other information.

http://www.art-teez.org/school.htm has four articles on designing your
website to rank higher on major search engines.

http://www.ultra.net.au/~alford/web.html - "Care and Feeding of Web pages" includes both humor and some good advice. One good tip: keep pages updated.

http://www.searchterms.com/  - This service supposedly lists the top  words used by people in searches. Don't be too sure what you see is correct. Some search engines will also give you a peek at what people are searching for - and it is usually sex, teen sex and variants thereof. About 1/3 of web use was for sex pages according to one estimate.

Special goodies for NGOs and Dialog - The Dialog to Action Initiative has a Web site dedicated to dialog resources and links to dialog pages. Idealist has a Web site that lists nonprofit organizations, tells you how to raise money etc.


Mentions of different services are provided for information only and do not constitute a recommendation. If you know of other, similar services, we would be glad to list them.

KwMap.com - browse the Keyword Map of Middle East

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This material is presented as a service by MidEast Web for Coexistence (MEW). It appears on the Web at http://www.mideastweb.org/mewtech1.htm. MidEast Web asks for your help in building a better Middle East. Visit http://www.mideastweb.org or contact us by e-mail or via fax at 603 698-5549 in the USA.