Volunteer opportunities are a great thing whether you are new to the SEO world and are seeking experience or you are an “old hand” wanting to broaden your brand exposure.
Do you know the basics of SEO?
If you do, a great way to gain experience and exposure is to actively seek out SEO or webmaster volunteer jobs. Making a website of a local charity or non-profit more search engine friendly can be a very simple task that provides you a portfolio, contacts, and exposure.
Know your value
People often do not volunteer because they feel they are not “ready” or they are worried that perhaps someone could do it better. If you see a website that you know you can make more search engine friendly then you are perfect for that job. If you are uncomfortable with your skills, then consider “webmaster” opportunities. You will find that “webmaster” opportunities and “SEO/Marketing” type opportunities are often the same thing since many charities are unfamiliar with web terminology. There are a large number of organizations that are seeking webmasters with tasks as simple as uploading some files or updating information on their website.
Know your limitations
If you do not see a concrete path to improving the search engine friendliness of a particular website, seek other jobs where you can. There are websites out there that are not even being spidered. When deciding on a volunteer gig, make sure you have both a clear picture of the SEO needed and the ability to make the required changes. If you know HTML and CSS well but do not know PHP, stick with HTML and CSS. You will learn things when you volunteer, but it should not be seen as a chance to experiment or play. Know what you are going to do and stay in your comfort zone.
Know what is out there
There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of websites that could benefit from your webmaster or SEO skills. Here are 3 ways to find them.
1) VolunteerMatch.org Virtual Opportunities
The “virtual” arm of VolunteerMatch shows only those opportunities that are 100% online, and can be done regardless of your physical location. Opportunities are sorted by category. If you are into helping animals just choose “Animals” from the drop down menu on the left hand side of the screen and see what opportunities exist. There are dozens of categories, from womens issues and homelessness to politics and religion.
Idealist.org is one of my favorite websites and has a great opportunity search interface to find not only volunteer gigs, but paying jobs as well. Wherever you are at while on this site, you can also use the search field in the upper right hand corner to find what you need. It is a bit easier to sort through webmaster SEO opportunities on Idealist.org because of their search. Remember that many do not even know what “SEO” is, so try searches for “internet marketing” or “website” although there are always results for “webmaster” and sometimes even “SEO”.
3) Your own neighborhood, random surfing or even your phone
Finding opportunities doesn’t require databases. If you see a non-profit or charity website that can be improved contact them. Tell them who are, what you do, and how you feel you can help. If they are not interested they can probably recommend others who might be.
Almost every local newspaper has volunteer opportunities covered and you can give organizations a call and they will be delighted to tell you the resources available in your local community for matching volunteers to opportunities. Also go to your local library and ask them, they will usually have good information or suggestions. A good way to find opportunities in search engines is to search for…
“virtual volunteering [put-what-your-interested-in-here]”
Everyone who is anyone in SEO is doing it!
For some great examples of SEO mixing it up with charity or volunteering: Bruce Clay highlighted volunteering possibilities within the SEO community with his contest which offered training and event passes to the individual that came up with the best game plan to optimizing a non-profit website. The current contest deadline has been reached (so no new entries) but he has said that he hopes to do more contests in the future. I was also was impressed with Matt Cutts article Good Charities or places to help? and with all the people responding to that article. There is also the enthusiastic article highlighting Kiva.org that Adam Lasnik wrote or how about Aaron Wall who offers his SEO book free to charities and how Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz highlights the efforts of WorldCommunityGrid in his very detailed post.