SEO Article Checklist: How Experts Get Content Ranking Fast

By John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor

Articles are a critical component to establishing a creditable online presence with the potential to generate 67 percent more leads. I know; my company website is up to about 10,000 visitors and over 200 leads a month, all through article marketing. When it is integrated into a strategic content marketing campaign, articles will drive a higher ranking, increase leads and conversions, and build brand awareness. Allow me to give you the full scoop.

According to a recent survey by CMO Council and the Netline Corporation, 87 percent of purchasing decisions are impacted by online content. With 93 percent of online research originating from search engines, you want to ensure your articles appear in the top of the results so that you get the business, not your competitor.

There are some very key SEO ingredients that must be implemented to get an article launched and ranking at the top of the search engines.

Create Google-Worthy Content

googleGoogle strives to expose content that offers a diverse perspective to determine what’s worthy of a high ranking. Their ranking is based on a number of factors, including the freshness, diversity, and originality of an article.

Due to Google’s recommendations, Demand Metric reported that 78 percent of CMOs believe custom content is the future of marketing. The very core to a high ranking article depends on the quality. Your content needs a strong foundation, which includes relevant and engaging information that no one else offers. Keep your readers your top priority and the rest of your marketing goals will fall into place.

Here are the secret ingredients to writing the perfect article:

  1. Relevant, Engaging, and Shareable Content– Readers and Google demand content that’s unique, relevant to a direct audience, and compelling to promote engagement. Research what’s already out there first and then add flavor to create a personalized experienced by delivering exactly what readers crave. Make sure your article is one of a kind.
  2. Focus on Quality, Not Keywords–Creating an article for the sole purpose of SEO will cause you to get burned by a Panda penalty. Instead, make the content’s quality your focus, with keywords second. This means it reads well, has lots of facts, figures and statistics and feels like a piece that some real work went into.
  3. Longer Articles Rank Higher– Although the length of an article is not the main defining factor for ranking, longer posts do rank higher. Create articles in the 1,500 to 2,000 word count range, but maintain the integrity of article by keeping the fluff to a minimum.
  4. Write to Drive Social Shares– Social media is the backbone to content distribution, which aids ranking, so write to promote social media engagement. Use a diversity of article formats such as how-to and lists articles, which are known to increase social shares by 47 percent. Make the article interesting and engaging to keep the discussion going.
  5. Develop a Viral Title– Articles with a killer title are more likely to rank higher due to viral shares. In addition to your keywords, use shocking words, numbers, and big brands in your titles to boost engagement and ranking. What would you rather share? An article titled “SEO Tips for Beginners” or an article titled “27 Ground Breaking SEO Strategies to Increase Your Revenue Now.”

You have about three seconds to capture a reader’s attention. Take your time developing the article title, as it is the most important component to getting your content even opened.

Research Targeted Keywords

Blue keyboard Keywords have an important role in SEO. However, if you’re not targeting the right kind of visitors your efforts are pointless. Make sure you don’t spend time targeting the wrong terms.

To make sure you are maximizing the power of keywords:

  1. Zoom In on Your Niche– Understand exactly who you’re targeting to develop keywords that are as specific as possible with a keyword tool. Research the keywords your competitors are using to implement into your keyword strategy to beat them at their own game. Naturally integrate your selected keywords into your article, but keep the density fairly low. Make sure you use your target word twice in the first 100 words and at least once later in the article at a minimum.
  2. Choose Actionable Keywords– Spark an interest by using actionable keywords that include words like “best” and “how to.” By incorporating action words, Google is better able to connect searchers with the content they are seeking. People also respond well to personal words like “you” and impactful words like “destroy, stop, break,” etc.
  3. Optimize Headings and Headlines– Include your main keyword in your headline to drive SEO power. Then, use headings in the body of your article to feature your supportive keywords. Not every heading mind you, but the majority if possible.
  4. Incorporate Keywords in Metas and URLs– Boost your ranking by strategically placing your keywords in your meta description and your URL. Feature your main keyword in a custom URL, but keep it short and simple. Don’t forget to optimize your meta to attract Google and readers.

The three most important factors that will determine keyword perform are relevance, search volume, and competition. Google looks for clean content with relevant keywords to establish the value of content.

Promote Link Juice

shutterstock_866397If content is king, you can consider links to be the queen. However, the Penguin update scared a lot of webmasters due to the threat of penalties. Stop being afraid of links! They will lend credibility to your article for increased ranking.

As Matt Cutts said, “Links are still the best way that we’ve found to discover (how relevant or important somebody is) and maybe, over time, social or authorship or other types of markup will give us a lot more information about that.”

To promote the relevance of your article in Google’s eyes:

  1. Cross Link to Build Internal Links– Pass page rank from one article to another by cross linking old articles with new articles and vice versa. With an appropriate rich anchor text, you’ll maintain ranking of older articles and boost the ranking of newer articles.
  2. Promote Credibility with External Links– Adding facts and information in your content is great, but only when supported by creditable sources. Link to 3rd party sites to support your evidence and to boost your credibility, but only link to trusted websites because not all links are viewed the same.
  3. Link to Influencers– Find industry influencers and link to them within your article to establish credibility. Then, notify the influencers of the links to encourage more social shares. Both will work in your favor to boost the value of your article.
  4. Choose an Appropriate Anchor Text– In light of the Penguin updates, the appropriate anchor text (that is the text in the hyperlink) can make the difference between a penalty or a valuable link. Choose an appropriate anchor text that describes where the link will take the reader, but avoid linking to too many keywords. If the percent of external links pointing at your site with the same anchor text is too high, you will get a penalty.
  5. Quality Triumphs Quantity– Relevant links to reputable sites are worth far more than the number of links you include. One or two links to a highly trusted website holds more value and SEO juice than five links to less than par sites.

With 69 percent of marketers using their content and outreach to build links to promote a higher ranking, you’ll build relationships and more visitors by implementing links into your article.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

486749689Visual content is a huge online success, increasing by 9,900 percent in the last seven years. As humans, we are more attracted to visuals than written word and retain more information through images and videos. This builds content engagement, which Google uses to drive ranking. You should never publish an article that doesn’t include a visual.

When using visuals to promote ranking, remember:

  1. Include a Variety of Visuals– Articles with visuals not only rank higher, but have a higher engagement rate. Include images, videos, and especially infographics as infographic search volumes have increased by 800 percent.
  2. Optimize Your Visuals– To increase ranking and placement in Google Image Search, optimize the file names and alt tags of your visuals to include your keywords. Create uniquely optimized descriptions to promote visibility.
  3. Create Unique Shareable Images– Stay away from stock images and create unique images to encourage sharing. Images that are simple to share promote engagement. In fact, a photo on Twitter can boost retweets by 35 percent. Therefore, encourage sharing with an embeddable code. That being said, if you only have stock to work with it is still much better than nothing. I use stock photos often. When I do, I like to add a little branding graphic to them so it feels more unique.
  4. Correct Image Size and Dimensions– You need quality images with the appropriate dimensions and file size. Compressed file images tend to rank higher, as well as large image dimensions.
  5. Optimize Captions– Although there may not be a direct correlation between image captions and Google ranking, image captions tend to be one of the most well-read aspects of content. With readers naturally drawn to images, the caption can be the defining factor of whether or not they will stay to read the article, which will impact the bounce rate.

With social media engagement now used as a ranking signal, visuals in articles are considered to be the “holy grail.” To maximize the SEO power of your article, your visuals need to be optimized for both SEO and social media performance.

Writing is Only Half of It

Writing a great article is only the first step to achieving a high ranking. You must find appropriate outlets to distribute your article. Although content marketing and social media go hand-in-hand, Forbes reports only 26 percent of marketers have a solid content distribution plan. You must use social media to reinforce your content to increase organic social media presence, which Google will use as a ranking factor.

You can create an article that succeeds long term, but not if you skip over the key ingredients that are required to rank well. All of the pieces must be incorporated to achieve the final masterpiece. Good luck with your content marketing!

“12 Trends Search Marketers Can’t Ignore in Content Marketing” SearchEngineWatch

About John E. Lincoln

John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor

John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor

John E. Lincoln has been a guest speaking and teaching at UC San Diego Extension for four years. Currently teaching “Web Analytics”, Lincoln has also taught courses on SEO, social media and pay-per-click. Outside of UC San Diego Extension, Lincoln is President of Ignite Visibility, a full service digital agency. Lincoln is also a frequent writer for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and Search Engine Journal. During his career, Lincoln has worked with over 200 online businesses and has enjoyed working on national clients such as FOX,, Jacuzzi, Tacori, 1800Dentist and more.

Health Care Meets House of Cards: Meet the Power Brokers and Policy Makers in D.C.

iStock_000008853881Medium_capitolWeek-Long Course Features Intimate Access to Congressional Staffs, Think Tank Scholars, Health & Human Services, and More

A conversation with Leslie Bruce, J.D., a seasoned health care communicator and advocate who leads the Politics & Public Policy of U.S. Healthcare course in Washington, D.C.

Tell us about this unusual course in the nation’s capital.
It’s a 40-hour course that enables master’s degree students and community health leaders to have up-close-and-personal contact with public policy officials in Washington. In five days, you gain access to an enviable list of power players – from scholars at the leading Think Tanks to officials at Health and Human Services, from the lobbyists for the American Hospital Association to Senator Boxer and Feinstein’s staff members.

It sounds like a Congressional internship – but a week-long version for working professionals.
Yes, for health care professionals. One RN attorney has been six times. A compliance officer, a senior vice president at a health staffing company, a military administrator, and a nurse leader who is trying to change the world: all of them want to channel their energy into changing laws or policy, first by intimately understanding the system and by developing a network of powerful contacts in Washington. As Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

How does this program help participants further their agendas to change public health policy?
In a myriad of ways! For one, they become very educated citizens who understand the detailed process by which policy becomes law. We hear the latest trends and data, we grasp the dynamics that shape the conversation in Washington. By having face-to-face meetings with scholars, departmental officials, congressional staffers and others, the participants start conversations that extend well beyond this week. Overall, the participants become better communicators and advocates – with a sense of how to best convey the information in ways that can affect change in government.

Where does the course meet in Washington, D.C.?
The first day is a classroom experience at the University of California center in DC, known as UCDC, where we set the stage for the week with speakers from leading policy institutes. Tuesday, we spend the day at Health and Human Services, finding out about rules and regulations, especially with regard to the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday, we meet with a chief of staff from a congressional office who shows students how to write a one-page issue paper, how to cut the fat out of the writing so you communicate succinctly with legislators and their staffs. We spend the last two days on Capitol Hill visiting with every congressional office that represents the students in the course.

What do you expect to be the hot topics this year?
The Republican control of Congress, definitely. We will find out what Congressional leaders can actually do to modify the Affordable Care Act, and the politics that drive the process.

What results have you seen among the students who attend the D.C. course?
I’ve seen people become better leaders and take on more leadership positions within their organizations, particularly within trade and professional organizations. They learn to become truly gifted advocates and, again, a resource for legislators when they build on those relationships.

What is most gratifying for you as the instructor?
Exposing participants to how the process works and the people involved. We meet people who have left the health care industry to devote their lives to public policy and it’s tireless work. The students inevitably remark at how smart and how dedicated the public servants are with whom they meet. They also see that these are career options they can pursue.

So if they get the bug to work in Washington, it’s not too late?
The students so often say, “These officials are just like me, they care about the same things.” It’s always a shock to participants to hear the number of fellowships that are available for working professionals, especially ones who work in important, life-saving fields. Students can be change-makers here at home, or they can take their talents to the Beltway.

Visit the ExHeadshot - LKBruce turtlenecktension site to register, and to learn more about the Politics & Public Policy of Healthcare – Washington, D.C..

Leslie Bruce has more than 25 years’ experience in San Diego area business. She has directed advocacy, communications and community relations efforts for UCSD Health Sciences, Sharp HealthCare, and the American Heart Association.

Focus on Instructors: Feifei Fan

By Rafa Lombardino

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, with approximately 1.2 billion speakers of all varieties of Chinese and 848 million of them speaking Mandarin alone. According to the Modern Language Association the number of college students studying Chinese has increased over the last decade.

Feifei Fan teaches Chinese language classes in the Arts, Humanities, Languages & Digital Arts Department

Feifei Fan teaches Chinese language classes in the Arts, Humanities, Languages & Digital Arts Department

In an effort to match this demand, UC San Diego Extension’s Arts, Humanities, Languages & Digital Arts Department is offering Chinese for Communication Level I, Level II, and Level III as part of its Spring 2015 class schedule. Feifei Fan, a native speaker from China, teaches all three levels. In the Chinese courses, Feifei creates an enriching learning environment to help students stay motivated and improve their language skills. Previous students have commented that he “makes learning fun” and that “his enthusiasm for Chinese was contagious.”

Feifei moved the United States more than a decade ago and started teaching at UC San Diego Extension in 2013. He brought with him a diverse teaching experience, having taught Chinese and Visual Arts at colleges and universities in China and the United States.

“I hear a lot of interesting stories from my students,” he says. “Their ages range from early twenties to sixties and most of them have a relative from China, such as a father, wife or grandparent.”

With his strong knowledge of language, literature, art and technology, he also studies and researches Chinese calligraphy history and theory, Chinese painting history and theory, and Chinese ancient, modern and contemporary language and literature.

Feifei earned his bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language and Literature when he was still in China. At that time, he also taught Chinese Writing in college for four years, mostly to U.S. nationals living in China. He then studied for a second bachelor’s degree, this time in Journalism, and worked as a TV reporter and news editor for China Central Television (CCTV) before leaving his native country.

Once he arrived in the United States, Fefei pursued two master’s degrees: one in Graphic Design and the other in Technology Education, both of them at West Virginia University. He later earned his MFA in Visual Communication at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he taught Graphic Design as an Adjunct Professor.

After completing his studies on the east coast, Feifei moved to San Diego in December 2009. “I enjoy the cultural diversity here,” he says. “I also participate in a lot of activities in our community, and I volunteer at my daughter’s school,” he adds. “In my spare time, I study Chinese calligraphy and enjoy swimming and reading.”

To learn more about UC San Diego Extension’s foreign language program, please visit the area of study page.

Take the Next Step: Career Development Week, March 24-26, 2015


Do you want to learn directly from industry experts?

Is it time to focus on your future and advance your career?

Seeking a change in your career path and need quality information on the fastest growing job sectors?

Join us at UC San Diego Extension’s annual “Career Development Week,” March 24-26, 5 pm to 8 pm, where you will hear about the developments and opportunities in Life Sciences, Healthcare, Business, Law, and Technology.

Keynote Session with Manpower CEO, Phil Blair March 24th
Phil Blair, CEO of Manpower San Diego, will open up this year’s event with the keynote session, Be the Talent Companies Crave: A “Winning” Guide to Career Advancement. In this question and answer session, Mr. Blair will share the strategies and techniques to leverage your education and experience and build a career you’re passionate about.  Register early, as seating is limited for this session.

Open to the public, industry experts and instructors will lead 20 workshops throughout the week.  The workshops will provide the most up-to-date information on today’s most promising professions.  Plus, there will be ample time to network, ask questions, and enroll in a course and/or certificate program.

“Career Development Week” will be held at UC San Diego Extension’s University City Center, 6256 Greenwich Drive, San Diego, CA 92122. Driving directions: Interstate 805, take the Governor Drive exit (west) to Greenwich Drive.

The workshop schedule:

  • Tuesday, March 24: Business & Law Night, 5 pm to 8 pm
  • Wednesday, March 25: Life Sciences & Healthcare Night, 5 pm to 8 pm
  • Thursday, March 26: Technology Night, 5 pm to 8 pm

To learn more and pre-register for workshops, visit

A Life of Unraveling Alzheimer’s: “It’s Both Fascinating and Horrifying”

Dr. William Mobley confers with Dr. Pavel Belichenko, a close friend and UC San Diego colleague who passed away last year.

Dr. William Mobley confers with Dr. Pavel Belichenko, a close friend and UC San Diego colleague who passed away last year.


Dr. William Mobley has studied Alzheimer’s for longer than the disease has been popularly known by that name.

Dating back to his PhD studies in 1970 at Stanford University, it’s been his life’s work, as well as his later personal anguish.

His own mother died at age 97 after suffering for many years from the incurable disease formerly known as senile dementia. He recalls her debilitating decline as “a very tough time for me and my family.”

Since coming to UC San Diego in 2009 as a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Neurosciences, Mobley has led acclaimed research into the neurobiology of both Alzheimer’s and Down’s syndrome. His studies have revealed them to be closely related.

For the past two years, he also has hosted “On Our Mind,” an interview podcast on UCSD-TV. Most recently, he devoted a series of conversations with experts about the many aspects of Alzheimer’s.

“It’s always been inspiring for me to learn what other people are thinking about,” said Mobley, “and to explore how they’re using their brains.”

A self-described “small-town boy from Nebraska,” Mobley has a scholarly, gently inquisitive manner. As he says: “Ultimately, my role here at UCSD is about empathy and listening. It’s the most important thing I do every day.”

Q: What fascinates you most about studying Alzheimer’s?
There are so many bits and pieces to it. What’s fascinating is to use science to pull apart the threads of this cloth – the genes and proteins that work over a period of 30 years, that ultimately kill a patient. It’s both fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

Q: Tell me more about these threads …
Like every piece of cloth, once you start pulling a few threads out, the whole cloth begin to fall apart, in a way that allows you to see through it. Right now, it’s the complexity of the weave combined with the need for more intensely rigorous science that intrigues me the most.

Q: What myths about Alzheimer’s would you like to dispel?
One myth is that it can’t happen to me –that I can ignore it because it is not in my family. Guess what? It’s likely to affect as many as half of the readers of this article. Because if people live long enough, say, 85 years, they are at a very great risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

A second contravening myth is therefore it’s essentially inevitable for everyone. I think we’re finding out that good science will prove that it is not inevitable and again, that many of those who read this article will escape it. But excellent science and translation of discoveries to therapies is key.

Q: Should those who are “of a certain age” be frightened of the prospect of Alzheimer’s?
I wouldn’t be frightened. Instead, I’d be focused on doing everything I can right now to take good care of my health. We all need to be aware of what’s called “brain health” – which fundamentally means staying physically active, exercising, eating well, staying socially active, helping others … those sorts of things.

Q: What does the future hold for our society as it grows older?
We need to focus squarely on the size of the epidemic that’s headed our way. By 2050, we predict that more than 115 million people in the world will have Alzheimer’s. Right now, we need to recognize the scope of the problem. We also need to have greater hope that, through scientific research, this will work out. And we must have the resolve to insist that the funds needed for research are provided.

Q: What have you learned about the brain from hosting these shows?
We live our lives through our brains. We know what we know because of our brains. There’s really no topic that we need not explore on the show. From a brain perspective, there’s nothing about science or art or history or social justice or the weather that is off target.

Q: How do you reconcile yourself with the concept that you might get it?
It’s not so much personal as professional, but there’s more than a little personal angst about what will happen to me and my wife and my kids – and my friends. I know the damage it does and the pain it causes.

Q: As a leading Alzheimer’s expert, how close would you say we are to finding a cure?
I’m optimistic. Going back to the analogy of the cloth, we’ve begun to see the holes. I can’t say when the cure will happen, but it will – and I’m committed to that outcome.

A Philosophical Matter: “Not Every Question Can Be Answered by Science”

Rebecca Goldstein: "To be human is to reflect on the questions we ask as philosophers."

Rebecca Goldstein: “To be human is to reflect on the questions we ask as philosophers.”

Describing the “war” between philosophy and science as “ridiculous,” acclaimed novelist-philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein told a UC San Diego audience on Jan. 27 that science doesn’t provide all the answers to age-old mysteries.

When moderator Roger Bingham, founder of The Science Network, pointed to Stephen Hawking’s famously derisive remarks about philosophy’s lesser role when compared to modern science, she had a quick response:

“I absolutely disagree,” she said. “If that’s what he believes, he’s not been talking to the right philosophers.”

The presentation was the latest edition of the Helen Edison Lecture Series, presented by UC San Diego Extension.

In Goldstein’s talk, she professed her belief that philosophy remains essential to our understanding of the world’s complexities, posing such questions as: What does it mean to live a good life? Or to be a good person? And what is the meaning of reality?

Her 2014 book, “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away,” imagines what Plato would think, say and write about today’s contemporary world if he were to return.

Plato surely would defend philosophy’s place as an academic pursuit and real-world discipline against those who would dismiss its teachings, said Goldstein, whose own academic career began in physics before she turned to writing mainstream books and treatises.

Science, she said, exists as “a wonderful methodology of science that we wandered on, thanks to Galileo,” but doesn’t provide all the answers.

For every area of human inquiry, she said, “We have debated the philosophy of mathematics, language, science, education, history, art, religion, politics. … It was Plato who mapped out that entire landscape. He asked the iconic questions in all these areas.”

Yet, she reflected that Plato, who lived some 2,500 years ago until age 80 (“It’s that Mediterranean diet”) saw nothing wrong with slavery in his day, as long as it wasn’t fellow Greeks who were being enslaved. “What they called ‘barbarians’ were all non-Greeks,” said Goldstein.

“To be human is to reflect on the questions we ask as philosophers,” she added, pointing to societal shifts in racism and human rights. “Not every question can be answered by science.”

The next edition of the Helen Edison Lecture Series will feature best-selling author Ken Blanchard and UC San Diego psychiatry professor Morton Shaevitz, co-authors of “Refit! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life.”

Presented free and open to the public, the event will be held Thursday, March 12, at UC San Diego Price Center East Ballroom.

Career Talk: “The Secrets of Nutrition, Eating Your Way to Better Health”

GRAPHIC, KATIE FERRAROA monthly series of 20-minute conversations with UC San Diego Extension instructors

Topic: “The Secrets of Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Better Health”


A registered dietitian who values the life-long benefits of health and nutrition, Katie Ferraro teaches several courses at Extension. She’s also an assistant clinical professor at the University of San Diego and at UC San Francisco.

Eating right, she says, is a simple matter of what you eat, how often, how much and when. She also believes eating tortilla chips by the handful — her favorite guilty snack — is not inherently evil.

Quote: “If you’re busy during the week, as most people are, we talk about using the weekend to prepare your meals for the next week. Even just snacks. You can put them in little sacks and grab them as you go out the door – rather than hitting that drive-thru every day. But you have to have a plan.”

This Career Talk Radio podcast is part of Career Channel. You can subscribe to Career Talk Radio via iTunes.


Todd Gilmer: New Director Named for Master’s Healthcare Program

Todd Gilmer

Todd Gilmer

Dr. Todd Gilmer has been appointed director of the master’s program for the Leadership of Healthcare Organizations, part of UC San Diego Extension.

Gilmer is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD School of Medicine, with a specialty in the areas of health insurance/risk management, diabetes and mental health services.

Among many credits, Dr. Gilmer currently serves as health economist for both UCSD’s Geriatric Psychiatry Research Center, and the Child and Adolescent Research Center at San Diego Children’s Hospital.

Launched in 2001, the Leadership Healthcare organization degree was the first Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) Degree in the University of California system. The program provides industry professionals with critical knowledge and skills to become effective managers and leaders in today’s complex healthcare environment.

In his new role, Gilmer succeeds Richard Kronick.

The Pulse: Thriving Yet Threatened, Southern California Community Clinics




A monthly series of conversations on healthcare issues

Topic: “Thriving Yet Threatened: Southern California Community Clinics”

Host: Leslie Bruce, Director, Healthcare Leadership and Community Outreach, UC San Diego Extension

Guest: Gary Rotto, Director of Health Policy and Strategic Communications, Council of Community Clinics


Gary Rotto shares with listeners the vital role that community clinics play in providing primary care to millions of the nation’s uninsured, underinsured, and underserved people, including children and veterans.

He discusses the impact of the Affordable Care Act in increasing demand for healthcare services and the “funding cliff” that faces clinics both locally and nationwide at the end of September 2015.

On a brighter note, Rotto points to the wide variety of jobs and careers available at community clinics. From electronic medical records, billing and coding, and human resources professionals to clinicians such as nurse practitioners and physicians, the clinics are always looking for good people wanting to make a difference.

Rotto found his way to the Council via an unusual combination of educational and professional experiences. Listen to learn more.


  • “In San Diego County alone, our member clinics provide compassionate, high quality healthcare to 700,000 patients through more than two million visits annually.”

The Art of Fundraising for Worthy Causes: “You Can Make a Positive Difference”

David Pierce: "I always tell my students that the best thing about grant writing and fundraising is the good karma you generate."

David Pierce: “I always tell my students that the best thing about grant writing and fundraising is the good karma you generate.”


David Pierce is something of a pioneer in grant writing, fundraising and development, having started nearly 35 years ago in his home state of Washington.

As he details below, it took a life-changing volcanic eruption to launch his career.

A UC San Diego Extension instructor in Grant Writing for Nonprofits, he’s also vice president and co-director of development for the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.

Over his career, he has earned four academic degrees – two master’s in English and creative writing from San Diego State University, and a business administration degree from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

“When I first started teaching,” he said, “there weren’t many established programs to teach people how to be grant writers or fundraisers. Now, a lot of my former students work for non-profits around town. It’s always great to cross paths with them again.”

Pierce’s course, Grant Writing for Nonprofits, is part of Extension’s Professional Certificate in Fundraising and Development.

Q: When did you start teaching grant writing at Extension?
A: I was the original instructor for Extension’s first grant writing course when it started 12 years ago. I also later originated Extension’s courses on development of major gifts and capital campaigns. Prior to that, I taught at San Diego State in the English department and also in the department of writing and rhetoric.

Q: What’s the most difficult part of grant writing?
A: I always say that it’s not that difficult as long as you do it right. There’s a misconception that there’s mystery involved and that it takes a special kind of talent. But if someone is good at writing, research, and people skills, they can be an excellent grant writer.

Q: What are some of the basic skills required?
A: First, you have to be a good writer, able to convey information clearly and concisely. In terms of only using a specific jargon, I don’t think that’s necessary. But when you’re fine-tuning your request, a funding source might use certain terms that you’d be wise to incorporate into your writing. But you can’t just parrot it back. You have to use the jargon in intelligent ways.

Q: What’s your biggest grant writing success, or one that brought you the most sense of pride?
A: When I was with the Vista Hill Foundation in the 1990s, we helped spearhead a grant program for San Diego County’s health services for jail inmates who had mental illnesses. We were able to help these people get integrated back into society.

Q: Why do you think you’re so compelled to help people in need?
A: It’s because I really enjoy helping people. That’s always been my motivation wherever I’ve been. I’m always passionate about the cause and people I represent.

Q: How did you get started in the field?
A: I got started as a result of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980 that devastated my hometown of Longview, Washington. I helped set up a disaster relief team and used my writing skills to bring federal and state funding to get my community back on its feet. Helping people gave me a lot of satisfaction and it seemed like a perfect way to use my skills.

Q: Aside from winning the grant, what are the biggest rewards of grant writing?
A: I always tell my students that the best thing about grant writing and fundraising is the good karma you generate. You can make a positive difference in people’s lives, even with a smaller, more modest grant. It’s a really good career for someone who is passionate about helping those in need.


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