Nonprofits are up against a big challenge. With a much smaller budget and fewer resources, they must compete with for-profit giants who have optimized everything about their websites.
Unlike many nonprofits, successful for-profits bank on their websites producing a return on investment. They design and develop their websites with the right goals in mind so that it will generate conversions.
To that effect, your website should not be treated as a dumping ground for text. It’s the single, most important tool in your marketing mix, so you need to prioritize its conversion rate.
The first step to becoming conversion-minded is to think about website content like a for-profit does. They can’t afford for anything on their site to just “take up space”. All content needs to lead to something they can measure and assign value. Every page in their sitemap plays a role. Every page matters, especially when people spend way less time on our websites than we imagine they do (10 to 20 seconds max).
Think Content First
1. Determine the Purpose of Your Content
When you start a website project, you need to make sure each page or piece of content plays a specific role that contributes to the goal. Instead of arguing why something shouldn’t make its way into the sitemap, prove why it should.
Start by taking it way, way back. Think about why you have a website. Here are some common ways nonprofits rely on their websites:
● Get donations
● Build awareness
● Educate an audience
● Grow a list
● Sell something
● Attract sponsors
If you really boil it down, your answer should never be “to display content.” The content must exist in service of a larger goal, such as one of the above.
2. Align Site Goals With Conversions
The first step toward making every piece of content matter is to get serious and nail down 2 to 3 of those larger site goals that you can actually measure. Those are your conversions. For the purposes of this article, let’s say your primary site goals are to:
- Get donations
- Grow your email list
Identify the ideal ways your target user personas might achieve those outcomes. If you use Google Analytics, spend some time reviewing the key pages people visit before they sign up or donate. Your goal is to think like your users and visualize their path toward a conversion at the end. What might they do to get there?
A great place to start this is at the whiteboard. Draw rough user flows in the leanest way (with the least number of steps) you can get users to an end goal.
3. Organize Goal-Focused Content
Goal-focused content is your sitemap’s backbone.
There are typically a few pages that are absolutely critical to the user’s decision to convert. These contain your target content. These converting pages should form the backbone of your sitemap, and all other content should act in support. Your sitemap then grows from a goal-driven place rather than “here’s what we have, let’s make it fit.”
To keep yourself honest, create a spreadsheet version of the draft sitemap and include a column for “Page Goal.” A blank cell in the spreadsheet for a page should make you question why it’s there.
If the goal of the page feels nebulous, rework the content until it’s clearer. Just because a page doesn’t seem actionable doesn’t mean it can’t be adapted. Here are some examples of typical pages supporting conversion:
● Turn your “Our Partners” page into a call for support instead of just a list of logos
● Make each blog post an opportunity to encourage users to sign up for your newsletter
● Turn a calendar page of upcoming events into an entry point to register or sign up for your newsletter
4. Develop a Tracking Plan to Measure Success
Now that you have aligned actionable conversions to your goals, and your pages to your conversions, you have exactly what you need to complete the circle.
Now, build a tracking and analytics plan that measures how effective each page is at driving conversions. Is your “Who We Are” page driving people to visit the “Support” page? Is your “Plan Your Visit” page pushing people down the path to “Buy Tickets”?
Rather than simply looking at broad metrics like total pageviews and attempting to derive meaning from them, view analytics like an ecosystem instead, with each tool or metric building on one another to tell a more complete story. With a combination of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, as well as tools like Hotjar and Optimizely, you can build the website tracking foundation to measure and maximize conversions.
You can analyze whether a specific page or piece of content led to a conversion, review it regularly, and fine-tune from there. You’ll know fairly quickly which areas of the site are meeting their “page goals” or not.
Not every page will have a monetary goal (e.g., donations, ticket sales), but every page should have a job that can be measured. Otherwise, you’ll spend valuable time on creating content that doesn’t contribute to your site’s ROI.
As you map out your content strategically, you’ll be on your way to improving your nonprofit website’s conversion rate.
Jill Farley is lead UX/Content Strategist at Denver Digital Marketing Agency Elevated Third. Jill’s decade of experience in nonprofit digital strategy has led her to a simple but powerful motto: do what is best for the user—always.