Have you ever spent months helping to create a website for your organization or cause, gone to all the meetings, thought you had all the boxes checked off, sighed with relief when the gargantuan task was finally over, and then sat back and waited? And waited? And waited?
A year after the site is created, you wonder what it’s doing for you, and even though no one has touched the site in months, there are broken pages. You play with the idea of a redesign, but the board, if you have one, won’t hear of putting another penny into the project. You spent a lot of effort and time with nothing to show for it.
How can you avoid this situation? How can you avoid getting lost in the black abyss of Area 51 of a Google search result? How can you create websites that are living, breathing agents that invite visitors, and then convert those visitors into living, breathing tribe members?
What is a tribe member? It’s a phrase we use to represent people who engage in some way in your mission. They’ve joined your ranks and care about your cause.
It’s this conversion process that we get really excited about at Wanna Pixel. It’s why we’ve created two software tools to help nonprofits: UkuuPeople, a WordPress Plugin CRM (Contact Relationship Manager), and Nonprofit 360, a full website + contact manager solution. These two tools each help you connect with target audience, track your connections for better insight, grow your tribe, and deepen your connections.
We recently did a blab about creating nonprofit websites that convert. Here are 10 key takeaways from that conversation.
Know your target audience.
One of the aha moments we have with each client we work with is when we show them their Google analytics. Many times, their online audience doesn’t even match their real-world audience. Online audiences are driven by things like meta and blog posts, and great care has to be given to weave your personal identity into the SEO fabric of your site. We’ve had clients who were paying some guy to create Google Adwords and were getting a lot of traffic for something completely unrelated to their mission. They were told there was a lot of traffic, but they didn’t understand why that traffic was not converting to engaged members.
Don’t copycat—have your own unique voice and branding look.
“The first thing is to recognize that people can only copy the outside of your business, because that’s all they can see. So while they’re copying what’s out there right now, you’re hard at work coming up with newer and more amazing things” —Natalie Lussier
What we can learn from this is that while the Red Cross or Charity Water or ALS have an amazing campaign, branding identity, or ice bucket challenge, copycatting a great idea only lets you create an outer shell of that idea—you can’t copy heart. So you’ll probably end up looking disingenuous. Not to mention, a step behind.
So don’t copy. You have your own unique heart and mission! Your brand should reflect that.
Don’t cram everything above the fold of your website—by trying to reach everyone, you won’t reach anyone.
Until clients get the first two points, they usually don’t agree with us on this one. You cannot reach multiple audiences in the first visible region of your homepage. You can be accessible to multiple audiences, but you cannot target multiple audiences at once. Can you imagine shooting an arrow at multiple targets? That’s about as ineffective as trying to target multiple audiences with your homepage!
So while you can have login icons and alternate user flows for alternate identities, the simple story you tell should be for one kind of person—the kind you’ve identified as your target user profile.
Tell your story.
Stories engage. After you’ve developed your unique brand, identified your primary user, and dedicated the opening of your homepage to reaching that user, you need to tell your story.
For nonprofits, stories are one of the best ways to help people understand what you’re about. I was instantly converted as a tribe member of International Justice Mission because I was in their primary target audience and found their site through content marketing. When I got there, I was hooked by a story. It wasn’t a depressing story. It was a mind-blowing story about the rescue of minors from sexually abusive bars in Phnom Penh.
This story was 100% more effective at opening my wallet than a depressing statistic about trafficking and modern-day slavery. We need those statistics to be informed! But we need the stories to help us believe that our involvement will have impact.
Tell your users a story to arrest their attention. Then you can request their involvement in the form of time, spreading awareness, or donations.
Have one goal per page.
This goes hand in hand with knowing your primary audience. Once you’ve identified the primary user, you can identify what action you want that user to take when they first land on your homepage.
What is the one thing that you want the website visitor to do on each particular page and how does that fit your overall user story? After all, if you don’t know what a page is for, how can it be effectively designed?
“You have to truly understand a thing to design a thing” —Invisible Design: Co-designing with Machines.
This doesn’t mean there is only one possible action per page, but it does mean the page was designed with only one goal in mind. Click that donate button to empower children. Join that newsletter list. Download that resource. Register for that life-changing event. Connect.
Pick the action you want your user to follow, and make sure all graphics and verbiage lead to that action.
Avoid trap doors.
Trap doors are links that take your viewers away from the site near the top of the homepage, like social media links. If you invite your visits away from your page before they’ve even had a chance to hear your message, they’ll probably not come back, and you’ve lost your chance to engage them.
It’s great to have social media links on your website! We choose to put them as bold links in the footer, or somewhere else near the bottom of your page. Basically, anywhere you don’t mind the viewer jumping off and possibly not coming back.
Trap doors can also be in the form of links to other sites, ads, affiliate links, sponsored content: anything that invites the viewer away from your homepage. Don’t put these above the fold.
Sliders help you cram a lot of information into a small space and make you feel like you made everybody happy; however, engagement is very low.
A study from Notre Dame shows that less than 1% of users actually engage with sliders. Considering the time it takes to build and maintain the sliders and their content, this is a pretty sad bang for your buck.
But there are other reasons besides the bad investment not to use them. ManageWP has a plethora. To mention a few, they slow down your site, which is bad for SEO (the thing that helps searchers find your site), they look like advertisements, and they lower conversion! The ManageWP article “Alternatives to Using a Slider for Better Homepage Conversions” has great alternative ideas to sliders, and we encourage you to check it out.
Create unique content to drive traffic to your website.
Even if you build a great website targeting your primary audience and telling stories that compel to action, and even if your site is search-engine-optimized using all the right meta tags on images and pages, there is still important action you need to take to prevent your site from being lost on page 33 of a Google search result.
Static sites, however cleverly built, still fall short of our goal of reaching the masses. They don’t give google a reason to serve your site to searchers. They just sit there and get lost in a black abyss of million of websites never seen by the human eye (except for the developer and the organization). Consistently produced new content is king. That is, unique imagery, unique writing, unique blog posts with unique headlines, unique products: these things all give Google a reason to point to you when users search.
Notice how many times we said unique? Copied content, stock imagery, and software-generated verbiage all rank low on Google’s algorithm. (So does low-quality content, such as blurry imagery or bad grammar.)
Shady online marketers and spammers still approach businesses and organizes alike with the sales pitch that they can get your site to be the first result in Google if you pay a certain amount of money and let them make your site “keyword dense.” But Google is so sophisticated at analyzing your content that repeating keywords over and over isn’t going to get you the results you want.
However, unique content, over time, with a consistent identity and purpose, will build your SEO authority with Google. And that will invite visitors to your site.
Invest in a site maintenance contract.
A site maintenance contract can help you avoid serious errors in the way users perceive your organization. A good SLA (Service Level Agreement) will not only monitor your site to make sure it is running but will also provide you with feedback on ways you might tweak your digital strategy to create a bigger impact. It will also provide you with monthly reports on site security, server performance, software updates, broken links, etc. Ultimately, an agreement can pay for itself many times over in online engagement and new donor streams via your website.
Ask for Small Yeses
Communicating to online strangers through a web presence can be a lot like a real life relationship. You make eye contact, exchange pleasantries, ask questions that are genuine, but not too personal. If your new contact is open to more communication, you can get to know them on a deeper level. If you give meaning and value to their life, they might give in kind. You want new visitors in your target audience to become engaged quickly (not put-off, not pressured). If you add value to their life (positive stories, positive experiences), they may become interested in adding value to your organization.
Sometime after sharing your story, ask for a small yes. You’re not going after major donors, weekly volunteers, or monthly commitments at this point. You just want to engage the user in some way, however small. If the experience is positive for the visitor, they will be more open to saying yes in the future. Even the smallest yes (like sharing a story on social media or donating $1) can turn into a lifelong relationship.