5 Ways Nonprofits Can Improve Their Website Experience

We celebrated #givingtuesday 2018 by offering one local nonprofit a chance to win free social media services from CVR. It’s our way of giving back and living out our vision to build brands that matter. Of the 140 applicants, Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana - Theodora House was randomly selected as the winner. With so many interested applicants, we decided to keep the conversation going with a workshop for all the participants.

On February 13th, a group of like-minded, nonprofit marketers joined us at CVR for a two-hour conversation on Presence, Prominence & Perception as it pertains to a website. To prepare for the conversation, we analyzed the websites of the applicants’ organizations – over 100 domains – to get an idea of how local nonprofit websites are performing, and what might be the most valuable information to offer the workshop attendees. Check out some of the topics discussed, what really connected with the group, and five key takeaways.

Trust

We opened the discussion around how users perceive a website’s quality and trustworthiness. If a website lacks certain features or offers a poor user experience, the chance of a potential donor engaging with you declines. A few issues that can negatively impact both organic search performance and perceived trust:

  • Broken links and missing images
  • Outdated content
  • Poor mobile experience (22% of the submitted websites were NOT mobile-friendly)

Any one of these can lead a user to think twice before attending an event, sharing with a friend, or giving to the cause. Some of CVR’s favorite tools to identify and address these issues include SEMRush and Moz. Each of these SEO-focused tools offers a free-trial period, which should be enough time to find some quick wins.

Main Takeaway 1: Offer a quality website experience so users get helpful information and feel as though they can trust the organization.

Secure

Another item discussed was the use of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, more widely known as HTTPS. We were pleased to see that 65% of submitted domains included HTTPS, which adds a layer of protection to site visitor data. Most web browsers show a lock icon on secure sites, and many now also display a warning on sites that do not include an SSL.

A quick list of reasons why having an SSL is important:

  • Helps prevent fraud and identity theft
  • Solidifies the reputation of a website
  • Considered a “ranking factor” for SEO
  • Browsers now warn users of non-secure websites, and some may block the website entirely

The first step is to purchase an SSL. Often your domain registrar offers SSL certificates and can apply them to your website. Connecting with a web developer or someone with an SEO background can help make sure your HTTPS is implemented without causing additional issues.

Main Takeaway 2: Secure your site so your users are protected and feel comfortable engaging with you.

Page Speed

Fewer things are worse than slow websites. Ok, maybe that’s not true, but no one likes to wait, especially when they want to find information or complete a task – and even more so when they’re on a mobile device. If you encourage online donations, but the page with the donation form takes 30 seconds to fully load, the likelihood that donors will complete the form dwindles. Several recent studies on the impact of mobile page speed point to just how quickly a page needs to load before a visitor leaves, and the results may surprise you:

  • Average time to fully load a mobile page = 22 seconds
  • Average time to see the first bit of page content = 9 seconds
  • Average “patience threshold” of mobile users = 3 seconds

You’re probably wondering, “What does this mean?” Basically, the longer it takes your page to load, the less likely users will stay around to see your content, learn more about you, and decide to donate or attend an event. Although website speed is very technical and impacted by a variety of factors including servers, website code, and a user’s network speed, Google offers a free tool to measure your page speed, which can give you a good starting point for how to improve it.

Many of the workshop participants were interested in how they could improve their page load speed, so we offered some practical tips on an easy optimization with quickly visible results: images. In terms of file size, images tend to be the largest items on a page. The larger the file size, the longer it takes to download and show on screen. By optimizing images to the smallest size possible while maintaining visual quality, your users will get the best experience.

A few things to look for when optimizing images:

  • Save to the right dimensions. If you need a 200px by 400px image on your webpage, save the image to that size. Relying on the website’s HTML or CSS to resize an image is not best practice.
  • Use “Save for Web” in Photoshop or an online tool like TinyPNG to compress your images.
  • Use the right file type. .PNG is great for transparency or simple color palettes. .JPG is best for photographic content that has a wide range of color.

Main Takeaway 3: Find ways to improve your page speed. Your users will thank you.

Content

Many of the workshop participants were content creators, even if their job descriptions included other responsibilities. And all acknowledged the challenges of creating compelling content. To make an impact or draw the attention of new donors and volunteers, your content has to be:

  • High quality
  • Relevant
  • Highly shareable
  • “Snackable”

What’s that? This is old news? Yeah, probably. Content marketing is not new, but it is an ever-changing landscape. Today, users expect a variety of content – text, video, Instagram Stories, animations, infographics – but they also expect it all to be relevant. In fact, research shows that:

  • 47% of donors to nonprofits consume 3-5 pieces of content before taking an action
  • Including video can increase conversions by 86%
  • Content with relevant images every 75-100 words is shared twice as much as content without imagery

Lastly, from an SEO perspective, search engines today seem to prefer long-form content that touches on a number of topics within a theme over shorter, less developed content.

“But no one wants to read a long article.”

Really? If you have made it this far, I believe we just disproved that statement. But it is true, we have been conditioned to look for quick articles that contain the answers to life’s questions. So, help your users find what matters to them. Some of the scannability techniques I recommend:

  • Headlines and subheadlines to help topic discovery
  • Bullet points to present a list vs. a long paragraph
  • Block quotes to help an idea stand out
  • Bolded statements or contrast to give users easy-to-consume nuggets of information
  • Image captions can add to the visual story
  • Don’t be afraid of white space

Keyword research through tools like AnswerThePublic can help you identify what content is relevant to your target audience. AnswerThePublic, for example, is an easy-to-use, non-technical tool that takes a target term and provides additional search queries that align to how internet users search today. (Hint: They ask questions!) By understanding what questions are being asked, your content team can develop relevant content that answers the audience. (And, it offers great visuals!)

Main Takeaway 4: Create helpful content that is targeted to your users and improves scannability.

Measurement

The last topic of the day was measurement and why it’s important. Tools like Google Analytics are free, relatively easy to set-up, and can help marketing teams understand:

  • How users are finding a website
  • How long users stick around or how many pages they see
  • How many users return to the site multiple times

Of the domains we reviewed, 72% had Google Analytics installed. However, only a handful of workshop attendees said they find value from this data source, because there is so much data and it’s not always clear what they should be focusing on. We recommend creating a custom report that includes the data that matters most to the marketer.  Each website needs a tailored measurement plan to accurately capture website metrics, which can lead to quality user insights.

Main Takeaway 5: At a minimum, implement basic website measurement so that marketers understand how channels and content are or are not resonating with your target audiences.

Did any of these tips help? Have more questions? Or, want to suggest another website-related topic? Feel free to connect with me at akleyla@cvrindy.com or on LinkedIn. Let’s keep building brands that matter.