how to improve website traffic

We have several posts coming your way on easy, cost-effective ways you can increase your online donations. We’re going to focus on some easy, but overlooked basics.

An April 2009 survey offers an interesting perspective. ForeSee Results surveyed 2,000 respondents to gauge their satisfaction with nonprofit websites.

One important finding for today’s discussion are the top reasons people come to a nonprofit’s website:

40% for news and events
40% to stay informed about the cause of the organization
35% to get general information about the organization
19% to sign up for an email update or a newsletter
18% to make a contribution
15% to find opportunities to volunteer
8% to purchase merchandise
7% to sponsor programs
6% to look for a job
6% other

Outdated Conclusion: your website has to be up-to-date, not only about your activities but about your cause. The top 3 reasons people are coming to your website have to do with information about you and what you’re doing. The 4th reason is signing up for you to send them information!

They’re looking for information about your organization. That’s good news.

The bad news is that they aren’t looking for old information.

Go look at your home page right now. It’s OK, go ahead, don’t assume you know what it says, you need to look. I’ll wait.

On your front page, did you have a current event or news item? Or was there an invitation to your big banquet in April? hmmm… April? Or was there NO up-to-date information about your cause? If you work with the homeless, do you tell about the current state of homelessness? I’m looking for this year’s statistics, not 2007. Was your last blog written in 2006? Maybe you should archive your entire blog rather than continue to post stale content?

If you have very current information, easily available–good for you! Are you offering a way to email it to them?

I did a quick survey of 10 websites of ministries that I know pretty well… only one was 100% current on their home page. Everyone else either had a message that was so generic it could have been put up anytime in the past 5 months or it was obviously out of date.

If you aren’t up-to-date, you aren’t giving your donors a compelling reason beyond “giving a gift” to come to your website. Did you notice how far down the “make a contribution” reason was on the list? Giving a donation may be be the primary reason YOU want to have a website; it is not the primary reason your donors want to come to your website. If all you do well on your website is allow them to give a gift, you’re not using that technology to build relationships with your donors and prospective donors. And you’re not connecting with the reasons most of the people come to your website.

If you don’t have current information, why not?

Usually nonprofits don’t update websites because their website wasn’t designed for easy updating (the guys in the business call it content management). But it doesn’t have to be tough to update your website. Many cool websites are built today on simple blogging platforms that don’t look like blogs (the entire Oneicity site is built on a custom WordPress template for easy updating). There are many options–the key is your decision that you are going to keep your website current and loaded with information.

If it’s a hassle or expensive to update your website, you’re going to find all sorts of reasons to not stay current. Invest now either in a plan to stay up-to-date or in new design so that you can stay current.

You’re saying to yourself, “Come on Thomas, I can’t afford a new website. I don’t have any way to build a plan to stay current.”

I get that. But here’s my question, “If you can’t stay current and loaded with information, why bother to have anything on your site but a big GIVE button?” (OK, I’ll admit that is a bit strong, but I’m prone to hyperbole when I’m wound up).

If you aren’t updating your website and keeping it current, you’re losing ground every day. Your donors are going to your website and finding out that you are out of touch, irrelevant or you’re really sloppy (or worse, the only thing you do well is ask for money). You don’t want them thinking any of those things.

So make a plan. It won’t cost as much as you think to get things ported over to a platform that allows for easy updating. Or it won’t be that hard to get someone on your staff busy updating.

Take steps now. Don’t wait. More on Wednesday about how to grow online donations.

For today, get current. What about you, what holds you back from keeping your website loaded to the brim with fresh content?

Also, it’s “Good Job Monday.” Very specifically, tell someone you work with how they did a good job last week!

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credits: peagreengirl)

Picture of Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

5 thoughts on “how to improve website traffic”

  1. Great suggestion, BUT how does anyone running a ministry have time to continue to update a website? Thanks in advance for your answer.

  2. @Mike, I completely understand the struggle, we have that problem here at Oneicity. One thing I’d say is that you can never manage it by waiting for time to do it. You have to be ruthless about your priorities. Decide that it is worth it behave as if it is worth it. I usually can find time for the things that are high priority. Maybe there is someone in the office that could find 30 minutes a week to update your site?

  3. How do you keep your website current without having to pay each time you update a page? I’m not very web savvy (I am a volunteer coordinator). I have to call the web hosting company when I need to change copy on our page. Their charge is not very high but I find myself hesitating before I add anything to our website.

  4. Pingback: Get people to your website | oneicity // income solutions for non-profits

  5. @Amy-It is a common struggle. Many older websites were built on platforms that don’t allow for easy updates. Maybe you can batch up all of your updates so that you don’t have endure a bunch of update charges. Or many providers will do a monthly update charge that allows you to make updates to X number of pages on a monthly basis. Or, do like one of our clients recently did, port everything over to blog platform that allows for easy updating. Whatever you do, find a way. Keep talking to us.

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