While much of the focus for digital marketing shifts to social media, it is worth highlighting the fact that email is currently more popular than every other form of digital communication and social media available on a smartphone.
It can be easy to dive into digital channels, but harder to ask yourself to step back and ask yourself if you’re really getting the results you need. In this chapter Mandy Johnson will share her thoughts on what makes a great charity email campaign, Donna Moore will demystify Google Ads, Dave Evans will guide you through how charities should tackle SEO and Jarrah Hemmant will explain what CRO is and why your charity needs to tackle it. For social media specifically, there are tons of great ideas our Charity Social Media Toolkit.
Charities and non-profits often gain the most from having a good website that converts. As well as driving donations, a successful website can build lifelong relationships and be an important platform to spread your message.
We’ve outlined 5 things to consider as part of an effective conversion rate optimisation (CRO) strategy that maximises your website’s performance.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
There are 2.6 billion email users worldwide and it is expected that there will be 2.9 billion by 2019. A recent survey showed that 72% prefer organisations to communicate with them via email. If you do not have an email strategy then you are missing a trick. Here are a few simple things that you can do to get started.
2) KEEP EMAILS SHORT
Keep emails short. People don’t want to read essays on their phone. Below is an example from Charity: Water of just how short and direct an email can be.
1) MAKE SURE YOUR EMAILS ARE MOBILE FRIENDLY
More people now read their emails via a smartphone than on a desktop computer.
If you have to use more than one paragraph introduce bold text or headlines for supporters who skim read everything.
3) SEND REGULARLY
Charities that get the best results from email marketing send more fundraising asks than charities with poorer results. Ditch your quarterly newsletter and try sending an email weekly, fortnightly or monthly instead. If resources are in issue, then try cutting the content down - smaller and often is better than infrequent and large. If you're concerned about taking this step, you can split your audience between quarterly and monthly newsletters to check the impact on results.
4) SEND AN ACTION (BUT ONLY ONE) IN EVERY EMAIL
The more your supporters do for you the more invested they become in your cause. Vary your requests to make sure they’re not always financial. Ask them to watch videos, share something on social media or volunteer. If you have more than one ask, wait a week and send it later.
5) LISTEN TO YOUR SUPPORTERS
Most email providers will track things like the number of people who open, click on and unsubscribe from your emails. This data is your supporters telling you what they do/don’t like. Poor open rates suggest your subject lines aren’t enticing. No one clicking on your links suggests either your subject lines are misleading or your content is unengaging. Use this data to influence the next email you send or, even better…
6) RUN A/B SPLIT TESTS
Split a segment of your email subscriber list in two and send different emails to each group. Send the best performing email to the rest of your list. This is a great way to test subject lines, images and copy, enabling you to make decisions based on your supporters’ behaviour.
7) SEGMENT YOUR SUPPORTERS
If you want to start getting a little more technical then try dividing up your supporters based on the actions they take or which content they respond to. Send tailored emails to each “segment” of your subscriber list. This will increase the likelihood of supporters engaging with your emails.
1) KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits’ all solution. You need to have a good understanding of the needs of your target audience and your own product proposition. Determine your KPIs and create personas of users who are using your site to understand how your website can best suit their needs.
Macmillan Cancer Support needs to consider 2 main audiences. They approach this through clear navigation and call to actions. Send a cow has one main audience aimed at purchasing gifts to donate and uses an ecommerce approach to address this.
It is always important to consider your own charity and your target audience. One possibility to address users with very different user journeys is to create separate landing pages that create more relevant journeys to your different personas.
2) DATA IS YOUR FRIEND
To help get to know your audience better you need to conduct research into them. Use reporting tools and get insight from real people to uncover opportunities for improvements.
Agree how you will measure success, and check that your Google Analytics account is set up correctly to measure it. Whether your goal is to increase donations, drive registration sign ups, build your brand’s awareness, or all three, make sure these are being reported on correctly.
3) CONSIDER YOUR COPY
User behaviour online can be different than offline, so focusing on the copy and the words used in your website can sometimes be the turning point for converting consumers. Simply changing a single word on a call to action button can have an uplift of 12% in conversion.
Unicef’s funding page keeps it very simple by combining illustrations with copy to highlight key messaging.
4) DO A/B TESTING
A/B testing is a process of serving different groups with a different version of your website to test which ideas and improvements. A key benefit of A/B testing is that you learn the reason why changing something on your site leads to an improvement. It’s not always possible (e.g. if visit volumes are low), but measuring your changes can help you determine how successful your website is.
Use your data to identify any problems or opportunities for testing. Create hypotheses for each test, which are bold statements that your test will either prove or disprove and ensure you learn from your test. You can find out more about how to write a good hypothesis for your test on our website. Google recently released a free A/B testing tool called Google Optimize.
5) NEVER STOP TESTING
User behaviour is constantly changing and CRO is a continual process of uncovering opportunities for improvement; you should never be satisfied that your conversion rate is. As a minimum, try to find time every month to run a test.
It probably hasn't escaped your notice, but Google serves adverts at the top of a search results page. The good news is that charities can apply for an 'Ad grant' which provides you with up to $10,000 per month to spend on advertising.
PRO BONO ADGRANT MANAGEMENT
One of our aims is that each account manager has a Grants account that they work on for free, for paid AdWords accounts run on behalf of charities, we’ll offer a reduced rate. So, if you’re thinking of starting up Google Ad Grants but don’t know your ad groups from your ad extensions, or are currently running one but can’t see how to get the most out of it, do get in touch with us on 01225 583838.
Once you’re ready to get going, here are our top tips:
The grant is worldwide which is why the amount is fixed in dollars, with UK charities receiving $10,000 worth of advertising in pound sterling. This presents a huge opportunity for eligible charities, providing they meet the following criteria:
Once the account is approved and you’re ready to set it up, there are other rules you’ll need to bear in mind:
If you have an existing 'real money' account, this ad grant account has to be set up separately. You can continue to use your real money account.
THE SMALL PRINT
Now, assuming you’ve ticked all of the boxes so far, there are a few remaining rules about the actual setup of the account:
AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY
Taking all of the above into consideration, this is still a fabulous opportunity, and for smaller charities can provide a valuable lifeline for fundraising and awareness. You can use the Ad grant account in many different ways such as testing out paid advertising for your charity, driving direct fundraising revenue and raising awareness of your campaigns.
Remember that the adverts will only perform as well as your website allows. If you drive visitors to an irrelevant page or one that is hard to navigate, you could see a reduction in traffic and miss opportunities.
For example, we have worked with SS Great Britain's Ad grant account and helped them hone their landing page conversions. Below you can see how they have set up a specific landing page for their weddings and functions campaigns.
There are huge advantages to understanding the search patterns for your website, not least because for many charities, organic search is the number one source of traffic. Increasing organic traffic levels could, therefore, have a substantial impact on your ability to attract fundraising, raise awareness of your campaigns and help service users find you.
No chapter on digital marketing channels for charities would be complete without exploring Search Engine Optimisation (AKA SEO). In my experience working with charities, SEO is often neglected as a channel in as it is seen as too complex or 'something that just happens'
The analytics data from a charity website above is typical of many sites in the sector. It shows that organic search accounts for nearly 65% of all website traffic, yet despite this SEO is often overlooked as a digital channel. In this chapter, I will outline some of the key things to understand about SEO and how you can improve your organic traffic.
SEO QUICK GUIDE
5 WAYS YOUR SUPPORTERS MIGHT USE SEARCH
Any work you've done on user personas will also help understand your search audience. Here are some examples:
1) Potential Donors: A key building block is to ensure that donors can find you when they search for your name. Secondly, save them some time by having an SEO friendly donation page built around a topic. Keywords might include "Dementia research charity donation"
2) Activity fundraising: An individual looking for a charity to support might search for phrases such as "run royal parks half for charity". Such phrases might be very competitive though so you could go for more niche events such as 'Celtman for charity".
3) Service user: Some of your visitors might be direct service users, so it's important that they can find what you do quickly. This might mean searches such as "second hand bike charity", or they may be seeking out information that you provide through research or support such as "diabetes symptoms" or "cancer forum"
4) Local user: Many charities have a local base so it's important that your pages are linked to local addresses and information. Users might search for "autism support Salisbury" for example.
5) Campaigns: An optimised website can help supporters find your causes. Searches might include "poverty in the UK" or "Youth activities Scotland".
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
There are various tools at your disposal to help with SEO and the good news is that there is a lot of information available for free.
1) Google Analytics: A key component of any website, yet often under-used. Sadly Google blocks much of your specific keyword information, but you can find useful information by examining your landing pages from search as well as within Search Console (AKA Webmaster Tools)
How to find your organic search data in Google Analytics
How to find your organic search data in Google Analytics
2) Search Console: Search console is a goldmine of information about your website. You can find information on how your website is performing, any errors that might be hurting your rankings and most importantly, the specific search key words that visitors are using to find your website. You can check the average position for a particular keyword and the click through rate (CTR). If you have a low click through rate, it's worth examining why.
Example Search Console Data
3) Benchmarking tools: There are literally thousands of SEO tools at your disposal with varying costs. I would start simple with the free tools available from Moz such as Open Site Explorer and the free analysis from SEMrush.
Example of SEMRush keyword research for AgeUK