All too often, websites pile up with more and more rarely revised content, losing track of what users want and how they can find it. Digital fundraising expert, Beate Sørum, encourages charities to think again. Here she sets out five top tips for a successful web strategy.
People come to you for the content on your website and it is time to give it as much consideration as you do to its hierarchy (how it is structured and built). The traditional way of working with the web is by starting with the home page, cutting everyone an equal slice of it and filling your allotted silo with constantly produced and rarely revised content. But if you're serious about making your website work for you, this approach won't do anymore.
Don’t stop after creation and simply pile on more and more content. If you’re doing that, you're forgetting the most important part: governance of useful, usable content.
The only way to stop the madness is to start at the beginning; you have to ask why you even have a website, think again and don’t – whatever you do – be afraid to delete.
Here are five top tips for a successful web strategy:
Know what you want from the web
Why do you have a website? Think carefully about what you really want from your website. What are the goals that you want to achieve through it and, within that, how can the web be used to reach your fundraising goals. This might be a very different goal from what the organisation had in mind when it first set up the website. Take a fresh look and think again. And remember that this needs to be agreed at the top level of the organisation and understood at all levels.
Who’s your audience?
It is rarely a good strategy to talk to everyone. Instead, agree who is your target audience; potential donors, existing donors, government, researchers or beneficiaries. Now, make sure that you write content with them in mind. It won't matter if you write brilliant content for 18 year olds if you really need to be engaging politicians. You can have primary and secondary groups, but always be clear who you are writing your content for and what they might want from the site.
What do they want?
Always remember that the Internet is a 'pull' medium. Don't just tell people what you want to communicate, but find out what your users want from your website or what will be most likely to engage them and work from that basis.
Interview selected staff from different parts of the organisation – ask them what content is most often requested currently, what questions your donors most often ask (through all channels; on digital, over the phone and in person) and make sure you speak to actual and potential users – ask them why they come to your web page, what are they are looking for? And consult statistics like Google analytics to see what people really do on your site.
Create that content and lead your users
Don’t leave any dead ends. Make sure you have content paths on your website that will lead your users to other areas after the initial purpose of their visit. The core model that I often reference (developed by Norwegian agency Netlife Research) encourages us to think about what we could encourage our users to do next? Do we want them to donate, volunteer, sign something or read some more?
Don’t let it go stale
Your website shouldn’t be an archive of everything you have ever published. Only post new content if it supports your users' needs or your business goals. Have a plan for revising all your content as often as needed. Some content needs to be reviewed frequently, other pieces may live happily for a year before you have to look at them again. As long as you have a plan, and follow it, frequency is up to you.
When the time comes for revision, update anything that needs updating: numbers, dates, opinions, etc. Maybe the page can be deleted. Delete things that no one ever sees, that do not meet your standards, or simply are no longer relevant or needed. Don’t be afraid of the delete button – it can be your best friend!
For more, see Beate's fuller blog post on this topic at SOFII.