Given that the evidence shows that people are online, it’s crucial for charities to connect with their audience through this channel. You do so by developing an effective online presence, a process that seems daunting but is easier to understand than you think. In fact, we break it down into a simple formula which can guide your decisions on what areas to invest in. The infographic below explains further.
The effectiveness of your charity’s online presence refers to its ability to attract online visitors and engage them so that they fulfill actions you deem valuable (which we call conversions). These valuable actions or conversions can be defined any way you want. For charities, receiving a donation is usually a good example of a conversion, but it can also be results like a visitor gaining valuable information from your site. The more conversions your site generates, the more effective its online presence is.
Increasing conversions can be achieved either by generating traffic volume or by bettering user engagement. The examples in the infographic help clarify this point. The site in example 1 with a high traffic level (30 visitors) but low conversion rate (10%) can still generate the same number of conversions as the site in example 2 with low traffic level (10 visitors) but high conversion rate (30%). The only difference is that example 1 achieves its conversions through sheer volume whereas example 2 relies on efficiently converting visitors.
To use an analogy, it would be like a shop where many people visit but few buy versus a shop where few people visit but many of them buy. Both achieve the same end result but do so in different ways.
By now, we’ve established that conversions can be generated through traffic volume and user engagement. With effective online presence defined as the ability to generate conversions, the formula becomes clear: online presence = traffic volume x user engagement. The key then is to find ways to improve either your traffic volume and/or user engagement. These methods can be grouped into seven main categories.
SEM: Search engine marketing allows you to use place ads at the top or side of search pages. While expensive, the Google Grants program provides $10,000 in free ads every month, and is the only viable way for most charities to use SEM.
SEO: Search engine optimization increases your organic search results. If you’re unfamiliar with what it is, read our blog post about SEO.
Offline: This refers to anything your charity does offline to promote the organization, like word of mouth, traditional forms of advertising, or events.
Content: The quality of your message or offering on your site. Content is important for its usefulness to visitors, whether that be through the information you provide, or the clarity with which it leads users to the service you offer.
Visuals: The aesthetics of the site which keep it attractive but also imparts an impression of your “brand” image. Find out more about why design is so important.
Layout: Web searchers have short attention spans, so an efficient layout helps them find the information they were looking for.
Social media is an interesting category because it can both drive traffic to your site and allow you to engage users. For example, with Twitter you can be promoting a special initiative which can boost traffic. At the same time, you can be tweeting directly with followers and engaging them on a personal level.
We covered a lot of ground in this post, so to recap the material:
— Online presence is your ability to generate site conversions, which are actions your charity deems valuable like donations,
volunteers, or awareness
— The formula for conversions is site traffic x user engagement
— Site traffic can be increased by SEM, SEO, and offline promotion
— User engagement can be improved by site content, visuals, and layout
— Social media is both a traffic driver and engagement tool
If you have some thoughts about the formula or ideas on how to refine it, leave me a comment below.