By De’Yonté Wilkinson, Guest Author
At one point, likely close to when your nonprofit was founded, you dedicated time and energy to building a website that could serve your organization (with minor maintenance!) for years to come. Then, as your marketing efforts grew in complexity, you probably focused on other aspects of your strategy and trusted your site to continue working on your behalf with little to no intervention.
While your website is just one aspect of your nonprofit marketing plan, it’s a crucial one. It’s the train station of your digital marketing strategy — all online communications (trains, in this analogy) are created with the goal of driving supporters (passengers) back to your site. Then, your site directs supporters to the next step in their journeys, whether that’s making a donation, signing up to volunteer, or simply learning more about your cause.
Your website is the point at which simply learning about your organization online can transition into taking digital action. For this reason, it’s worthwhile to ensure your site is functioning optimally.
This guide will cover four metrics that can give you insight into your site’s performance:
Pages Per Session
Conversion Rate: Are your pages bridging the gap between interest and action?
Conversion rate describes the percentage of website visitors who complete an intended action after landing on your site. For example, this could mean the percentage of site visitors who:
Make an online donation
Sign up to participate in your volunteer program
Register for an upcoming event
Sign a petition, email a representative, or take other advocacy actions
These actions are described as conversions. For many nonprofits, the primary conversion they will track is online donations. However, the conversions you track depend on your nonprofit’s goals at any given time. For example, you could track event registrations if you’re in the midst of planning a major annual event.
Site-wide conversion rates should fall between 2.5 to 11%, whereas the conversion rate for action pages (like your donation page) should be around 21%. However, the higher this percentage is, the better. If the conversion rate you’re currently tracking for your website is lower than you’d like, there are a number of ways to increase conversions:
Ensure your site is easy to navigate. Site visitors should be able to easily discover conversion pages from any place on your website. For example, if you’re prioritizing donations, there should be a clearly labeled “Make a Donation” link in your top-level menu.
Make it easy to convert. Often, a web conversion is done through some sort of form, like an online donation form or a volunteer sign-up form. If you want supporters to complete these forms, make it easy to do so! This includes limiting the number of fields, clearly labeling required fields, and ensuring the forms are mobile-accessible.
Bounce Rate & Pages Per Session: How useful are your web pages?
We’ve grouped bounce rate and session rate into one section because they’re interconnected and the strategies that you use to improve one, will improve the other as well. Starting with the definitions:
Bounce rate is the percentage of site visitors who only visit one page on your website — they land on one page before leaving the site, rather than clicking through and exploring other pages. Ideally, your website’s bounce rate should be below 55%.
Pages per session describes the average number of pages a visitor views before leaving your organization’s website. The average industry benchmark is two pages per session. However, the more pages a visitor views, the more engaged they are with your content.
These are connected in that if you have a high bounce rate, your average session length will be shorter. If you have a low bounce rate, your average session length will be longer.
These metrics provide valuable insight into your target web audience as they tell you whether or not your web pages are meeting that audience’s intent or sharing the information site visitors are looking for. With that in mind, consider the following tips to improve your website’s bounce and session rates:
Create interesting content. Think of your own browsing habits — if you land on a web page that doesn’t line up with what you were searching for, you’re going to “bounce.” If you don’t want visitors to “bounce” from your action pages— say, your online donation page— make sure that the page provides all of the information they need to complete the desired action without looking elsewhere. If the visitor takes the action you want them to before leaving your site, it won’t count as a “bounce.”
Build connections between site content. Drive users through your website with relevant links to additional resources where they can learn more about topics of interest. For example, if you have site visitors landing on a blog post that interviews a volunteer, you could include links to a page that lists volunteer opportunities and your volunteer sign-up form.
Page Views: How many people are landing on your web pages?
This metric refers to the number of people who have viewed a page on your site over a period of time, such as a blog post that received 100 views over a one-month period. It’s tricky to assign a standard number for the ideal amount of page views as it will depend on the size of your audience and the purpose of the individual page that you’re focusing on.
For a general rule of thumb, the higher the number of page views, the better. To increase page views, you’ll want to increase how many times your pages are linked from and encountered by people at other web “locations” such as Google and social media. Do this by:
Improving your search engine optimization game. Cornershop Creative’s guide to SEO for nonprofits defines it as “standard web optimization practices designed to help nonprofits improve their content’s page rankings for target keywords on search engines like Google.” This includes tips like conducting keyword research to discover your target terms, creating and maintaining a blog, and building internal and external links.
Linking to your website in your multichannel marketing efforts. Include links in your digital advertisements, social media profiles and posts, and even on physical media.
Your website is the crucial point where digital interest turns into digital action. These points will not only give you insight into how well the site is performing but also help you determine the best next steps to improve this performance!
De’Yonté Wilkinson found his passion for web design and development during MySpace’s heyday, when he helped his friends create awesome profiles. He’s spent the last three years specializing in WordPress and conversion optimization, and is an active proponent of coding guidelines. In his off time he enjoys cooking, Rugby, and hanging out with his wife.