Nov/Dec 2008

Ask the Expert: Why is Growing Your Web Traffic and Increasing Conversion More Important Than Ever?

by Stephen O’Keefe, Senior Project Manager

It is estimated that 89.5 million online US consumers plan to give more than $3 billion to nonprofit organizations during the holiday season of 2008, according to a new study by Convio and JupiterResearch. Other studies show that even consumers who don’t buy or donate online use the Internet to research purchases and charities. That means that driving traffic to your website is critical to your organization’s ongoing success.

But, measuring website traffic is a key step in the process and one that is often overlooked. A recent headline in the Harvard Business Review read, “If you're not measuring marketing, you're not marketing.” Understanding where your website traffic is coming from and measuring your return on investment is just as critical to help you make future marketing decisions.

Here are a few questions to consider when executing your end-of-year fundraising plan and setting goals for 2009:

  • What are some tips for nonprofits to drive more web traffic and what techniques seem to work better than others?
  • How can you better optimize your site for conversion and what can you do to measure return on investment?

While email marketing programs remain an effective way to drive constituents to your website, more and more organizations are leveraging social media to increase traffic and brand awareness. A vague term, social media can mean anything from blogs to social networking websites and bookmark sharing services. Don’t be afraid to start small with one set of applications before trying something else. There are a lot of high-impact, low-cost things you can do to get started.

Social bookmarking websites are a great place to begin. First, add bookmarks for key website entry pages on delicious.com, digg.com, reddit.com, and stumbleupon.com. Second, make sure your users can easily bookmark pages on these websites. Services like addthis.com and sharethis.com are easily integrated into most content management systems and allow your visitors to bookmark your pages and share content with others. Check your web analytics package for an increase in traffic from referring sites.

Spend some time on search engine marketing. Organizations with small budgets can display ads on Google and within their network, paying only if people click. Identify search terms that have a relationship with your organization but have little competition from other advertisers. Be sure to apply source codes to every paid link to your website so you can measure the long-term return on investment. Not sure what value to ascribe to an email address? Care2 has a great calculator to measure the value of an email address.

If you are using Convio, check out the Facebook extension which is available to all clients. It allows you to publish events, fundraising and advocacy campaigns directly to Facebook, collect email addresses and take donations. If you are registered 501(c)(3), you can also set up a Cause on Facebook.

Once a visitor arrives on your site, be sure you’re doing everything possible to increase conversion. A great place to start is to optimize your home page for conversion. On average, it receives four times as much traffic as any other page on your website. Offer the opportunity to sign-up for email on every page. A sign-up box should be highly visible and towards the top of the page, along with site navigation and search. Consider offering mission related incentives or giveaways. Looking for other low-cost usability recommendations? Pick up a copy of Steve Krug’s Don't Make Me Think or visit Jakob Nielsen’s site at useit.com.

Provide opportunities for site visitors to contribute content. JoinTogether, a leader in advancing effective alcohol and drug policy, launched a comment feature on their daily news stories in 2008 that increased their average website visit length by thirty seconds within a matter of days. A lot like a retail store, the longer a visitor stays on a website, the more likely they are to convert into a customer.

When planning for 2009, be sure to set goals in concrete terms (e.g., increase year-over-year website traffic by 20 percent, increase conversion by 4 percent). If you are not sure what goals to set, take a look at the benchmarks for your sector in Convio’s 2008 Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study. And remember, driving traffic to your website is just one piece to the puzzle; you need to be measuring the traffic to truly understand your online marketing effectiveness.

Ask the Expert: Why is Growing Your Web Traffic and Increasing Conversion More Important Than Ever? | Convio