There are many ways to drive traffic to your website, both online and offline, and you’ve probably already tried many of them. The two you simply should not ignore are email marketing and search engine optimization.
Why? Both can be done either freely or cheaply and have the potential to drive qualified, interested visitors to your website and have an impact on your bottom line. Even better, you don’t need to be an expert to simply get started. Once you start, there’s a lot you can do to make slow, steady improvements and drive more donations. Read on to learn more.
Occasionally you’ll hear someone say email marketing is a thing of the past, but it’s not! You can look for proof in the average inbox. First, brands and organizations invest in email marketing, no matter if they’re targeting young or old, and across nearly every other demographic under the sun. Second, the reason you get emails so frequently from big brands, eCommerce shops, and other charities is that every time they send them – they’re making money! Here are 3 critical pieces every successful charitable email marketing program needs to consider.
1. Build your email list
Hopefully, you’ve already been collecting email addresses from donors, volunteers, and other supporters. If you haven’t, it’s easy to start right now. Here are some ways to grow your list of email addresses:
On your website, ask prominently for people to subscribe to your emails, and add links anywhere it’s relevant, and in the footer of your site.
Ask in other online touchpoints: donation forms, event registrations, social media posts, or even include a link in your staff’s email signatures.
Ask in every offline touchpoint: reply cards, during phone calls, and even encourage email sign-ups in your printed newsletter.
Consider more creative ways to collect email addresses: create an online petition or pledge that is relevant to your mission and include an email address opt-in. Consider creating a fun online quiz—either something just for fun or as a way for supporters to test their knowledge and learn about your cause; ask everyone who takes the quiz to opt-in to receive emails.
2. Start planning and get started with key emails
There is so much you can do with email marketing, but the best place to start is with a basic plan and some key emails.
Determine the type of content you would like to share, a conventional email “newsletter”, program updates, letters from your Executive Director, stories from program participants, and direct appeals to donate. Try different things and see which emails get the highest open rates, click-through rates, and which emails generate donations.
Establish a regular cadence to email supporters. This is going to be different for every organization. Ultimately, you want to email often enough that you can remain top of mind, but not so often that you either run out of compelling content or begin to annoy supporters. For most small-to-medium sized charities, I suggest aiming to email once or twice monthly and adjust from there.
Welcome new subscribers to your list. Most email deployment tools allow you to set up an automatic “Welcome Email” when someone joins your list. Thank your supporters for joining you, reinforce why their support is so important, and briefly tell them the type of content they can expect to receive from you in the future.
3. Incorporate email best practices to ensure your success
Keep it brief yet compelling. Most recipients will start with a quick scan of your email. Grab their attention with a compelling headline and graphic, and ensure the rest of your message is brief and gets to the point quickly!
Always include a clear call-to-action in your email. Whether you want them to read a longer article, volunteer at your next event, watch a video, or make a donation, include a clear ask and link them to the most relevant page on your website.
Pay special attention to subject lines and “from” names. These will ensure your recipients open your email and have the opportunity to benefit from the content you prepared. Make sure your supporters know it’s from your organization and give them a reason to open it with an attention-grabbing subject line.
Create a standard header and footer to use in all of your emails. Your header should include your charity’s logo and a link to both your homepage and your “Ways to Give” page. Your standard footer should include your organization’s contact information, additional links important to your organization, and a link to unsubscribe.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is critical to reaching both those who already know about your charity and those who don’t.
When it comes to those who already know about your charity, the reality is that fewer and fewer people bother typing in a web address and, instead, use Google to find what they’re looking for. Some of the most popular search terms are, in fact, website addresses most of us know like Facebook or YouTube.
Furthermore, you want to make sure your charity shows up when someone searches for something related to your mission. For instance, if someone sees a news story about homelessness in their community and wants to learn how they can help, they might start by searching “how to help the homeless”. If that is what your charity does, you want your website to be one of the first results they see!
The big question: how to rank in SEO
In some ways SEO can be quite complicated, there are highly sought after experts and very sophisticated strategies you can employ. But, the basics of ranking in SEO are not hard to get started with.
There are three pillars of SEO, and while you can get very advanced with each, there are some basics you can start on right now:
Technical: Essentially, how your site is coded can have an impact on whether you rank or not. If you use a common content management system or online tool to build your website, you’re probably already on the right track, as most are built with SEO in mind. Two technical elements that can impact your ranking is how quickly your website loads and how mobile-friendly your website is, the better your site is in both of these areas, the more likely you are to rank. To see where you stand in terms of how mobile-friendly you are, try the Google Mobile Friendly Test.
Content: “Keywords” are a core piece of the content you publish, and serve as the main way that a search engine ranks your website relative to others. Not only should the keywords you want to rank for appear on your website, your most critical words should also be used in headlines, sub-headings, and links throughout your website. You’ll also want to include keywords in your page’s meta-tags, so they show up as your page’s title and what is called the meta description. Again, most common tools to build websites allow you to easily edit these or tell your webmaster what content you want to add to the meta-title and meta-descriptions.
Link building: In the eyes of a search engine, such as Google, external links to your website will build your authority and increase the likelihood your site will rank when a relevant keyword is searched. How do you increase the number of links to your site? List your charity in trusted, relevant directories related to the services you offer, look for opportunities to be featured in local media or relevant blogs, or offer to write an article or guest post on someone else’s website. If you find your charity is ever mentioned favourably on another website but isn’t linked, write a note to the webmaster and simply ask if they can add a link.
Considerations for SEO: Choosing the right keywords
It is critical to decide when you want your charity’s website to show up, or rank, in a user’s Google search results. What are the possible words someone might be searching that relate to your charity? The kinds of keywords you want to rank for might relate to your cause, the services or programs you offer, or your mission. Once you have a list of keywords, it will give you a sense of where to focus next. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Make sure your charity’s name and any common abbreviations of your name is on your list of keywords. This will avoid awkward situations where you are ranking lower than other websites for your own brand.
Consider keywords related to your cause, start your own running list of relevant words. You can also try tools like Ubersuggest, enter keywords from your own running list, see how often they’re being searched (the “search volume”) and receive ideas for other related keywords.
Consider question-based searches. Almost all of us have typed “How can I…” or “What is…” at least a few times. Think about the types of questions that are relevant to your charity’s work.
Consider geography-based searches, especially if you operate in a particular community or region. For example, if you’re a charity fighting to reduce homelessness in Calgary, “Homeless shelters in Calgary” will help your supporters hone in on your charity based on your and their location.
Consider intention-based searches, for instance, “Donate to…” or “Volunteer for…”. This will help link the user’s intention with your mission.
Consider longer, more specific strings of keywords, often referred to as long-tail keywords. For example, “animal rescue and sanctuary in Ontario” will give you a better chance to be higher in searches, rather than competitive short-tail keywords such as “animal sanctuary”.
Considerations for SEO: Where do you want visitors to go?
Once you decide which keywords you want to rank for, you need to ensure you have relevant content on your website that contains these keywords. Many of your highest-priority keywords, including your charity name and the specific cause you support, will be on your homepage. But you’ll start to think of additional opportunities as you consider your list of keywords. A few places to get started:
Informational pages about the programs or services you offer.
Specific landing pages created for those who might want to donate to your cause or volunteer for your charity.
Blog posts or articles that allow you to answer more specific keywords, like “How can I make a difference?” or “What kind of support does X community need?”
If you expect someone to land on these pages from an online search, ensure that if someone lands on these pages they’ll see the information they’re looking for, and you have provided them with a clear ask or next step to keep them engaged.
To learn more about these essentials and more, watch this CanadaHelps SEO Webinar featuring guest experts, on-demand.
SEO may seem intimidating at first, but you’ll likely already find that you rank for some of the most critical keywords. That being said, the strategy above is really about looking for strategic opportunities to rank for new keywords and ensuring you’re following some starting best practices. At the core, it’s about building a well-coded website, creating compelling and relevant content, and building relationships with others who want to help ensure your success.
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