Part 3: Organize Your Content
Writing text content is not included in the website project unless specifically stated. Writing your own content keeps costs down, but if you don’t have the skills or capacity on your team to do it well, it’s worth considering a copywriter.
Getting your content together for the new website
The biggest factor that delays projects is content. Organizations always underestimate how much time it takes to write and revise content.
You should start thinking about content as soon as you decide that a website project is needed. If you have an existing site, don’t just assume you’ll want to copy and paste over everything as is.
First of all, think about the big picture goals you outlined earlier and what your target audience wants/needs. Then review your site structure and make sure it’s centered around these priorities.
All nonprofit websites need to answer the following questions, and should be generally organized around the answers:
Stories are key for engaging web content
Facts, numbers and mission statements are necessary but not memorable. Tell stories instead, as stories tend to stick in people’s minds.
Tell the story of how your organization came about and the experiences that shaped your identity. Tell stories of the people you serve and the ways they’ve been impacted. Make sure that all of your individual pieces of micro-content weave together into a compelling story of your organization.
Make a content plan
Content can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Use a spreadsheet to list out all of the pages you need, then use columns to identify what is good-to-go and what needs to be re-written, tweaked, or added.
Lastly, assign who will be responsible for each page.
How to optimize your content for search engines (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big topic, but the fundamentals are fairly straightforward.
Google, Bing, etc. try to match find websites they consider most relevant to the user’s search query. And they determine relevance by the actual words on the page, giving higher weight to keywords in headings and those that are used throughout the page.
Identify Your Keywords
- Identify what keywords your target audience is searching for that are relevant to your organization (e.g. if you offer job training services in Bucks County, then you would want to target “job training services in Bucks County” and other related searches).
- The broader the keyword, the more people will search for it, but the tougher the competition will be. So you might want to rank for “Philadelphia Jobs” but it’s not going to happen, no matter how many times you use that keyword on your site. On the other hand, very specific keywords where you have minimal competition are fairly easy to rank for (e.g. “solar energy job training programs near Doylestown”), but if hardly anybody actually searches that keyword, it won’t do you any good either.
- Find a balance between the two extremes--keywords with low/moderate competition that gets a decent number of monthly searches.
Create Your Content with SEO in Mind
- Creates pages and/or blog posts that target the keywords you identified above.
- Use the main keyword as the page title if possible, then use it again in subheadings, and a few more times in the body content. HTML has multiple headings: H1 is the main heading, which search engines give the highest weight for keywords, then H2 is the next level down, and so on to H6.
- The keywords should fit naturally into the text--if it’s obvious you’re stuffing your content with keywords, Google won’t be fooled.
- Balance SEO with user needs. While optimizing for search engines, don’t sacrifice the user experience. If it reads like a jumbled list of keywords, you might get some more traffic, but getting people on your site is only the first step. You ultimately need them to like you, support you, and get involved with your work, so make sure you optimize your content for those goals first, then SEO second.
SEO requires patience
Search Engine Optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how perfect your SEO is on your brand new site, it won’t immediately top the rankings. If it’s done well you should see gradual progress in the months after launch, but there are many factors involved.
Good SEO requires ongoing work. As you add more pages and blog posts with the relevant keywords, and as more websites link back to you, Google’s algorithm will see your site as a more relevant resource for those keywords. But if your site just sits there and doesn’t change for months, Google might assume the content is outdated.
SEO is a huge topic but not nearly as intimidating as most people assume. Here is a great guide from Moz if you’re interested in learning more:
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When to get copywriting help
Figure out if you have staff who can write well. Though keep in mind, just because a person is an expert on a topic doesn’t mean they can write about it in a way that is readable and concise.
Content should be consistent across the site—it should use the same “voice” throughout. You can have staff from each department put together draft content for their sections of the site, but make sure it all passes through a single editor that tweaks it to fit together. You don’t want your site to read as if each page was written by a different person.
If you don’t have skilled writers in-house, or there’s nobody with sufficient time to do it well, you should seriously consider hiring a copywriter. Good content is far more important than design. A website with a simple design and high-quality text content is far better than a beautiful site with dense, mediocre content.
Photography for your nonprofit’s website
Good quality photography does wonders for a website. Photos tell a story and create an emotional connection to your organization. They introduce your staff, build trust in your organization and highlight your impact in ways that text can’t compete with. The better your photos are, the less heavy lifting your web designer will have to do.
If you can, you should absolutely get a professional photographer to capture your organization. Have them do a shoot at your office, an event, or wherever is best to showcase the heart of your work.
But while professional photos are obviously ideal, they aren’t always available, particularly for smaller organizations. If this is your situation, don’t just fall back on stock photography. In many cases, decent photos of your people and organization taken on a smartphone will serve you better than the most beautiful, artistic stock photo.
Feel free to also ask supporters, volunteers, members, and beneficiaries to send photos they’ve taken. You might be able to find some of these on social media (just make sure to get the owner’s permission).
Stock photos can be helpful supplements to a website, but if your site relies entirely on stock photos, your organization will see fake. It’s a fine line.
Here are a couple of high-quality free stock photo sites:
And if you need quality free/cheap DIY graphic design, I highly recommend Canva.
People don’t like reading that much, which is why video is taking over the web. Consider producing a short video to introduce your work to the world.
A couple tips on creating effective video for your nonprofit:
- If you’re a smaller organization and don’t have a huge budget for video, you can still make impactful videos. Focus on authentically connecting with your audience rather than impressing them with a sleek, over-produced video.
- Tell a compelling story about your organization’s impact. Make people feel emotionally connected, inspired, educated and/or entertained.
- Audio quality is more important than a high-quality camera. Videos shot on an iPhone with a separate mic are way better than videos shot on an expensive DSLR with the built-in mic. You can get a decent mic for under $100 and it’s well worth it.
- Keep it short and sweet. People have short attention spans, so make it fast-paced and to-the-point.
- A little editing goes a long way. If you have a Mac, the built-in iMovie software might be all you need. On Windows there are plenty of free and cheap options as well. Cut out awkward pauses, mistakes, and “uhs” to make your video flow smoothly. Add in some other video clips and images to better tell the story.
- Publish your video on YouTube, then embed it on your site. You should also consider uploading it to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Uploading it directly to these platforms will get much better reach than an external link to YouTube.