A new report from Donordigital and Convio reveals some interesting findings about web donation forms. After a series of tests on seven large US nonprofit organizations general web forms, the report concludes there is NO single approach or “best practice” that works on every donation form.
That’s kind of a bummer considering all fundraisers and marketers love a good benchmark or best practice to model our efforts. But, there IS a silver lining. The report does uncover which elements on donation forms most influence donor “conversions,” and that can make your testing faster and cheaper, just in time for the all-important year-end giving season. On this front, there are several important discoveries to share.
Results suggest the following elements meaningfully affect user behavior on most donation forms:
There is tons of fundraising goodness in this report including detailed test results, screenshot examples of web forms, recommendations on conducting your own testing and more. You can download the full report here.
And, if you are attending the Convio Summit #convio10 next week in Baltimore, be sure to check out the session, Raise More Money Through Stronger Donation Form Conversion on Tuesday, October 26 @ 1:00 – 2:15 PM. Panelists include Nick Allen and Dawn Stoner from Donordigital, Vinay Bhagat from Convio, Steve Kehrli, Development Director at PETA and David Glass, Director of Online Fundraising at World Wildlife Fund.
Earlier this week I shared a post on Social Listening and how it can add value in the context of market research, noting that it can be used in conjunction with search.
So What About Search?
Many of us think about search engine optimization as a game. When we do, our approach generally looks like this. We develop a new web site (visual and information design), make sure that the web site is configured to make content easy for search engines to find, and when we write content we try to include a lot of keywords. This simple approach assumes that search engines exist for the sake of being played like a fiddle. By focusing on these techniques we feel we can trick search engines into returning our content first when people search for it. The good news is that this approach can likely get you placed well in search engines. The bad news is that once people are getting to your pages from a search engine, it’s not really what they were looking for. The even worse news – which I want to focus on here – is that you might be missing people who are searching for things your organization does.
On the upside, we are more and more thinking about search earlier in the process. This looks like organizations getting their program or direct mail staff to develop content and mail pieces that incorporate keywords and common themes.
I would suggest that we can take an even greater step back to make sure we are engaging as broad a set of people as possible and we’re giving them what they want.
I would also suggest that we stop guessing. In the past I would develop a list of keywords for my web sites by guessing what people would be searching for to find me. By seeing what people are really searching for, by looking at their search behavior, I can give them what they’re really looking for.
How Search Engines Work Can Help You
At the end of the day, search engines seek to connect searchers with content. Search engines apply lots of algorithms to create a degree of goodness – ideally they attempt to deliver exactly what people are looking every time they search. We should consider the degree to which search engines achieve goodness “relevance.”
Let’s thing for a moment about how search engines work when you search for something. You go to the search page and type in some combination of terms (or “keywords”) that you hope will get you what the information want. “the information” could be a research article, a movie listing, or an opportunity to support an organization by volunteering, donating, or writing a letter to congress. The terms you’re using most of the time get you an exact return. But a large chunk of your searches just get you close. So, you land on a page, look around, and maybe click a couple of more times to get what you really want.
Look at What People are Searching For
Our searches are not ephemeral. In fact search activity leaves a broad trail of data that if we look at it closely, can help us achieve better relevance. Here are a few ways to do it:
1. Start in your own backyard: If your web site has a search engine that allows people to search for things across your site, take a look at what their searching for. Are they looking for things that you’ve got on your site? Are they searching for those things using terms that aren’t quite what you call them? Think about it this way, you have a section on your site called “get active” where you want them to sign up for email newsletters and the walkathons you host. You might find that people are searching for “volunteer” and “updates.” this type of discovery can help you refine your site’s information design and navigation. You can probably use these terms, combined with the topics your organization works on (like “starving children” or “baby whales”) to improve your content and attract more traffic from search engines like Yahoo! and Google.
2. Check out the neighborhood: look at the key words or search phrases that are driving traffic to your web site. Google analytics lets you do this for free once you install it on your web site. Maybe you work for an organization that provides some kind of help to people with kidney problems. Are people finding you when they simply search for “kidney problems?” you might find that a small but significant number of people few are finding you by searching for “low sodium recipes” but leave very quickly. If your site has a couple of recipes, this might be an area of content you want to explore to provide better services to people. This relevant content will help you capitalize on people searching for low sodium recipes. Once you get them to you new recipe section, it’s up to you to engage them as program participants, signing a petition, sharing their story, or eventually making a donation.
3. Tap into the global consciousness: I believe the greatest opportunity for free, valuable consumer (or donor or advocate or volunteer) insight exists within search engine activity. Companies like Google have created a market for advertisers to place advertisements alongside search results. The market works more or less a simple function of supply and demand. Think about supply: Google can tell you that a million people search for “fair trade coffee” and only 5,000 people search “Ethiopian fair trade coffee” each day. If your organization sells fair trade coffee, it might seem really attractive to try and advertise where lots of people are looking for your products – but that’s just half of the story, we need to consider demand. Google knows how many other people want to advertise there.
By looking at demand and supply for ad space you can assess the market for new products and offers. Ideally, anyone wanting to develop a new product would look for the phrases with the highest volume of searches and the lowest amount of competition. Whatever that thing is, you should make it. I don’t know what it is right this moment, but there is something people are searching for that organizations and companies aren’t providing.
Try it now: Discover New Opportunities
Explore opportunities for new offers or ones adjacent to what you currently offer. Go to the Google keyword tool. Enter a single term associated with your organization’s services, products, or offers. You could also provide a URL to one of the pages that describe what you’re doing today and Google will use that to help with the research.
The tool will return a long list of similar terms that people are searching for. It will also tell you roughly how many people are searching for those terms and how competitive the market for placing advertisements on those pages will be. Sort by search volume or competition. What do these results tell you people are searching for versus what they’re finding.
Tie it All together
Hopefully these quick examples will turn you on to how search data can help you tap into real consumer insight – for free – that will help you at the least fine tune your content. At best, you will discover a new opportunity for your organization revolutionize service delivery and engage thousands of new donors and volunteers. I add only one word of caution here. Whatever you learn from search research should be tempered with validation through other methods. These tools are great for new product ideation, but before making any investment in these new ideas I would definitely survey and interview my consumer or constituent base.
Try bringing some of these new ideas into a content or campaign meeting you’ve got scheduled this week. Your suggestions for what your organization should be doing can now be backed up with real constituent behavior.
You’ll see, it works.
Guest Post by Peter Genuardi
Don't Have Time for Market Research? Think Again! - Use search and social media to get better ideas for engagement
Guest Post by Peter Genuardi
Don't Have Time for Market Research? Think Again! - Use search and social media to get better ideas for engagement
I've seen a bunch of presentations and survey research in the last couple of there's been a lot of talk about social listening and search optimization in the NPO space for the last few years. Search and social media are two realms in which there is a lot of activity by constituents (call them what you want) – service beneficiaries, donors, activists, event participants. When I say "a lot of activity" I mean a ton. All of these constituents are out there talking about things, sharing photos and videos, and looking for thing through search engines. As of this moment, I think most of us have been missing massive untouched potential for what this activity can do to help us engage constituents.
In this post, I’ll quickly point out where we’re missing the boat and present some new ideas for how to leverage social to help you come up with better ideas for constituent engagement.
Our Current (Limited) View of Search and Social
We’re limiting social listening to public relations think about how people are using social listening today. Most that I know monitor the blogs, Facebook, and Twitter for people talking about their brand or organization. This is a great way to support public relations activity. By listening for the name of your organization you’re likely to pick up on someone mentioning that they love it or hate it. Then you can participate in the discussion – growing the positive sentiment or countering the negative. This approach is for the most part a reactive one.
Where we SHOULD be Looking
We should be exploring social and search data for new ideas broadening your social listening program can help you develop new ideas for your organization’s programs and services as well as marketing activities. Think about how you might monitor the landscape for discussion about things adjacent to your organization or programs.
Get More from a Widely Cast Net
Here’s a quick example. Imagine you work for an organization that provides services to prisoners transitioning from prison back to the community. Your considers developing a new pen pal program to help people in the community connect with prisoners prior to their release. This seems like a dicey proposition to some – corresponding with people convicted of crimes is likely to scare some people or turn them off to an organization. Would a program like this turn people in the community off? Investing time and energy in the program only to have it fail would be a failure in terms of opportunity cost.
So, your organization wants to figure out whether a program like this would be successful. Would people be receptive to it? How would you normally do this kind of research? Web survey, interviews, maybe focus groups? You can complement these traditional research methods by monitoring the social landscape for conversations about things like “pen pal programs,” “writing to prisoners.” What people are saying about how these things, what they like, and how they feel will help you develop a better program out of the gate. This is an oversimplified example, but you get the picture.
There are lots of tools available to help you monitor conversation across the social landscape. Besides looking through standard web site content, they comb through peoples’ conversations on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Youtube, and the list goes on. The better, more expensive tools – like Radian6 and BuzzMetrics – do a great job at filtering in the conversations you’re really after and filtering out noise. If you’re an organization that gets people to donate to support breast cancer research, you can imagine how tough it might be to filter in people talking about breast cancer research and filter out people looking for or discussing unsavory material.
Create a Guerilla Social Listening Platform
If you don’t have money to spend on a social listening platform now, try this approach to doing it for free. I first read about this approach to guerilla social listening here. Basically boils down to this.
1. Develop a list of terms that you want to monitor. This is probably the hardest and most important part because you want to be sure you’re searching for things using the terms your constituents use to describe them. Too often we describe things in the terms that our organization or company uses. A great example of this tension can be observed in the airline industry. Airlines want to know what people are saying about “low fares” (their term). In reality we’re all looking for “cheap tickets.”
2. Create your listening platform using Google reader. Google reader will allow you to consolidate content from all over the web and let you organize it reasonably well.
3. Set up monitors on different social networks and web sites. You can create RSS feeds from search parameters on lots of sites (like Twitter and Craig’s list for instance). Try it. Go to search.twitter.com and search for some term. Then, grab the link to the RSS feed (“Feed for this Query”) that will contain all of these results on an ongoing basis. You can do this all over the place, like YouTube, Flickr, etc. Create monitors on the sites relevant to the type of social activity and constituents you’re targeting.
4. Plug your monitors into Google reader. Add each of these RSS feeds to Google reader, which will now pull of the content into a dashboard on a regular basis.
5. Filter your content for useful ideas. You can now use the tools on Google reader to find people talking about the things you’re monitoring.
6. Fine tune your listening. Depending on the terms and social sites you’re monitoring, you’re likely to corral a ton of content. You’ll quickly see which return the most valuable content. Go back and tune the terms you’re monitoring and places you’re searching for them.
Stay tuned for Wednesday's Part II on "Search: Don't Just Get Found, Find New Ideas".
Peter is Vice President ofSoapbxx,an online marketing firm serving mission driven people. Follow him on Twitter @petergenuardi
Prior to the end of the summer and sending my kids back to school, my family went on a short vacation to Truckee, CA. When I wasn't busy rafting on the Truckee River, biking to Nevada City, hanging out with friends and family, or eating, I was playing around with Titanium Appcelerator, a cross-platform application development system. The result of my* efforts, the Convio Summit 2010 Guide, is now available in the iTunes App Store.
The app helps you browse the conference schedule, view details about individual sessions, view maps of the hotel's conference facilities, read the latest from the Connection Café, and even create your own personalized conference schedule so you won't be constantly scrambling to figure out where you want to go next while you're there.
If you are attending the Summit and you have an iPhone, please download the app and let me know what you think. If you have questions about the app, Titanium Developer, how I built it, or, if you are thinking about building an app for your organization, drop me a note or grab me at the Summit.
(*) Of course, I couldn't have done this alone. I'd like to thank my boss, David Bowden, for making this possible; April Gibson for gracefully and cheerfully handling all my requests for icons and other imagery; Lori Mize for showing me how to access the back-end of the conference management system; Dimitri Lunquist for his direct and constructive feedback on the usability of the prototypes; and my other friends in marketing, Jordan Viator, Tad Druart and Sara Spivey, for their support and encouragement. I'm sure I've missed someone and to them, I apologize in advance.
One of my favorite science/interests stories in the news recently was a report published in late July by Science Magazine about how researchers have found that the brain of speakers and listeners become synchronized as they talk. The study called this "neural coupling" and claimed that the process is key to effective communication. The essence of the study is that as partners in a conversation interact, their brain patterns for both listening and speaking mirror one another causing a number of observable side effects such as imitating one another, body posture, grammar structure, and accents. The researchers claim that one of the most important take aways from this study is that "listeners are active players and not only passive receivers."
Maybe that's the part that enthralled me so much about this study too? Later when I was sharing the story with some friends, someone made the comment that this study proves why in person communication is better than online interactions. That it would be impossible to observe this kind of "mind-meld" between two individuals communicating online. Really, I thought? Over the last several years some of my most engaging conversations have been online. Some have been over Skype where voices can be heard, some have been on IM where the conversations have been live but with text only, and some have even been asynchronous using email or an online forum. I'm sure the researchers did not intend to include these types of interactions, but the study itself was conducted using audio recordings. So must these types be excluded from consideration?
Regardless of what you think, it's worth the challenge to consider how you can better mind meld with your constituents in every communication with them. How can your stories allow listeners to adopt them as their own and relate them to personal experiences? What messages can reinforce relationships that have already been established with your organization through events or other correspondences? When will people share what they read, watch, or hear with others through relaying the encounter on to others?
Measuring Online Engagement is a hot topic in our sector and profession. You can find a lot of ways to record and compare engagement between your organization and individuals (Just searching measuring online engagement is a great place to start). These metrics also allow you to measure change and progress over time. There is value to these tactics so don't neglect them, but also keep in mind the brain of the person on the other end of your message. If you can get in sync with that, the rest of the goals that you have online will also fall inline.
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