This topic keeps surfacing around the office right now. It’s about how we’re all going to deal with the multitude of options people have for getting online. People are online on their smartphones, their tablets, their computers, their TVs, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some options. Basically, people are looking at content in XS, S, M, L and XL screens. And all these devices are better suited for some kinds of content than others.
So, the question in my head is, will we be able to create one-size-fits-all internet content? Or will we always need to be optimizing content for the various options that are there? And what kind of capacity do we as the non-profit community (often stretched thin for resources) have for that effort?
For now, I think we are stuck in a hybrid land. And I’m not talking about cars. Most folks are understanding that they need some mobile device optimized content in addition to their standard website. And we are starting to see mobile sites emerge. Need convincing? Take a look at these stats, including the fact that one in four smartphone users makes use of the device as their primary method to go online.
Here are a few things to consider as you dive in:
1. Look at your data. Of your current content, what can you already tell about the content you offer? What pages get the most mobile hits? Can you offer those pages in a format that better fits mobile devices? Which systems are driving the traffic you see? This should be a starting point for mobile optimization. See a good overview of general trends here.
2. Think about what just makes sense. Perhaps your organization collects donations of food or clothing. You want to make sure people can find out what your organization needs and when and where they can drop it off while they are out running their errands. Or maybe you host some runs, make sure people can see the events and sign up easily or that friends that want to cheer them on can get to a route map on the day of the event.
3. Get ready for mobile giving. A lot of non-profits already offer a "text to give" option and they also offer a donation form on their website. What they might not yet offer is a donation form that is has a layout that works for your phone. Check out this great example (best viewed from your mobile device of course!) from the Humane Society of the United States.
4. While you are at it, prepare for mobile advocacy. You know it’s just around the corner too. People want to do things on their phone that they already do on their computers. In fact, while passing time waiting for the bus to come or sitting at the doctors office, they just might take an action they might otherwise have not made time for. Some good thoughts mobile advocacy are here and here.
This post is the third in an ongoing series about Google Analytics. As we proceed, I’ll share tips on how you can use this tool to gain more insight into your online marketing. I’ll start off with the basics, but then we’ll get into some advanced techniques.
If you’re not yet familiar with Google Analytics, it’s a free tool from Google that you can add to your site to give you information about how people are coming to your website and how they behave when they get there. Read the first post for an overview of the Dashboard and the second post for a tour through some of the most useful reports around visitors.
Today we'll go back to the Visitors section for even more insight into your site's visitors. The map overlay, the second item on the list of reports , is both a fun visualization and can give you important insights about your visitors. If your focus is primarily or entirely on US constituents, you’ll likely see the US in dark green, indicating a high percentage or visitors.
You might be surprised to see traffic outside of the US. Where do those visitors come from? Unfortunately, some international traffic is likely to be from spammers & spam robots, but most are probably legitimate. Visitor location is determined by the IP address they are visiting from, but Google also tracks language, which is determined by the settings on a visitors’ computer. If you see anything surprising in locations, check that data against the languages report, also located under the Visitors tab. If you see a large group of people from a certain country or with certain language settings, you might want to add support for that language.
If you click on the US in the map, you can drill down to a view of traffic by state. Click on the state, and you can see traffic by city. If your organization provides services for a specific state or city, it can be interesting to see how much traffic you get from other areas. You can see the pages/visit, time on site and bounce rate for each area. If you are surprised to find traffic from a certain area, and see that people from that area have a high bounce rate & few pages per visit, then perhaps you can think of a way to better serve that audience with targeted content. I've seen a lot of clients surprised at the traffic they get from outside their target area. Even if people are coming from an area you don’t directly serve, you might be able to build a relationship with them and they might want to help your cause.
Now skip down to Visitor Loyalty. This takes your data on new versus returning visitors a step further. The Loyalty report breaks down visitors by number of times they’ve visited in the designated time period. This report defaults to the past month, but you can change the date range to see how often people return over, say, a 3 month period. Remember, if someone clears their cookies or uses a different browser or computer, they will be seen as a brand new visitor, and the likelihood of that happening over a 1 year period is much higher than over a 1 month period, so try to use a time range of 1 – 3 months.
Are you seeing some visitors that view your site 50-100 times a month? These are probably internal users. If your organization has a static IP address, you can exclude your IP range from the Google Analytics tracking to weed out your internal users from your data by creating a filter in the profile settings. (If that's Greek to you, we'll cover that in a post soon!)
Another way to look at your returning visitors is to see how frequently visitors come to your site. Some visitors might return the same day, while others might have last been to your site a year ago. If you can remove internal traffic, this report can help you decide how often to refresh content. If most visitors are new or return after a month or more, then a weekly featured article might not be the best thing to spend your time! (Be sure to remove internal traffic or take this report with a grain of salt)
Length of visit & dept of visit show you more details behind the average pageviews per visit and average time on site metrics. It can be eye opening to see the complete picture beyond a simple average. The chart below is for a site that shows an average of 5.16 pages per visitor. Pretty good, right? Not so great when you see the complete picture.
It can be dissapointing to see that only a few visitors (typically internal users) view many pages and stay for a long time, inflating your averages, but it's better to be aware and look at how your complete picture changes over time or with significant website changes.
That's enough data for this post. Look at your visitors reports & check back next month for more Google Analytics tips!
In continuing Lacey Kruger’s and my series on content strategy (If you haven’t yet taken a look at Lacey’s post on content inventories, be sure to check it out. Lots of good stuff there), I wanted to share with you an interesting article, published recently by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, about building a narrative based organization. In The Benefits of Building a Narrative Organization Thaler Pekar outlines the advantages of cultivating a narrative approach throughout your organization.
She makes a number of great observations, two which I’d like to address here. One, every organization, whether they know it or not, has an organizational narrative which is at the core of their mission, values, and brand. It’s important that your organization is cognizant of its “big story,” and tells stories which support it. For a quick primer on making your organizational narrative explicit, see my blog post on message hierarchies. Two, she refers to the ability that stories have to engage an audience. Stories do this by making the situations described more tangible, relatable, and memorable.
Just this week, Outreach International sent out an email appeal incorporating these ideas and other storytelling best practices. Go ahead, read it. I’ll be here when you get back….
Pretty good, right? There’s a lot to like about this appeal, but I want to break down some of the elements pertaining to organizational narrative and audience engagement that I think are particularly effective:
Do you have stories like this that you could tell at your organization? Are you effectively communicating them to your audience?
Continuing with our series on effective content, today I’ll show you how to assess, or audit your content. So, perhaps you know your content could be improved, but how do you know where to start?? Dimitri had a great post a few weeks ago on how to develop a message hierarchy which will be a great tool to use for your content assessment. The other thing you’ll need is your content inventory.
Note: Don’t skimp on the content inventory. Yes, it’s tedious and time consuming, but it is absolutely crucial to see what content you have out there to be able to assess it and make it successful. Try making it an on-going project, spending an hour here and an hour there and don’t forget to keep it updated once you have your initial snapshot.
Once you have your message hierarchy and your content inventory, it’s time to dig into that inventory to truly evaluate what’s there. Like the initial creation of the inventory, the assessment should also be an ongoing process. Kristina Halvorson refers to this part of the process as the “qualitative audit” in her book Content Strategy for the Web. You can even check out her chapter on Audits for free.
The qualitative audit is a way to assess your content across several variables. Kristina provides a great list in her book, which I’ve adapted a bit here:
As I’ve helped clients with their content assessment, I’ve added columns for each of these variables to the content inventory and created a scale to rate each aspect of the content. I’ve found it helpful to color code my ratings to call attention to the sections that need the most work. The scale is really up to you, but I’ve tried to keep it simple in the past with 1 (red) being “critical”, 2 (yellow) being “needs work” and 3 (green) being “good as-is”.
Once you have your assessment complete, you essentially have a checklist for content that needs to be updated, consolidated or removed. From there, get the Owners of each section/page involved to help make the necessary updates. Share your Message Hierarchy with them and other relevant documentation on the tone and style your website should use. It’s also helpful to create a reasonable timeline for completing the edits to keep folks on track, but encourage your authors to edit pages on a rolling basis to keep the process manageable.
Now, I realize many organizations don’t have several content authors to divvy up the work and other organizations might have SO much content that the task still looks completely overwhelming. If you’re in that boat, I’d suggest checking out your Google Analytics data and prioritizing your updates based on the popularity of the content. Your most visited pages (perhaps your top 50?) can be evaluated first, followed by pages that get fewer visits. Small steps are important steps here so start where you can. Remember though, Content is King, so be sure to start somewhere.
Last month Lacey Kruger kicked off the first in a series of blog posts on content strategy that she and I will be posting with the excellent Content is King. Her post is a great primer on why it’s so crucial to pay attention to content on your web site. It’s important to focus on the visual and structural aspects of website design – layout, color schemes, navigation – but if you don’t have quality content to actually put into all of the wonderful templates and designs you have developed your site will not be that effective. This month I’ll be describing a strategy document you can use to focus your website content on the things that matter.
This document is called a “message hierarchy” and at its simplest it’s nothing more than a prioritized list of what you would like people to “grok” after visiting your site (science fiction geeks and fellow travelers will recognize the word grok from Heinlen’s Stranger in a Strange Land. To grok something means not only to understand it, but to understand why it matters, and more importantly to understand why it matters to you specifically.) By explicitly stating what you’re trying to communicate with your website, you’ll be in a much better place to evaluate whether your content is moving you towards that goal.
A message hierarchy consists of the following four buckets:
It’s important to remember as you’re going through this exercise that your messages are not your content. What do I mean by that? You don’t need to spend an enormous amount of time wordsmithing your messaging and getting the phrasing just right, because your online audience is rarely (if ever) going to see your message hierarchy. The only standard for quality is that it is clearly written and people within your organization can understand it.
Once you’ve taken some time to map out your message hierarchy, there are a number of ways in which you can put it to work for your organization:
Hopefully the above exercises have given you some concrete ideas for how you can begin creating and using message hierarchies in your organization. As with all strategic documents, the point of message hierarchies is to be mindful and purposive about your objectives so that you have an agreed upon yardstick to measure your success.
Comic reprinted with permission from xkcd.com.
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