Do you ever get lost in the jargon and endless acronyms of digital? Ever get asked by your boss what HTML is? Or whether or not you have SEO on your website?

There is, of course, a lot of complexity in digital marketing and fundraising. This can make it exciting (if you’re me!) but also daunting. Websites, in particular, are living and breathing things with so many moving parts that it’s difficult to know everything you feel like you need to.

My team at ST is constantly researching and learning because digital is not a stagnant thing – so I asked our Digital Producer, Raya Pomelkova, to share her list of the top technical tips you should keep in mind when maintaining your charity’s website.

1. Centralize your online presence

Nothing confuses the donor more than window upon window popping up as they try to access different parts of your charity’s website. If your donation processing platform can be embedded into the main structure of the site – use that option! If not, see if you can redirect your donor back to your website once they have completed the donation process or have a clear link to go back. If you don’t, people will close the donation window/tab and forget about any other pages on your website that they wanted to visit.

2. Write descriptive page title tags

With the rise of user-friendly Content Management Systems (CMS), it has become extremely easy to make sure every page of your website has a clear and unique title tag. Giving each page a clear name in your CMS will automatically recognize it as a title tag. You can also use plug-ins like Yoast SEO to make title tags and page descriptions even more specific. In turn, Google search has become so sophisticated that if a donor is looking for specific information and there is a corresponding page on your website that matches, it will display that page in the results instead of your homepage. For example, I want to search for annual reports of charities that helped the Nepal earthquake relief, so I type in “Nepal earthquake annual report”. The first link that comes up is Amnesty International’s page for their annual report on Nepal for the year of 2015-16.

3. Include image alt tags

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve come across websites that have lines like “main logo” or “group photo” for an alt tag. While some might argue that it is better than having no alt tags at all, really it just adds to search pollution. Try searching images for a “logo” on Google and see how many results come up! To clarify, an alt tag is not the same thing as a photo caption, although it can contain the same copy. An image alt tag is simply alternative text for an image that cannot be displayed due to device or browser constraints. That is why descriptive alt tags not only keep search results relevant to your organization but also are a great way to make sure your webpage is accessible.

4. Make use of headlines

Headlines serve a lot of purposes that are often taken for granted on the internet. They, of course, provide hierarchy for information on the page. Your page title should be the biggest on the page. Followed by sub-headings, section titles and descriptions. Google looks at headlines first to determine if the information on the page is relevant to the search term. Google search bots also have the ability to recognize when a page has proper hierarchy and bump those pages up in the search results, because these pages will guarantee a better user experience.

5. Break up heavy pages with images 

Just like with headlines, images – relevant graphics or photos of your work – can aid in user experience by breaking up information on your page into easily-digestible chunks. Images also have the power to make your donor remember more information on the page than they would with plain text. When you do insert images, don’t forget about those alt tags!

6. Have clear Call-to-Action elements

Most of the pages on your charity’s website should have goals associated with them. Some of the more obvious ones would be: make a donation, contact your organization for more information or sign up for your newsletter. Other pages might have subtler goals, like increasing your online following (by sharing your articles on social media), or just providing supporting information for potential donors. In any case, you want to make sure that your donor completes the action that you want them to complete on that page. Make sure to provide a big “Donate” button when it is appropriate. Have a bolded link to read more after you provide a few examples. Don’t be afraid to tell your website visitors what you want them to do. On the flip side, don’t bombard your donor with multiple actions on one page. They will likely feel overwhelmed and end up leaving your website altogether.

7. Write meaningful copy

Gone are the days when you could rely on a few dozen keywords to make your website pop to the top of the search list on Google. Google is constantly updating their search algorithms to provide people with the most relevant and trustworthy search results. As a result, Google now looks not only into the keywords that appear on your page, but also at how you use them in the context of your content. In fact, Google can rank your site lower if you use the same keyword 25 times on the same page. Make sure that all the copy on your website has a good flow and is meaningful to the donor first. Donors will spend more time on the page when you treat them like humans and when your organization appears human as well.

8. Create mobile-optimized images

Nowadays, most web browsing happens on mobile. We check our phones first thing in the morning and go to bed at night still looking at those last few emails. (Make sure to give your eyes enough rest in between!) That’s why it is so important that your images not only render properly on mobile (fit fully on the mobile screen), but also are fast to load and don’t eat up all of the donor’s mobile data. Data is expensive and people can be picky with how they use it – think of their experience. If they see that your website is image-heavy and takes forever to load, they are just going to close it and go watch that Carpool Karaoke video on YouTube instead.

9. Invest in mobile-optimized donation pages

While we are on the topic of mobile, it is important to mention that a lot of your donors will want to donate using the same device with which they started browsing your website. For most of these, and not just the younger ones, it will mean mobile.  Sadly, not all online donation platforms are 100% mobile-friendly yet, but a lot of them are rolling out their mobile functionality in the near future. Make sure to ask your representative when the mobile version of their platform will be available and set aside a budget for it.

10. Be(a)ware of trends

It is always good to be in-the-know of current tech trends; be it Snapchat or Pokemon Go. It gives you an idea of where the future of tech is going and it can also inspire your organization for future campaigns. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you have to jump on every latest bandwagon and create 20 different social media accounts for your non-profit. Know your brand and know your donors. Is your organization constantly recruiting 18-24 year old volunteers and you know their friends are supporting them by donating to your charity? Thank them by making a Snapchat filter! Is your organization helping children with serious diseases? Make your Facebook and Twitter safe spaces for moms to share their journeys and support each other.

Thanks Raya! 10 tips that you can always use whether you’re reviewing, updating or overhauling your website – remember, it’s always a work in progress. Your audience will lead you as well as take your lead. And if you’d like to explore any of the above, feel free to reach out @SimrenDeogun.