Through an arrangement with , PND is pleased to offer a series of articles about the effective use of technology by nonprofits.
Websites are made up of content, and that content defines them.
A website with a great design and bad content is a bad website. Alternatively, a website with a bad design and great content may not necessarily be a bad site. Consider Reddit or Craigslist — both sites have lackluster designs, but the content is extremely valuable.
Websites exist to deliver content, and people visit them to receive that content. Therefore, maximizing your website content is important if you want to help your organization deliver results.
Here are five things you can do to make sure you're getting the most out of your content:
1. Get a full overview of your current website content and look for gaps. Start with a content audit. If your site isn't enormous, it won't take long. Click through every page of your site and write down the title of the page and a description of what the content on that page covers. This exercise will help you see where your content is robust and where it may be lacking.
For example, if you have five pages about the history of your organization but only two covering the services you offer, you have found a gap in your content. You might also realize there are entire pages of material missing, such as an FAQ page or Staff page.
2. Check the length of all of your pages. If a page is too long, visitors might get bored and leave your site. If a page is too short, it's likely people won't have enough context about the page topic to fully understand it. Also, a short page won't help your website be ranked highly in Google's search results.
Most pages need to be between 350 and 1,000 words. If a page is longer than that, consider splitting it up into multiple pages. If a page is shorter than that, consider combining it with another page, or creating more content for that page.
3. Review your competitors' content. A competitor is someone in your space with content similar to yours. It might not be a true competitor but simply another organization that can attract the interest of your website users. Take a look at their website. What are they doing with their content? How do they focus it? What kind of writing style have they opted for?
Learn all you can from their site and bring that knowledge back to yours as you make improvements. Often, a review like this will help you find gaps in your own content, encouraging you to create new pages.
4. Add images. Too many sites with good content are missing good images. Images are a way of helping the reader break up the monotony of the text, drawing them down the page. Images also give context to what a user is reading and help them to engage more deeply with the content.
Ideally, you want to add images that are unique to your organization and website. If that's impossible, from a site like or . The images on both are completely free and tend to be good quality.
5. Format your content so it is "scannable." The reality of the modern website user is that they "scan" everything. Pages of dense text that are stacked into long paragraphs are daunting for most people. Consider breaking up your content into lists, short paragraphs, and pull quotes for the more important points you are trying to make. Also, consider bolding some key sentences to make scanning easier and draw the user's eye to them.
Each of these tactics can be deployed in less than an hour per page and will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your website content. Always keep in mind that your content is competing to hold a user's interest. If a user is reading your website content, she is not reading another site, and that's good. It means she is spending her time on your site, and your content has successfully enticed her to stay.
A website exists to deliver content to users. Better content means a better user experience, which means better user engagement with your organization. Better user engagement means more donors, volunteers, people to serve, and much more. It's worth your time to make sure your content is the best it can be.
Adam Walker is the co-founder of digital agency Sideways8 and the nonprofit 48in48. This work is published under a .