When you’re a Not for Profit organisation (NFP), your story is your brand.
The most difficult content marketing challenge NFPs face is how to harness their brand power, their story, and produce a content strategy that is impactful enough to convert their target audiences.
Content needs to be targeted at users who have a problem that your organisation can solve. In the NFP sector, this means you want to target users who you can:
- Help with programs or services you offer
- Inspire to share your message
- Connect with and encourage a donation
To help you reach users for better conversions, and make the most of your brand, we’ll take you through four ways that you can improve your content strategy.
You can also get this post as an infographic:
1. Create Content To Increase Brand Awareness and User Engagement
Marketing expert Neil Patel rightly said that content marketing is about storytelling and a critical part of NFP branding is the story you are telling to users. What does your story entail?
Well there are three critical components of NFP branding that your content needs to communicate to users:
- Which demographic do your efforts assist and why do they need support?
- How is your organisation supporting them?
- What do users need to do to participate in the initiative?
One of our NFP clients at Reef is focused on HIV testing among the LGBTQ community in NSW. Content production is focused around the charity’s blog, and so that’s where we targeted our SEO efforts.
To improve their content strategy for increased brand awareness, we helped the client choose blog topics that answer relevant questions, trending in search. The result, over time, has been a significant increase in the number of users accessing the blog via Google Search, giving their visibility a boost. In June of 2018, the blog accounted for:
- 68% of the site’s overall organic traffic that month
- 52% more organic users compared to the previous year
- 54% more new users, approximately 11,000 more than the previous year
It is also important to note over 50% of organic users are returning users, and that they are accessing new articles on the blog. This means that they have already accessed and engaged with the client’s content and brand, prior to June of 2018. We’ll use this metric to determine the volume of pre-engaged users who returned and converted on the site.
Consider these figures from the most recent blog post which:
- Attracted 648 returning users
- These users accounted for 20% of the article’s total traffic acquisition
So, what about conversions? This client’s goal is to be seen by relevant users who will engage with their content, and at some time in the near future, convert by booking a HIV and STI screening test. From their Google Analytics we can see that most conversions in June were achieved within three interactions, after the user has accessed two blog posts, including the recent piece mentioned above. In June of 2018:
- Over 10,000 users accessed the ‘Book a Test’ page
- Of these 3,100 users were returning visitors
- 430 users booked tests through the charity’s HIV screening clinic
- 37% of converted users were returning visitors
As you can see, by leveraging the right kind of content and channels to reach and engage your target audience, you can increase conversions over time.
2. Know Your Audience and Create Targeted Content
The key to a content strategy that converts is precise targeting. As a NFP organisation you have a story, and you need to pin down the ideal users to hear it as part of your digital marketing plan.
There are four types of users you need to consider:
- Users who benefit from your programs, services or support (if applicable)
- Users who you can connect with and earn referrals or shares
- Donors, sponsors and benefactors
- Potential partners and allies
These are broad categories and it’s normal for specific demographics to change based on the campaigns you’re running, or the different programs you offer.
Recently we’ve been working with another NFP, a humanitarian organisation focusing on child sponsorship, to determine if their content strategy is reaching their target audience.
Let’s take a look at the preliminary results from our investigation, and the difference between who they’re targeting, and who their content is reaching.
Who You Are Targeting vs. Who You Are Reaching
Our client’s core messaging is about improving the livelihood of communities and children in poverty, and in times of crisis. Their target audience has historically been parents, who they’ve tried to reach with a value exchange, in the form of PDF downloadable activity packs and resources for children. The client’s intent was to acquire parents’ contact details in exchange for the PDFs for their children.
Now let’s take a look at the analytics from January-June of 2018:
- 77.2% of users were female
- 22.8% of users were male
- 30% of users were aged between 25 and 34
- 22% of users were aged between 35 and 44
What can we read from this demographic data? The two largest age groupings together consist of the 25-44 age bracket. In the context of monthly sponsorships and one-off giving options, we can assume that some of this grouping is possessive of an income level to make them convertible. We cannot know, however, the percentage who are parents.
If these users aren’t the parents the client thought they were reaching, then who are they, and how can we improve the client’s content strategy to increase conversions? The answer is to act upon the data that you have. Make reasonable assumptions to inform your choice of content assets and distribution channels to support your campaigns.
The best way to improve the client’s strategy is to include parents within their user targeting, but to also cater for additional groupings, likely situated within the age bracket. Targeting “parents” may be assuming too much, as opposed to targeting young professionals aged 25-34.
The client can produce the following evergreen content assets to accommodate multiple audience segments with the potential to convert:
- Articles about children and childhood
- Infographics about the countries where they work
- How-To pieces for aspects of village life
- Humanitarian case studies about their projects
- Polls querying knowledge about children in poverty
- Video interviews with sponsors
- FAQ-style content about child sponsorship
Producing content that caters to multiple personas within the most voluminous age bracket, many of whom might not be parents, is an effective way to improve their content strategy.
3. Balance Branding and SEO
A question we often get asked by our NFP clients is: where should we draw the line between branding and search engine optimisation? There isn’t a simple, tell all, answer to this query. What we’ve said in the past is: wherever you like.
As an NFP, your story is your brand. It’s how you, as an organisation, look, feel and sound to users on the web. We can also describe brand as a list of descriptors that users will associate with your charity. Having clear and concise branding guidelines is crucial for a cohesive content strategy that will promote the correct image for your organisation, and connect with the right users, who you can convert.
NFPs can improve their content strategy by including a healthy balance between search and branding driven pieces. There’s also no reason why a content asset can’t accommodate both. So returning to our NFP specialising in HIV testing, we’ll look at how this client has achieved the balance, resulting in higher visibility and better conversions.
How To Balance Branding with SEO?
A good SEO won’t try to change your brand, but will work with you to optimise the brand for search. Positioned in the sexual health sector, naturally our HIV testing NFP has a hefty branding book.
There’s reams of industry specific terminology, concepts and knowledge. This meant that their content strategy had to do four things:
- Engage with the client’s target audience
- Capitalise on search trends for increased visibility
- Focus on topics relevant to the client’s niche
- Respect the client’s brand
As we discussed earlier, this client relies upon users converting by booking tests at their clinic. So we helped improve the client’s content strategy with the following SEO driven activities:
- Content Topic Research: We used tools like Buzzsumo, Ubersuggest, Google Search Console and SEMRush to find trending content topics that sat within the client’s niche.
- Header Recommendations: For select topics, we have helped the client create keyword optimised headers to increase the chances of their content assets appearing in featured snippets.
- Internal Linking: When the blog is complete internal links are inserted at relevant points to open pathways to the site’s primary landing pages.
For reference we can compare the blog created for SEO, with a blog post published by the client in the lead up to Mardi Gras this year. This content piece focused on the 40th anniversary of Sydney’s Mardi Gras, a trending search topic, but was not designed as a blog for search engines as well as users. This blog achieved the following results between February and March of 2018:
- 203 users accessed the blog post
- None of these users clicked through to other pages on the site
- None of these users converted
The most recent blog we co-created with this client went live in May. The topic was the side effects of PrEP treatment, a pill which over time builds up the body’s immune system for protection against HIV transmission. In April the pill was approved for Medicare, so the local Australian search volume for PrEP-related content was high. The results between May and June of 2018 were:
- 8,259 users accessed the blog post
- 25% of users clicked through to other pages on the site
- 10% of users converted on the “Book a Test” page
As you can see, ticking the optimisation boxes for headers, metadata and simply choosing trending content topics within your niche, can make a huge impact on your conversion rate.
4. Create Content for Social Media
A significant way to improve your content strategy is to stop treating social media as merely a distribution channel. Yes, we use it to promote and distribute content, but it’s also home to audiences who may not be engaging with your other assets. Use social media as an opportunity to create and distribute unique content, targeted at users on specific channels.
Not only will targeting users on a variety of channels increase your visibility, but by linking to your website and blog, you’ll funnel users through to your onsite resources. They may not convert right away, but if they’re engaged, they may follow you, and convert at a later date. Each social media channel falls into one of two categories:
- “Seeker” Channels: Platforms like YouTube and Pinterest are used like search engines, serving up relevant and quality content for users to consume. Here users are “seeking” to learn something, to be inspired or simply to enjoy themselves.
- “Engagement” Channels: It’s on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that users come to engage in conversations. Here users want to participate in a dialogue about trending topics on the web.
So how do you create content to cater for the user intent on each type of platform? The answer is you need to look no further than the intent itself, and consider what content you can create that fits within your branding guidelines, to meet what users are looking for. To show you how to do this, we’re going to use YouTube as our example for “Seeker” channels, and Facebook for the “Engagement” platforms.
“Seeker” Channels: YouTube
Everybody loves visual or audio-visual content. It’s incredibly engaging and you’d be surprised to learn that over 65% of the population are visual learners. Visual content is also more easily stored in the short and long-term memories, due to faster reaction times.
The catch is that you have to meet exactly what the user is asking for. Faster reactions come hand-in-hand with the potential for a higher bounce rate if you aren’t catering for multiple facets of seeker intent.
The following content assets are proven to be effective in video formats on YouTube:
- Expert interviews
- How-To guides and tutorials
These types of content groupings are only some of what’s possible with “seeker” channels. Style and topic choice will be determined by both your industry, and the specific kind of seekers you want to interact with. Remember to place a link to your site in the description of your YouTube videos, as well as any other relevant content assets on your blog.
“Engagement” Channels: Facebook
“Engagement” channels are where you need to be prepared to “walk the walk” if you’re going to “talk the talk”. According to Hubspot, content consumption on Facebook has increased by 57% between 2016 and 2018, with 72% of adult internet users now registered on the platform. On Facebook everyone has an opinion, and users love to be heard.
NFPs can create content to cleverly prompt conversation within their niche. You need to be careful, however, and carefully consider the kind of response you want your content to generate before posting it up on Facebook.
Now we have the reaction button, in addition to the traditional “like”. Users use these buttons to communicate their emotional response to content on Facebook. This is a great opportunity for NFPs to improve their social media content. Think about these reactions as you are deciding what to create, and whether or not you want to prompt a “sad” or “angry” emoji in response to a particular issue in your niche.
The following content assets have been found to be great conversation starters on Facebook:
- Photo Collages
Keep in mind that when you create content to prompt a conversation, all users may not react as you had intended. The best you can do in such a case, is to acknowledge the comment in a reasonable timeframe, and attempt to take the individual comment with that user offline.