UX Audit + Content Strategy Leads to Increased Conversions for Non-profit

Background

Skate Like a Girl, a Seattle-based nonprofit, wanted to increase the number of donations and enrollments via their website. However, with only three full-time staff members whose roles required them to be primarily focused on creating an inclusive skate community, they needed help ramping up their digital marketing efforts. Portent partnered with the NGO to identify areas on the website for improvement and to train the team on content strategy, SEO, and website development so they could continue optimizing their website long after the initial engagement’s end.

Goals

  • Present stunning aesthetics to attract donors and corporate sponsors
  • Empower active and future members to effortlessly register for events
  • Let anyone discover the full breadth of Skate Like a Girl within a few clicks
  • Improve their team’s core knowledge of content strategy, SEO and UX

Approach

We conducted content and SEO audits of the Skate Like a Girl websites and provided education-focused documents, which broke down the ins-and-outs of our findings. Afterward, we discussed how the Skate Like a Girl team could implement these recommendations. Portent’s content strategy and SEO teams also scheduled in-person meetings to give lessons about on-page SEO and UX optimizations.

Results

Skate Like a Girl, using the findings from our in-depth content and SEO audits, redesigned the organization’s website. In the redesign, the group established:

  • An organized, descriptive global navigation
  • An educational, mission-focused homepage design
  • A protocol for including calls-to-action for donations and event registrations
  • Seamless donation and registration experiences
  • Uniform location pages
  • A link building campaign
  • A localized keyword optimization strategy
  • A comprehensive plan for implementing 301 redirects

 

“It was a really great process for us. Within a year, we got our website overhauled, figured out and relaunched. We still have a little bit of stuff to do, but I’m really, really proud of it.”

–Kristin Ebeling, Executive Director of Skate Like a Girl

 

 

Skate Like a Girl non-profit case study for marketing shows girls at the skateboard park
 

Next Up: How a major digital music streaming service revamped their entire content program with strategic help from Portent.
 


Backstory – Portent’s pro-bono work with Skate Like a Girl

Long-term success for a nonprofit requires a malleable marketing strategy that adapts to ever-changing community needs. Unfortunately, many small or local nonprofits lack the time, resources, and expertise to optimize their digital experience, which hamstrings their ability to drive donations and find new members—both of which are key for them to thrive.

If you’ve ever volunteered, you know NGOs don’t intentionally neglect their online presence. These organizations are usually staffed by people who love helping others and enriching their community, not with content strategy nerds who obsess about fixing the tiniest UX imperfections.

Fixing problems — big and small — is where we come in. Two big parts of Portent’s S.H.I.F.T.S. philosophy are to Teach and Serve the marketing industry, our colleagues, and the local community. One of our favorite ways to live out these values is to donate our skills and time to teach local nonprofits how to improve their websites.

That philosophy is critical to our volunteer work with NGOs because they are often singularly focused and so passionate about their mission that digital marketing can fall by the wayside.

As with all of our clients, we strive to make these NGOs better marketers by working side by side, providing both tactical support and training as we go. We’re always transparent in our work and strive to find opportunities and time for more formal training throughout our engagements. It’s incredibly important to us that our clients — perhaps especially nonprofits — know how to execute the strategies we develop at a particular moment as their organizations grow.

In June 2017, a current client introduced us to Kristin Ebeling, the executive director of Skate Like a Girl, a Seattle-based nonprofit that uses skateboard lessons to teach gender equality, social justice and leadership skills to young kids and at-risk teens.

Ebeling and her Seattle team — Hannah Levy, the fund development director and Matthew Ury, the operations director— wanted to improve the effectiveness of their website.

We walked away from our very first meeting with the team knowing we wanted Skate Like a Girl to flourish and to see them spread this fantastic mission and message. So, we partnered with Ebeling and her crew to plan, execute, and train the team on content strategy, SEO and web design best practices.

Strategy and the UX Audit

While Ebeling, Levy, and Ury taught kids how to skate through life’s challenges, we audited the website and discovered several opportunities to improve their online experience.

To start, Skate Like a Girl originally operated unique websites for its chapters in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Each website offered a different user experience, suffered from redirect errors and broken links, had malfunctioning donation and registration pages, and lacked content uniformity. You get the gist. Not to mention splitting precious authority between multiple websites on the SEO front.

After a serious strategic and tactical audit of Skate Like a Girl’s goals and online presence, the decision was to create a new, cohesive website to improve the likelihood that potential donors or participants get involved.

After the initial strategy presentation, Ebeling says she, Levy and Ury had a huge conversation around their target audience, available resources and why Skate Like a Girl needed a website.
“We had to … really think about our customers, and look at who would be visiting and searching for us on the Internet and how can we make it that much easier for them,” Ebeling says.

Ultimately, the Skate team chose to simplify their communication and design one website that accomplished three main goals:

  • Present stunning aesthetics to attract donors and corporate sponsors
  • Empower active and future members to effortlessly register for events
  • Let anyone discover the full breadth of Skate Like a Girl within a few clicks
  • Improve their team’s core knowledge of content strategy, SEO and UX

Once Ebeling and her team aligned on what was important to them for the new website, Portent created multiple hands-on lessons to teach how best to achieve and measure the new goals.

Both Skate Like a Girl and Portent only had so many hours to work on this particular project, so it was crucial that we spent our time consulting on the most important sections of their website. Our initial content strategy lessons showed them the ins-and-outs of how to design the:

  • Homepage
  • Global navigation
  • Sub navigation
  • Donation page
  • Registration page
  • About us section
  • Programs page
  • Locations section

Similarly, our training time focused on giving them an understanding of how content and UX can affect their two biggest KPIs: increasing donations and increasing registrations. With that in mind, we focused on the pages of their site that had the highest potential for conversions.

Homepage and usability recommendations for NGOs

One of the things we stressed the most in our work work with Skate Like a Girl is that they needed to develop and celebrate their unique selling proposition. If they didn’t explain what they do, why they do it, and what sets them apart from other nonprofits, prospective supporters or customers wouldn’t be compelled to keep reading their website or to ultimately join the organization.

The Skate Like a Girl original homepage shared a few photos and a video but was otherwise sparse. We needed the homepage to give people an immediate sense of Skate Like a Girl’s mission statement and values.

Beyond describing what specifically needed to change and why this would lead to more effective communication, we provided low-fi wireframes for the Skate team to reference and iterate on now and in the future.

Non-Profit Home Page Wireframe Example - Digital Marketing guidance for NGOs - Portent

 

Donation Page recommendations for NGOs

Increasing donations and corporate sponsorships is a core website goal, but the original donation page was confusing, offered users too many options and didn’t always work. So we suggested they modify the donation page to be clear, succinct and easy to use so people can quickly choose how they donate.

Non-Profit Donation Page Wireframe Example - Digital Marketing guidance for NGOs - Portent

 

Location Page recommendations for NGOs

Skate Like a Girl has three locations: Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Originally, the organization operated location-specific websites, which can sometimes be appropriate, but it can also seriously hamper SEO and user experience. Depending on the specifics of another non-profit, for instance, whether you’re operating internationally, how people would ultimately think about or search for your non-profit, etc., other NGOs would likely want to consult an SEO and UX expert for guidance on their ideal site structure.

In this case, to centralize their organization’s authority with search engines and ultimately drive better visibility in organic search we recommended consolidating each website and then updating the URL structure. We advised shifting from individual sites to a single website with a logical directory structure.

  • https://www.skatelikeagirl.com/seattle/
  • https://www.skatelikeagirl.com/sanfrancisco/
  • https://www.skatelikeagirl.com/portland/

This URL structure is good for SEO and UX because it’s far more descriptive, which helps both supporters and search engines know exactly what they’ll find. If you’d like to learn more about this specific piece, our friends at Moz have written a great article on how to structure a URL.

Next, we discussed why they should create a landing page that gives an overview of each location. We showed them how to avoid Google penalties for thin content by providing enough information on each page including short descriptions of each location, explaining where Skate Like a Girl started and how it evolved. And we wireframed the landing page.

Non-Profit Location Page Wireframe Example - Digital Marketing guidance for NGOs - Portent

 

For any NGO operating in multiple locations, or even lots of different verticals, the temptation can be to simply spin up a page that says “Yep, we’re in this city/state/niche too.” The danger in this is that search engines have been burned for years by sites with thin content. Multi-location NGOs need to hold out location pages with enough depth to be valuable to users. In the case of Skate Like a Girl this meant things like sharing the local chapter’s history, and anything unique to that location including any specific clinics, camps, and events.

Another best practice we worked with the Skate Like a Girl team to implement was to use a single, clear CTA or call to action for each page. In this case: “Get Involved.” This helped them prevent pushing visitors to pages that weren’t relevant, and instead kept them clearly focused on the most useful information in their region. This CTA linked to a “Join Us” page which includes information about volunteering, employment, donations, sponsorships, and partnerships.

This general structure would work well for a lot of non-profits, although again it can be a good idea to have a UX professional take a look at your user paths or journey to becoming a donor or member. The wireframe below gives a little visual guidance and can serve as a good starting point for similar NGOs.

Non-Profit Information Page and Single CTA Wireframe - Skate Like a Girl Example - Portent

 

We’re incredibly happy to share that the Skate Like a Girl homepage now succinctly tells users its unique story, and how its mission affects the broader community. And their navigation and donation processes are simple, consistent, and reliable.

“I would say sheer numbers of people registering for things has gone up, and people donating via our website has skyrocketed,” Ebeling says. “This time last year, we maybe would have had 100 kids signed up for skate camp, and now we have over 200.”

SEO Lessons for Non-Profits

Beyond working with Skate Like a Girl to create KPI-focused, user-friendly content, our SEO team began training on some fundamentals of SEO including:

  • On-page SEO
  • 301 & 302 redirects
  • XML site map
  • Internal linking
  • Backlinks
  • Website speed
  • Image optimization

NGOs, just like any other organization should look to remove any user barriers to donating or registering, or otherwise supporting the cause. In this case, that required an overhaul of the website’s on-page SEO.

Redirects

Among the most important lessons we shared with the Skate Like a Girl team was how, why and when to redirect a page.

During our SEO audit, we discovered if you tried to access the site without including a “www” in the URL, they receive a site not found error. We explained this error creates a bad user experience because it’s likely users who get this error message will leave the site. Plus, we used this as a launching point to talk about backlinking since, at the time, 77 separate domains linked to the non-www version of the homepage. In total, the Skate team were missing out on value from 403 links.

Skate Like a Girl - Redirect Analysis Example - SEO for non-profits

 

We showed Ebeling and her team how to regain this traffic via 301 redirects, and why it’s important to use 301 redirects when redirecting old pages on the site, or from HTTP to HTTPS, rather than temporary 302s or 303s.

Anybody who has redirected dozens of pages knows how long that process can take, especially when bandwidth isn’t readily available. Within a few months, Ebeling and her team redirected 173 links back to relevant pages on the website. She says the team is actively working on solving the remaining redirect errors.

Image Optimization

One of the easiest ways to speed up the load time on any website site is image optimization via compression. The original Skate Like a Girl website had raw photos uploaded, which gave users inconsistent load speeds across the site. We showed the team how to use ImageOptim to convert photographs to JPEG format, and how PNG should be used for line art and images with transparent backgrounds.

Backlink Portfolio

The Skate Like a Girl website has a surprisingly large backlink portfolio. Today, the website has more than 13,700 links from 234 domains. But most of these links are to the homepage, so we showed the team how to distinguish good links from bad links, the difference between “follow” vs. “no-follow” links, how to avoid link building penalties, and what a natural link profile looks like. In our training work, the recommendations and guidance included:

  • Continue to grow links naturally through the events and programs you offer
  • Even though links from high authority domains are very valuable, getting links from smaller local sites will help you rank better for localized searches like “Seattle skate camp,” “Seattle after school programs,” etc.
  • Always keep in mind that large numbers of links from a few domains will not benefit Skate Like A Girl nearly as much as fewer links from a larger number of quality sources.
  • Focus on building links not just to the homepage but to internal pages as well.

 

The Results

Every second we spent working with the Skate Like a Girl team on how to create a pliable digital marketing strategy paid dividends.

The Skate team redesigned their entire website and set up a new internal site architecture to attract more donors and participants, focusing on creating prominent donate and register buttons on every page. They created a keyword-focused SEO campaign based on local searches, like “skateboard camp Seattle.” The group even has an active link building strategy that includes asking for backlinks from any publication or website that mentions Skate Like a Girl so they can continue to grow visibility and reach for this absolutely wonderful cause.

Skate Like a Girl Seattle - Digital Marketing case study - girls learning to skateboard in a field

 


 
 
Next Up: How a major digital music streaming service revamped their entire content program with strategic help from Portent.
 

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