Posts about website optimization are often daunting. The recommended changes are typically big and require technical expertise to pull off.

My goal here is to share four high-leverage changes you can easily implement yourself without needing to know how to code or call a developer. We’re going to keep this as practical as we can so you can tackle this with whatever you have left in your emotional tank after the year-end giving frenzy.

That way, you can start 2024 off with some momentum and position yourself to hit your goals in the new year.

Sound good? Cool. Let’s go.

Read Every Page for Consistent Messaging

The highest leverage way to get your website ready for the new year?

Start by reading every page of it.

We all set out to tell a compelling, cohesive story on our site.

But imagine writing a book one page at a time over many, many years. There’s no way it would tie together well for readers.

That’s exactly what’s happened on a whole lot of nonprofit websites. Especially if they’ve been around a little while.

You added a new page here. Removed a page there. Combined a few pages at one point. And slowly over time, some gaps started creeping into the story you’re telling your visitors.

It happens on almost every website. And inconsistent messaging will quickly confuse your visitors and drastically hurt your overall conversion rates.

The nice thing is it’s pretty easy to catch this issue without a whole lot of effort.

Action Plan

Here’s a breakdown of how you can tackle this in a day.

1. Read your site’s content annually
Coming out of year-end giving is a great time to tackle this low-stress activity.

For most sites, this won’t take more than a couple of hours. If your site is huge, start with your highest leverage and most popular pages.

Read these pages and see if your site is telling the story you intended it to.

2. Note messaging inconsistencies
Don’t worry about making any changes as you go. Just document inconsistencies and pages you’d like to circle back to in the coming weeks. Include brief notes about your finding and a link to the page for easy access.

Now you have a punch list of pages you can tackle as time allows in the early part of the new year.

3. Document tone and messaging for future reference
Once you finish these changes, create a simple reference for the future. Be sure to include tips about your messaging, tone of voice and examples from the content you’ve just refreshed. Then share it with your team.

Hopefully that helps prevent you needing to make large scale changes this time next year.

Clean Up Your Website’s Conversion Paths

First off, what is a “conversion path”?

It’s simply the journey visitors take on your website from when they land to when they take action, or “convert.”

Every step in this journey builds on the one before it, until your visitor ultimately takes a meaningful action on your website.

When you first launch a conversion path, the journey is often strong. It includes things like compelling calls-to-action (CTAs), impactful stories and streamlined forms for collecting visitor info from folks who want to get involved.

But over time, these conversion paths can break down.

The CTAs get a bit stale and inconsistent from page to page. The stories age and don’t necessarily reflect the current ways you help your community. And when was the last time you tested that form to make sure it was error-free and displayed well on mobile?

Reducing the friction your visitors feel along their journey will go a long way in boosting their experience on your site. And a strong user experience will directly translate into a boost in your website’s conversion rates.

Action Plan

If it’s been more than three months since you last tested your website’s conversion paths, here’s a process you can follow.

1. Outline the key actions visitors can take on your site
If you don’t already have this documented, outline the key actions you’re looking for visitors to take on your website. Break these actions up by target audience.

For each key action, connect it to the problem that brought them to your site or the challenge they’re trying to solve. Understanding their motivation will help you align your conversion path to their needs.

2. Complete each conversion path start to finish
It’s time to role play!

Pretend you’re in the shoes of your target audience. Remind yourself of the challenge you’re facing and how you got to the website in the first place.

Start on the most likely landing page on your site for that particular conversion path. Remember, in many situations this won’t be your homepage.

Complete the conversion path from start to finish. Take it all the way to the end of the process. Submit that form and note how you feel when you hit the Thank You page.

3. Prioritize changes
Again, don’t make changes as you go. Document any issues you run into along your journey, complete with links or screenshots and ideas of how to improve them.

Once you’re done with all of your conversion paths, prioritize the changes into “Needs to Happen” and “Nice to Happen” buckets.

A helpful and simple framework to use when prioritizing these changes is to ask yourself:

  1. How essential is this conversion path to our mission? (Impact)
  2. How many visitors does this issue impact? (Reach)
  3. How much time/money will it take to fix? (Cost)

Start with high impact, high reach and low cost changes and work your way down the list.

4. Repeat the process quarterly
Put a recurring calendar reminder in right now to do this process every three months. That way, you won’t have to worry about remembering down the road.

Make Pages Easier to Scan

Very few visitors will immediately commit to reading every word you’ve written. Even your most motivated visitors – the ones who are genuinely excited about your cause – will typically scan the page to get a sense of what it’s about.

Make it as easy on them as you possibly can.

Think of how you read the websites you visit. Do you jump right into reading entire pages from start to finish? Or do you scan the headings? Or perhaps scroll the page to make sure it’s likely to hit on the topics you’re interested in?

Many nonprofit websites are both too wordy and written in a way that’s too dense. But fixing that doesn’t need to be a major lift.

Action Plan

Here’s how you can make your pages easier on your readers.

1. Identify your most valuable and most trafficked pages
Prioritization is key here.

Start with the pages that are most important to the conversion paths you outlined above. These pages are often doing some heavy lifting to turn your casual visitors into active supporters of your cause.

If you have access to website analytics, you can also look at the most popular pages on your site. The pages that are driving substantial traffic are typically worth spending a bit of time on.

Put all these pages into a list. To keep things manageable, try to knock out a page or two each week.

2. Add headings to your content
Headings are the ultimate guideposts for your readers. They help readers quickly get a sense of what you cover on the page, as well as frame the content in each section to make it easier to understand.

Plus they can help search engines better understand what your page is all about, increasing the likelihood you’ll rank for related keyword phrases.

As you read the page, look for any time there’s a change in topic. That’s an easy place to add a heading. That way, your visitors can jump directly to the parts of the page that they’re likely to find most helpful.

3. Add more paragraph breaks
Nobody likes being greeted by a wall of text. Give your readers a (paragraph) break. (I’m sorry. Please keep reading once you’ve finished rolling your eyes.)

It can help to read your page content aloud. Whenever you feel yourself pausing, consider adding a paragraph break.

Shorter paragraphs feel a lot less daunting to readers than huge blocks of text.

They also help your readers feel like they’re making progress within your page, which builds momentum and gets them scrolling. All of this can add up to keeping visitors on your pages longer.

4. Add lists when appropriate
As you read, look for long sentences that include lists. Especially if they contain three or more items.

These can often be transformed into bulleted or numbered lists, which are much easier for readers to digest. Plus they often visually help give the page a bit of breathing room and make them feel less daunting to visitors.

Clean Up Out-of-Date Info

Out-of-date info happens, even to nonprofits who are super on top of their website.

You don’t need to beat yourself up over it. But you do need to clean it up.

Outdated information can confuse your visitors and make you look disorganized. And taking care of it typically doesn’t take much time at all.

Action Plan

To streamline your process as much as possible, here’s the information we typically see get outdated most frequently.

1. Past event information
Check any historical events you’ve promoted on your website.

Is it clear the event has passed? Are you still pushing visitors to register? Is it taking up valuable real estate on your homepage or distracting from actual upcoming events?

If so, remove the event from any lists of Upcoming Events as a starting point.

If the event has its own subpage, don’t delete it! There very well may be links floating around the internet pointing to it. Instead, change the content of the page to:

  • Make it clear the event has passed
  • Thank everyone who came to it
  • Give a short recap of the event and highlight successes
  • Share any photos you have of the event
  • Give visitors information on a related upcoming event if there’s one they may be interested in attending

2. Staff information
In the scramble to shift around duties and look for someone new to join the team, it’s easy to overlook updating the website.

Give your Staff page a read.

For anyone who has left:

  • Remove their info from your Staff page
  • Unpublish their individual bio page if they had one (and put in a redirect pointing to your main Staff page if you have the capability to do that on your site)
  • Search your website for their name and email address to update any references within page content
  • Check your form settings to make sure they aren’t the only person receiving emails when forms are submitted
  • Consider removing their user from your site (if they had access) or at least reducing the permissions for their user

Some of the specifics here will depend on the technology powering your website. But hopefully this is a helpful place to start.

Don’t forget to add anyone new to the Staff page. It’s a great way to make your team feel appreciated and get new folks excited to be working alongside your cause.

3. Board information
Most board members aren’t actively logging into your website on a regular basis. So for most board transitions, it’s just a matter of updating the public-facing content on your website.

Start by reading over your Board page. Usually this is just a matter of removing anyone who has rolled off and adding anyone new.

Just like with staff members, getting new board members added to the site quickly can be a nice touch.

4. Program details
We regularly hear from nonprofits who say the program details on their website don’t reflect what they’re actually offering to their community.

So if that’s the case on your site, you’re not alone. But now is a great time to get those details updated.

Here are a few aspects of your site to consider when it comes to showcasing your programs:

  • Does your main navigation reflect the programs you offer? Are your most popular programs listed first?
  • Are there any programs you’ve stopped offering that are still promoted on the site?
  • Are there any new programs you’ve started offering that are missing from the site?
  • Have the names of any of your programs changed over the years?
  • Are the details on each program still accurate?
  • Is it clear to visitors interested in a program how they can sign up or reach out for more details?

The new year is a great time to ensure all of these key pieces of information are accurate and reflect the work you’re doing.

Are there other changes you can make to optimize your nonprofit’s website for the new year?

Sure. But hopefully these easy, high-leverage changes help jumpstart that process and set you up for a great year ahead.

If you have any questions or suggestions for other easy wins, feel free to drop them in the comments!