You want supporters to take certain specific actions on your website, like joining your email list, donating, registering for an event, or signing up to volunteer. And website conversion rates tell us what percentage of visitors engage with a website by taking those most desired actions.

These actions are likely why you have a website in the first place — to engage your community and get them involved in your cause. But what happens when visitors don’t take action and your conversion rates are low?

Getting to the bottom of a low conversion rate and working to fix the issue helps more visitors take action on your website and engage with your cause in a meaningful way.

What Makes a Low Conversion Rate?

It’s a valid question. Every nonprofit is different with a different website, a different audience, and different actions that they want visitors to take. But there is data out there to help put things in perspective for your organization in relation to others in the nonprofit space.

According to the M+R Benchmarks report, nonprofits have an average website conversion rate of just 1%. So across all nonprofit websites, 99% of visitors jump ship before taking a meaningful action during their visit. If that sounds a little too familiar to you and your website’s conversion rate is 1% or less, focusing on improving this key metric can have a huge impact on your goals.

If you have a measurement tool like Google Analytics, check your website conversion rates to see where you stand. And even if your conversion rates are above 1% or you don’t have the correct tracking in place to see your exact percentage, it never hurts to optimize for conversions.

Reasons for Low Website Conversion Rates

If your website has less than satisfactory conversion rates, one of these common issues may be to blame. We’ll dig into six mistakes that we see on nonprofit websites all the time and opportunities to remedy each one.

Visitors can’t find the actions

Don’t hide your action pages! If your website visitors cannot easily find the actions that you want them to take, they aren’t going to take those next steps. Put yourself in the mindset of someone in your organization’s community. Can you navigate the website to find information you need? Are you inspired to take the next step (a desired action) as you do so?

Websites without action items in the navigation are all too common, but it’s a lot to ask visitors to search around your site before they can act. And then there are the visitors who make it through a full page on your site only to leave without being asked to do anything at all.

How to Fix It

Create a website structure that is logical, easy to navigate and prioritizes action. For many organizations, that might mean a “Get Involved” section in the main navigation with all of the ways to act clearly listed for all to see and do. Secondary navigations, which typically appear above the main navigation in the website header, are also a great place to highlight action pages, like Donate or Contact Us, to make those pages even more discoverable.

There are additional improvements that can be made on the page level to entice visitors to take the next step after engaging with content on a specific page on your website. Every page should have one clear and compelling call to action that makes it obvious what you want readers to do next.

You ask for too many things

When faced with too many choices, many people won’t do anything. If you’re asking for visitors to join your email list, donate and volunteer all in the same breath, it could be causing visitors to leave without taking any of those actions. You haven’t told them which action is most important to you, and each action that you’ve layered on top has made that one most important call to action weaker.

How to Fix It

As we mentioned previously, web pages need one, clear call to action. On each page of your website, identify the most important next step for visitors to take based on the content of that page. You can then zero in on that one ask to make it as compelling as possible to the page’s target audience.

And when it comes to your homepage, while it’s acceptable to have more than one call to action, hold off on the bigger asks, like donations, volunteering and events, until new visitors get the chance to know your organization and what you do. To see what that looks like in practice, check out our recipe for a successful homepage

The action is too complicated

When it comes to actions on your website, simplicity is key. If it feels like too much work or takes a long time to complete, fewer people are going to take that action. Do you really need to ask for a visitor’s full name when they sign up for an email list or will a simple email address form field get you where you need to go?

How to Fix It

Simplify! Spend some time completing every action on your website that you’re asking visitors to take and look for opportunities to remove unnecessary complications.

  • Cut the number of form fields in online forms
  • Condense multi-page sign-ups to one page
  • Streamline sign up or onboarding processes

While this issue and its potential solutions can go in a lot of different directions, the key element to strive for is ease of use. How can you make this action easier for a website visitor to take? Make that change.

The process to complete the action is broken or slow

Visitors can’t complete an action on your website if the form or system used to complete it is broken. If there are actions on your website that no one has taken recently, that’s a red flag to look into fixing.

On a similar note, if your website or the tool used for the action is slow to load, most visitors are not going to wait more than a few seconds. They’ll leave. I’m definitely guilty of giving up on web pages that take too long to load.

How to Fix It

Obviously, you’re going to want to prioritize fixing anything on your website that’s broken. Especially if it’s preventing visitors from taking an important action on your website, like submitting a form.

And don’t underestimate the power of speed. Faster is always better when it comes to loading actions and pages on your website. To speed things up across your website, check out these tips from Moz. But if it’s the tool that you’re using that’s slowing things down, you’ll likely have to work with the tool’s support or a developer to work on improving the loading speed.

They don’t care about the action

There are also situations where a nonprofit technically does everything right, but visitors still don’t convert. If the calls to action are front and center, but conversion rates are low, you may have a content problem.

It’s your job to connect with website visitors and tell your story and work in a way that gets people to care. And if people aren’t taking action on your website, it could mean that you have not convinced them to do so.

How to Fix It

If you think your organization could have this issue, this is an excellent opportunity to get to know your audience better so that you can create content and calls to action that will truly resonate with them. That could mean interviewing donors or volunteers, surveying your email list or talking with clients about what inspires them, how they use the web and ways to improve your website.

Creating and using target audience personas based on what you find can go a long way when it’s time to update or create new action-oriented content. Succinctly explain the problem that you’re working to solve to that persona and how taking a specific action can make a difference toward your mission. Sharing stories, case studies, data or testimonials likely to resonate with them can help to turn the tables, too.

Once you’ve updated your calls to action, consider continuing to optimize your messaging through an A/B testing tool like Google Optimize or manually using the website data available to you.

They don’t trust you

If you haven’t gained a visitor’s trust, they probably aren’t about to hand over their personal or credit card information or do anything else to engage with your organization. Building trust and credibility with your target audience take time and diligence, but there are indicators that you can offer newcomers to your website to help speed up that process.

How to Fix It

When you’re transparent about your work as an organization and the process you’re asking them to complete, you can start to gain a website visitor’s trust. Focus on proving your credibility across your website.

  • Start by adding an Impact page to show the results you’ve accomplished and how you’re working toward your mission.
  • On a Financials page, share tax documentation and details on where donations go.
  • Introduce your organization’s leadership to show the real people putting their reputations behind your organization.
  • Provide contact information for visitors to reach out with questions.

And when it comes to building trust, it’s also helpful to keep people on your website to take action. It can be off-putting to suddenly be booted off a website and sent to a third-party website to complete an action that requires offering up personal information. Imagine clicking to donate but ending up on an off-site page that isn’t branded for your organization but asking for a credit card.

Focusing on website conversion rates is a way to make sure that your site is doing its job. Optimizing your website for action can also make your life easier in the long run, working behind the scenes to funnel visitors to the right place for them to take action for your organization.

Does your organization have low website conversion rates? Which common issue do you suspect is the culprit? Let’s circle up in the comments to discuss ways to improve and boost conversions.

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