Here’s a hard truth for nonprofit marketers: Responsive design, ease of navigation and beautiful custom themes can’t save your website from mediocrity if you don’t have good content. Good nonprofit website writing matters to your mission.
When you’re spread thin and you’re writing for every medium, website writing can feel intimidating. As I mentioned in last week’s post, it’s highly visible, multifunctional and comes with the added intimidation factor of needing to appeal to search engine robots.
If you’re not a certified SEO expert, the act of writing for your website can be paralyzing.
So, how do you get it right?
This week, I’ve put together a quick list of tips for the stretched-thin, mission-minded marketers who don’t have time for analysis paralysis.
This list is designed to serve as a quick guide to get you where you need to go without all the diverting detours that derail your efforts to get everything done.
Here are 10 tips for good web writing for the stretched-thin, mission-minded marketer.
Nonprofit website writing that works: 10 quick tips to transform your content
This counts for both your core messages and your structure. As the Heath brothers explain in the nonprofit marketer must-read Made to Stick, simple doesn’t mean dumbed down. In addition to spending time honing your core message, make your structure clear and concise. Keep your vocabulary and reading level at an accessible level, avoiding jargon.
Use short sentences. Make frequent paragraph breaks.
2. Make your writing scannable.
Use relevant subheadings and lists to help readers quickly determine if they can find what they’re looking for on your page.
3. Don’t bury the lead.
Journalists use the inverted pyramid to prioritize information, and you should, too. Keep your most important point “above the fold,” so your audience doesn’t have to scroll to see it.
4. Have a clear, simple call to action.
On every content page, invite your audience to engage with you in a way that relates to the topic at hand. For example, common nonprofit calls to action could be inviting your reader to subscribe to your e-newsletter, volunteer, donate, sign a petition or download a free resource. In this case, it’s a PDF of this very list to tack up over your monitor for quick reference.
5. Don’t ignore (or fear) keywords, and don’t abuse them.
You can use a tool like Yoast SEO (if you’re using WordPress) to help you get the basics of SEO. Use your keywords in natural context; don’t prioritize them over coherence (this is called keyword stuffing, and in addition to making you sound like a malfunctioning robot, it’s going to hurt your rankings).
6. Link generously and intuitively.
This includes linking to internal content that relates to the topic or page at-hand, as well as external sources for more information. This is helpful to your readers, generous to those resources you use and helps with search engine rankings.
7. Use active voice.
The passive voice is disliked by most readers. (See what I did there? I feel gross.)
8. Tell stories.
Your website should elicit emotions and forge a personal connection with your readers to inspire them to take action. Dry statistics and logical cases won’t get you there. Don’t forget to connect your content back to your big why.
9. Use your brand guidelines to maintain a consistent voice.
That doesn’t mean your grant reports should be indistinguishable from your Tweets, but if you call the people you serve “patients” in one place, “clients” in another and “customers” in another, you’re introducing a jarring incongruity for people who engage with you in varying media.
10. Write for your audience, not for yourself (or your CEO).
Keep your target audience personas in mind while you’re writing. This can help with everything from selecting keywords to organizing information and determining reading level or use of jargon. Not sure you’re getting it right? Don’t be afraid to reach out to a few volunteers or donors to get feedback.
There, that’s not so bad, is it? You can totally write for your website with as much confidence as you do other media.
If you found these tips helpful, you can download a free PDF: Nonprofit website writing tips for mission-minded marketers.
Stay tuned next week for tips on auditing your website: when you should and how to do it.