Nick Allen, Donordigital
Your Web site may educate and motivate your supporters, but it's main purpose is probably to encourage them to take action: send a message to Congress, attend an event, download a report, buy a t-shirt, or donate all their Google stock.
"Optimizing" your Web pages, especially the ones where you want people to take an action, can dramatically improve your conversation rates, persuading more visitors to the page to take the action you want them to take.
What seem like very small changes on a page can sometimes make a huge difference. For example, when we removed just the title (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.) and suffix (Jr., M.D.) fields from Amnesty International's donation page, conversion improved 30%! Given that most organizations address people by first name in their e-mail communications, not getting the title and suffix information probably won't hurt much.
Online fundraising has become a growing source of income for many non-profits over the past 10 years. But while organizations typically spend lots of time developing clever, creative, and inspirational online content, they often overlook more mundane aspects of online appeals that can make a big difference in converting advocates, subscribers, and other supporters into donors. While e-mail and Web page copy may persuade people to "click to donate now", often fewer than 30% of those who click through to the landing page actually complete the donation transaction.
Marketers are increasingly turning their attention and resources to landing page optimization. Two sites worth checking out for online marketing advice, Marketing Sherpa and Marketing Experiments, have published reports recommending increasing the size of your donate (or buy) button and using more eye-catching colors to increase conversion rates. Naturally, most case studies focus on e-commerce sites, yet a cancer organization may not have different results on its Web pages than a music download service!
What Amnesty International USA Found
In late 2007, we began working with our client, Amnesty International USA, to improve donation landing page conversions before the busy year-end fundraising season to figure out how to boost the number of gifts and the average gift. We teamed with Optimost (now part of Interwoven), whose software enables "multivariate testing" that enabled Amnesty to test multiple variables at the same time, rather than in hundreds of A/B split tests. (The free Google Optimizer tool provide some of these services.) We tested donation landing pages for e-mails, Google AdWords search, and Web site links. (Amnesty has also been optimizing advocacy and other non-donation pages.)
"Optimization to us feels like the new cash cow: the results last longer than a bump we'd see from a discrete marketing buy, and it doesn't require us to increase our outbound email, which is a struggle for us," says Steve Daigneault, managing director of Internet communications for Amnesty International USA.
So what else did Amnesty international (amnestyusa.org) learn so far? (And remember, your results may vary so you have to test!)
Size DOES matter: Bigger donate buttons helped convert more donors.
Color can matter too: A vividly colored donation button can strongly boost landing page conversion... but seasonality and color choice influenced whether it did.
Less is more: Removing unnecessary fields from the personal information form significantly increased conversion to donate.
No need to be demanding: Using firmer language on the donation button (“Donate Now” instead of “Submit”) did not produce statistically higher conversions.
Key testing takeaways
Tiny changes to your landing page can have a huge impact on conversions, but you won't know until you test!
Apparently size does matter: similar to the industry learning that large font is more eye-catching, bigger donate buttons helped Amnesty to convert more donors.
A little color goes a long way, but test to see which colors work best with your supporters and on which landing pages.
Remove as many fields as possible from the personal information form. Amnesty International loses little quality information about its supporters by removing the title and suffix fields -- and gets much stronger conversion rates.
In December, your donation pages may get more people unfamiliar with your site and its architecture. So take this into consideration when planning tests and potential changes to landing pages.
How to get started with testing
While what works for Amnesty may work for you, you need to test. Simple A/B testing, where you send visitors alternately to different pages and see which performs better, is a very good first step. (Note: You'll need to get enough visitors to get statistically valid results.)
To do multivariate testing, testing many variables at the same time, you'll need enough traffic with good conversion rates for this testing to produce valid and actionable results. Companies such as Optimost (now Interwoven) and Offermatica (now part of Omniture) provide software that makes it relatively easy to track test results in real-time; however, cost may be a deterrent.
Google’s Website Optimizer is a free alternative for organizations using Google AdWords; however, you will need a consultant to help you implement tests and analyze results unless you're pretty research savvy.
Start small: Choose only a few variables to test, two or three values for each, so that you generate meaningful results in a relatively short time.
- The Advantages of Multivariable Testing: Optimost explains how to do A/B testing, and how multivariate testing can deliver more robust results.
- Improving Conversion 50-60% by Applying Continuity and Congruence: Marketing Experiments explores key principles of communication for landing pages.
- 7 rules for landing page optimization: Jonathan Mendez’ “Optimize and Prophesize” blog lays out some basic elements that drive landing page performance.
- Ten Common Landing Page Mistakes: Widemile’s landing page mistakes to avoid.