We quadrupled our blog traffic, can you? Simple guide to content marketing for nonprofits

With each nonprofit client that comes through ArcStone’s doors, we encourage them to either start a blog or give their existing blog more attention. Now, we wouldn’t risk wasting nonprofit’s already slim budget and tight schedule if we didn’t truly believe in the value of content marketing. But at points, it’s hard to convince clients that this effort is really worth it.

That’s why today, we are going to tell you a story: the story of how we implemented the strategy we encourage others to and as a result, saw an increase of 4x the traffic to our blog in just two years. Our story can serve as a general guide to content marketing for nonprofits.

Where we were with our content marketing strategy

Before we dive into the glory of the here and now, let’s rewind and be real with where we were at. Like many of you, we were posting at most 2 to 3 times per week, whenever someone felt inspired to do so or had the bandwidth. In addition to this lack of posting frequency, we weren’t monitoring engagement.

We knew we should do more, but we just weren’t allocating time or attention to it when there were other, more immediate business goals to which to attend.

For the total month of May 2015, we saw about 600 blog views.

2 years later we’re seeing over 2,800.

The simple content marketing strategy we implemented that your nonprofit can, too!

Many of you have likely thought, “we should blog more” and encouraged your team to help write when they can. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually do much to help your nonprofit. You need a nonprofit content marketing strategy that will keep you focused and consistent.

Here are 11 essential + manageable tasks to add to your content strategy that will take you to that next level.

1. Set goals:

Rather than risk finding ourselves right where we started in a couple months, we decided to set some lofty, yet manageable, goals. One of ArcStone’s digital strategists, Jenna, and I sat down and decided we’d post five blogs a week and then come review the results after six months. We also determined we’d spend more time on designing images for this content, promoting it and then checking in on our Google Analytics each week.

2. Create audience personas:

As a team, we took the time to map out distinct audience types. For your nonprofit, this likely includes a few different types of donors, volunteers, community members and other users. Once we had each audience member in mind, we were able to brainstorm content that could speak to each of them. Get going on this aspect by using our Nonprofit Audience Persona Ebook »

content-marketing-audience-personas

3. Designate blog ownership to a leader/editor:

One way many content strategies collapse is a lack of consistent execution. To avoid this, we assigned one final editor/project lead. Though we would be pulling content written by several team members, I was given the role of ensuring the content was ready to go and implement correctly into our CRM. This also helped us ensure our brand voice was prevalent across all posts and the formatting looked right.

If you have any trouble structuring your team or your content development workflow, take a look at Lisa’s, VP of Marketing at ArcStone, post on Content Team Roles »

content-strategy-roles

4. Utilize a (free!) content management tool:

We recognize that it can be hard to get the whole team on board with yet another tool, but we promise this one is worth it! We use Trello to implement and track all our content marketing efforts. You can read the full review here but we’ll also show you some snippets on how to make it work for your nonprofit below.

free-content-marketing-tool-for-nonprofits

5. Organize content by strategic categories:

A blog with just a list of all posts can be overwhelming to users. If you’re a donor, you may want the latest report on where their money went whereas a volunteer wants to hear about the next volunteer opportunity. Make sure these users can get the content they want when they land on your blog. Better yet, make sure that when they click on their blog category, that section is filled with good content for them to look through.

Trello makes it easy to label all your content. Here’s an example of how we segment ours within the tool. Each month we try to have each color represented across the calendar at least a couple of times:

6.  Assign due dates:

Without a due date, it’s easy to push things off for a later date. We used the calendar “power-up” tool in Trello to track these.

content-strategy-calendar

7. Focus on collaboration:

Through the communication capabilities in Trello, we were able to tag each other on cards and have conversations about posts when necessary. Being able to keep these conversations organized in one place is helpful as it allows you to stay organized and if need be, look back at the conversations later.

trello-free-content-management-tool

8. Promote:

Though we’d like to believe, “if you build it, they will come” it’s not entirely true with content marketing. In fact, Lisa wrote a whole post on why this is and how you can make up for it with promotional and SEO work.

This being said, couple your awesome new production strategy with a content promotion strategy.

Across social networks, we posted not only on ArcStone’s account, but also some of our team members’. This not only reached a larger audience but showed the personality behind our team.

When it came to Twitter, we posted 3-4 times a day, often tagging relevant accounts. This created some major upticks in traffic to our blog. social-media-strategy

3 times a week, we’d also post on Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn. For LinkedIn we focus on more professional-oriented content and thought leadership, whereas Facebook we try to post more on office culture and community.

If you’re unsure of what social media platform is right for you, listen to co-owners of ArcStone talk through how you can determine this with The Nerdy Nonprofit Podcast.

Lastly, we sent out our newsletter once-monthly with the top-performing posts from that month. We found we were faster at getting these sent out since we already knew what content to use.

9. Analyze:

All this effort doesn’t get you very far if you’re not monitoring it. You may see a bit more traffic but it’s going to come and go at an unpredictable rate if you’re not making changes to your strategy based on it.

Learn some of the basics in Google Analytics with this post “Nonprofits Using Google Analytics—Get tracking the Right Metrics.”

10. Redesign (when the budget allows):

Once you have some significant insight on aspects like what type of content your audience likes and what areas of the site they go to after the blog, you can consider making design changes. We used heat-mapping tool CrazyEgg to see what parts of the blog users clicked on and paired that with our user behavior insight in Analytics to make strategic design enhancements.

nonprofit-blog-design

11. Keep trying new things:

Once you get started for a few months, the above tips will get you to a great place. However, in a year or so you’ll want to round up your team and come up with fresh ways to approach your nonprofit’s blog strategy. This will help you get your most creative juices flowing and aid your nonprofit in standing out amongst the crowd.


As proof that the above really can work, here’s a snapshot of before and after:

MAY 2015
MAY 2017
Blog Views /Month: 641 2,298
Pageviews /Month: 4,289 8,941
Sessions /Month: 1,831 4,985
% New Sesssions: 70.6% 85%
Organic Traffic: –––> Up 155%
Traffic from Social: –––> Up 74%
Newsletter Subscribers: ~250 ~1030

You can see that the increase in blog views also contributed to an increase in overall website sessions and pageviews, as well as traffic from organic searches and social media. What’s more, all this traffic also lead to 4x as many newsletter subscribers. It’s a lovely trickle down effect!

We hope your nonprofit sees the value in a well-executed content marketing plan. More importantly, we hope you are encouraged by the fact that we, too have a small team. This strategy is crafted around keeping things manageable and simple. Successful content marketing for nonprofits is possible as long as you stick to your strategy, monitor it and continually work to improve it.

Get help with your nonprofit’s content strategy from our team by reaching out here »

Nonprofit blogging mistakes you might be making (+ how to stop)

Besides ensuring you have user-friendly forms for donors and volunteers, the digital strategists at ArcStone would argue that having a well-executed blog is the best thing your nonprofit can do in terms of your website. Unfortunately, nonprofit marketers get so busy that blog posts get written hastily, whenever there’s a spare second. That’s understandable, and we don’t want that predicament to prevent you from writing as it’s better than not writing. However, there are a few negative trends we’d like to point out that, when avoided, could help make the little blog development time you have more worth your while.

1. Not scheduling your posts in advance (and not publishing consistently)

Given that you have many other spinning plates, it makes sense that you wouldn’t have time to plan out your content calendar. But time and again, marketing experts state that scheduling out posts and executing them consistently can create huge gains for your blog. What’s more, studies show readers see inconsistent publishing as a sign that a brand is “out of touch or not up to date” with their habits and needs.

There are so many FREE tools out there to help you stay on top of publishing. We tested and reviewed 3 popular content management tools and wrote a recent post on why we recommend Trello.

free-tools-for-nonprofits
Image Source: CoSchedule

2. Forgetting the importance of authenticity & your brand voice

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your blog. You post about your upcoming event or you comment on a recent occurrence in your field of work, however there’s so much more to write about than that. When people come to your site, they are trying to learn about you and your cause. They want to hear your unique voice otherwise, you’ll blend with the crowd and they won’t know why they should pay attention to you specifically.

Be sure you hone in on what your brand voice is and you consistently write with that in mind. For inspiration on topics, take a look at our go-to sources for when ArcStonian’s get writer’s block. You can derive inspiration from what other successful nonprofits are writing about; charity:water, Save the Children, St. Jude and Kiva all post a wide array of topics that speak to who they are and who they serve.

nonprofit-blogging
Image source: Save the Children

3. Trying too hard with your headline

Though it’s important you stand out and readers feel excited by your headlines, it’s more important your headlines do their job. A title’s main role is to tell readers what your post is about. Don’t get too caught up in being clever or humorous as that’s not the point.

ArcStone wrote a helpful post on how you can craft a title that is primarily descriptive, secondarily SEO-friendly and then if there’s room for it, clever: “Optimize your blog post titles for search, but don’t be boring.”

4. Assuming your readers have all day

This isn’t true for everyone or every post, but for the most part, people like when you get to the point efficiently. Sometimes, you can tell that in-depth full story. But when you’re writing a post on donations or volunteering, explain your point concisely and point your audience towards action quickly. When it comes to these posts directed towards taking action, always keep the goal of your post in mind and include a call to action.

5.  Neglecting to implement the SEO and user-friendly details

Writing the post is work enough, we know, but a blog won’t get far if you neglect some important additional steps. Each post should have alt tags, metadata and titles on its photos and in other areas. You can do so with some of the strongest, free SEO tools for nonprofits out there. Here’s a solid review of SEO tools done by Search Engine Land.

6. Ignoring dialogue

For many in the nonprofit space, community engagement is super important to the very mission of an organization. Community takes hold in many forums and your blog can totally become a catalyst for that. If you have a comment section, pay attention to it. If people comment on your posts on social, always respond. If they don’t participate in either of these, consider prioritizing this. There are tools that can help like Hootsuite and Disqus. We also have a post that reviews the best ways and tools to encourage conversations.

free-community-forum-tools
Image source: Lithium

7. Overlooking Google Analytics

If you take away anything from this article, we hope it’s this last point. Pay attention to your Google Analytics data! We see so many clients post content and then let it sit there. They don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. They don’t base their strategy off of this data. As our digital strategist, Jerod put it,

“Only you know your story well enough to tell it, but on the flip side, only your visitors know what they want.”

If you don’t look at what posts are getting the most attention, how long users are reading them and where they go next, you are not listening to them.

Need help getting started with Google Analytics?


We hope we didn’t overwhelm you with corrections. Instead, this is supposed to serve as a way to make the time you do have more effective. We want to highlight areas that are often neglected so that you know where you can make simple gains.

If you’re struggling to implement any of these aspects but you recognize their importance, ArcStone would love to work with you to come up with a more manageable content marketing strategy and set you up with the tools that will help. Contact our team »