How to promote a charity website using digital marketing

Ben Matthews

By Ben Matthews

In Digital Marketing

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A website is essential to get brand awareness, even if it’s not driving direct donations. But we’ve been working with charities who sometimes struggle to face the challenge of knowing how to promote their websites.

Large charities have the luxury of employing digital managers. Smaller charities don’t have the budget and there is sometimes no in-house experience. So what should they do?

This article lists the best digital marketing activities that small charities can undertake, all without the need to spend precious money on external support.

We’ve made this easy to follow because you can’t get to the exciting activity until the basics have been implemented and are effective.

Define your audience

You can’t write engaging copy if you don’t know your audience. The first challenge is to understand what type of visitor you want to attract. Gender, location, interests, personality type etc. Then construct a basic user persona.

From this, you can understand what the motivations of this person are and shape your content towards them. People support charities that they have a personal connection with, so your website has to appeal to them in a way that makes it feel personal .

Empower recently helped a mental health charity that wanted more website visitors, but they couldn’t clearly define who their audience was, beyond “everyone” “

We discussed who the primary target audience should be, including geography and demographics.

The conclusion was to focus efforts on people aged 25-35 in the UK, who had been affected by mental health issues, or were a friend or family member of someone they know who had been affected.

Define clear calls to action

The majority of visitors will not donate or sign up to volunteer on their first visit to your charity website. It takes time to make up your mind who to support and when.

Some charity websites are confusing, making it hard for people to know where to take action. To combat this issue, every page should have clear calls to action, especially the homepage. To achieve this you need to define the hierarchy of actions. For example, do you want donations more than volunteer support?

Don’t forget calls to action for indirect support: a newsletter subscription, a social media follow or a petition signature. Make it as obvious as possible for your visitors which actions they can take and where to take them.

For the mental health charity, we streamlined the information so that the primary call to action is a to contact them for support. These links will appear on every page in the same place for user journey consistency. Before calls to action were unfocused and hard to pick out from other content.

Keyword research for relevant terms

It’s good to understand what are the trending search terms for keywords relevant to your brand and services.

It’s essential to target the keyword phrases you want your website to associate with to ensure a high quality of traffic.

It’s more effective to have less high-quality traffic than more low-quality traffic because if you attract the wrong people, they’ll leave.

If people bounce the mighty Google will mark you down as having irrelevant content for that search term. Start with easier keywords with low search volume and that have low competition – it’s easier to make your mark and learn from there.

There’s more info on how to conduct keyword research here.

Let the search engines know you are there

The most important is to add a sitemap that Google will use to know which pages are relevant for indexing. You can pay a developer to build a custom sitemap but there are free tools out there that can help, like this free sitemap generator tool.

It’s important to set the sitemap up to auto-refresh every time new content gets published to the website. A server-side script like the tool in the link above can help to avoid the tedium of creating each time your site tree changes.

Other SEO basics for your charity website:

  • Optimise your page titles and meta descriptions at page level with keywords from the keyword research. 
  • Add an HTML sitemap that visitors can use to navigate; but not as beneficial for SEO as it once was, it is worth doing.
  • Add your charity’s offices to Google My Business. This will enable you to promote your charity with Google Maps, which is free.
  • Register for free directories that will help get your website indexed.

Take a look at our SEO for Charities guide for more tips.

Set up Google Search Console

For access to Google Search Console, you need a Google Account. It’s free and takes a matter of minutes to install on your website using the meta tag verification method.

You can use Search Console to see what keywords are driving traffic to the website. This will identify how effective your keyword targeting is. It will also help identify opportunities for producing new content.

The error reports are useful in highlighting where you have crawl errors. These should be fixed to ensure the search engines can crawl the website. Repair Broken links and 404 errors, don’t reflect well on the site.

Also, if a page isn’t found, potential visitors will bounce as it serves as a dead-end to their online journey.

Use the links to your site report to find inbound links. Test the quality of the link and anchor text (the clickable text) used.

If the link can be improved, contact the web owner and request the changes, explaining the benefits of doing this.

You can also test external links using the (replacing the link with your own website address) in Google Search. For each domain providing a link, you can click on the “Inlinks” button and follow the trail. This is also useful for competitor comparison to learn from other charities and adopt a “me too” strategy with relevant websites. External links are an important SEO factor; the more you have from reputable domains, the higher value Google will place on your webpages.

Search Console can do a lot more but these reports will add the most value and are easy to get to grips with.

Build a customer database and send regular newsletters

The quest for charitable support is competitive – take a peek on to see how many charities are signed up for online donations.

It takes more work and engagements than you might expect to get someone to donate or sign up to volunteer, so you have ot think of ways to get people back to your website beyonf the first visit.

That’s why it’s important for your charity website to have a data capture process for email addresses, using a free email marketing service like Mailchimp.

On your website, advertise a free email newsletter and sell its benefits e.g. “Keep in touch our charity via our monthly newsletter and get free updates on how our charity is supporting people in need.”

The more names you have on your opt-in database, the greater the chance that you will secure a future donation or volunteer when that person is ready. Timing is everything; we know because when we receive an email from a charity when I’m feeling altruistic, we’ll click and donate.

Promote your website on social media

Another way to build your customer database and engagement is to use social media.

Charities like the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram well to build a customer base and promote the activities of their charity.

Add social bookmarking using a free service like AddThis, to every page of your website that can be shared. If you can get people to share your content, you are getting free marketing.

Conclusion: How to promote a charity website

We hope this is a useful guide for those of you working for or with small and local charities.

Each of these activities needs focused attention and what we’ve written is a start; it’s impossible to give the full detail of how to promote a charity website in a single article.

Need more advice? Find out more about Empower’s Digital Marketing services for charities.

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