How to launch a new charity website
If you've got a new website in the works, it's never too early to think about how you're going to launch and promote it. Bright One's Ben Matthews offers some tips
We recently launched our new micro-volunteering app, Bright Works, and have learned plenty of lessons along the way. Here are some tips covering several of the most effective methods for getting a surge of initial interest and visitors to your site, and a few more for building longer term, more sustainable interest and traffic.
1. Announce the launch with coordinated media outreach
Prepare a comprehensive and integrated media outreach plan. Concentrating your efforts with online media will be most effective, as they will publish direct links to your site. But remember – the fact that you've launched a website won't be newsworthy enough for the media. What problem does it solve? Who are you trying to help with the website? Can you tie in any other news in to the announcement?
2. Submit the site to relevant online directories
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an important factor in getting visitors to your site, but when you've just launched you’ll have no one linking to you, or you may have little content on your site with which to drive interest. Submitting your sites to directories, such as Open Directory, is a great way to quickly build links and tap into sources that your target audience will be interested in. Here's a good list of potential directories for you to submit your site to. Submitting Bright Works to these sites drove a lot of our initial traffic and continues to do so.
3. Consider using Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
One of the best ways to create instant traffic to your site is through paid search, with platforms such as Google AdWords. Firstly, research the content on your site by making a list of the keywords, key content and any unique value propositions that you could use as your call to action. Then search for some of these keywords to get a good insight into what competitors are doing and what ads are achieving high positions.
With keywords researched you can write the ad copy, making sure to be specific and avoid generic terms. When you launch the ad and get going with the PPC campaign, set a budget and monitor it closely to make sure that clicks are cost effective. If your ads are underperforming, try creating two or three different ones with the same keywords but different copy. This is an easy way to see what’s working. These are just the basics, but there's a more detailed guide available on the CharityComms site.
4. Create a project blog
Blogs are a great way to build your natural search engine rankings and traffic, as well as keeping interest in your site going over time. By writing about upcoming developments, media interest, updates about new features, content, or case studies on how visitors use and find value in your site, you'll be able to build long term interest in the project. A good strategy and well thought out content – planned for the long term – will ensure that the blog is kept up-to-date with engaging content. Take a look at the BrightWorks project blog for an example of how we do it.
5. Promote your site across social media
In a similar vein to the above tactic, talk about site developments across your social media channels. Do you have new content that you can promote on Facebook and Twitter? Is there an interesting site tour or demo that you can add to YouTube? Have you got share buttons installed on the site, so that users can share content they find interesting to their own networks? By adding Facebook Like and Twitter Follow buttons on your site, you will build your organisation's online community and create more opportunities from these 'opt-in' services to promote your website content.
6. Contribute guest posts to popular sites
Writing expert articles for other sites is an effective way of getting visitors to your website. We wrote a guest post about the rise of microvolunteering for the Guardian, which was a great way of tapping into an already credible and highly trafficked source, and using this to generate interest and traffic to our new site. And we're doing the same by writing this article for askCHARITY!
7. Last but not least, remember the launch is just the beginning!
As our web developers keep reminding us, "a website is never finished" – part of your strategy should take into account changes you'll want to make, based upon how your users are interacting with the site. And be prepared to keep activity going over the long term, otherwise you'll end up with a beautiful but little used site!