Published: 24 July 2018

The data behind your next digital marketing decision

Over the last few months we have been working with CharityComms to develop the Digital Benchmark, a benchmarking tool for charities to compare their Analytics data.

It’s a fantastic resource for charities who want to rank their performance against others as a whole, and in relation to their sector. upriseUP is a data centric digital marketing agency specialising in the charity sector and we’re delighted to partner with CharityComms on this project.

Having spent months examining the data, we are seeing emerging patterns that can be used to make strategic digital decisions. Here are just a few of these findings that are rich within the data from the Benchmark. By joining, you’ll be able to access more personalised insights on our live platform.

1. How mobile-centric is your sector?

If we look at the average percentage of mobile traffic across the sectors, there’s a clear split developing. ‘Health’ and ‘Animals and Environment’ sectors have a significantly higher proportion of users on mobile compared to “International development and disaster relief” and “Older people”.

There are two things to consider here. Firstly, the demographic of a charities’ audience has a considerable impact. Mobile usage goes down with age as older audiences are less likely to use a mobile. As noted by Statista, less people access the internet through phones in later life.

Interestingly, the “Older people” sector has the highest percentage of tablet traffic, suggesting that the older age demographics might be using tablets more than mobile. Neil Gunn, head of digital at Independent Age, agrees this seemed to match what the charity was seeing:

… older people prefer tablet to mobile mainly due to screen size and ability to zoom, with the additional factor that friends and family helping an older person to get information may be more likely to do that on a tablet passed between them. Our library of guides and information, mainly on PDF, also lend themselves to bigger screens.”

Secondly, the type of content provided by charities can have an impact on mobile usage. Some information is in immediate demand, such as information on health, and the user may also want more privacy in their search. Mobile lends itself well to these user demands and as a result, we see charities in the ‘Health’ sectors achieving more traffic on mobile.

The most important takeaway here is that, if your mobile and tablet traffic are more than 50% of your overall traffic, you should be taking a mobile first approach to developing your website. Google has already begun moving to a mobile first index, so optimising your site for mobile will not only improve the user experience for more users, but will also help your SEO in the long term.

2. Organic or paid – which does your sector use more?

From the diagram above, we can see close to 70% of traffic for the benchmark comes from search. As paid search can appear to users just as they search for the service or information you offer, it usually had one of the greatest propensities to convert of any channel. Where display or print advertising has few tools to target your ideal user, paid search could target users based on age, interest and whether they’ve visited your site before, all on top of targeting the term they’ve entered into the search engine.

Paid search is now widespread across the charity sector as most charities have access to a Google Ad Grant. The three sectors that seem to have a higher proportion of paid search traffic compared to organic – animals and environment, children and international developments – are all those that tend to invest more in fundraising channels. These sectors could make their Google Ad Grant work harder by investing in additional paid search, given its noted higher performance for them.

3. Does your sector need to work extra hard to ensure user engagement?

‘Avg. Session Duration’ is a metric that tracks how long a user stays on your site per visit. When looking through this data, we found it interesting to see the differences between each sector type.

The lowest performing sector is ‘International development and disaster relief’, with an average session duration of just over 90 seconds. In fact, this sector is very often bottom of all our engagement metrics. This could be because disaster relief is a very volatile sector and will likely have very low engagement metrics outside the periods surrounding a major disaster event.

At the other end of the scale we have ‘Children’ and ‘Animals and Environment’. These charities are often the opposite and have large numbers of beneficiaries who regularly visit their site, which results in far longer session durations for them.

If your sector sits at the low end of this scale, we’d suggest focussing on the channels and areas of your site which do see higher engagement and trying to develop new communities to increase returning user’s engagement. If you enjoy the high levels of engagement already, then the focus should be on nurturing and developing the communities you already have, to increase the number of users coming to your site through these high engagement channels.

4. Should your sector dread the weekend?

Across most websites, including charities, there is traffic reduction at weekends compared to weekdays. But how do we determine what drop could be considered ‘acceptable’? Is there a difference between the sectors?

If we plot sessions on a graph, we can see a familiar ‘wave’ pattern. There is one exception however – the ‘Animals and environment’ sector as a whole doesn’t seem to drop at weekends, in stark contrast to the other sectors.

Using this data, we worked out the average drop in sessions seen at weekends by sector.

These results identify a significant change that we found surprising.

As noted above – the charities in the ‘Animals and environment’ sector did not see a drop in sessions at the weekend. The other sectors all see a significant fall, including over 50% in the disability sector.

It’s possible that users search habits on the weekend lean towards their hobbies and interests more than on weekdays. It’s impossible to fully understand why those in ‘Animals and Environment’ stay more engaged over the weekend without more research, but it’s worth trying to better understand what’s happening here. Do these charity’s causes align with weekend activities? Are there any campaigns they run which fit in better with weekend behaviour? Perhaps some users do not follow a work week pattern, in which case, what does this say about them? If you apply these thoughts to your own charity, you might find opportunities to improve your weekend traffic.

We’ve covered how variants in devices, engagement, search propensity and traffic levels provide a useful insight into user behaviours that different types of charities can expect; but this is only the start. There is much more information to be mined from the CharityComms Digital Benchmark.

As well as allowing charities to compare their performance against others, it identifies potential opportunities for growth and optimisation. We are hoping to expend on the data recorded in the survey to include more demographic insights – and also consolidate how conversion tracking is recorded so that we will be able to offer real insight into how to drive conversions – including donations. Watch this space!

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Image: Franki Chamaki on Unsplash


John Onion, MD, upriseUP

John started upriseUP to deliver better digital marketing. Overseeing campaign results keeps John passionate in the hunt for opportunities – and continued improvement.

Alex Howat, account manager, upriseUP

Alex loves using his data driven mindset to gather insights into Analytics and uses this to help develop the Digital Benchmark.

Dan Biggs, paid media executive, upriseUP

Dan has managed a range of different paid media projects at upriseUP and enjoys squeezing the best performance out of digital campaigns, specialising in Paid Search, Display, Shopping Ads and Analytics.