Trying to figure out why people do something is typically easier than figuring out why they’re not doing something.  Still, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done – it will simply require a bit more work. We’ll take a look at consumer behavior when it comes to a call to action included in a website, and how we can manipulate it.

Let’s start with the basics about Call to Action Prompts.

Note that these are not all the basics if you are, overall, trying to figure out how your nonprofit organization’s website is performing or whether you need to adjust your digital strategy.  But these are where I’d start if you’re trying to figure out why visitors aren’t clicking through on one particular call to action.

  • Referrals – This tells you how visitors got to your page, such as via social media or through clicking a direct link or through search (including which keywords they searched for).
  • Landing pages – This tells you which pages visitors started on. In many web analytics systems, you’ll see the percentage of visitors who entered your site from each page.
  • Unique page views – This tells you the number of unique visitors who viewed that page. So as to exclude, you know, the multiple times you refreshed it trying to get your edits to show up the way you wanted.
  • Bounce rates – This tells you the percentage of people who left your website from the page they landed on.
  • Exit rates – This tells you the percentage of people who left your website from that page, regardless of whether they started on this or another page.
  • Conversion – Some systems will let you set up a specific way to track this, but basically you’re looking for the percentage who completed a goal (making a donation, signing a petition, etc.) out of the people who went to that page or form.

Not sure if you have web analytics or how to configure them to track what you want?  Consider bringing in a freelance digital marketing team to help you get off to a solid start.

Let’s dig in deeper.

Will each of those metrics tell you something individually?  Sure.  But what we’re really after is the story of what those tell you when we combine them.  Many web analytics tools will show you the pathway of visitors, from where they landed, through where they clicked through next, to where they left your site

Are people ever getting to the place where they can respond to our call to action? 

For example, if your online donation form has 4 unique page views a month, while this doesn’t rule out an issue with the form, there’s probably a bigger issue here.

If they are not, what do people mostly seem to be doing on your site, or does your home page (or most common landing page) have a really high bounce rate? 

Consider looking at your referral sources and whether the website might be different from what they were expecting based on the link they clicked.  We’ll come back to this, though.

Let’s say they are getting to that page.  Can we tell where they’re dropping off? 

Some tools will tell you how far people have scrolled down a page, or you might be able to see if it is a multi-page form.  These tools will help you figure out if the issue might be to do with the content, the form, or some sort of mismatch between what they were expecting when they clicked and what they saw. This will help you place your call to action in an appropriate place.

Consider going through that process yourself on different browsers and different devices.

This should always be in your standard toolkit.  Let’s say a large portion of your website visitors are accessing it via a mobile device.  Visit your website on your phone.  Maybe dropdown menus that function perfectly fine on a computer are next to impossible to use on a mobile device.  Or, maybe a large portion of your website visitors use Internet Explorer and that is not something you use at work.  Try it out to see if something on your form might be incompatible.  You might find that everything works perfectly across different browsers or devices, but you must rule it out.  If it is, fix it! And then monitor your web analytics afterwards for a period of time, like 2 – 4 weeks, or where you would normally get enough traffic that you might expect to see a difference.

If it’s not a technical glitch, do some extremely basic user research.

black flat screen tv turned on near green plant
Photo by Sigmund

Let’s say it’s your online donation page.  Sit down with someone who is not a current donor but who could be.  Your 12 year old nephew may be available, but is he representative of your potential donors?  I’d wager not.  So you might want to look for someone who makes online donations to other organizations, for example.

Watch them make a small donation on your website.  Yes, all the way through!  Use an organizational credit card or reimburse them.  Also provide them with dummy information for anything that does not need to be validated (like a credit card), and clear out any information from the test afterwards.

Don’t explain anything, just watch and take notes of where they get stuck or what questions or comments they have.  If they appear to get confused about something, don’t tell them the right answer but ask them what they expected to see or what is unclear to them.  If needed, remind them that it’s not a test of them, only a test of your donation (or whatever) process.  If you have time, do this with a few more people.  Remember to thank everyone and to follow up about any improvements you were able to make as a result of what you learned from your time with them.

Is there a formal way to do user research and usability testing for Call to Action Prompts? 

Yes, and there is value to it, but if you’ve never asked anyone outside your organization to test out the process, you’re still bound to learn something useful.  And, if you’re not familiar with website analytics, watching someone else navigate through a website or online process can help make those metrics more concrete.

Now that we have a better sense of what’s happening (or not) during website visits, what next?

Here are some questions to ask yourself in figuring out possible adjustments:

Who’s our target audience? Are the right people visiting our website? 

Maybe visitors were searching for whale pictures for their science projects rather than looking to get involved.  Maybe they clicked to view a blog post because they knew the volunteer of the month rather than being interested in your organization’s work.  So perhaps you’ll want to reevaluate your digital strategy.

Have we misunderstood them, or are we missing a potential group of supporters?

Maybe you’ve got a large pool of young adults who sign all your petitions, but they’re still paying off student loans and are early in their careers.  It doesn’t make sense to ask them for donations. Or does it?

Is our content strategy appropriate for our target audience and for what we’re trying to get them to do?

red and white no smoking sign
Photo by Daniel ODonnell

Perhaps you need new approaches to driving that call to action.  Maybe consider a specific landing page during a digital marketing campaign when you know you’ll get a large influx of visitors who are new to your nonprofit organization and possibly to the cause.  Most successful digital marketing campaigns take the time to think this through, and a team of experts can help you analyze, strategize, and execute.

Are there any usability issues that are interfering with people responding to our call to action?

So people are excited about your cause, and they’re visiting your website, and then….well?  Use what you’ve learned from the data and talking to users to see whether you need to reorganize the layout, label things more clearly, make the form easier to navigate (or even just shorter), and so on.

Can we improve the user experience for our supporters?

It is so much more important when you can’t see their body language and they can’t see yours.  Online processes can and should be reflective of the experience they should expect from your organization in person, too. 

People change, our expectations change, the ways in which we engage online change, and also organizations change as well.  So too should your messaging, your calls-to-action (what works for donations may not work for getting people to sign a petition), and your non-profit marketing strategy.  Remember to revisit these questions periodically!

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