5 Mobile Best Practices for Charities in 2017

More people in Britain now use smartphones to access the internet than any other device. Still, 61% of charities in the UK today don't have a mobile-friendly website, including 30% of the highest earning charity websites. With online donations set to grow over the next three years, charities need to be ready to meet the growing demand for smarter, more intuitive mobile experiences. In this second sector-specific post, I outline five mobile best practices for charities to follow in 2017.

1. Being mobile-friendly is now a must

Despite the fact that over a third of searches in the ‘Charity and Charitable Giving’ sector now take place on mobile, 61% of charity sites still fail to meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. This is a pretty significant problem given mobile-friendliness is a key component in Google’s search algorithm.

Becoming mobile-friendly is one of the most fundamental steps a charity can take to improve its ability to rank in search engines. Around a quarter of people who donate online use their mobile phones to discover new charities and charitable causes, so the opportunity in simply being mobile-friendly is huge.

2. Analytics is key to understanding cross-channel and device behaviours

While many of our interactions with charities and brands might be mobile first, they’re rarely mobile only. People use devices for different reasons in an array of different contexts; to research, browse, buy or engage. This compelxity is compounded when we factor in how users behave across marketing channels at a given time, and taken together, these data points help provide a window into user intent. For instance, we might interact with a charity on a mobile phone via Facebook while browsing, but later re-engage via an AdWords ad on a laptop to follow up on what we'd seen earlier.  

Using insights from Google Analytics and other analytics packages, some of these 'gaps' in our understanding of cross-device behaviour can enable us to gain a strongner understanding user intent across devices and channels. While Google Analytics can't provide a complete cross-device picture out of the box yet, we can still gain some valuable insights and use this to inform digital marketing strategy.

By applying Custom Segments based on a combination on dimensions such as device, location, age or marketing channel, charities start to build a more data-driven picture of who their website visitors actually are. Using this data, they can then analyse with a more informed view whether or not the tactics used to engage and convert these audiences are effective, and shed light on how they might be able to attract and convert more of those visitors. When connected to Google Analytics, Google Data Studio opens up an even greater number of opportunities to make sense of these connections - as covered in this post.

3. Local search is crucial for service-based charities

Search is not only increasingly mobile, but local. Today, 88% of smartphones users conduct local searches to find out information about the whereabouts, services, opening times and user reviews of a whole host of services. However, with a smaller map pack, the local search space is crowded. So to compete in this area charities need to be making the most of the opportunities on offer to capture local, mobile searchers.

Google My Business is an incredibly valuable tool which enables enabling organisations to inform Google of their services, opening hours and and much more. Optimising Google My Business listing is a must for charities looking to acquire local mobile searchers, so this is certainly worth investing time in.

Similarly, any charity not already taking advantage of Google Ad Grants could be missing out on thousands of free search visits a month. With a monthly budget of $10,000 in AdWords available for U.K charities, the opportunity to attract visitors at both a local and national level is significant.

4. Capture data that's relevant, not what's desirable

Asking donors for information that isn’t necessary, or is overly personal can drastically reduce donations and conversion rate, and even decrease user trust. Despite this, a recent study from Eduserv found that nearly a third of charity sites required users to complete over 20 fields and actions in order to complete a donation.

It goes without saying that this is far from ideal, particularly in the mobile context where users are likely to spend less time on site, and abandon lengthy conversion processes. With privacy concerns also front of many donors minds, charities should stick to asking for the data that matters most and that is actionable and avoid the temptation to overdo data capture for the sake of it.

5. A/B testing is crucial, and more affordable than ever

Knowing what types of information, messaging and imagery should or shouldn’t be on a donation page can be difficult. Stakeholders will have their own, often unfounded opinion and without adequate data, decisions can be hard to reach. With limited resource and budget, charities should avoid trying to test each and every idea, and instead focus on optimising the pages and journeys most important to achieving key organisational objectives.

Using web analytics to identify key entrance points, device behaviours and user journeys will help unearth potential weaknesses and opportunities for UX improvement. This type of quantitative data is essential not only in terms of identifying CRO opportunities, but also when it comes to justifying choices to key stakeholders.

Qualitative data analysis should also be used to dig into the why behind your data and help elucidate usability issues and sticking points. Google Optimize is the most logical choice for charities looking to get started on A/B testing and CRO as it is free to use, however there are a number of other affordable price conscious organisations.

With mobile reshaping how we interact with and support charities and charitable causes online, charities need to consider the role of mobile in 2017. But being truly mobile-friendly is about more than design, it’s about being in the right place at the right time, with the right message.