Your Cause. Your Website: Tracking and Boosting Site Traffic

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You've got your website. It's your organization's virtual front door. You work hard to lay out the welcome mat, tend the flower boxes, wash the windows, and offer enough content to get people inside for a heart-to-heart coffee table chat about you and your mission.

So you've got curb appeal. You've got substance. But how do you get folks into your neighborhood and knocking on your door in the first place?

Great question. Boosting traffic and attracting eyeballs to your site is key to online success. If people aren't coming and viewing your site, it isn't doing its job to move your mission forward.

Tracking site traffic: Knowing who's coming to your site

The first part of improving is knowing how your site performs now. The easiest and cheapest way for assessing that is a handy tool called Google Analytics. This is free and tracks website traffic. Got some question you want to know about who and how people are visiting your site? How long the average person spends poking around? What search term they typed into Google to come across your little home away from home on the interwebs? How many people living in Burkina Faso visited your site on a Tuesday at 10:23 pm? The Google knows. It knows it all. And it will tell you - provided you've signed up for a free account and had us install the tracking code it provides.

No Google Analytics yet? Interested? Check out our Tips and Tricks post about tracking traffic.  You can also view an informative Google-created video there giving an overview of Analytics.

Boosting site traffic: The lay of the land

Already have Google Analytics and are looking to see some solid improvement in those numbers its tracking? Alright. Time to lay some knowledge on you that cuts through the commotion.

There's a lot of buzz out there about search engine optimization (SEO). This is a geeky term that refers to how well your site is wired to cozy up with the Google and other search engines so it shows up higher in the list of results they return. In amongst that buzz, there are a fair number of snake oil salesman promising magical elixirs to raise your importance. Most often, those elixirs do the exact opposite. The truth of the matter is that search engine companies are smart folks. They've gotten better and better at punishing sites trying to game the system and rewarding sites that are trusted by peers and seen as valuable resources.

A new search ranking study just came out from some respectable folks. It shows that the best work you can do to promote your site happens off your site. Why? Because the top factors influencing your site ranking have everything to do with the company you keep, or, specifically, who, how, and how many sites link to yours.

Let's break that down a bit more, shall we?

The who. Every site on the nets has a rank associated with it. For Google, it is summed up in an algorithm called PageRank that assigns a number between 0 and 10. A brand new site with a brand new domain name is a zero. Google itself is top dog with a ten (not surprising, eh?). The New York Times and Washington Post each boast a nine. For us mere mortals, get a PageRank of five or higher and you're doing very well.

The who matters because a site with a PageRank of six that links to yours increases your credibility more than a site with a zero. So, score some earned media in the New York Times that links to your site? Jackpot! You just gained great credibility in Google's eyes and increased the odds of showing up higher in their search results.

The how. Believe it or not, the words used to link to your site matter. If that link from the Times to your site just says "click here", that's nice but could be better. If the link instead says your organization's name or "foremost kangaroo preservation experts" and you're a shop that protects roos, excellent!

If you're not a shop that protects roos and that's the link to your site, you need to stop reading this right now and have a straight up talk with your communications director.

The how many. There's strength in numbers. Get one link to your site and you don't look very trustworthy to Google. Get a hundred and you'll be taken more seriously. But remember, as mentioned before, the search engine folks are smart and have gotten good at knowing who's legit and who's gaming the system. Some folks pay one of those snakeoil salesman to push out your website onto long lists of pages with just links that live in the internet ether. Don't be one of those folks. Have it be legit and you'll be rewarded.

Boosting site traffic: Specific steps you can take

That's the context. How about some specific steps you can take to be legit and get rewarded for your hard work?

    1. Update your site often: If you've got fresh, engaging content, people will link to you.
    2. Engage with partners, funders, and friends: Send requests to sites whose organizations you're connected with. Encourage them to link to yours. Better yet, start a good, online dialogue through that content you're actively updating to give them regular, specific reasons to link to your site.
    3. Link from your social networking sites: Does your organization have Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn accounts? Link from these to your site. Those links count as inbound links from other domains even though you control them.
    4. Create free accounts in reputable listing directories with high Page Ranks: Check out DMOZ.org, Ecofirms.org, Ethical Directory, Charity Navigator, Idealist.org, and Charity Village. Links from these non-profit listings count, too - and those accounts are free. The more relevant the directory is to your organization, the better.
    5. Ask your end users to help spread the love: Sending any emails today? Why not update your automated email signature to ask recipients to link to your site? Maybe something like:
Do you have a website or blog? Link to us! Just copy and paste this code into your site: <a href="http://www.yoursite.org">YourOrgname: Foremost kangaroo preservation experts</a> 

But don't just take our word for it!  Grab an idea or two from the list, try them out, and see how you can attract more eyeballs to that fine home away from home on the interwebs you have.  Happy boosting!

Sincerely,
Your PICnet Support Team

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Don't know your PageRank? Want to?

There are a number of tools out there that allow you to see what PageRank any site has. Some are Google-created browser toolbars for Firefox or Internet Explorer that show you the rank in real-time when visiting a site. Some are online tools for assessing PageRank.

Improving Soapbox servers

As a little teaser, we wanted to spread the word that plans are in the works to beef up our Soapbox infrastructure over the coming month.  That means more uptime, better reliability, and faster processing.  We're finalizing details and will be sending them out to you soon.

The suggestion box is open

A couple weeks ago, we kicked off the Your Cause. Your Website. series by letting you know that our suggestion box is open. It still is. Help us improve our service to you by taking 30 seconds to fill out the survey that's linked to from each ticket close out email. We'll be very grateful.

Need a fresh look to your site?

Fashion changes. It’s true of clothes and music and slang. Ya dig? It’s also true of website design. If yours is feeling a little musty and retro in all the wrong ways, contact us. We’d be happy to chat about a website make over.

Outgrowing Soapbox?

Soapbox is great at offering a discrete set of services at non-profit friendly pricing. We’re continually growing it with new features and functionalities that will make your job easier and your visitors happier and better informed when visiting your website. But what if you’ve decided that it’s time to get more customized – to add some functionality that’s going to take your organization to the next level? We’d love to chat with you. We’ve got a whole side of our shop dedicated to building customized solutions for non-profits just like yours.

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