How effective is Social Media at driving traffic to charity web sites ?

Since late 2010 I have been monitoring how effective Social Media is at driving traffic to UK charity web sites. The answer continues to be that SM is not a significant traffic source and it`s contribution to total web site Visits has remained constant at the 2/4% level.

This table shows the share of total Visits coming from via Social Media, `SM%Total`, for 13 different UK charity web sites for the first 3 months of 2014.

table showing Social Media traffic for 16 UK charity sites

Social Media is not a big driver of web site traffic

When I originally looked at this in  Sept 2010 and again in December 2011 I created an Advanced Segment in Google Analytics which counted web site traffic from around 34 SM media sources. This time around I used the menu option built-in to GA, Acquisition >Social for the 13 separate sites. Note that not all SM Visits will be recorded as Social in GA. For example some Visits that come via and Twitter will end up as `Direct`. Remember that Direct is any Visitor that GA cannot assign to any other Channel or Source. However as these kind of errors are common to all sites and (hopefully) consistent over time the figures shown for these sites (and for your site) are comparable.






From the table the simple average for the 16 Web Sites is 2.84% . Within the 16 sites there is a wide range from 20% for Site 4 to to 0.2% for Site 2. For comparison I have shown the % of Visits that came via Email. Interestingly Site 4 that has the largest % of Social Media Traffic and also, at 7.3% , has the highest % of traffic coming from Email.  You can also see that by a wide margin the top 2 SM sources are Twitter and Facebook ` Top2SM`. `%Total SM` shows the % of that sites total SM traffic that comes from that source – either FB or Twitter. The only other SM source that gets a mention is YouTube.

The results suggest two thoughts:
1. I had expected that over time SM would become a big driver of traffic. While SM does perform well for short term issues such as Fundraising events and some specific Campaigns, organic Search remains by far the biggest driver of traffic to charity web sites. The quality of the traffic coming from Search is generally better too.

2. Increasing the volume of quality web site visitors is critical to longer term success     ( read >donations) and indeed is probably a KPI for your organisation. A well executed SM campaign can add real value by driving new traffic to specific Content. However it will take time to make a  significant difference to overall Visitor numbers.

How does your site compare ?



AdWords Grant account Performance and KPI`s

This summary data for 6 Google AdWords Grant accounts gives a good idea of what kind of performance and KPI`s you should look out for in your account. In Dec I Tweeted performance data for a group of Google Grant AdWords accounts for UK charities. I thought that it would be useful to follow this up with a closer look at the data and see if we can come up with some useful pointers on account performance and KPI`s.

CTR and Conversions data from 6 UK Google Grant accounts

CTR and Conversion data for 6 Google Grant Accounts

Of the 6 accounts 4 are pretty close to spending the full monthly allocation of $10,000.  My experience is that most accounts suffer a drop in visits at weekends, Bank Holidays, Christmas and New Year so even these 4 well organised accounts do not spend the full monthly allowance of $10,000 as you can see from the Column on the right. Account number 3 has only spent $2,739 – lots of room for improvement here. Account number 4 has spent just $172 but that is OK as I know they have just got started and sensibly are concentrating on establishing a good reputation with Google by having a good initial CTR. In the long run overall account performance depends on how much time is devoted to ongoing monitoring and optimising. ( Note that you can change the currency settings to have cost data in UK Pds £)

The 3 columns in the green box cover Clicks, Impressions and Search CTR – `Search CTR` as of course the Grant account only covers Search and not Display. CTR is heavily influenced by how competitive your sector is. If there is no commercial benefit, for example Keywords covering Depression or Self Harm, then with a well written Text Ad and decent Landing Pages you can get a CTR in excess of 10% – much higher in some cases. If you are dealing with something like Debt Advice you may find that you are up against big companies on some very competitive keywords – examples would include any Keyword/phrase that includes terms such as `credit card`, `finance` etc. So getting results will need a very careful selection of Keywords, Ad text and Landing Pages. I regard 1% CTR a minimum and if you have an AdGroup or account with a CTR at or around 1% you should look very closely at it with a view to getting better performance.  Of course if you are getting 1% of a very large number of Impressions for a very competitive Keyword then you may be happy with the result. Remember that in ALL cases an Ad from a Grant account will ALWAYS appear below an ad from a paid account. Clients 6 and 2 have low CPC, as you see from the number of Clicks that they are getting. Getting good results for these 3 metrics is nice but it is only half the job as all account performance should be measured against Conversions.

Conversions. Two of the accounts in the pink box have no Conversions in the account (!) while the other 3 have widely varying Conversions rates. The main reason for the variation is that each account has different Conversions. Some Conversions are easier to achieve such as Time on Site or Pages Viewed per Visit. Some are more difficult such as `Sign Up` for an email Newsletter or even Make a Donation so directly comparing accounts needs to be done carefully. Regular readers will know that I am very suspicious about drawing conclusions from average data for any interweb application such as AdWords or GA. I have written a longer piece on KPI`s and web site averages here.
Things you should check in your account:
Look at the  Quality Scores of the top Keywords in each AdGroup. Check the QS of the top 2/3 Keywords – usually they will account for around 80% of the visits. Start with the Keywords that have the most visits and the lowest QS.  A simple check is to ask yourself if your ad and landing page is the best possible `answer` to the question posed by the Kwd. If not, then amend the keyword eg add a qualifier – relating to age, sex, region that you serve eg rather than ` homeless` use `homeless women`s shelter`. A good call to action and a relevant landing page should improve results. The easiest way to create Conversions is to import Goals from Google Analytics. Simply go to Tools and Analytics > +Conversion and then import from GA.

If you have a new account or need to get an existing account working properly the best and easiest way to get started is to use Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) for your Grant account. One you have some data from this you can then look at following the steps outlined above.


Get great results with minimal effort from your charity AdWords Grant account.

Making full use of a free Google Grant AdWords account is hard for those charities who do not have a dedicated AdWords specialist. What is needed is an easy way to get good Click rates and make use of the full free daily budget of £220/$330. The AdWords Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) capability is ideal for charities or NFP`s that want the visitors that AdWords can bring but do not have the time to make it happen.
DSA allows Google to automatically pick pages from your site in response to standard search queries but you do not have to enter any Keywords or change anything as you add new site content. The Google system makes all the decisions relating to the headline in the ad and which pages to show. DSA is also very useful for those charities that have a very wide range of appropriate Keywords. I have seen a significant increase in Click Through Rates (CTR) for whole sites and sections of sites when DSA is used.

As Google can only work with pages that it has indexed the first thing to do is to put the URL of your site into the AdWords Keyword Tool >Keyword Planner.

Verify Your charity Site in AdWords keyword Planner

Use AdWords Keyword Planner to check your site.









As you can see from the image above Google AdWords sees this particular site as being divided into 8 AdGroups. Note that the AdGroups and the Monthly figures that show can be very misleading as AdWords shows only search data for those searches with revenue potential. Naturally this will exclude huge numbers of visits that are made to charity sites as they usually have no commercial potential translated. Once you see this AdWords data for your site there is a good chance that DSA will work for the site. Note that Google suggests that a site using DSA should have ` a few hundred pages` but my view is that if you get results from the AdWords `test` you should be ok for DSA.
Next you should create a new `Campaign` for `Search Network Only`and then choose the radio button `Dynamic search Ads`. Enter your default bid ( say $2.00 ) and the budget you want to allocate to the Campaign. Further down the page you will see an option `Ad Extensions` with a check box `Use my website content to target my ads`. Now you can create an AdGroup. When writing the ad text make sure that it is reasonably generic so that it makes sense for any combination of Keywords.  Now you will see a new Tab `Auto Targets` and a green button `+ Dynamic ad target`.

different ways you can group pages from your site.

Ad targeting methods

This allows you to set up the  method of ad targeting. The simplest thing to do is to check the Radio Button `Add all web pages` which allows the system to use any page from your site.  Alternatively you can select `Add a group of web pages` and from the drop down menu select the method that will be used to select pages. You could, of course, create a number of AdGroups each covering a different area or section of the site.

Now the set up is complete. Within days, even hours you will see data appearing. To ensure that there are no big mistakes you should go the the `Auto Targets` tab and select the `All` from the `See Search Terms` drop down menu. Here you will see full details of the Keywords used, the URL`s used, CTR`s etc. If you see that you are showing pages for Search Queries that you are not happy with simply put those terms in as Negatives. More info on DSA.

You can improve performance even further by making use of two nifty feature. First with Location Targeting you can show your ads only in specific areas or regions. The `Locations` tab in `Campaign Settings` allows you to show your ads in very specific areas eg specific Towns, Cities, Counties,etc. I have found this feature to be pretty accurate. Finally as you will be getting good CTR`s you will probably be eligible to show Sitelinks. You can easily set these up, using the Ad Extensions tab, for each AdGroup or a whole Campaign. Using these will further enhance your AdGroups performance.

What kind of performance should you expect ? Of course it depends on your site, the competitiveness of your pages and lots of other things. My experience is that CTR`s of charity sites are around 5/8% with even higher figures possible for specialist areas. With a monthly ( free) spend of £6,600 ( $10k) and with a cpc of £0.66 that means up to 10,000 extra visitors per month – well worth the set up effort.

Do you have an under-performing ( or not at all performing….) Google Grant account ?


How UK charities can get more from their web sites.

This is a presentation I gave at the recent CharityComms Digital Impact Conference in London.
My research shows that over 60% of visitors to UK charity sites, dedicated to causes, come from Organic search and site wide Bounce Rates of 60% are not uncommon. So improving your site for search engine results ( read-Google) will give a significant increase in satisfied visitors without the need for any additional marketing. To show the effects of a generally poor site experience, including a high Bounce Rate, I imagine your site as a Department Store where 60% of people who enter leave very quickly. This presentation shows what you can do to help many more of your current visitors find what they came for. The presentation also covers some other aspects of search in general, including AdWords and looks at keyword selection and analysis.

You can see some of the audience reaction at Twitter #charitydigital and you will find some additional info and links in my Twitter feed @find50.


Google Analytics – Excluding Visits from your organisation

Visits to your own web site by staff members can seriously impact your data accuracy, leading you to draw incorrect conclusions and make poor decisions. Even if the numbers are small they may be concentrated in a specific area of the site and so be a big % of the totals for a site section or page. Not good.

To exclude internal traffic first create a new Profile in GA > Admin.This ensures that any mistakes you make will not affect your existing data sources. Once you have named the new Profile go to the Filters(shown) tab and select `+newFilter`. Leave `Create New Filter` radio button Selected.  The easiest way to exclude is to select `Predefined filter`. Select as appropriate from the options in the dropdown menus and enter the IP address for your organisation and hit `save`. These days GA updates frequently so within hours you will see how the filter is working.


Creating an Exclude Filter

An alternative, giving you more flexibility is to select `Custom Filter`. Once you have selected that you can then select the radio button for `Exclude`. Once selected go to the`Filter Field` and select `Audience/Users` the drop down menu. As you can see from the image there are now 3 ways that you can exclude incoming traffic from you and/or your organisation.

Alternative way to create GA Exclude Filter

Alternative GA Exclude Filter


Again, if you have them for your organisation, the `IP Address` range is probaly the best way to go. Simply enter the IP numbers – taking care to escape out the full stops by using a `\`eg 176\.168\.1\.1. You will find this tool useful plus more info on excluding internal traffic.

Alternative ways to exclude traffic are by using – `ISP Domain` and `ISP Organisation`. If you have one you can find your own `ISP Organisation` if you look in GA >Audiences > Technology> Network. Here you will see the names of service providers used by people visiting your site. If you see your organisations name you can use that in the Filter Field `ISP Organisation` and so exclude visits. Similarly you can add any ISP domain. Over time you can then compare the visitor data in this new Profile with your existing ( unfiltered) Profile and you should begin to see differences in the numbers reported.

One thing to note that is that these techniques will generally not be usable if you work from home and want to exclude your visits.The reason is that most service providers eg BT, Sky Etc use dynamic IP allocation so that each time you log on you are allocated a fresh ( to you) IP address. If you want to exclude visits from your home machine you will need to use the `cookie method` or your can use a browser where you have explicitly set it not to accept any cookies.