The Seven Content Elements that Get Nonprofits Noticed—and Shared

7 elements of web content that get your stories read + shared: Expert advice for npos from @crestodina Tweet This

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There are 2.5 million blog posts and articles created daily for the web. But 75% of those articles are not linked by any other sources, meaning they get no traction at all.

That’s why The Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the Nonprofit Technology Network’s 501 Tech Club, hosted a session on October 6 for nonprofits on better writing for the web. Andy Crestodina, strategic director for Orbit Media, gave us his seven tips for getting read and shared online.

As a nonprofit content creator, his presentation provided useful firsthand experience for generating a wider audience to share our stories. Here’s a recap of where to start:

1. Your theme.

You have expertise on so many facets of your organization’s issue area. You could write web content about any of them—but should you? Ask the web.

Start with a search to see what questions people are asking about your topic. For example, if you are a cheese manufacturer, see what other search terms are used most often alongside “cheese.” Create your post around what Google tells you people want to know.

Some great resources:

  • Google Keyword Planner: an AdWords tool that helps you target relevant keywords in your field.
  • Google Analytics: if you’re using this tool to track your site metrics, the Queries report will show you what search terms you rank for already, and the Site Search report will show you whether you have good info on those topics waiting.
  • the place to find out what questions people want answered.
Andy Crestodina stands in front of a screen addressing the audience at the NTEN lunch workshop on October 675% of the content published online doesn’t get linked to from a single other source, so it falls short of reaching new audiences. What sets the other 25% apart? At an October 6 learning session for local nonprofits, Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media provided insight on his top seven elements to make any story a success.

2. Your headline.

Headlines should be front-loaded with meaning. Most headlines are truncated when shared, so make sure your first 60 characters convey the meaning. Headlines with emotion get shared, and so do those that tug at our curiosity—so make a great first impression.

3. Your formatting.

Readers don’t read. They scan. It is important to create white space in your article. Use bullets or bolding of sections, too—all these tools make it easy for the reader to scan for what’s important.

4. Your words.

Pick your words wisely. Do not use jargon. Posts written for an eighth grader have more success than posts written in an academic style. This online tool helps you check what level your material is geared for, and makes the case for why you should write at a sixth or seventh grade level, if you’re not convinced yet.

Two wrestlers in the ring, one wearing an Elmo costume, with text reading Let's Talk About Blog ImagesWhy do images matter when you’re writing for the web? Because as you just saw, our eyes are drawn to them. Images break up the flow of long strings of text, and pull extra attention to whatever you say in the caption—so don’t skip that step.

5. Your length.

You would think the shorter, more direct posts are read more often—but it’s really the long ones that get more likes, rank higher on the web and generate more leads. New data from HubSpot suggests that in 2016, content exceeding 2,000 words is performing the best in terms of social shares and backlinks.

6. Your images.

Faces are very powerful in marketing. It is important to add visuals to your posts—they help to break up copy, and get posts shared more on Facebook and Twitter too. If you are struggling to write a caption for an image, that tells you that the image is not powerful enough, so leave it out.

Resources to help you find the right image:

7. Your collaboration.

If you are not making friends with your content, you are doing it wrong. Content should be collaborative. Use what you’ve written as a networking tool—and use the opportunity to write more in the future, too.

Hungry for more information? Check out Crestodina’s checklist of ways to take your next article from good to great.


501 Tech Club is program of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network. NTEN provides nonprofit professionals with technology trainings, research and a vibrant and supportive community.