When your content goes viral, will your website be ready?

July 2nd, 2020

One of our small, but mighty, nonprofit client partners had a piece of content that went viral. An article was shared to Facebook by a person with a good following. It was timely and met a need for a lot of people who in turn shared it further.

This single fortuitous event led to a remarkable week of organization-changing events. Press inquiries, donations, email subscribers, and event registrants all increased dramatically. Thankfully, their website was ready to help support and maximize the opportunity.

This recent event inspired us to share some tips. What are the characteristics of a viral-ready website for a nonprofit? Read on.

Can visitors discover related content?

The page that goes viral is likely to be an article buried deep within your site. Your ideal is that visitors to this page will go on to read or do something else on your site.

  • Crosslink/reference other posts on your site within your articles.

  • Include related reads on the page.

  • If author pages and/or category lists exist on your site, make navigation to them clear.

The above are two ways to help visitors find other like-minded content.

Website related reads

Related reads like this example from embracerace.org are a way to help an engaged reader find more content of interest.

Can you post an alert or update to showcase timely updates to visitors?

A feature like this allows you to push forward critical and timely content. This could be very useful when a site is going viral to help share relevant content at the right moment.

Inspired by COVID-19, we are recommending that all websites we build have a persistent "alert" feature. This is often a bar at the top or bottom of all pages that has editable text and can link to another page/post on the website.

Website alert bar

An "alert" feature like the blue bar at the top of the page here from csforall.org provides an opportunity to promote timely content.

Is your website donor-ready?

Nonprofit websites have to speak to many audiences. Of course, one of the broader audience categories will be potential donors. Promoting an opportunity to donate is important. Consider the viral visitor though. They may not know your organization at all, but find a piece of content valuable. The content has them engaged. They are ready to get to know you and become a supporter. You want to make it easy to do both.

Website about page with impact content.

An about page should include impact details and a clear call to action to donate.

  • Your support/donate page should include content about your organization and its impact.

  • The about page is often one of the most trafficked pages on a website. Include content to showcase your impact and add a call to action to donate.

For sure you want to make it easy to get to your donation form. You also want to include a compelling case to reinforce, if not inspire, a new donation. These are critical in a viral situation if you are hoping for individual donations.

Is your website ready to capture email subscribers?

Likely, one of the goals of your content is to help build your email list. A viral audience comes to your website interested in your content. They may very well want to subscribe for future updates.

You want to provide many opportunities to subscribe. Beyond your site's header and footer, the following can be very effective at providing opportunities to subscribe.

  • A pop-up provides an in-your-face opportunity to subscribe that is not missable. Pop-ups are disruptive by design and like them or not, they often work well for list building.

  • Content upgrades are forms woven into articles. They market a downloadable resource in exchange for subscribing.

Make sure you have an automated welcome email ready to go, too. These are a fantastic opportunity to share links to your best content and engagement opportunities.

Pop-ups to promote joining an email list are often very effective.

Can your website sustain the increased load?

If content goes viral you want to make sure your site stays online.

Hosting and capabilities to support bursts of activity vary. If you are a content-driven organization, you want to be ready for that viral spike. Knowing your hosting and how it would or would not support a burst is important. Check in with your provider and/or partners and create a viral plan.

Make sure a part of that plan is to enable notifications (if possible) when servers/hosting are showing signs of their resources stressing. Better to find out when things are starting to heat up to give you and your team time to respond.

Your website technology may also offer some options to address high performance situations. Many content management platforms provide caching options that improve website performance. These are good to know about and employ when appropriate.

Seth Giammanco
Principal, Strategy and Technology

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