Photo by Karolina Grabowska
May 1, 2024

Why does your website need a content strategy?

Natalie Yelton

Farra Trompeter, co-director, is joined by Natalie Yelton, content strategist at Kanopi Studios, to delve into content strategy and how to create an engaging nonprofit website. They share key performance indicators to use while writing new content for your site and insights on how to lead with accessibility.


Farra Trompeter: Welcome to the Smart Communications podcast. This is Farra Trompeter, co-director and worker-owner at Big Duck. In today’s episode, we’re gonna ask the question, why does your website need a content strategy? And if you’re listening and you’re wondering, I’m not even quite sure what a content strategy is, or you’re in fact a content strategist, I think you’ll find something in this conversation. I’m delighted to be joined by Natalie Yelton. Natalie uses she/her pronouns and is a content strategist who helps nonprofits tell their story online at Kanopi Studios, a web agency focused on data-informed and human-centric solutions. Natalie’s career started 16 years ago in the busy press office of a consumer rights organization in London where her love of storytelling began. She’s helped nonprofits in the US, Canada, and the UK define what they wanna say, how to say it, and where, so it’s heard by the people who matter. When she’s not writing words or developing content strategies for websites, she’s likely found hiking up a mountain near her home on the west coast of Canada. Natalie, welcome to the show.

Natalie Yelton: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Farra Trompeter: It’s great to have you. Well, let’s start with the basics. For those of us out there who may not be familiar with content strategy, what is content strategy and how should staff who manage their nonprofits website approach it?

Natalie Yelton: Yes,definitely. So a content strategy is essentially a plan for creating, modifying, and evaluating your nonprofit site’s content. A content strategy should define how your site’s content meets both the needs of your users and your organization’s goals. So before developing a single line of code or redesigning a key landing page, it’s vital to get crystal clear with folks internally at your nonprofit about why your website exists. My recommended approach for folks at nonprofits looking to develop a content strategy is to start with a core strategy statement. So try to summarize in one sentence why your website exists. In my opinion, there’s no hard and fast rules about what should be included in a content strategy. Having said that, there are four key aspects of a content strategy. I suggest folks zero in on the first being workflow. So what processes, tools, and humans do you need to publish content successfully and maintain ongoing quality?

Natalie Yelton: The second part is content governance. So this is about how key content strategy decisions are made, who makes them, how they’re initiated, and how you’re gonna communicate those changes internally. Thirdly, your content strategy should touch on the structure of your content. So how you’re going to prioritize, organize, format, and display your content. And this is where optimize site maps and page wireframes and designs come into play. And finally, everyone’s favorite part of content strategy, you need to think about substance. So what content you need and why should be outlined in your content strategy. I’ve also developed content strategies for clients that touches on voice and tone. So what language and words we want to use to nail an agreed voice and tone online. If necessary, this can take the form of a content style guide, which I’m a huge champion of. This allows a consistent approach to how content is written and designed across your nonprofit site.

Farra Trompeter: Style guides are love language here at Big Duck, so always happy to hear an approach to be clear and consistent. You know, we are, we’re often thinking about branding, and when we do brand guides and we do a lot of online brand platforms, we often incorporate or work closely with website partners to make sure the website elements are brought into that. So I love that you ended on that point, but I’m gonna go to that other point you said, which is the point. Everyone gets excited about the substance of the content strategy, and let’s say I’ve set up a plan to create engaging content for my website. How would I measure success? I know everyone’s always asking, well, what are the metrics? What are the KPIs? What are the objectives people should set in developing their content strategy, and how often should they review and analyze it? So this is kind of a what and how often.

Natalie Yelton: What content success looks like varies greatly based on what your nonprofits goals are and what your unique users’ needs and wants are. Though having said that, there are some key performance indicators we suggest to our clients here at Kanopi when they’re reworking or writing new content for their site. So ask yourself, is page scroll depth improving? That can be a really good indicator that folks are digesting content further down your web pages, which can be measured through a variety of heat mapping tools. Ask yourself, are click rates improving after updating the text that appears on a button, for example. Is monthly giving increasing because you’ve introduced optimized user-tested copy that gets people to a specific giving page faster? The important thing with any and all success metrics, I believe, is knowing your baseline before you rework or rewrite any new content. So analytics tools can really help you out here for setting those benchmarks. I want to stress the importance of testing content in the discovery phase before anything goes live on your site. With a recent Kanopi client, we were able to show a 50% increase in folks successfully finding ways to manage and renew their membership by improving navigation and how content was labeled on their site. So user testing, usability testing before anything goes live on your site is a powerful tactic.

Farra Trompeter: Yeah, this is great because I think when people who are not day in, day out in websites hear the word content strategy, they may just be focused on, what am I saying? How often am I writing? Is it a blog, is it a podcast? Is it a new article? And what you’re talking about is yes. And also, how are you gonna get people there? Where is that content then taking them to? How do you use that content to get them to convert to a specific action? So I love that you lifted that up in the KPIs. So let’s get even more practical. Some key audiences, nonprofits think about with their websites are clients or program participants and donors. What are some examples of ways nonprofits can engage these audiences on their websites? And knowing that these audiences and others might be viewing a particular page, should folks write to a specific audience or use or focus or really write more generally and try to speak to as many audiences as possible?

Natalie Yelton: I’ll start by stressing that your nonprofit cannot be everything to everyone on your website. Don’t make the mistake of trying to engage too many audiences who have very different wants and needs. Ask yourself, does your nonprofit have a voice and tone that content editors are familiar with and they know how to deliver? I recommend having a consistent voice across your site and then shifting your tone to ensure content resonates on a specific page that’s been designed for a specific audience member. And then finally, my top recommendation is to let your donors and your supporters tell your story online. A recent DemandGen survey found that two-thirds of folks give more credence to peer reviews, user-generated content, and third-party endorsements when compared to organization-generated content. So let your supporters tell your story online.

Farra Trompeter: Again, I’m feeling all the things you’re putting down here, Natalie. I wanna talk about the appreciation of prioritizing your audiences and trying to really not speak to quote-unquote the general public. Really having what we would call a clear brand personality or what you’re lifting up is voice and tone. And really looking for ways for audiences to engage and be part of your community and be in a conversation with you and not just be spoken at. So moving that website from a brochure to really an ongoing platform for community and conversation. While at Big Duck we podcast, blog, and really think about how we can integrate approaches to accessibility in our work with nonprofits. And I know that you and your colleagues at Kanopi share this commitment to accessibility. When we were prepping for the conversation, you shared that you really lead with accessibility and you create a content strategy that starts by meeting the needs of people with disabilities. Can you talk about that and perhaps share some insights for our listeners who wanna do the same?

Natalie Yelton: Yes, I’m glad you raised this. Farra. Here at Kanopi, we start every project by performing a content audit, which I’m sure a lot of your listeners have performed on their own nonprofit websites. One thing we do zero in on is how accessible the content on your site is. In addition to assessing if you’re hitting the right keywords for search engine optimization. And if you’re nailing voice and tone, as we’ve talked about previously, you should be assessing how accessible and readable your content is for people with disabilities. So ask yourself, have you included synchronized captions with video? For folks who maybe are using hearing aids as they navigate your site, is your text-to-background color contrast? Okay, for someone with low vision or who is colorblind and is trying to read text on your site? And is alt text present for folks who are navigating your site using a screen reader?

Natalie Yelton: Are you using all caps anywhere on your site? That’s difficult for folks with dyslexia to read. Here at Kanopi, we also create accessible personas. So by creating personas of people with disabilities, we’re able to build inclusive and accessible products that benefit not some, but all users. I recommend listeners take a look at the UK government digital services, open source accessible personas. They’re a great starting point if you want to develop accessible personas for your nonprofit. And also in terms of leading with accessibility for your content audit, there is a great tool called Wave, W-A-V-E. This is a browser extension that you can add to your browser you’re using and very quickly, very easily assess the accessibility of any page on your website. So you can see where color contrast issues exist, where you’re missing alt text, where form labels may be missing and the like.

Farra Trompeter: And we’ll link to a lot of these tools that you’re referencing and resources in the transcript of this conversation at I was actually wondering, another tool, I’m curious what you think about is for readability and thinking about language level. I know our team here are fans of the Hemingway Editor and other tools like that, which can tell you the grade level you’re writing at, can help really deconstruct sentences and make them simpler and clearer for folks to read. So that’s another tool I’d throw out there. Well, before we go, I’d love to actually talk with you about artificial intelligence or ai. You wrote a blog post last year, which again we’ll link to in the show notes, which stated a prediction that organizations will use AI power tools to provide customized content experiences based on their user’s unique preferences and interests. So that was in 2023. We are recording this conversation in February 2024, and it will air in a few months. I want to know, like what’s been happening? Have you seen any examples of nonprofits who’ve actually been able to leverage AI for good? I know that at Big Duck we’ve also been having conversations and concerns about the generic and inauthentic tone that copy written solely by tools like Chat GPT can generate. And I would just love your thoughts on that too.

Natalie Yelton: I share your concerns about generic inauthentic and sometimes plagiarized content that comes from using some AI tools. I’m gonna paraphrase my creative director and stress that AI is a tool for content designers, like a pen is for a writer. Until AI can grasp meaning context and nuance, it will remain a tool that content designers and content strategists can use to solve particular problems. So where AI can be really powerful for nonprofits is looking back at big data sets and keeping big data sets up to date, helping them with easier reporting and predictive modeling. Nonprofits are starting to use AI to meet users needs faster. One of our clients who runs a higher education institution are using AI to answer students’ talk questions faster through more tailored bot conversations. Another way AI can be leveraged is automating your nonprofit style guide, providing voice and tone guidance as folks write content live.

Farra Trompeter: Yeah, and I wanna give a shout out to someone I know who also speaks and writes a lot about AI and nonprofits, which is George Weiner and Whole Whale, and they’ve got a really interesting tool called Cause Writer AI that might be, if folks are interested in this and trying to poke around on how to use these tools, they’ve also got lots of links to other AI resources. So another thing we’ll be sure to link to in the show notes at Well, if you’re out there and you wanna learn more about Kanopi Studios, be sure to check out their website at That’s K-A-N-O-P-I or on LinkedIn at Kanopi Studios. You can connect with Natalie on LinkedIn too at Natalie Yelton and Natalie, as we wrap things up, I’m just curious, is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners?

Natalie Yelton: I can’t stress enough that content is more than the words that appear on your site. Content can take the form of imagery, video illustrations, infographics, and more. It’s essentially what people come to read, learn, see, and experience on your nonprofit site. And finally, I’d be doing a disservice to my user experience colleagues if I didn’t stress the importance of user research. Content is user experience. And a recent Forrester Report found that every dollar invested in user research brings $100 in return. So listen to what your site visitors want and need from your site and your content strategy should naturally flow from there.

Farra Trompeter: We hope you got something valuable from today’s conversation. Again, lots of resources that Natalie mentioned we’ll link to at and hope you have a great day.