A website is a must-have marketing tool for almost any business, and that includes not-for-profit animal welfare organisations like shelters and rescues. Having an effective website increases trust with potential adopters, and helps showcase your animals to get them adopted faster. Through SEO, your pet rescue website can also give you a marketing boost: improving traffic to educate more people about what you do, and get more adopters through your doors (and donations in the bank!).
Here are some ways to improve and optimise your pet shelter or rescue website to boost adoptions and donations:
Make sure the website is modern and regularly updated
A website that looks fresh and modern, and has regular new content (such as blog posts/news) is far more trustworthy to potential adopters than a website that looks old, isn’t user-friendly, has typos, and hasn’t been updated in a long time.
If you aren’t tech-savvy, look into local website businesses (or even students looking for portfolio work) who can give your website a polish as a volunteer. Creating a fresh new look for your site makes your business a lot more appealing to potential adopters – especially if they’re still on the fence between adopting or buying. You want them to see that your business is legitimate and safe.
Don’t forget to blog regularly, or have a ‘news’ page that’s updated with business news or highlights such as weekly adoptions. You can add case studies, blogs about pet care, and more. This helps your website stay fresh, increases trust with potential adopters, and boosts SEO. A static website can’t get the same engagement and interest as a regularly updated one.
Finally, have an editor or proofreader (or a volunteer with good English skills and an eye for detail) responsible for checking the writing across the website for misspellings, confusing sentences, and typos.
Include strong animal features with great photos
You should feature all of your available animals on your website, with a write-up that makes people fall in love with them, and photos that show off their personalities. This is all about establishing empathy and creating a connection with website viewers that will be strong enough to get them through your doors physically to meet the pets they’ve seen online.
Keep things positive without lying when writing descriptions for pets. You want the right people to be excited to adopt the pet – don’t create unrealistic expectations and end up putting the pet in a bad situation with an owner it isn’t suited to. For example, if a dog has low energy and doesn’t do well with children, you can spin this in a positive way. For example: ‘This dog will find their forever home with an older family or single adult who prefers cuddles and quiet time to games and noise. She loves to laze all day in the sun and have short, relaxed daily walks.’
People are much more drawn to animals if they can see them, especially if they can see their personalities. A poor-quality photo of an animal, with poor lighting and no character, is not going to draw as much attention as a high-quality image that shows off the pet’s best features. For example, a picture of a cat playing with its favourite toy or a dog smiling outside is going to create a much stronger emotional connection for potential adopters than a blurry, dark photo of the animal sitting in a cage.
Encourage and educate website visitors
Not all people are convinced about adopting over shopping, but you can use your website as a platform to educate potential adopters about the benefits of adopting from your organisation. Remember, people don’t know what they don’t know, and trust isn’t built from nothing. You have to take responsibility for educating and encouraging people to adopt, just like any business needs to market to its target audience.
You can write blog posts on the benefits of adopting, such as saving a life, reducing the number of strays in your area, and providing companionship.
Blog post idea: ‘Why keeping cats in loving homes helps the environment’. Discuss: stray cats can threaten native wildlife, but there’s a positive spin: you can help by adopting.
Case studies of successful adoptions can be used to show potential adopters how rewarding adopting a pet can be, and increase trust in your organisation. You can also use your blog to feature your staff and stories from within the organisation (especially funny ones!) and show off how well you run your shelter.
Education isn’t just about getting people to adopt – it can also be a great way to encourage people to donate. Write (or embed videos) about why donations are so important for your organisation, and show exactly how they help.
Always include calls to action
On each animal profile, blog post, or web page, add a call to action (CTA) to get website visitors to move to the next step – rather than exit the page and forget about you. These CTAs can be hyperlinks or buttons that send the website visitor to a new page, relevant to what they’ve just been looking at. For example, if they’ve been browsing information about a dog that’s available for adoption, the CTA can be ‘Find out how to adopt’, which leads to your contact page.
Here are some examples of pet adoption website calls to action:
- Call us now
- Find out more about [pet’s name]
- Visit [pet’s name] today!
- Donate today/Make a donation
- Save an animal today
- Join us/Volunteer
Make sure you have a solid ‘contact us’ page so people know exactly how best to get in touch and make the next step towards a donation or adoption. Separate pages with forms for donating and adopting can also help streamline the process, to make gathering information more easy.
Boost rankings with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Optimising your website for SEO will help potential adopters find your shelter and increase your chances of adoption. SEO helps search engines like Google categorise you and therefore show your website to the right searchers. For example, if your pet shelter is located in Maroochydore and you have cats for adoption, you want your website to show up when people search ‘cats for adoption Maroochydore’.
SEO is essential to increase your website’s visibility and ranking in search engines. Use relevant keywords, such as the location of your shelter and the types of animals you offer. Ensure your website’s content is unique and mobile-friendly to boost your rankings.
Here’s a simple SEO checklist that’s easy to DIY for a pet shelter SEO boost:
- Include your contact details in the footer (phone, email, address, business name, and social media links)
- Include the areas you service (local suburbs) in the footer
- Post blogs with answers to questions potential adopters are searching (i.e. ‘why is adopting a pet better than buying’)
- Make sure website theme pages that aren’t relevant to your business are removed
- Add alt tags and file names to images (such as ‘labrador adoption Maroochydore *shelter name*) so they appear in Google Image Search
- Share regular social media posts that link back to your website
- Include keywords in your domain name
What updates are you going to make to your pet shelter or rescue organisation’s website? We hope this blog post gives you a strong foundation to get started, and you can check out our other blog posts for many more tips on pet business success.