You use search engines like Google and Yahoo! every day, and so do your donors. But what happens when a prospective donor types in the name of your nonprofit or your issue area in Google? Is your organization at the top of the results? The good news is that it can be, through Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
In a nutshell, SEM is a way to promote your website by increasing its visibility in search engine results. Sound complicated? Here's the good news:
- SEM is common sense.
- If you are a nonprofit, SEM is free, thanks to Google.
- Getting started with SEM is easy.
So why should you care about SEM? Let's say you are a small AIDS prevention nonprofit in Boise, Idaho. It's December 30, and several Boise residents have logged onto Google to search for a charity to donate to so they can get a last-minute tax deduction. These potential donors might do a Google search for "boise aids charity." If your nonprofit doesn't appear near the top of the search results, these donors may never find you.
- So, how can you make sure your organization DOES get to the top? There are two ways: either organically by designing a website that is search engine friendly, or by paying a search engine to place your ads prominently in their search results.
- We'll focus on paid search, since Google Grants provides free paid placement to 501(c)(3) nonprofits.
Here's how to get started with Google Grants and AdWords in 7 easy steps:
- Apply for Google Grants: Google promises to process all applications within six months. Once your application is processed, you can begin advertising your nonprofit on Google Adwords. If you don't want to wait, you can setup a paid Adwords account and begin to experiment for as little as $10 a month.
- Write a short ad: Take five minutes to write short, yet compelling, copy for your ad. Be sure to include words that matter to your audience. Not sure what to say? CRAM!
- Develop your keywords: A keyword is the search word or phrase that you "buy" from Google (i.e., boise aids charity). Ask yourself which keywords-word combinations and phrases-you would type into the Google search box to find your organization's programs and services. Select as many keywords as you like. (Note: Google Grants will only pay for keywords up to $1.00).
- Get suggested keywords: Still not sure which keywords to select? Go to www.google.com/keywords for suggestions. You can type in the address of your website and Google will even make recommendations on what keywords to use.
- Target your audience: Through Google AdWords, you can create a variety of groups of ads for different audiences, as well as target your ads to different geographic locations (i.e. Boise) and even languages.
- Test, test, test: Create two versions of the same ad: one that points to your website, and one that points directly to your donation page. See which does better.
- Track your results: When people search on Google, your ad is displayed and traffic is driven to your website. But how do you know if anyone is clicking? Google's dashboards provide an easy way for you to proactively monitor the status of your keywords and their associated ads.
The tips above will help you improve your paid results, which is only half the battle. To improve your organic search positioning, take a look at these 10 steps.