Refining the Process
Figuring Out What Works
Over the first few months of our grant, we continued to experiment with our ads and keywords, and to monitor how each of our campaigns was performing. Of the ten issue-based campaigns we started out with, we noticed that two of them - the ones focused on child care assistance and child support enforcement - were outperforming the others. They were maxing out their allocated daily budgets of around $30. So we directed more of our budget to those campaigns.
We also held more brainstorming sessions on those issues and added new keywords that came out of those sessions. For example, when we brainstormed for additional keywords for our women and poverty campaign, we added terms like "poverty level" and "poverty line" to our existing collection of keywords ("low income women," "poverty in america," etc.) - and now those are getting among the highest impression counts of all our poverty-related keywords. And for our general women's rights campaign, we added new phrases using the words "equal" and "fair" in broad match combinations we might not have thought of originally, like "women fair" and "equality women." We're seeing high impressions on those, too.
Lo and behold, the campaigns started maxing out on their new, increased budgets. Over the next few weeks, we moved more and more of our budget into those two campaigns, as well as a few others that were also showing above-average performance. Soon, we were coming very close to using our overall daily budget of $330 every weekday. Weekends and holidays were always lower, and, much to our chagrin, Google won't allow us to move any of our daily budget from weekends to weekdays. It's $330 a day, every day, period. (Grr.) So we tried moving more of our budget into certain campaigns on the weekends, then moving it back on weekdays - and that helped, too.
Making the Most of the News Cycle
In September 2008, NWLC launched a voter education microsite that included a register-to-vote widget, and we started running Google ads on keywords like "register to vote." Visitors who clicked on the ads were encouraged to complete the voter registration form on our site, sign our Pledge to Vote form, and check out our educational resources on women and voting.
Surprise, surprise, a lot of people were searching on keywords like "register to vote" in September and October, and we got our highest numbers yet. So we moved a lot of our budget into those ads
During the pre-election season, this was the ad that performed best for us:
Now that the election is over, we've moved most of our budget back to our standard programmatic ad campaigns. But we're continuing to add new campaigns when our issues are in the news. For example, when NWLC's Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights, Judy Waxman, was interviewed on MSNBC in a story about the failings of the individual health insurance market when it comes to women, we ran special ads on keywords we thought people might search for after watching the piece.
Back to Basics
We're still keeping a close eye on the performance of our campaigns, and experimenting with new topics, ads, and keywords.
These are our best-performing "evergreen" ads - the ones that aren't tied to a specific timely topic:
(A note on that last one - yes, we do run ads using our organization's name, and its common misspellings, as keywords. Although sadly our unabbreviated name is too long to fit the 25-character limit on ad headlines.)
In October, at the height of the election season, we managed to go over our Google Grants budget, spending $10,212 and earning a click-through rate of 6.43% and a conversion rate of 2.10%. By November, when things had gotten back down to semi-normal, we spent $9,108.57 and had a CTR was 2.17% and a conversion rate of 4.40%.
We've been pleasantly surprised by the additional, less quantifiable uses we're finding for our Google Grant. For example, NWLC's website is undergoing a redesign, but right now, our site isn't very well optimized for search engines. However, our Google ads offer us a way around that. People who are searching for issues that we work on might not find our website in their first page of organic search results, but they may well see one of our Google ads. Then, they might click through, sign up to join our e-mail list, and spend time exploring our site, using our resources, and getting to know the organization. They might even make a donation or two.
We've also found that the ads are a great way to test new messaging. We'll create three or more ad variations for each campaign, and Google will tell us which version got the most clicks. These results can help us determine what messaging to use in our other communications. For example, we discovered early on that "Find out if your birth control is covered by your insurance" generated more clicks than "Does your health insurance plan include contraception?"
When we were first starting out, our goal was to use as much of our budget as we could. Now, our goal is to increase our conversions - the number of people who click on an ad and then sign up to join our e-mail list, or download a free resource, or take another action. We're paying close attention to how we set up our landing pages, conscious of the fact that people searching for information on low-income families in the United States might have different expectations from our website than people searching for information on the history of NWLC.
We'll keep refining our ads and keywords, and we'll keep following the latest news and tips from the Google Grants blog. And we'll keep trying new things and seeing what works. Without a doubt, that's the best advice I can give to anyone working with Google Grants - experiment, experiment, experiment.
Source: frogloop, care2's nonprofit communications and marketing blog - http://www.frogloop.com/care2blog/