Since the mass adoption of the Internet as a consumer tool, goods and services have been marketed online. Digital marketing has only grown since users spend more and more time on the Internet. As we saw the 90’s dot-com bubble pop, the invention of the smart phone and Google going public in 2004, we have seen the way organizations market themselves online evolve. This is true in regards to both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Today, I’d love to talk a little bit about the nuances of digital marketing for nonprofits.

There are a myriad of different ways to market nonprofits online and new technologies popping up every day. I have worked with nonprofits in the past and have almost run into the same two organizational challenges: limited time, and a very limited budget. That is why it is so vitally important to focus on what is going to make the most significant marketing effect.

Getting found online is a multifaceted and very complex goal. It is loaded with acronyms like SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), PPC (Pay Per Click), and a myriad of web jargon. The long and the short of if it is that Google is smarter than us and we should play by the rules.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to gain visibility on the first page of Google. The first way is through Organic Search Engine Optimization. There have been books, blogs, keynotes, and workshops given on Organic SEO ad nauseam. Stay tuned to this blog, as we will surely cover some of the more intricate and technical aspects of SEO; however, in the case of non-profit organizations there may not be time or resources to really dig-in to SEO. With that in mind, I have put together a few rules of thumb:

SEO Rules of Thumb

1. Optimize your on-page content.

Write valuable content that is relevant to your audience. Don’t just write to write. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your user and provide value to them. Tell them about your cause, etc. but also try to set yourself apart as a thought leader in the industry.

2. Write page titles with keywords in mind.

While Google is moving away from using specific keywords as a large ranking factor (see “RankBrain”) they are still an important part of SEO as we round the corner into 2017. Without getting into drawn out tactics, I recommend using Ubersuggest to help with keyword ideation in conjunction with the Google Keyword planner to gain insight into search volume. Once specific keywords have been identified, make sure that you insert them into page titles. One word of caution: be sure your’re not overstuffing keywords! Google is quick to throw penalties at sites that “keyword stuff.”

3. Write clickable Meta descriptions.

The best way to think about Meta descriptions is as tiny advertisements for your webpages. They are not factors in organic ranking but do play a vital role in click through rate. They are a great opportunity to entice people to click through to your page. I suggest formatting them as an enticing summary with a subsequent call to action.

4. Start a Blog!

Blogs are an incredible way to gain traction with organic SEO. Not only is it a plus for the Google Bots, it is a great way to keep your audience engaged and up to date. There are many different schools of thought around blogging as an SEO tactic, but I do have a few suggestions. Don’t start a blog unless you will be able to maintain it for an extended period of time. Keep the word count high. Studies have shown blog posts that are 1000 pages+ are the most fruitful with organic rankings. Lastly, find a cadence that works for you and your audience. Pay attention to how people are engaging and test different days, times, and frequency.

The second way to gain real estate on the first page of Google is through Pay Per Click Advertising. This is paying for Ads that appear on the top of Google Search Results Pages above the Organic Search Results. One of the great benefits of Pay Per Click Advertising, and why it is called PPC, is that advertisers only pay when users click on the advertisement and go to the linked website. The great news for nonprofits is that Google gives out grants to 501C3 organizations!

A little bit about Google Ad Grants:

1. How it Works

The Google Ad Grant is part of the Google for Nonprofits program. The Ad Grant is an in-kind program that awards 501©(3) nonprofit organizations advertising dollars to use within the AdWords search engine marketing platform. The best part: Google awards up to $10,000 to spend on in-kind advertising!

2. Eligibility

In order to be eligible for a Google Ad grant an organization must apply to the larger Google For Nonprofits program. Nonprofits must also have “valid charity status” as outlined by Google. Lastly, organizations must agree to Google’s terms and have a live website to link the advertisements to.

3. Pointers

Make sure and use relevant keywords to your organization. “Nonprofit” and “Donate” are not words that will yield useful results; however, “historic conservation” could yield an audience that is interested in your cause. On that same note, focus on promoting your nonprofit’s cause instead of strictly driving donations with your advertisements. The largest reason for this is that data shows searchers are much more likely to search for information on causes (“historic conservation”) than how to donate (“donate to a historic conservation”). The general idea is to not chase dollars, instead aim to gain supporters and brand ambassadors.