I'm not just talking about their search function, of which they dominate the market with a 60% share.
Firstly, if your charity is not receiving Google Grants, then click here right now (after finishing this post), and apply.
For those who aren't aware Google Grants is a unique in-kind donation programme awarding free AdWords advertising to selected charitable organizations.
If you're not sure what AdWords is, it's the advertising that'll see on the top of and right hand side of your page when you perform a search on Google. For example if you search for cell phone you'll see ads for Blackberry, Sony Ericsson and so on.
If you're not using this, you should be.
- To drive traffic to your website. The key for you is driving relevant traffic, people who are genuinely interested in your cause.
- Understand what people are searching for. This helps you shape propositions and messaging when developing acquisition activities.
- To learn about the digital space and people's online behavior. You'll be amazed how much you can learn about what people are actually doing online. Not what you think they're doing.
If you're starting from scratch I suggest buying this book, AdWords for Dummies. Yes, I am a dummy and bought it. It's a great, very practical tool to guide you through the world of AdWords.
I'm learning loads about this right now, specifically about how relevancy is key to getting your Ads placed at the top of the Google page. That's the beauty about this tool, in that ad placement isn't driven by necessarily the biggest spenders. Relevancy to the keywords selected and the content on the page you send people through to play a big role.
Which means that, in theory, a local sporting retailer, can compete on a level playing field with Nike.
Two things I'd recommend:
1 You need to manage your AdWords campaigns regularly, and not let them run for extended periods of time. This could potentially cost you lots of money and deliver you poor quality leads to your website. I'm amazed at how many charities are not utilizing the power of this tool, either not using it at all or letting their interest lapse, hence limiting it's effectiveness.
2 If you apply for your Grants, great. But don't wait for the grant to come through to start using this as I believe they can take up to 6 months. Spend some money now and start trialing some campaigns.
At the same time check out another cool Google tool called Google Insights for Search. Essentially this allows you to look at what people are searching for through Google.
So when your colleague who runs an event says (in response to "how much did the event raise"), "Oh it didn't net much income but it raised loads of awareness", check out Google Insights for Search and see whether that really is the case.
It shows you relative traffic searches so you can see where and when people were searching for various words or terms. The caveat is of course that this just looks at online searches, but it still gives you a good sense of:
- What activities are driving spikes in search volumes (I.e. is it certain events, press releases, direct response fundraising initiatives, news stories)
- Which words are specifically driving traffic? This, combined with your AdWords campaigns really help give you a sense of what people are actually looking for (and can shape messaging)
It's staggering when I enter some key words that relate to popular causes and large organizations which result in nothing. Google a keyword like cancer, health charity or "insert cause of charity I would for" and see what happens.
So, get to it. Apply for your Grant today, get a copy of AdWords for Dummies and starting using Google Insights for Search.