The basics of Google AdWords and Google Grants

I’ve mentioned the need for you to get a Google Grant before.  If you haven’t yet availed yourself of this in-kind contribution of advertising, go for it now – getting that will be significantly more important than anything I write in this post.

Once you have this great tool, here are the basics to get you started with AdWords.

First, find the pages to which you want to drive traffic.  These should be pages that convert – pages that aim to turn a visitor into a constituent.  These include donation forms, surveys, gated white papers, advocacy alerts, pledges – anything that gets someone to put in their email address and opt in.  If it doesn’t have an opt in, you don’t want to set traffic there – your goal is to convert, not to inform.

Then, start writing your keywords.  There’s a good blog post on the types of keywords to start with here.

Once you have you a few basic keywords and your AdWords account set up, it’s time to get suggestions for additional keywordsGoogle’s Keyword Planner is a good way of thinking about phrases and other terms for what you’ve already put in.  In fact, you can put in the URL of your landing page and Google will make suggestions for you based on what is on the page.

The ideal keywords are ones that are searched very frequently and cost very little.  Because there is free market bidding, however, price usually correlates to search volume (but also to the things that people can make money from).

As you look through search terms, you should be selecting not only what you are going to use, but also what you are going to actively avoid.  For example, looking at Bing, the most expensive two search terms are “lawyer” and “attorney” (the fact that these aren’t the same seems like an arbitrage opportunity, but I digress).  Number four is “DUI.”

most-expensive-bing-ads-keywordsThanks to Wordstream for the great infographic.

Obviously, being a DUI attorney/lawyer is really profitable, to the point that you are willing to pay $70-110 for one click to get someone to your site.

If you are Mothers Against Drunk Driving, you don’t want to play in that same pool.  You believe (and this may be shocking to some) that the easiest way not to get convicted of a DUI is not to drive drunk.

So you need to use negative keywords.  These are words that you put into your search terms with a minus sign in front to make sure that you are not bidding on searches that include that term.  MADD might, for example, bid on DUI, but have lawyer and attorney as negative keywords.  These function similar to a suppression list; even if a search does have the positive keywords in it, it will not show the ad if there are negative keywords included..  Generally, you want to decide whether you want to use a term (bid on it) or not to and negate it out, with little wishy-washiness.  Wordstream has a negative keyword generator here that can help out.

You will also want to look at phrase match and exact match.  The former will match if the phrase is in the search term with no intervening terms; the latter will be shown only if the person searches exactly for that one term.

Once you have your keywords, you will want to organize them into campaigns and ad groups.  Generally, ads will perform better if they have similar words to the search itself, so if the person searches for DUI, they get a DUI, and not a drunk driving, ad (and vice versa).

These will help you start with AdWords.  Google also has excellent tutorials here.

Tomorrow, we’ll go a bit deeper, into how Google judges your ads and how to increase your listings without paying more.

The basics of Google AdWords and Google Grants

Testing for smaller lists

One of my favorite non-Far Side single panel cartoons is

miracle

 

This is often what it feels like to be a small nonprofit or small division of a nonprofit.  You know exactly what you would do if you were big.  But you aren’t (yet).  And absent that miracle in the middle, you aren’t going to be there soon.  It feels like a Catch-22 – you aren’t big enough to test, but you aren’t going to enough to test unless you test.

A lot of people have this problem.  One of my favorite conversion sites, unbounce.com, recommends that you have 1000 conversions per month to do A/B testing.  That takes a large nonprofit to accomplish.  Like the Oakland As in Moneyball (both book and movie are recommended), you have fewer resources, so you are going to have to be smarter than your competition other worthy causes.  Here are some tips on how:

Learn what’s important first: Before you do your first test with online traffic, look at your analytics reports (do you have Google Analytics on your site?).  Where are people bouncing from your site?  Where are they dropping out of the donation process?  What forms aren’t converting?  You may be able to do more with one-tenth the traffic or donor list if you are testing the things that will matter to you.

Steal from other people first: There are some things that are almost immutably true.  Requiring more information on a form means lower conversion rates.  Having a unique color for your donate button that stands out from the other colors on your Web site will increase clicks.  Using a person’s name, unless it’s in a subject line, will likely increase response rate.  I commend the site whichtestwon.com to you.  I’ve had the privilege of presenting at their live events and the type of information that comes of them in terms of what others have tested first will save you time and money on things you can do, rather than test.

Go big: I’ve talked about things like envelopes and teasers and things to test.  If you don’t have a large donor or traffic base, ignore that.  You want to be testing audience and offer – the things that can be global and game changing.

Test across time: If you are testing an audience, an offer, or a theme, that doesn’t have to be accomplished in one piece or email.  Rather, you can test it over a year if you want.  Let’s say you want 25,000 people in each testing group, but only have 3,000, you can get a similar feel for the response to large-scale changes over nine pieces, rather than testing it all in one.

Require less proof: Chances are you are used to doing more with less already.  If you are Microsoft, you can run your test until you get 99.9% certain you are correct.  You should be willing to be less certain.  Some nonprofits choose 80% certainty as their threshold.  Even 60% can give you directional results.  Bottom line, this is a restriction you may be willing to relax.

Test cheaply:  Testing direct mail and telemarketing is expensive.  You want to do your learnings on your site with Google Analytics and either Google’s optimization tool or Optimizely, in email, or on social media.  I would go so far as to say that even larger nonprofits don’t want to test an envelope teaser that they haven’t already tested as a subject line to see if it grabs attention.  Survey tools like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang can also help you pre-test your messaging either with your core audience (free) or with a panel of people who fit your demographic target (cheap, if you can keep your number of questions down).

Get testing subjects cheaply: I know it sounds like I’m in Google’s pocket, but they have many nonprofit solutions at the right price for smaller nonprofits – free.  One of these is Google Grants, which allows you to use their AdWords solution with in-kind donated advertising.  Get this now, if you don’t have it.  We’ll do a whole week on AdWords at some point, but in the meantime, if you have a form you are testing and you don’t have enough traffic, pause all of your campaigns except the ones directed to that form.  You will get your results a lot more quickly.

Test by year: It’s not an ideal solution, but if you test one thing one year and then another tactic the next year at the same time, you can get a gut feeling as to what is more effective.

Avoid word salad: Consider the time on West Wing (which I remember better than many real-life presidencies) when the Majority Leader who was running for president was asked why he wanted to be president:

 

“The reason I would run, were I to run, is I have a great belief in this country as a country and in this people as a people that go into making this country a nation with the greatest natural resources and population of people, educated people … with the greatest technology of any people of any country in the world, along with the greatest, not the greatest, but very serious problems confronting our people, and I want to be President in order to focus on these problems in a way that uses the energy of our people to move us forward, basically.”

Good writing converts.  Good writing mandates active verbs and few adverbs (my personal crutch).

 

“It’s an adverb, Sam. It’s a lazy tool of a weak mind.”
— Kevin Spacey in Outbreak

Good writing ignores the mission statement, discards stats, eschews your jargon, and touches you in a very personal place.  OK, perhaps not that active a verb.  I’m talking about your heart, you sicko.

Don’t test good copy versus bad copy.  Come up with your best before you test, lest you learn what you already should know.

Conspire.  You have coalition partners and people who are in similar positions around you.  Get out into the big blue room and see what they are doing.  And be generous with your own tests – deposits in the karma bank rarely fail to pay interest.

Finally, embrace the advantage of being small.  As a smaller nonprofit, you are going to have to be smarter about testing than bigger ones.  But you will be able to swing for the fences while they are still trying to get their different versions of teaser copy through the Official Teaser Copy Review Subcommittee.  You can be bold and find your voice honed to what works, rather than what your boss’s boss’s boss’s brother-in-law said you should try out over Thanksgiving dinner.

Tomorrow, we’ll go into some testing modalities that allow you to test things beyond a single communication or theme.

Testing for smaller lists

Turning on the online spigot

You have the forms, but now you need the traffic. Well, it’s important to remember that Field of Dreams was a work of fiction – building it is not a sufficient condition for people coming.

To start, you do have Google Grants don’t you? If not, we’ll wait right here while you apply.

(pause)

So, how about that local sports team? I heard they won or lost yesterday. That coach is a genius. Or should be fired.

(pause)

OK, you’re back. I’ll talk more about Google Grants in the future, but suffice it to say it’s a great way to start acquiring warm leads. There are limitations like the $2 cost-per-click maximum that chaff some in the nonprofit world, but try applying for this free money from Bing or Yahoo and you’ll find it doesn’t exist.  So $2 CPC it is.

As part of your Google Grant process, you need to identify some keywords and phrases that are important for your organization.

To do this, you will have to speak like a human being. There is a cognitive bias known as the curse of knowledge – once you know something, it’s really hard to act as though you don’t know that thing. Or, as the original authors of the paper describe it:

“In economic analyses of asymmetric information, better-informed agents are assumed capable of reproducing the judgments of less-informed agents. We discuss a systematic violation of this assumption that we call ‘the curse of knowledge.’”

There is a wonderful irony in this definition.

Anyway, in order to determine how people will find your wonderfully constructed conversion forms, you need to think like they will think. One example is from MADD. The organization teaches that there is no such thing as a drunk driving accident – that each crash is 100% preventable and that drunk driving is a violent crime.

Unfortunately, that’s not how people search for the terms.  Google Trends searches for drunk driving accident are in red; searches for drunk driving crash are in blue:

drunk driving accident crash

So MADD has ads set up for both accident and crash – they won’t say accident in their copy (ever), but they meet people where they are searching.

The same terms that you are advertising on with Google Grants should also be terms that you use in the page that you are looking to optimize. Not only will it help people convert once they come to the page, but it will also improve your performance for those terms in search engines. If you have partners in the space, be sure to link their pages and vice versa. This will increase your traffic and improve your search engine listing as well. There are a number of additional tips for optimizing for search engines that will cover at another time.

If you are developing and driving traffic to your online funnels and communicating with them regularly by email, you’ll have a better idea of what messages work for your audience and what don’t. From there, you can get a feel for whether a more robust direct marketing effort can further increase your net income. And remember, mo’ money means mo’ mission.

Thanks for reading. Please be sure to comment on this first week of blogging below, so that I can better write for your needs and thank you for your support!

Turning on the online spigot

Starting a direct marketing program

There really is no reason not to have some form of direct marketing program. Strong use of, at the very least, email can lead to incremental revenues for your organization and deepen the ties that your supporters have to you. But jumping in with both feet can be extremely expensive for your organization and hurt your ability to fulfill your mission.

So how should you start? Blackbaud counsels you in their guide:

“The best way for your organization to tell if it is direct marketing-ready is to conduct a feasibility study with a proven direct marketing strategist. You wouldn’t launch a capital campaign or any major change in strategy without first consulting the experts in this area; the same should be said for direct marketing.”

So obviously you don’t want to do that.

Seriously. Don’t do that.

This is for a few reasons:

  • It will be expensive, just for the consultant.
  • Asking a direct marketing consultant whether you should do a direct marketing program is like asking your seven-year-old daughter if you should get a pony. (Yes, this is a gender-based stereotype. I base this solely on my own daughter, who would answer very much in the affirmative.) It is in their best interest for you to take your entire reserves and start acquiring donors every channel. For example, did you know that Blackbaud, who recommends you hire a direct marketing consultant, provides direct marketing consultants?This is not to pick on Blackbaud. (OK, maybe a little.) But while almost all consultants of my acquaintance are too professional to start spending your second mortgage on list rentals and will try to recommend a reasonable approach, they don’t necessarily have the entire view of your organization and competing priorities in mind.
  • You don’t need one. You can start a direct marketing program on the cheap and learn many of the things you need to know for a full-scale program without a consultant.

One of our mantras here is going to be to test everything – fire bullets, then cannonballs. Or it would be if we were to start having mantras. You will likely eventually need an agency and they can be a great creative and strategic partner. And you are going to make mistakes at first, but better than you are making the mistakes yourself than paying someone else to make them.

So let’s start with testing and let’s start with free. For acquisition, look at what you have around you already. You probably have lists already – people who you’ve served, alumni, gala attendees, walkers, open house attendees, whatever. These are all warm leads – people already pre-disposed to supporting you.

For there, develop your online warm lead acquisition machine. Do you have white papers, tip sheets, pledges, petitions, or any other online interactions? Ask for an email address and permission. Then, start pushing people to those pages, through smart use of search engines and Google Grants.

Now, start up your email newsletter. It need not be fancy. But it needs to be about what the donors and volunteers are making possible. And then it can also be about what additional support can do for the mission.

This skips over a few key things for your free start to direct marketing:

So, we have our marching orders for the rest of the week, with a post on each. Thanks for reading!

PS. If you still think you need a consultant, let me know. I’ll be inexpensive and I can pad this blog post to well over 50 pages, assuming I can add in some charts and graphs.

Starting a direct marketing program