Let’s get small: microbudgets

Unless you are at a very large nonprofit, you have probably had a miniature budget at one time or another.

True story: I ran MADD’s first pay-per-click search engine ads over a decade ago with $20 from my own credit card (this was pre-Google Grants).  I said I would only claim for reimbursement if we raised back that money.  One $30 donation later and MADD had its first proto-paid-donation-acquisition budget.

The challenge is that many nonprofit budgets are zero to start; they only come about because they are willed into existence.

The one and only bit of good news about a budget of zero is that your budget isn’t negative.  When you think about it, most direct marketing budgets are negative: you are given an amount of money and you have to return an even larger amount of money when you are done.

So you have an idea you’d like to pursue (let’s say display advertising to fuel online donations).  You have no budget.  The first thing you need to do is go to your boss and tell her or him:

  1. About your idea
  2. How much it would normally cost
  3. You are willing to do it for nothing
  4. If you are able to reinvest the new revenues you get in your idea

This last part is the critical thing you are looking for.  Your boss doesn’t have to hear about you talking about your idea ever again if you were wrong.  And if it goes wrong, it won’t cost her/him anything.  But if it goes right, you want to help make it go more right.

This is usually an agreement a boss should be willing to make.  If not, examine 1) you, 2) your boss, and 3) your boss’s impression of you.  At least one of these things is not very good.

So, now that you have your reinvestment plan, you need efforts that will generate net revenue at no cost.  

The first way is Google Grants.  You knew I was going to say this, didn’t you.  There’s almost no way not to be able to additional revenues from this:

  • If you don’t have an account get one.
  • If you have an account, maximize your spend.  
  • If your spend is maximized, optimize your spend.
  • If your spend is maximized and optimized, apply to go to the next level of revenue.
  • If your spend is maximized, optimized, and at the highest level of Google Grants, you are at a large enough non-profit that you should be able to get a small budget for an innovation if you are justifying it well.

The thing is that your grant dollars in AdWords are fairly easy to maximize and optimize, because every time you log into AdWords, they will have recommendations for you to have a sentence in the first half of your ad to increase clicks or split your ad groups up or add keywords or create a dynamic ad or what-have-you.  Follow the recommendations and continually refine.

Failing that, list out your ads and see what has the lowest interactions.  Re-write the ads and test the new ads against the old.

Failing that, list out your ad groups, see what URLs to which you are sending traffic have the lowest conversions and work on the conversion side of things on your Web site.

Eventually, I’ll do a whole week on AdWords, because it is a highly useful tool, but if you continually refine like this, revenues will follow.

The other way to start to create a budget online is with services like eMiles that run cost-per-acquisition donor campaigns.  That is, they will offer to get you donors for, lets say, $40 per donor.  If your average gift is generally $50 per person, run the campaign and take the extra profit.

If these options aren’t open to you, running a co-targeting campaign to your cream of the crop donors online will also generally have positive results.  That will put some of your own money at stake, but, as I mentioned at the opening, I’m not adverse to that.

So these are some ways to kickstart your budget.  Once you have strategies that work for you, grind on it.  Your goal is to be at the poker table continually garnering chips.  You may lose some hands, but with the law of large numbers and the ability to reinvest, you will almost certainly come out ahead.

And, with your $0 budget, you can also subscribe to my free newsletter here.  Hopefully, I’ll have some tips there that will help you get into the high single-digit budgets in no time.

Let’s get small: microbudgets

Mental accounting and the exception expense loophole

We’ve gone through a lot of cognitive biases recently, but one we haven’t talked about is the idea of mental accounting or budgeting.  The idea here is that dollars are fungible: your picture of a dead president and/or founding father on special paper can be exchanged for rent, coffee, donations, whatever.  In fact, money says that right on it: THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE.


Image credit. Dollah dollah bills, yo.

But that’s not how we think about money.  In our minds, we have special categories for each type of expense.  Think of it as separate jars into which we are putting our invoice: $1400 for the mortgage, $800 for food, etc.  We experience mental pain every time we have to rob from one cookie jar in order to put it into another, so we try not to do it.

Picture how you think of money; it probably is something like this.  In fact, some budgeting software (we use You Need A Budget at Direct-to-Donor Manor*) formalizes this process to make sure you don’t overspend in a category.  We get comfort from knowing that each month, there is $X set aside for eating out.

Your donors think this way also.  Somewhere in their minds, there are mental Mason jars with “CHARITY” written on them.  There may even be several such jars: one for each organization they support.

If you think of how your donors mentally account, the implications ripple outward.  This is part of why:

So how do we diminish the pain that a donor feels from robbing from their “movie” or “eating out” or “savings” mental accounts to give to us?  Part of this, as mentioned previously, can be framing the gift against the frivolous.  But another technique that breaks through mental accounting is framing your ask as an exception expense.

One quirk of mental accounting is usually there is an “incidentals” budget.  This is a “what happens if my 2003 Saturn Ion** chooses to give up the ghost today” contingency fund that we can dip into.

One study changed the frame on their annual event.  Instead of talking about their walk as an annual event that happens every year, they talked about it as an event that only happens once per year.

You have to admit, there is hardly any difference between the two of these phrases (and it’s always nice to run a test that will slip unseen past your Brand Police).

Yet the results were impressive.  By running Google Adwords with the new, unique, once-per-year framing, study participants said they would participate in the exception version at a 46% rate, compared with 35% for the annual framing.  When they ran the ad for real, people were 11% more likely to click on the exception framing ad.

Similarly, in the mail:

“This mailing is part of a special charity drive that happens only once a year. Alex’s Lemonade Stand is requesting only one donation a year going forward.”


“This mailing is part of a regular charity drive that happens annually. The charity is requesting a donation every year going forward.”

Some implications of this research:

  • This can help immensely with your event advertising (and you are trying to get your direct marketing donors to your events and vice versa, right?).  But for us, we also are testing removing things like “10th annual” from the press activities around an event.  The idea of themes could also be potent as a way of differentiating this year’s event as its own unique snowflake.
  • This could explain part of the effectiveness of techniques like a membership campaign and a better way to frame said campaign: “this is the one special time of the year we ask all supporters to make their membership gift.”
  • This may explain as to why scarcity, urgency, and uniqueness are effective persuasive levers.  It’s challenging to use this framing if you are sending four to 24 letters per year, and your donor knows that.  However, techniques that increase urgency or uniqueness like matching/lead gifts, deadlines, urgent petitions, etc. can help give a reason to open the piggy bank.

This may seem to contradict the idea of consistency – that people give to the same campaign year after year.  I would argue that they complement each other.  If you are trying to get someone to do what they’ve done before, play back their previous history and lean into the fact that you and they have a history.  If you are trying to get someone to try something new, you have to figure out for them which jar to take it out of and why.

So go forth and be unique in your messaging; it seems to be a better strategy that appealing from the tried and true.


* I have received no endorsement money or considerations from You Need A Budget. But I’m open to it!

** This is absolutely your author’s ride of choice.  As I mentioned in the post where I outed myself as overhead, the life of a nonprofit person should be neither Bentleys or ramen.


Mental accounting and the exception expense loophole

Acquiring new advocates in (and for) direct marketing

There are several services now set up to bring advocates into your organization on a cost-per-acquisition basis. Care2, Change.org, and CQ Roll Call are the main ones that have come across my desk.

In full disclosure, I have not yet tried these services. I hope that anyone who has can tell about their experience in the comments (or contact me at nick@directtodonor.com; I’d love to set up a guest blog opportunity to help correct my vast areas of ignorance).

But I do know what would be required for me to participate in these types of campaigns:

  • Maximizing free/content marketing efforts
  • Optimized advocacy forms and efforts
  • Strong knowledge of the value of each advocate and a strong projection of the value of these externally acquired advocates versus internally acquired ones.

I’ll go through each of these in turn, as these would be valuable whether or not you decide to invest in cost-per-acquisition campaigns.

Maximizing free/content marketing efforts

First, get your Google Grant.  I know, I’ve said it before, but some of you still don’t have one.  So get it.  Consider it free traffic to your advocacy efforts.

Speaking of, after donation forms, advocacy activities are the best thing you can direct search traffic to, as they convert very well.  It’s usually a safe bet that the person searching for “email congress seal clubbing” wants to email their elected officials about seal clubbing.  And if they click through on your ad, they are probably on the con side.

(A note: as of this writing, there are no nonprofit ads for the term “seal clubbing,” but Humane Society and PETA are on the first page of search results.  Opportunity?)

And, as we mentioned last week, now you know something about your constituent’s interest as you work to, one change at a time, probe their interests and convert them to a donor.

That’s on the search engine side, but the more important part is to make advocacy a part of your communications. The more you talk about activities and activations in your blog, enewsletter, social media, and Web site, the more people will interact with it.  Here are some potential topics:

  • Highlight news stories about your issue.
  • And don’t just retweet that article about your issue; add the note that that’s why we have to pass HB1489 (or whatever) with a link for people to take action.
  • Blog a first-person account from one of your volunteers who lobbied legislators and how rewarding it was.
  • Talk about your lobby day (state or national) and invite your constituents to be a part of a virtual lobby day online.
  • Honor legislators who have been champions of your cause.
  • Tell success stories of passed legislation (since you should be doing these for your online and offline petition signers anyway).
  • Post a legislative agenda for the year and report back on it with the legislature(s) is/are closed.

Hopefully, these will increase interests in your petitions or emails to legislators.

Optimize advocacy forms and efforts.  I probably should have mentioned earlier that you need a platform for emailing legislators that allows you to own the constituent, not whatever petition service you are working.  These can range from setting up your own form on your site to ones that come with your CRM to paid solutions of all stripes.  If there’s enough interest (you can let me know by emailing me at nick@directtodonor.com), I can review these solutions in a future post.  For now, suffice it to say that the value in advocacy online is to whom the constituent belongs.  If it’s you, you can ask for future actions — advocacy and otherwise; if it’s someone else, you are helping them build their house, not yours.

Once you have these forms, it’s important that you treat your advocacy form like a donation form (if possible), where you are continually testing and refining your system.  For example, if you are doing a national petition, you may just ask for name and email address in order to maximize form completion.  I would advocate also asking for zip code; if you are going to be asking people to participate in other advocacy efforts, you will have to know in which districts they fall.  That may be it in order to get people into your organization.  Physical address may impair your form activation rates to the point that it is more profitable (side note: we need a term for profitable, but for non-profits; non-profitable sounds like the opposite of what it is) to leave that off and either ask for or append (or, more likely, both) the data afterward.

Further, there are all the usual things to test:

  • Does your petition work better at left or right?
  • Pictures on the page or spartan?
  • One-step action or multi-step?
  • How much copy to sell the petition action?
  • And so on

You definitely want this tested before trying any sort of paid campaign so you are not pouring water into a bucket without a bottom.

You also want to put similar rigor behind what communications you send advocates after their advocacy.  This would include a customized advocate welcome series, what (if any) is the first mailing they would get, what other actions you ask them to take, etc.  More on this tomorrow.

These are significant determinants of lifetime value, so you want these well in place before…

Determining the value of an advocate

For some organizations, having an advocate is its own reward.  For most, however, it’s also an activity on which you will want to break at least even.  Unfortunately, lifetime value is hard and multichannel attribution is its own week of blog posts at some point.  So here’s a quick and dirty hack for figuring out how much you should be willing to invest to get an advocate:

  1. Pull a list of everyone who came into your online database via advocacy action.
  2. Pull a list of the donations these people made online over the past year.
  3. Average the sum of the donations by the number of people in your database via advocacy action to find the one year value of an advocate.

That’s it.

I can hear purists out there screaming at me: “what about future year revenues from an advocate?”, “what about the value these constituents have in recruiting other constituents?”, “what about the gifts made in other channels?”, etc.

I agree: this is not the best way to pull an average advocate’s lifetime value.  It is, however, a quick one.  And it sets a baseline: if you know the average advocate is going to pay for themselves in 12 months, all of their other activities will be gravy.

That is, if you work this equation and it says the average advocate on your file gave you $3 last year, you know that acquiring an advocate for up to three dollars is valuable.  If your advocacy page converts at 10%, you know that you can put up CPC ads on search networks and pay up to $.30 per click.  You can experiment with online petition sites, which charge at least $1.50 per advocate (in my experience).  And you can value your online communications that bring in new advocates versus those that bring in new donors.

So this dart throw, primitive though it may be, can help you determine your communications mix and investment.  Not back for something you can do in Excel in 15 minutes.

If you would like more tips like this one, please sign up for our weekly newsletter. There you will get to pick new topics for the blog, see related content to what you get on Direct to Donor, and get a TL;DR version of the week’s news.  Thanks!

Acquiring new advocates in (and for) direct marketing

How to use Google’s algorithm in your direct marketing

You may say a search engine optimization strategy is not direct marketing. I humbly disagree.  In fact, working with Google and other search engines (but mostly Google) can help you with your warm lead generation, helping you get your direct marketing program started for free as I’ve advocated in the past.  In addition, by knowing what a warm lead same to you for and about, you can customize your approach to that person in interesting ways.

So, how does the Google algorithm work?  It’s been through approximately a googol different versions throughout the years (there’s a good basic list here), but some of the underlying thinking behind it has been largely unchanged.

It’s instructive to think about search engines pre-Google.  There were two different models: directories that were maintained by hand, by either a company (e.g., Yahoo) or by a community (dmoz) and search engines that used textual analysis to determine how applicable a page was to your search (e.g., Altavista, Lycos).  The first model has obvious problems with the scale of the Web.  The second has problems with determining quality. People who would spam every possible keyword for a page at the bottom of the page or create 100,000 pages each focused on optimizing for its own set of terms performed well in these engines, but probably should not.

The fundamental question was how do you have a computer determine reputation?

The basic insight that the Google founders had was from the world of academia, where a research paper’s quality can be estimated by how many papers cite it.  They realized that when someone links to a page, they are voting for that page’s quality.  Looking at the initial linking pattern, you can get a basic view of what important sites are.  Then, you can factor in the quality of the linking sites to alter the quality rankings.  After all, getting one link from, for example, the White House is more important that 100 different links from Jim Bob’s Big House of Internet.


This is the core of the original Google algorithm called PageRank (named after Larry Page, not Web pages, oddly enough).

The changes over the years since have made this influence important, but not the sole criterion as it used to be.  Other factors now include:

  • Machine learning based on what people actually click on (a different type of “voting”)
  • Weighting toward mobile-friendly sites
  • Personalization of search engine listings
  • De-spamming algorithms
  • Devaluation of ads above the fold
  • Incorporation of social signals
  • Situational reputation (e.g., if my blog linked to you, it would help you more for direct marketing terms than with your hummingbird mating pattern blog)

And it’s constantly evolving.  So there are a few implications to this:

The easiest way to get good search engine listings isn’t to optimize for Google; it’s to create quality content.  I know.  This is a bummer.  Or not, if you have quality content.  The goal of Google and other search engines is to evolve to make searching a true meritocracy.  In the beginning, you had a chance of gaming the system.  You don’t have that chance now.

That does include things like not having ad-based content, making it mobile friendly, and prompting social media interactions.

There’s an important corollary to this, which is that anyone who tells you that they have a special sauce either is lying or won’t have their tactics last out the year.  That said, there are a few that you can do that will help both your content quality and your search engine listings.

Make sure you have the terms you want to be found for in your articles.  Not even Google will find the best possible page for “is James Bond a Time Lord?” (hint: it’s this one) if it doesn’t have the words James Bond and Time Lord on it.  Ideally, these will be prominently placed (e.g., in the title or header tags) and frequent (but not spammy frequent).

Check your bounce rates. With machine learning incorporated into the algorithm, you want to make sure people are getting what they came for when they come to your page.  This makes continual testing and improvement of your content will pay dividends.

Create content for the searches you want to dominate. Let’s say you are (or want to be) the premier early childhood education nonprofit in Missoula, Montana.  You find through your keyword research that people don’t necessarily look for “early childhood education”; they look for conditions (e.g., “autism services”, “Down’s Syndrome”) or symptoms (e.g., “child not speaking”, “when starting crawling”, “development milestones”).  Look the volume of search terms, which you can do with Google’s free keyword suggest tool once you have your AdWords account and Google Grant.

You do have a Google Grant, don’t you?  If not, get one ASAP here.  

So, let’s say you want to focus on autism to start — you should be creating content that helps parents in your area learn about autism, what it is, and how you can serve them.  Lather, rinse, and repeat with your other areas of content.  Not only will this help with the Google algorithm (in terms of keyword density and in terms of more people linking to quality content), but it will also help with conversions (as people get content that fills an established need) and in knowledge past conversion (if someone comes in on an autism search term to autism content, you can market to them differently than someone looking for Down’s Syndrome content).

Finally, ask your partners to link to your specific content.  This isn’t link spamming, but rather you linking to people who have good content for your constituents and vice versa.  This will help lift both of your boats.

I’m sorry that there are no magic beans to sell you here from the algorithm. But hopefully this will help you avoid buying someone else’s.

With Facebook, however, there are a few more lessons for organic content that we will cover tomorrow.

How to use Google’s algorithm in your direct marketing

Targeting people online (along with a sneaky trick for low-cost CPC ads)

If you are a privacy advocate who doesn’t believe the Internet should be following you around, this is not the post for you.

In fact, if you don’t think the Internet should be following you around, the Internet may not be for you and you’d probably do well to shut it off now.

There is a famous New Yorker cartoon from the early days of the Internet when you could call it cyberspace or the information superhighway non-ironically.


That simply isn’t the case anymore.  With cookies and tracking technology, the Internet not only knows you are a dog, but it knows what butts you have recently been sniffing.

OK, that analogy went somewhere unpleasant but suffice it to say that ads follow you around the Internet and learn your behavior.  Read about the uncanny valley-esque level of personalization that can result here.

Additionally, sites with log-in functionality – Google, Amazon, social networks, and so on – not only know where you’ve been going, but who you actually are IRL (in real life, which used to be a cool acronym, but isn’t anymore because I just used it).

As consumers, we can blanch in horror and retire to our fainting couches.  As marketers, there is a significant advantage to be had here.  So here are four tactics that work with the new new media.

Remarketing.  This is what happens when you go to a site, then leave, then ads follow you around the Internet saying “would you like those shoes you were looking at now?  How about now? Maybe now?” until you want to go back to abacuses. While you were on that site, they put a cookie on your computer, which lets that site and other sites know where you were.  They then spread the word to the ad network that so-and-so was this close to buying shoes.

I make this sound sinister, but which would you rather see: an ad for something you are interested in or a random ad?  Personally, I like that advertising is at least trying to be relevant.

What works for shoes can work for your nonprofit.  With a few simple tools provided to you by remarketer (there are a number of them, including AdRoll, Bing, Chango, Google, Google properties like YouTube, Retargeter, Perfect Audience, Wiland, etc.; if you want a review of some of these sites, try this Kissmetrics blog), you can put a cookie on your site and begin asking the people who have come to your site if they’d like to take the next step.

Cotargeting.  Google, Facebook, Twitter, and some outside firms like Wiland will now allow you to upload your list of donors, newsletter subscribers, volunteers, or whatever other group you want to target, with their email addresses.  The match rates for Google and Facebook are really quite impressive (hat tip to Wordstream)

Then, these services will market your message to those specific people.

It’s like we are living in the future.

The next step (and it’s started pilot testing, as I understand it) is for your TV box (whether cable or satellite or cord cut or whatever) to customize as well.  I applaud this development.  I’m a semi-avid football fan who does not drink beer and will never own a truck.  Eighty percent of football advertising is wasted on me.  It would be lovely to say to those companies “you save your money; I’ll save my time” and we part as friends.

You’ve heard me preach multichannel/omnichannel-ness on this blog; now you have a way to replicate and reinforce the messages you are giving out through other media through advertising.  Your broadcast messaging just became a direct marketing one.  Huzzah.

Lookalike audiences.  Remarketing and cotargeting can help you get the people who have already sought you out.  Lookalike audiences are people who are very much like these people, according to the model of whatever ad networks you are using.  This way, you can try to acquire donations from the people who look like your donors and Web traffic from people who look like they would like your site.

The supporter cards that Wagner was processing in Des Moines were feeding into the computers at Strategic Telemetry’s Capitol Hill office.  Those commitments, along with some traditional polling, had already helped to refine Obama’s back-of-the-envelope vote goals in Iowa.  But the real power of Strasma’s black box, like all microtargeting models, was extrapolatory: the names of whose had signed supporter cards went in, and out came the names of other Iowans who looked like them.  These algorithms were matched to 800 consumer variables and the results of a survey of 10,000 Iowans.

– Sasha Issenberg, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.

Low-budget advertising.  I promised you a trick on Tuesday and earlier in this very piece.  The trick is a two-step process:

  1. Use an ad network that uses cost-per-click advertising rates and places ads by the amount you are willing to bid, rather than on the amount of gross revenue they are going to make (that is, don’t use Google or systems with Google-like quality scores).
  2. Create bad ads. That is, create ads that get your message out, but without the call to action.  Let’s say you target people who are getting your matching gift mail piece, email, and telemarketing with an ad about your organization and the good work that it is doing (think of the ads that run during the Sunday morning news shows that have slogans like “BP: We barely even have oil anymore”), but doesn’t mention clicking, a matching gift, a donation, or anything else that would encourage a click.  This way, you can put up your online billboard and get the awareness and good feelings from it, but not be charged to have it up.

This is certainly a short-term strategy, but can be used to boost a campaign in a pinch.

Hope you enjoyed online acquisition week.  In honor of it, I’d create ads to follow you wherever you go, but since I don’t really have a revenue model yet, that would be kind of counterproductive (“I’m advertising to try to get people to come to a site that I don’t make money on.” “How do you hope to get money from that strategy?” “Volume!”).

Please let me know at nick@directtodonor.com or in the comments what topic(s) you’d like to see in the future.  Thanks!

Targeting people online (along with a sneaky trick for low-cost CPC ads)

Creating content that converts

Over the past couple of days, I talked about Google Grants and other CPC search engine tactics for driving people to your site.

But nothing beats getting people to your site without paying for them (or Google paying for them for you).  That’s where having quality content coming in.

There are three layers to having quality content in the sense that I’m using it – content that gets you to the conversion you are looking for.

First, the content has to be attractive to machines.  That is, a person looking for the content has to be able to find it on the Internet through search engines.  There is a whole science to this called search engine optimization and plumbing its depths is a topic for another time.  However, you can get a good portion of the way there by looking the keywords that you’ve selected for your CPC ads.  Focus on how many times they are searched for and how well they convert for you.  From this, you should get a strong perspective on the types of content people are looking for and what they want answered.  You can then write that content, using the keywords that people use to find such content.

I use write here even though there are other types of content that are not in written form.  However, to be searched for effectively, there should be some sort of written aspect that corresponds to your video, audio, picture, etc.  Search engines deal best with the written word.

Second, the content has to be attractive to people.  This probably goes without saying, but your content has to be on a valuable topic and written well.


Chris_Hemsworth_3,_2013Having attractive imagery or people in your ad will likely also help.
Thanks for the assist, Chris.

Third, the content has to make a person want to take the next step.  What that next step is is up to you.  You can approach it either with the end in mind (“I want people to email their legislators through our advocacy system; what would make them want to do that?”) or from what is in the content (“I have this white paper here on the dangers of bovine flatulence; what would be a logical thing to do as a result of this”) – either way works.  The latter is good for a content audit: collecting all of your assets and determine their use.  However, if you are starting from scratch, it’s probably best to have the end in mind when you set virtual pen to virtual paper, lest you write a great piece that don’t achieve your goals.

While I’ve done quite a few blog posts here on the site now with little else, it doesn’t really pay to have the same type of content or same type of next step over and over.  Varying your content types is a good way not only to prevent your constituents from getting board, but also segmenting your constituents for the future – e.g., this cluster like action alerts, these like surveys, etc.

I mention action alerts and surveys, because these are two generally nicely converting content types, because their existence is set up to cause people to interact with them.  Others include polls, pleas to share your story, petitions, contests, etc – anything with a form on it or a question is going to be a bit better at capturing constituents than anything without.

Speaking of, I’ve been writing mostly on things that interest me; what interests you?  I’d love to do a day or a week on the topics that would be more valuable to you.  Simply leave a note in the comments below or email me at nick@directtodonor.com.

Creating content that converts

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