Peter Buckmaster explains how you can optimise your organisation’s search marketing strategy.

Peter Buckmaster explains how you can optimise your organisation’s search marketing strategy.

With Australians performing 20 million online searches per month, search marketing is an important channel for driving supporters to your website. Search is contextual, meaning search creative is displayed based on keywords that have been entered into a search engine or based from a page’s content on sites using Google’s Adwords advertising network.

Being contextual means search is acquisition focused, yet search cannot work alone as an acquisition tool. It is only effective when used as one part of an integrated campaign or with multiple tactics. For example, print advertising may create awareness for the cause, while search acts to catch supporters as they move from awareness to consideration and then finally to the donation phase.

In general, there are two types of search approaches: paid search and organic search, which appears based on a page’s content, the technical structure of a site and the page’s popularity. A good search marketing strategy will utilise both through ad programs run by search engines like Google and search engine optimisation (SEO). General search behaviour has 70% of people clicking on organic search results while 30% of people click on paid search, meaning both are important acquisition channels.

Know how your search is performing

To measure your website’s search performance you should first look at your website’s analytics. Most people use Google Analytics, which will report on page visits, bounce rates, average time of visit, page impressions, user paths and so forth. Of particular interest is the overall percentage of traffic originating from search engines, which could be as high as 40%-50% of all traffic.

Another indicator of your search engine marketing’s performance is your search ranking, which you can test simply by running a search yourself using relevant keywords.

For example, if your keyword focus is ‘sponsor a child’, then you ideally want to be inside the top three results on the search results page for that term. Tactically, you may achieve this by paying a premium when you purchase keywords or by improving your organic page search position through relevant page content and frequency of use.

It’s important you create a keyword rank baseline report before getting stuck into your SEO and ad program. This will give you a snapshot at the beginning and acts as a point of reference as your search marketing strategy develops.

Search marketing approach

As a nonprofit, the best place to start is through the Google Grant program, which provides charities with a complimentary monthly budget of $10,000 for search. The only limitation is that the grant is capped at $1 per click, which may not be competitive enough to bid on popular keywords. As part of setting up the Google Grant, you’ll need to define keywords around your organisation’s brand, campaign keywords and generic keywords which relate to your cause like ‘early childhood intervention.’

You should consider a range of keywords and test their performance when building your keyword lists. It’s also worth including long tail keywords, which are highly targeted. For example, short tail keywords ‘early intervention’ will likely source more traffic but also face more competition than ‘donate to early childhood intervention charity in NSW’. The latter will also deliver supporters that are much closer to the end of the acquisition funnel, meaning it will likely see a better conversion-to-donor rate and therefore an improved return on investment.

Search and campaigns

To maximise search performance within a fundraising campaign you should look at integration points. This may include bidding on campaign keywords, for example Haiti during the Haiti Emergency Appeal, or by making sure popular keywords are seeded through media releases and therefore associated with your brand.

In this example, news aggregator sites (such as Google News) rank highly within search engines due to the frequency of visits to their sites, which is one of Google’s ranking criteria. By using popular keywords, news aggregator sites are more likely to automatically publish your release and therefore have it index quickly and with a higher search engine ranking. This process is referred to as social media optimisation, which is the process of optimising your content and distributing it on other websites.

An effective example of using this approach is WaterAid’s integrated Walk4Water campaign, which achieved a 7% conversion rate through search, an average $27.54 cost per acquisition, and average donation of $75 per supporter.

Kick starting your search marketing strategy

Apply for your Google Grant, if you haven’t already, and then focus on your search engine optimisation strategy.

This may include the following steps:

Keyword research and generation: detailed keyword research based on industry trends and optimum keyword list generation. Develop your metadata (data about data) matrix by looking at your site’s URL structure, title tags and meta description. Look at your content strategy in relation to your keyword list. Does your website contain text mentions of those words? Generate and submit an XML sitemap to Google. Investigate linking strategies with other popular sites, as well as strategies to publish your content on other sites.