Marketing Success with Search Engines
CompuMentor – a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on helping other nonprofits use technology effectively – runs two online services – TechSoup (www.techsoup.org) and TechSoup Stock (http://www.techsoup.org/stock ). TechSoup offers technology information and resources to the sector, while TechSoup Stock, a social venture, provides software and other technology products to nonprofits due to generous donations from leading technology partners like Microsoft and Cisco.
In 2003, CompuMentor’s goal was to increase the use of our technology services and tools within the sector. Therefore, TechSoup and TechSoup Stock , placed a high marketing priority in driving traffic to the two Websites. Increasing traffic to the Websites each month meant increased awareness of TechSoup and TechSoup Stock by nonprofits and the funding community, better access to technology information and products within the sector, and in turn, an income stream for CompuMentor to support the free resources on TechSoup.
The tools that impact Website traffic most are Search Engine portals. Search Engines, like Google, are online tools that give users listings of Websites based on keywords or phrases entered by the user. Web users are increasingly using Search Engines to find what they need on the Web. Some 75% of all Web users go to Search Engines to start each Web experience. Google is the biggest search engine on the Web, with more than 200 million searches each day, covering roughly 70% of the market. Advertising is quickly becoming a major part of Search Engines. Not only do Engines list Websites based on the keywords entered, they also show advertisements for sites with similar keywords. Now organizations have two ways to use Search Engines to increase visits to their Website: building an engine-friendly site that organically gives your site a top listing on a search engine results page, or buying advertising space based on keywords. Organizations with niche services and/or audience can especially rely on Search Engines to bring in users that are interested in the products/services provided. Why? A user searching for “discounted software” is not just window-shopping – they want to purchase affordable software. Because TechSoup and TechSoup Stock offer specific services to niche sector (nonprofits), we knew that Search Engine Marketing would be key to driving Web traffic.
There are several tactics to running a successful Search Engine Marketing program. We first applied the many organic, or free, ways to increase our presence on engine results listings. We re-designed our Websites to be rich with text content. We added keyword meta-tags to each page; keywords and phrases hidden inside Web site code. Last, we developed a linking program and proactively sought out partners to link from their Websites to ours. We did all of this focused on the algorithm Search Engines use to display results listings of Websites based on the keywords entered by a user. Having a text-heavy site, adding relevant meta-tags in the code, and seeking out other sites to link to yours are the three biggest variables in the Search Engine algorithm.
The next phase of Search Engine Marketing was to develop a pay-per-click advertising program. While we knew that TechSoup and TechSoup Stock were receiving decent results listings based on our organic marketing efforts, we still felt like we could garner more visitors by advertising our services. With Search Engines, we only pay for users that click on our ad (hence, pay-per-click), and therefore receive a very targeted visitor for a set price. First, we applied to and received a grant from Google to run advertising on their site for free. In eight months we received over 12,000 visits to our Websites from Google ads. This would’ve cost us roughly $15,000 had we not been awarded the grant. Since Google advertising was so successful (increasing traffic to our sites from Search Engines by 200%), we decided to buy pay-per-click ads on Overture, a network of search and content-driven Websites, as well as on Google’s content-driven network. These ads work much like Search Engine ads, but are on other sites, like AOL.com or WashingtonPost.com, and are shown to users as text links when users are on a certain page that mirrors the keywords we pay for. For example, if a user is reading an article about Microsoft’s technology foundation, they may see text links to our services. With these new programs in place, we garnered an additional 2,000 visits from search engines each month, and for less than $1.50 cost-per-visit. These programs are relatively easy to implement and our cost-per-visit is just one-fourth of the average cost with other, more traditional advertising programs.
The exposure on Search Engines helped us in other areas as well. Surprisingly, due to our Search Engine advertising, which is targeted by using keywords and phrases, we received several inquiries about our portfolio of services, and therefore have added technology partners to TechSoup Stock, increased partnerships with other content-sites working in the sector, and received a healthy amount of PR surrounding our Computer Recycling and Reuse program. While our first goal was in to increase visits to our Websites, we saw secondary success in building awareness around all of CompuMentor’s programs.
The combination of pay-per-click and organic Search Engine marketing helped us reach our traffic goals within budget while building awareness within the nonprofits and like communities. We hope that others in our sector take advantage of the many ways you can use Search Engines to increase funding, capacity or awareness of your program within your local and our national and international communities.
The CompuMentor Communications Team
For more information on using Search Engines:
Search Engine Glossary:
Visit TechSoup Stock :
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