If you’ve got money to burn then you’re in luck – because the internet has a multitude of ways of spending it! From Google Adwords to sponsored Facebook posts to banner ads to directory listings – you can easily spend thousands of pounds a week on online marketing. Sometimes with very little to show for it at the end.
But don’t worry if your small charity doesn’t have a huge online marketing budget, or indeed and any marketing budget. In some ways online marketing is very different from print media – the size of your wallet isn’t directly proportionate to the number of eyeballs you get on your brand.
‘If you build it, they will come’. Kind of.
I’ve run a charity website that gets 100,000 visitors a month and that never spent a penny on online marketing. The beauty of the internet is that it’s much more of a level playing field. The NSPCC has one website, one Facebook page and one Twitter page – so do you. Their huge marketing budget gives them a good headstart – but if you have something interesting and engaging to say then I firmly believe you can give them a good run for their money (without spending any of your own).
The top piece of advice here is ‘why spend your own money when you can spend Google’s!’. As part of their nonprofits programme, Google offers UK charities a ‘Google Grant‘. This amounts to $10,000 a month of free Adwords ads (the ones that appear on the search results page). And if you do a good job of spending it – then they’ll increase it to $40,000 a month under their ‘Grantspro’ scheme. That’s a completely free online advertising budget of up to $480,000 a year.
There’s surprisingly few catches and conditions, but in practice you need to invest a bit of time and effort to get your account up and running and spending their money to the max. Especially because the bigger charities all have paid Google Adwords accounts as well as their Google Grants one so they’re able to bid more than the maximum $1 per click (the Google Grants limit) on most of the popular keywords. There’s a waiting list of up to 6 months to get accepted onto the programme, so get your application in as soon as your website is up and running.
For general Facebook chat see the Social Media article elsewhere in my Toolkit, here I’m just concerning myself with Facebook’s has various advertising mechanisms (sadly they don’t have a free ads programme like Google’s). They are also increasingly holding brands to ransom by making them pay to speak to their own fans. On average, only 10-20% of your fans will see your post (status update) in their news feed. If you’re asking ‘but surely people want to see what my charity is up to – that’s why they became a fan in the first place’, then I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for you!
There’s two ways you can spend your money with Facebook – Sponsored posts and Adverts.
- Sponsored posts are the regular posts that you then pay (the amount depends on how many fans you have) for the post to be seen by more of your own fans, and by some people who aren’t fans.
- Adverts appear down the side of the site. They can advertise your Facebook page or any other website. You can target them at very specific demographic groups – that’s certainly best. Some of the bigger charities and brands use ads to increase their number of Likes – it can be pretty pricey though, and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Banner ads are the square, skyscraper or letterbox shaped adverts that are pretty ubiqutous across most websites. You can pay the bigger websites or groups of sites to place ads on their sites, or use Google. You’ve no doubt noticed these days that if you visit certain websites (especially shopping ones) then their banner ads pop up on other sites you visit for the next week. Visit Save The Children’s site to see what I mean. These are placed through Google’s advertising network too, and you usually pay per ‘impressions’ (i.e. how many thousands of people see that web page) or ‘Pay-per-click’. They come in a few standard sizes – MPU (300×250 pixels), skyscraper (120x600px), Leaderboard (728x90px), Full Banner (468x60px).
Unless you have some contacts and can swing some free slots, I’d forget about banner ads – the Return on Investment is pretty low and they can be very expensive. The big charities use them as a brand awareness building tool but unless your website donations/fundraiser conversion rate is phenomenal, you should steer clear of them in my opinion.
Advertising is like sex – only losers pay for it
‘Inbound Marketing’ is one of the buzzwords of digital marketing. The ‘new rules’ are all about getting visitors/awareness/coverage by getting them to come to your site for free. One of the best ways of doing that is by creating something vaulauble/useful to them and then give it away for free. It’s a technique that charities have been a bit slow to adopt, but if you’re serving a local community then you could compile and curate a list of things for kids to do during the school holidays, or maybe if you’re a pet chrity you could produce some ebooks about how to look after your dog or cat. On this site for example, I’m freely sharing all the hard-earned knowledge in this Charity Website Building Toolkit. ‘Don’t push your content out, pull yor customers in’ as they say.
Search Engine Optimisation
In all likelihood, your SEO efforts are likely to be your best digital marketing tool. That’s partly because you won’t be able to afford much else! When you look at your Google Analytics you’ll probably see that the ‘Organic search’ is the biggest traffic source for yor website. The good news is that it’s free (don’t pay anyone to do it for you!), the bad news is that it can be quite consuming. Check out the Toolkit article about charity website SEO and buy yourself a book about it to learn more. It’s the best long-run investment in your digital marketing that you’ll make.