Poorly optimized Google Adwords copy could be wasting a quarter of your search budget

Charity Adwords Research Whitepaper

Last year, while working on a client project, I came across a very interesting company called The ATO Co. They’re an international AdWords copywriting agency who have developed an ad text effectiveness algorithm which enables them to audit Google Adwords copy and score it to show how well optimized it is.

Talking with them about the serious impact that can result from AdWords copywriting that doesn’t follow optimization best practice was a real eye-opener.

The reason being that Google AdWords rewards advertisers who run more effective advertising campaigns with lower advertising costs (i.e. a lower CPC) – based on what Google calls Quality Score (QS). The difference between you having a QS of 10 and a QS of 1 can mean that you’re saving as much as 30% on your annual budget – or paying up to 600% over the odds for every click. Assuming you’ve optimized your landing page, the last variable in the QS calculation is your ad text. So, all of a sudden taking a far closer look at the way your AdWords copy is written makes very sound financial sense!

Our discussions about this led to us working together to examine just what sort of a financial impact the lack of AdWords optimization might be having for UK charities.

The guys at The ATO Co took a cross-section of Google AdWords ad texts from the UK’s 20 leading charities and evaluated them using their effectiveness algorithm. As suspected, they found a whole lot of the ad copy was far from fully optimized – overall amounting to a potential overpayment of up to £2.66m on the £10m spent by those charities on Google AdWords.

That equates to these charities paying up to 27% more for their Google advertising than they needed to.

Anyone with experience of digital fundraising knows that it’s no easy task to generate good, sustainable levels of online donations, and that means that we need to take every opportunity there is to optimize activities to maximise the net income generated.

However, while online advertising spend grows year-on-year, I don’t hear many charities talking about how well they’re optimizing their spend in paid search. So, what we’re hoping is that this research will help spark the debate and lead to more charities adopting AdWords optimization best practice and so significantly increase the cost-effectiveness of their paid search activity.

The full findings of our research were released today in a whitepaper that you can download for free here.


2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List #3 Allocate Budget For Paid Social Media

No More Free Social Media

The writing has been on the wall for a couple of years now. Facebook, needing to more effectively monitise its massive user base, has been gradually changing the way in which content published on brand pages is shared organically with followers – so as to encourage more brands to pay to promote their content. Last year this decline in ‘organic reach’ hit the point where the average organic reach of brand page content was around 6% – and falling fast.

Then came the official statement that from January 2015 Facebook is “bringing new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages”. A statement widely seen as heralding the final death of free organic reach for promotional content – and that includes content you publish on your organisation’s branded page promoting fundraising asks.

So, what’s a fundraiser to do in the new ‘Pay to Play’ world of Social Media Promotion?

Well, the first thing is not to panic. Despite repeated rumours of its demise, Facebook remains the most popular social network world-wide (outside China) and older consumers are becoming increasingly active users – which is handy, as they’re the consumers most likely to be donating to charity too. So, while you may well need to change the way you use it (and other social media – as Twitter looks like going the same way) there may well still be a role for Facebook activity in your fundraising programme.

Begin by conducting a careful and honest review of just how well your own Facebook activity is really performing in support of fundraising. Not just in terms of how many Page Likes you’re getting (although we all know how much senior management love those charts), but also assessing how your levels of reach are changing for different types of content, what traffic Facebook is driving to your website, and just what that traffic does when it gets there.

Then, get online and learn about what options exist for targeting paid social content. You’ll find that these range from traditional demographic, lifestyle, interests, and ‘lookalike’ targeting to Custom Audiences through which you can specifically target people who already donate to you. The latter is especially interesting for fundraising – as it offers a targeted Social Media extension to your donor development activity (and several fundraisers I’ve spoken to recently have reported good results from tests of this).

Once you understand the options, allocate a testing budget and design some proper, robust tests to assess the real potential of paid social activity to directly support your fundraising programme. Just as you would with any other paid channel, take the time to look around and talk to other fundraisers to find-out what is and isn’t working – both in terms of targeting and the content and fundraising propositions being used. Aim to make 2015 the year you get some good benchmark data on the potential of paid social for your fundraising – which you can build-on when planning for 2016 and beyond.

Lastly, if you come across anyone who is still under the impression that Social Media is a free extension to their digital fundraising programme then do them a favour and gently bring them up to date with the way the world is changing. As, despite discussion of failing organic reach having been ongoing for a long while now, the belief that ‘Social Media is Free Media’ remains hard to shift in some quarters.

Only time will tell, but I’m hoping the shift towards paid promotion will actually bring a much needed dose of realism to the use of Facebook for fundraising – and so help lead to far greater Social Media fundraising effectiveness overall. For too long the perception that Social is a free engagement channel has led to it being pretty badly managed by many organisations when it comes to fundraising. Now that we need to start paying for it, hopefully it’ll be treated with a bit more rigour and respect – and deliver a lot more income as a result.


This post is the third in a series suggesting things I think fundraisers should have on their 2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List. The first two are:

#1 Conversion Rate Optimisation

#2 Get Serious About Email Fundraising

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #3 Augmented Reality

I came across this fun awareness campaign by youth breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! last month and it caught my eye, not just because it was described as “The world’s first augmented reality 3D boob billboards” but because it was one of the first examples I’ve seen of a charity making use of Augmented Reality in any shape or form.

Augmented Reality is a live view of something in the real world that is augmented by some form of computer generated overlay when it is viewed through a digital device, such as when viewed using the camera on your Smartphone or Tablet. The overlay might be an image, a video, data, or even an audio track.

In the case of the CoppaFeel! campaign when you view the poster through an iOS or Android device running the Blippar App, the image ‘leaps-out’ at you in a simple 3D form and you see, overlaid on the poster, buttons that you can use to interact with the ad. In this case it offered you the opportunity to give each of your boobs a name and then share them thus labelled with your friends on Facebook or Twitter – all in the interest of reminding women, in a fun and memorable way, to check their breasts on a regular basis.

To give you an idea of the resulting experience, you can see the original poster (left) and the ‘augmented’ poster (right) below (as viewed on my iPhone using the Blippar App). Or, for the full experience, just download the Blippar App to your smartphone and use it to view the original poster on the screen.

If you haven’t yet seen some form of augmented reality campaign it is highly likely you will do this year, as digital marketers capitalise on the mass adoption of camera-equipped smartphones to augment everything from billboards (pizza anyone?) and press advertisements (e.g. for Commonwealth Bank in Australia), to guide books (like this App from the Museum of London) and games (use AR to hunt invisible monsters!), and even coffee cups (like Starbucks  Christmas Cup Magic) and your humble pint of beer (Guinness in this case).

In a market research report released last month by US business research company Visiongain, it was estimated that use of Mobile Augmented Reality will increase exponentially over the next five years – to the point at which 25% of all App downloads will incorporate Augmented Reality functionality.

The potential for digitally augmented fundraising? Well what about a WWF poster where the snow leopard leaps out at you to get you to sponsor it? Or a Third World disaster press advertisement where you can see an overlay of a field clinic in action and interact with virtual buttons to donate? Or how about turning your supporter newsletter into an interactive 3D experience along the lines of the AR pop-up books developed by Helen Papagiannis?

Got any other great examples or ideas of how Augmented Reality can be used by fundraisers and non-profit marketers? Do share them by leaving a comment below.

This is the third of 12 posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Strategic Blogger Outreach, here.

Don’t let Twitter anxiety cloud your focus on key online priorities


If you’re feeling lost or left behind in the whirl of hype that has grown-up around the micro-blogging service Twitter over the last few months then don’t worry – you’re not alone.

In the same week that internet traffic monitor Hitwise announced that UK Internet visits to Twitter are up 6-fold since January (making it the 5th most popular social networking site in the UK), analytics firm Webtrends just released results of research confirming that most marketers remain reluctant to use the service.

Based on interviews with 300 online marketing managers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Australia, Webtrends reports that so far just 2% of businesses have adopted Twitter as a means of communicating with customers. No surprise that email remains far and away the most popular means of engaging with customers online, while 6% are apparently now using blogs and podcasts.

The majority of respondents to the survey said of Twitter that they are simply “not sure how to use it, and even if they could they wouldn’t be sure of what to say, and who exactly they would be saying it to” – which seem to me like very good reasons to hold-off on adding it to their digital marketing mix.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve mentioned previously I do believe that Twitter has the potential to be a useful addition to the range of ways charities can engage with certain groups of consumers. However, in the light of another recent research report by website usability expert Jakob Nielsen, highlighting basic shortfalls in charity websites that directly impact on donations received, I also believe that most should have a lot of things higher-up on their digital ‘to do’ list.

My advice would be that you do keep an eye on Twitter, because it’s not going to go away. But don’t worry that you must get out there and start Tweeting immediately – especially if such Twitter anxiety clouds your thinking in terms of what your main online priorities should be.

It’s no use bringing people to your website, through whatever means, if you know that the vast majority don’t engage the way you want them to – with a donation or some other action. So, your first priority must be to optimise your site to ensure that your conversion rates are as good as you can make them. Simple improvements to things like site signposting and the all important donation page itself can make double digit improvements in conversion figures – so that has to be where you start.

And if you don’t actually know your current conversion figures, then you’ve got another top priority action – sorting-out your site analytics and reporting.

When you really understand the basics of what people are doing on your site and you have a plan for improving their experience – and thereby your results – then you can widen your thinking to consider new ways to get people to come to you. First-off, how well are your ‘traditional’ online activities working – email, natural search and online advertising?

Then, once you feel you understand these and have a plan for each, you can safely start to think more widely – into the Web 2.0 world of blogging, micro-blogging, online communities and the like.

Such prioritisation doesn’t necessarily mean a long delaying in thinking about what opportunities Web 2.0 approaches like Twitter might offer you  – but it will help ensure that when you start testing them you’re far more likely to be successful.

New pet lovers social network launches with talking pets viral campaign

At the moment it seems like there’s a new niche social network launching every couple of weeks, and this week its the turn of UK animal welfare charity The Blue Cross to enter the Web 2.0 world with a re-launch of its existing All About Pets information website as a new social network site. Developed by DVA, the site offers most of the basic community site features as well as providing access to the wealth of quality pet care information the charity produces.

The Blue Cross is a client of the agency I work for and as part of the site launch we’ve developed them a fun viral campaign that lets pet lovers upload photos of their pets (or use the cute ones provided), animate them to say any message they want to type in, and then email their talking pet message to their friends or upload it to their Facebook profile. Just click on the image above to see what I mean – and go to talkingpets.org to send your own messages (remember to turn your volume up).

Added to this we’ve also developed what is apparently a world first for online advertising, with ad units that scrape the web page they appear on, identify the H1 tag, and from this make the animated dog in the ad read-out the headline from the main story on the page. Readers can then type their own message into the ad to see the dog speak again before clicking-through to the talkingpets.org microsite.

All great fun and, from the first few days data, a campaign that is certainly resulting in a whole lot of talking pet emails flying into people’s in boxes – and hopefully lots of pet lovers signing-up at the All About Pets site.

I must admit that usually when I hear that a charity is developing a ‘viral campaign‘ I’m a bit sceptical, as for every great example that spreads like wildfire (like Macmillan’s virtual coffee morning) there are a great many that never get far beyond the charity’s staff and their closest friends. The truth is that providing the type of content that lots of people want to send to lots of their friends just isn’t that easy for most charities – given that, in the main, the viral momentum generated through generating shock or offence simply doesn’t fit with most charity brands. In the case of talkingpets.org it’s a combination of surprise, fun, and an extremely high level of personalisation that lie behind the strength of the campaign – or viraliciousness as JWT’s Colvyn Harris describes it in his post on what makes a viral ad.

If you’ve worked-on or seen any other really effective charity viral campaigns then do leave a comment to let me know about them.

Insights, tips and tricks for online fundraising – it’s this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

Welcome to this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, a weekly blog carnival drawing together some of the best nonprofit news, advice and resources on offer across the blogosphere.

Each week a different host blogger sets a topic for this carnival and other bloggers submit posts on that theme – with the best seven being highlighted on the host’s blog. This week it’s my turn to host and the topic I chose was ‘Insights, tips and tricks for online fundraising’.

So, without further ado, here are seven online fundraising insight, tip and trick posts for you…

1. Starting off with some tips on how to evaluate and utilise Website architecture and and design to boost online fundraising from Jim Killion and Amanda Wasson of is7.

2. Staying with website design, Katya shares some tips from the latest study by Donordigital on what makes a great donation page.

3. And still on websites, for anyone at the early stages of website planning Jason King has posted the handy presentation he gave at the Connecting Up conference in Brisbane on Planning your non-profit’s website.

4. The Care2 folks over at Frogloop have reported on a recent survey that suggests that ‘51% of donors are not at all interested in Social Networks. However, apparently around a third of donors are somewhat or very interested in keeping-up with nonprofits through Social Media – rising to 40% for high level donors. Handy insight for social network fundraisers.

5. In her Nonprofits blog, Joanne Fritz shares some tips derived from UNICEF’s use of social networking and video-sharing sites.

6. For email fundraisers, here are Ten tips from Network for Good to help prevent your emails being deleted.

7. Finally, over at onLine, Garth Moore examines the potential of the new generation of ad funded click-to-donate applications.

That’s it for this week. You can keep track of the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants as it travels around from site to site by subscribing to the Carnival feed.

Google Grants free non-profit AdWords scheme celebrates fifth year

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the Google Grants scheme, developed to support the online marketing activity of non-profits by providing free AdWords advertising to organisations selected through an online application process.

Currently available in 16 countries, and with more apparently on the way, the anniversary provides a useful reminder for any non-profits using, or looking to use, Search Engine Marketing to check out the scheme and see if it might be of use to them. Although, as reported in a comment to my earlier post about Google Grants, the programme may well be of more use to smaller organisations than those with a well developed SEM .