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.


When was the last time you actually tried to give yourself a donation?


Network For Good has announced that this Wednesday, October 24th, is its inaugural Be Your Donor Day – when they’re hoping to inspire nonprofits to set aside time to put themselves in their donors’ shoes and test the experience being provided for them. Whether it’s calling your main office phone line to see what they make of new donor questions, or enduring the trial by tick box that far too many online donation experiences turn into, it’s an opportunity to highlight any problems in time to get them sorted before the peak time for donations over Christmas.

Given how much effort and budget is invested in getting people to visit donation pages, I’m amazed by how many organisations still focus minimal effort on ensuring their donation process is as simple as possible for the potential donors who reach them. This explains why 47% of potential online donors in the UK apparently give-up before making a donation because the website journey is not intuitive or engaging.

In the light of this, ‘Be Your Donor Day’ is a great way of bringing the real donor experience to the fore and identifying both quick fixes and areas that might require further thought and investment across all of your donor touchpoints.

In support of the day, Network For Good has created a range of resources including a Be Your Donor Day Checklist, and a simple guide to website donation process testing.

Go on. Give yourself some time to see how it feels from your potential donors’ point of view. It needn’t take-up much of your day, and if you can rope-in some colleagues then you can share the testing around. I have no doubt at all that you’ll discover something that you can fix to help improve your donors’ experience – and your fundraising results.

Don’t forget to test your website on different browsers (not everyone runs the old version of Internet Explorer that your IT department forces you to) and different devices (get those smartphones and tablets out) – and also test-out the donation journeys for any SMS shortcodes you might have live.

Rest assured – whatever issues you discover, it won’t be as bad as the customer experience in the great Google video above! (Or will it?)

Social Media is not killing Email – so what’s your next excuse for not using Email as well as you could?

Each time we see a significant evolution in the way consumers communicate there is always a temptation to jump to the conclusion that the latest method will surely kill-off the previous methods. Presumably such predictions were bandied about after Alexander Graham Bell made his first telephone call back in 1876 – yet the mail service didn’t die-out as a result of the adoption of telephones. Rather more recently, there have been suggestions that email will kill-off traditional mail ever since I got my first email address back in the early ’90s (remember Compuserve?) – but it hasn’t happened yet (although that debate does continue).

As such, following the incredibly rapid adoption of Social Media over the last few years it’s not surprising that people are having the same discussions again – ‘surely if everyone is tweeting or facebooking then they’ll no longer be using email?’. Indeed, this was the very idea being put forward in a WSJ Tech Article I spotted towards the end of last year entitled: “Why Email no longer rules”.

However, it turns-out based on a growing body of research evidence that the rumours of Email’s imminent demise at the hands of Social Networkers are incorrect. Here are just a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean:

Firstly research from Nielsen back at the start of last year. This is particularly interesting because Nielsen analysts had previously gone on record stating that Social Media was more popular than email, based on a global analysis of internet usage. However, when they went on to do more detailed research examining just how Social Media use decreases Email use they actually ended-up disproving their original hypothesis and instead proved that social media use actually leads to increased Email use – as illustrated in the chart below. You can read more about their research here.

More recently, this same finding has been confirmed by US Relationship Marketing Agency Merkle in its ‘View from the Social Inbox’ report released just last month. Based on research conducted in late 2009, they too found that active social network users are more likely to be avid email users. With 42% of social networkers checking their email 4+ times per day compared to just 27% of non-social networkers (as shown below). You can download the full Merkle report here.

So, now that we have a growing body of evidence that Email is continuing to be a key online communication channel – despite the overwhelming popularity of various forms of social media – here comes the important question… Given Email’s continued, if not growing, importance – just how happy are you with the way you’re using it to engage with your supporters?

This question has been particularly front of mind for me recently as I’ve been working with two large UK charities to help develop their online fundraising strategies and in both cases opportunities to improve email use have offered some of the greatest income growth wins.

If you’re in the same boat, then don’t feel too downhearted – because you’re certainly not alone. According to the 2009 Adestra/Econsultancy Email Marketing Census, 72% of email marketers (from both commercial and non-profit organisations) admitted that they are not using email as effectively as they could – despite acknowledging that it offers the best ROI of any online activity other than natural search. Interestingly, as shown below, the top two reasons given for not using email effectively were ‘Quality of email database’ and ‘Lack of strategy’, with ‘Poor technology’ 7th in the list – reflecting the fact that many organisations now have access to the technology required to undertake pretty sophisticated email programmes, but their strategic planning has yet to catch-up:

With most of the online fundraising buzz these days tending to be focused on some form of social media activity, it’s good to be reassured that dear old email is here to stay – and, in the light of this, to be prompted to make time to consider whether you’re online income is suffering because you’re not using it as well as you could be.


Advice on Twitter use – based on what top US companies are NOT doing

It’s often the way with things like Twitter that you tend mostly to hear stories about how well people are using them. Which can leave you with something of an inferiority complex about the fact that you haven’t actually had time to begin testing them properly – because you’ve been too busy raising money.

With this in mind, it’s worth taking a quick look at a free report just released by PR Agency Webber Shandwick entitled ‘Do Fortune 100 Companies Need a twittervention?’ – because their research revealed that as much can be learned from what big US companies are doing wrong as from what they are doing right when it comes to Twitter use.

Apparently 73 of the Fortune 100 companies are on Twitter, with 540 Twitter accounts between them. However, half of these accounts have fewer than 500 followers, three-quarters rarely ever tweet, and 81 are inactive – either abandoned after a specific event or simply placeholder accounts protecting against brand-jacking.

The report goes on to consider whether the accounts convey any form of personality or particular tone of voice – with over half registering a FAIL on this. It also examines how the accounts are being used, and then offers a summary of best practice – comprising advice which is as relevant for non-profits considering adding Twitter to their online communications programme as it is for big corporates.

Overall, the report concludes that for the majority of Fortune 100 companies Twitter remains a missed opportunity – which will hopefully make any fundraisers with a Twitter inferiority complex feel just a bit better that they’re not so far behind as they might have thought.

There is no doubt that Twitter can form an effective part of your online programme. But its use has matured extremely quickly and with this have come certain specific expectations on the behalf of Twitter users – which can only be met if you understand and follow best practice when you’re using it.

It’s no longer sufficient just to get your organisation a Twitter account and then play about and see what happens. At best that’s likely just to be a waste of your time and at worst could have a negative impact on your brand in the eyes of those online consumers you’re looking to engage with. Over the last couple of years there have been masses of different reports written on what to do and what not to do – so start by learning from other people’s successes, and failures, and then you’ll be in a far better position to capitalise on whatever Twitter-based opportunities might be out there for you.

For more specific guidance on using Twitter for non-profits, here are a couple of guides to start you off:

If anyone has other non-profit specific Twitter guides that they would recommend, then do share details of them by leaving a comment below.



15 UK organisations competing for 2009 Non Profit Website of the Year

The Twitter feeds are starting to run hot with requests for Followers to vote for the various sites nominated for the 2009 People’s Choice Website of the Year Awards, with the full line-up of shortlisted nonprofits looking like this:

2009 markes the sixth time these awards have been organised by online research agency MetrixLab and they are apparently the  “largest annual ‘people’s choice’ website awards” around, with members of the public ranking the sites based on ‘design’, ‘navigation’, and ‘content’.

Awards aside, it’s also interesting from a general online engagement perspective to browse the shortlisted sites to see just what the different organisations are doing to make their websites especially attractive to online consumers.

Unfortunately, what is most striking is that so many of the landing pages deluge you with so much information and so many calls to action that you end-up with an engagement opportunity overload likely to lead to option paralysis for all but the most focused visitor. I’m not going to name and shame the worst offenders – as I’m sure you’ll spot them if you have a browse.

However, there are some noteable exceptions. British Heart Foundation goes for a cleaner approach, with clear integration with its current advertising campaign and iPhone-like buttons for “quick links”. Likewise, WWF’s homepage goes for simple clarity from the outset – with a wonderfully striking close-up of a Tiger staring out at me and then two columns entitled “We do…” and “You can…”, alongside four clear engagement buttons.

Greenpeace’s blog-style landing page with calls to action in the sidebar also works for me, helping me focus on the key things they want to tell me about the UN Climate Summit (including a great embedded YouTube video) while still making clear the range of personal responses I can make.

Voting in the awards is open until 8th December and the winners will be announced on 15th December.



The List of Change – new ranking of cause-related blogs

List of change

Last week saw the launch of The List of Change, a new ranking of the top English-language change and cause-related blogs – providing a very handy way to find some new sources of news and information of interest to nonprofit marketers and fundraisers.

The ranking is based on each blog’s Technorati Rank, Technorati In-Links, Bloglines Subscribers, Alexa Points, Google PageRank, and Yahoo In-Links, which are combined to give a score out of 100.

Currently the top score of 95 goes to Beths Blog, while at the opposite end of the 127 blog list is The Changebase. Right now this blog – Giving in a Digital World – is hovering mid-table at 66, but things change daily as the various components of the ranking change.

Take a look at the latest full ranking here – and you’re sure to find something of interest amongst the diverse range of blogs listed.

500+ attendees from 42 countries attend the first ever IFC Online eConference

Picture 1

It’s been an interesting three days this week, with the first ever IFC Online eConference taking place – bringing together an estimated 500+ attendees from 42 countries world-wide, through an entirely online conference.

Unlike traditional ‘real world’ conferences, it’s tricky to be sure just how many people are ‘attending’ an online conference. The IFC Online organisers at The Resource Alliance tell me that 387 ‘sites’ signed-up for the event, but the number of individuals at each ‘site’ who watch the sessions can vary massively – from one individual to, in this case, a group of more than 70 people who gathered together in Jerusalem to attend. So, I’m not sure exactly how many people attended the two sessions I presented, but I did spot around 160 ‘sites’ logged-on in places ranging from the US and Latin America, right across Europe, to Singapore, Korea, and Australia – which made for a good crowd.

If you’ve never attended a big web-based conference like this, and it was my first time – both as an attendee and a speaker, then the screengrab above will give you a bit of a feel for how it works. Presenters speak over VoIP and use Powerpoint presentations just as if they were in a convention centre with people infront of them, and throughout the session people can ask questions and make comments by typing into the Chat/Q&A box. Must admit, when I kicked-off my session it felt a bit odd sitting all alone talking to my Mac – but once the questions started coming-in onscreen the whole thing came to life and it was great fun.

Some really interesting speakers too, including Scott Goodstein, External Online Director for Obama for America, and Premal Shah, President of Kiva. And what was particularly handy is that all sessions are recorded, so attendees can catch-up on any they missed or re-watch any session they found especially useful. (Except for Scott Goodstein’s session, apparently – which is a pain, as I missed that one myself).

So, all-in all, a very interesting and, by the looks of it, successful event – and a great extension to the Resource Alliance’s annual ‘real world’ International Fundraising Congress held each October in Holland.

One other thing that struck me was just how much more Twitter activity was going-on amongst the attendees at this event than at the main IFC just last October – when there were a lone two folks Tweeting for all they were worth. This time, there was a pretty constant stream of Twitter commentary coming through under #ifconline – and even a degree of consternation when Twitter went down for maintenance right in the middle of a session yesterday evening (London time).