What does marketing have to do with nonprofits? A whole lot as it turns out. Today we are talking about a specific kind of marketing that is essential for your nonprofit’s growth! Have you ever wondered how those cool ads got to the top of your search engine result page on Google? How did they get there and why are they so effective (because believe us they are)? Well we have the answer and it’s SEM (search engine marketing). This super cool digital strategy and involves businesses and nonprofits bidding on related keywords in order to appear when someone searches for associated terms. Most often these ads are referred to as PPC (pay per click) or CPC (cost per click) ads because businesses only pay if someone clicks the ad. You can think of it sort of like an auction and ranking system where your nonprofit is bidding on keywords to push your ads up the list and getting more potential supporters to click. We promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds and we're here to walk you through it.

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How and why does it really work?

Google is the best search engine in the world which means that it gives its users exactly what they are looking for. The key goal of an SEM strategy is to be that best ad result whether on a search engine results page or displayed on a partner website. These ads are successful because they target individuals who are already motivated and interested and redirect them to relevant landing pages on your website. Your organization is reaching supporters at exactly the right time, when they are looking to learn more.

Now you may be asking the question, how does one put together a successful SEM strategy? It involves a multi-faceted approach to ensure that you are capitalizing on opportunities. First, an SEM consultant would do research into your organization’s specific target audience and create compelling advertisements designed to speak directly to them. They would also choose specific keywords and organize them into focused campaigns and ad groups always keeping in mind the goals for your nonprofit’s campaign. SEM consultants are trained to pick the best possible keywords and develop the most successful campaign strategies possible. Basically, these folks really know SEM. Luckily for you, we at Elevation have our own in-house SEM consultants with a ton of experience to help your nonprofit get started.

What are the different ad types included in a nonprofit’s SEM arsenal? We will break down the three most important!

Google Ad Grants

What are Ad Grants?

Ad Grants is a part of the “Google Grants” program and provides up to $10,000 in free monthly advertising to eligible nonprofits. The application process is fairly simple involving holding valid charity status, agreeing to Google’s requirements and having a functioning website. There are few types of excluded nonprofits so check the list to make sure your nonprofit is eligible! If you are worried, don’t be! Here at Elevation, we help throughout the entire application process to ensure that your nonprofit is approved.

Ad Grants is awesome but does require setting up a well-functioning campaign (don’t worry we can help with that) and picking the best possible keywords to generate success. It is important to remain proactive and check the success of your advertisements to ensure that they are performing well and making tweeks when you must. Here at Elevation we make sure that our SEM clients are always in compliance with their Ad Grant so you don’t need to worry about anything.

The program only covers text ads which means the focus is on creating compelling text content that is sure to generate more supporters! In addition, your ads will only appear on Google and not on any other search engines (such as bing or yahoo).

Why should my nonprofit sign up?  

First and foremost Ad Grants is a free program, however, in order to make it successful and ensure that your nonprofit’s campaigns continue to meet Google’s success benchmarks (5% click through rate), it will require a little bit of work. However, text ads are a great way to target potentially interested (and pre-selected) audiences and direct them to your nonprofit’s website. That way you can raise more money, recruit more volunteers and keep saving the world!

Google Display Ads

What are Google Display Ads?

To understand what a Google Display Ad is, you must first understand the difference between the “Google Display Network” and the “Search Network”. The latter refers to the results generated on a search engine results page after a user has searched for specific information. The former refers to the countless websites affiliated with Google across the web that advertise for those with active Google Ad Campaigns. Display Ads are visual ads that appear on websites in the Google Display Network while text ads (like those covered by Ad Grants) appear only on the search engine results page. Cool right?

These ads are effective because they are delivered to the people who are most interested in engaging with your nonprofit, after all, they clicked on your ad. They are also extremely cost effective, on average being under $.58 per click. Unfortunately, Google does not offer a program to cover these costs but allows for a ton of detail when setting up your campaign guaranteeing success. For example, display ads allow you to create campaigns to reach audiences using interests or demographics such as age, gender, location, in-marketing behavior and so much more!

Why should my nonprofit invest?

We know what you are thinking, why should we pay money when Ad Grants offers us free text ads? First, the Google Display Network reaches 90% of the world’s internet users. That’s a lot of people and you want to get your message in front of as many as possible! In addition, while having text ads is an essential part of successful SEM strategy including Display Ads is as well. This is because these ads are put in front of people who are the most receptive to your message due to your ability to target at a low cost. It is a great option when you want to get your message out there for an event or to increase brand awareness without breaking the bank.

YouTube Ads

YouTube ads refer to the ads that play before or next to a selected video on YouTube and are otherwise known as TrueView ads. This method of advertisement is successful due to the high level targeting that the campaigns include such as age, gender, location, interest and more. Your nonprofit only has to pay when a potential supporter indicates their interest by clicking or by watching your ad for more than 30 seconds. When no one clicks your ad or remains engaged, you don’t pay anything even though your ad has displayed (a little free advertising).

Why should my nonprofit invest?

As the second most popular search engine in the world, each month more than 1 billion people watch more than 6 billion hours of YouTube videos. That’s a lot of potential supporters. This number is only set to increase as online video traffic will make up 80% of all search traffic by the year 2021. As a nonprofit it’s essential that you remain up to date with the latest marketing trends or you will lose out on potential supporters. More and more marketers are adding YouTube ads to their SEM campaign because they are essential in boosting brand awareness and your nonprofit should also!


Have any questions or interested in learning more about SEM for your nonprofit? Reach out to us at Elevation! We would love to chat search engine marketing. 


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