Boost your reach and visibility strategically
When you fire up Google or another search engine and enter a search term, you're presented with paid or sponsored ads (also known as pay per click ads or PPC) along with an organic search results list. These paid search ads are a wildly popular category for Internet advertising. In contrast, display ads are the banners that appear as you navigate certain websites and online platforms. Display ads come in the form of text, images and videos.
Done strategically, paid search or display ads can boost your nonprofit's reach and visibility. Here are the basics.
The allure of paid search ads
To place a paid search ad, you select and bid upon specific keywords or phrases. Once the bid for your chosen keywords or phrases is accepted, ads begin appearing in paid search results.
Paid search ads are usually measured per click, meaning you pay only if a user clicks. Here, you determine the maximum your nonprofit is willing to pay per click, and then the amount to spend per day and per month. This, in turn, helps support consistent traffic to your site — a great option for any nonprofit trying to increase visibility quickly (rather than tinker with online content and wait for the site to gradually rise to the top of organic search results).
Another bonus for paid search ads is the encouragement of active users. Anyone who's looking up keywords or phrases related to your organization is already interested in what you do. If they're seeking you out, they're likely to read your case stories and news highlights. Perhaps they'll donate, volunteer, download information, call your helpline, sign a petition or otherwise participate.
If your advertising budget is limited — or nonexistent — consider applying for Google Ad Grants. The program gives select organizations $10,000 per month in AdWords, Google's paid search advertising platform.
Behind the scenes of display ads
Unlike paid search ads, display ads are usually sold as cost per thousand impressions.
If you want to create brand awareness, display advertising is often the way to go. Your ad can appear on thousands of sites through your chosen platform, such as Google Display Network. This includes both large and niche sites, so you're sure to be where your audiences are.
Like paid search ads, display ads can save you money because you don't have to sign long-term contracts. Since your ads have the potential to be seen on hundreds of thousands of sites, you can reach a large number of people for relatively little money.
Taking a combination approach
Many nonprofits choose a mix of paid search ads and display ads.
Aside from the ability to be cost effective, both types of online ads allow audience targeting based on factors such as location, interests and so on. Both also come with performance metrics, so you'll know exactly how many people clicked on which ads — and which ads resulted in the desired call to action. Once you get a sense of what works (or doesn't), you can adapt your approach.
You might also assess your donors, board members and volunteers for advertising connections. If any of them work for advertising firms or organizations with deep advertising budgets, consider asking for advice or an advertising referral.
Business Marketing Blog: Top 10 reasons to use paid search marketing by Vinny La Barbera
Spokal: A beginner's guide to paid online advertising by Sarah Burke (2015)
WordStream: Marketing for a good cause: 7 strategies for nonprofits by Margot da Cunha (2016)
The Fundraising Authority: 3 unusual but effective ways to market your non-profit by Joel Garecht
LinkedIn: Top 10 benefits to online display advertising by Todd McPartlin (2014)
Digital Publishing 101: Online advertising basics
TrackMaven: Paid advertising