Search Engine Guide: Consultants Should Help Nonprofits Define Goals

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Nonprofit organizations, like their for-profit counterparts, are aware of the need for search engine marketing to boost their online visibility. Nonprofits, which include trade associations and nongovernmental organizations as well as educational, public interest and religious groups, have information they wish to share with the public.

But as their budgets often are quite limited, many nonprofits are choosing SEM as a major part of their overall marketing and public relations. The search campaign therefore becomes more than a technical, Web site-based exercise. Properly conducted, it can give the nonprofit client strategic feedback regarding its goals, audience and message.

For most nonprofits, search engine marketing should begin with defining online goals. To provide the most useful service, an SEM consultant needs to ask many basic questions, including:

· Does your organization know what audience(s) it aims to reach?

• Is one Web site sufficient to communicate effectively with members, consumers and the scientific or political communities?

· Is your goal to inform and influence through content alone, or are there useful products to give or sell to site visitors?

More than with for-profit clients, search engine marketing consultants should be willing to go beyond simple coding and site submissions. Wide-ranging discussions about campaign goals, identifying and targeting the correct online audience and the means to measure progress toward reaching that audience are standard with nonprofit clients.

When the consultant takes the role of an interested outsider - learning the internal and external images of the nonprofit, its role and message(s) - the knowledge can benefit the organization as well as the campaign. For some clients, the positive effect on the organization is a welcome adjunct to increased site traffic.

Decision-making authority often is diffused in nonprofits, and the marketing director may be responsible to several stakeholders. The foundational task of assembling a keyword-phrase list can be the catalyst for stakeholders to work together with the search engine marketing provider to define their message and intended audience.

The consultant needs to explain the importance of a targeted keyword list to the success of the campaign. Then he must accept the internally generated list of organization buzzwords and nomenclature, complement it with phrases that consumers and other target audience members use in real-life searches and produce a merged list that is acceptable to the client and useful as a foundation for the technical side of the campaign. Once this process is completed, most remaining tasks follow the same course as a typical SEM campaign.

Case study: The Vinyl Institute

The Vinyl Institute, a trade organization, asked NSI Partners

to restore traffic to its site at www.vinylby that had been lost through conversion to a different site architecture.

NSI recommended certain navigational improvements to allow search engines better access to the entire site. We also developed a comprehensive keyword list and edited site-page headlines, content and tags to include important phrases. Submitting the site to vertical-industry directories and adding a targeted paid-search campaign rounded out the project.

Within 12 months, monthly visitor traffic increased 304 percent and visitors referred from search engines increased 741 percent. Six months later, visitor totals had increased 439 percent and search engine referrals 1,956 percent.

For more articles from The Direct Marketer's Essential Guide to Search Engine Marketing, visit

A PDF of the guide is available at:


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