Tips and Examples of What’s Working in Online Acquisition (Part 3 of 3)

“Social marketing eliminates the middlemen, providing brands the unique opportunity to have a direct relationship with their customers.” ~Bryan Weiner, CEO at Digital Agency 360i

This e-newsletter was written by Mandy O’Neill.

In our second e-newsletter of this three part series, we talked about social media campaigns, virtual campaigns and chaperoned emails and how to best utilize them to grow your donor list. In this last part of our series, we will talk about ways to use Lightbox, Search Engine Optimization and Advertising. Our hope is that we are helping you create the right plan for your next acquisition campaign.

Lightbox Captures
Lightbox captures are the transparent box that pops up on your website with a specific call-to-action that you’re encouraged to click-through or you opt to click an “x” out of the Lightbox. Lightbox captures are especially profitable at year end, with special campaigns, and major announcements. Many year-end lightboxes embed the donation form right in the light box, so you don’t even have to click through to the donation page. This box captures more than donations, it captures new donors. If you’re not running one for year end, reconsider doing so. If major news event happens in your field, take advantage of the increased traffic coming to your site with a lightbox. The development costs are well worth the new names captured. A word of caution: running an advertisement versus a mission-related call to action is not an effective use of a lightbox and will have a negative effect on your conversion rates.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Marketing consists of four strategies: Optimized Organic Search, Paid Search, and Grants. All three of these search marketing strategies can yield high quality prospects and are cost-effective because they are highly targeted.

• SEO of Donation Pages and Top Acquisition Pages. Studies are showing that between 50% – 70% of traffic is still coming from organic search. You can maximize your organic SEO rankings through new website architecture, page naming conventions, and key words in your page content. Using the right keywords on your website, blogs, microsites and social media can actually yield a 6 to 8% lift in organic search sourced conversion rates for target acquisition pages. Yep, it’s better to have your whole site optimized, but start with your donation pages and best content pages first.

• Paid Search. After you’ve done all you can for free – remember that most of your traffic will come from organic search, you might consider paid search for a couple of your keywords that drive the most qualified traffic to your site. Look at your top three (3) online competitors for targeted keywords, including brand keywords (nature, safety, international relief, arthritis–any of the top words used in your mission), and issue-based search terms (e.g. phrases associated with your cause, e.g. pain relief for arthritis, open space, after-school programs), to ensure you’re capturing traffic that is critical in generating leads for donations—which is how you will measure effectiveness. If the leads become donors the program works. If they don’t revise or stop the program. While paid search isn’t as effective as organic search, it’s still pretty effective—and you only pay for the people who click-through.

• Google Grants. If you already use Google Grants, this is an easy transition. If you haven’t yet leveraged Google Grants, you may want to consider it, but please remember running a “free” Google Grant program is “free” like a puppy is free. The cost of administering is something to consider before jumping in. It works similar to paid search in that you first identify which keywords you can use with your Google Grant (Google often puts restrictions on high bid keywords), creating ad groups or groups of keywords with customized landing pages that might result in lower volume, but much higher conversion rates, and then test your offer via Google Grants advertising. Often we find the offer that works via Google Grants is different than your offer in other channels.

Let’s start by saying that PPC advertising isn’t for everyone or every campaign. While PPC advertising is a pay-per-click model, there is quite a bit of upfront investment in creative, strategy, targeting, landing page development, and placement. You’ll want to use your best polished visual and video content with pay-for-performance or impression in-stream, in-slate, in–search and in-display video ad placements, targeted by both keyword and video topic. In order to maximize the ROI of your search campaigns, you really should plan on developing dedicated landing pages featuring design and content that’s highly focused on donor acquisition. Very few, if any, nonprofits run PPC campaigns internally. You’ll almost always want to retain a strong reputable firm to help you with this kind of acquisition campaign.

As we wrap up, here in Colorado in January, we say that if you didn’t fall at least three times skiing, you didn’t have a good day. The same is true with acquisition. Do some testing and skin your knees finding out what works best for your supporters. The upside is that testing online acquisition is quick and low-cost, so you cap your risk. Some channels work better with your mission than others, so we encourage you to test. And always remember …
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About Mandy O’Neill
Mandy O’Neill is the Chief Strategist and Founder of ConnectedNonprofit, a boutique online marketing agency that helps nonprofits with online growth initiatives, new channels of fundraising, and refreshing current online programs. You can reach her directly at