How to treat non-profit SEM? Straight Talking With US
How Do Nonprofit Handle SEM? Straight talk with the American Cancer Association
I recently had the opportunity to discuss SEO / SEM with a non-profit organization. The conversation didn’t start with SEO / SEM, but I thought how does a non-profit SEO / SEM do?
After a while in the industry, I have a pretty good idea of how it is for professional SEM and I find it hard to believe that a non-profit venture would invest in it, because in some cases it is difficult to to measure.
What you’re about to read is an interview with the Director of Online Communication for the American Cancer Association High Plains Division.
Let’s get the formalities out of the way. What is your name and title?
My name is David Neff and I am the director of online communication for the American Cancer Association High Plains Division.
What does the director of online communication do?
Basically, my job is to manage all website design and maintenance, including any upgrades as well as any email campaigns we do. This includes any e-commerce we receive.
Do you do any search positioning on any of your sites?
Not really. Apart from submitting to DMOZ and Google, we’re not actively doing any search engine marketing at this stage. Most of our promotions are done through print ads, internet ads such as Google Adwords, banners and such things. We are not proactively going out and standing.
Now we have talked before and you mentioned that the American Cancer Society has some sites, including some for which you are more responsible. Why doesn’t the Cancer Society invest in positioning?
This is not on our priority list at this stage. We are very busy promoting our sites through the offline promotion I mentioned earlier.
Is there a reason why SEM is not a priority?
Decisions like this are made at a higher level and it is not known how it works. There are no real baby steps you can take to get into it. In fact, they [manage] probably don’t even know that much. It’s not really on their radar screen.
I dealt with big organizations like yours and I usually found out to get a SEM campaign out of the ground. There must be a SEM evangelist on staff. One person who is the focus of the campaign. Was there someone in your office trying to print for it?
Not at the moment, but I see results of things I’ve talked to with you and the early results are quite impressive. Other media I experienced also considered me. Maybe 2006 will be the year to start pushing for a SEM campaign.
You mentioned earlier that you are doing other internet ads. What type of internet advertising do you do for the American Cancer Society?
We did banner ads on a PDA tool and a ton of key sites. Find PDA stuff that doctors read like http://www.webmd.com and http://www.pdamd.com. We also contacted http://www.motricity.com and we did a lot of ads on a lot of partners for a free product, but we had to pay the full price for those ads.
Next, we plan to sell a golf card to get your discount on green fees, no matter where you’re golfing over Texas. So we’ll be posting ads soon. We’ll also place Google ads for these sites when the timing is right.
As a search engine marketer, I know that Google ads are generally pretty good traffic aids. How effective were they in the past for you?
The Google ads have been very good to us in the past – a lot of pressure over the holidays. They are better than banner advertising in some aspects.
What will those aspects be?
Rate of return. We found that some banner ads generated a lot of traffic and interest in the past. However, we noticed that there were many opinions during the holidays, but not so much sales.
So what you say is that you get better conversion rates on Google ads?
Who is watching your Google app?
(Chuckles) I’m sorry.
Why do you say unhappy? Is this a difficult job?
No it’s not hard, it’s just that I just look at it when I get an account because I have too many other things to do. We just don’t have the manpower to manage it properly.
How did you choose to choose keywords for your Google campaign?
We got together in the communications department and sat down and just started looking. We use the words we thought would use people to search our product and just made a list.
Then we used the Google sandbox to help with other query suggestions and from there we put our campaign together.
So you’re happy with Google. Is this the only paid advertising engine you use? Or do you / do you use Yahoo?
No, we didn’t have time to investigate or something. I’d like at some point, but as I said: I’m the only one doing it and I just don’t have the time.
How many sites are you looking at?
I have nine in everything I care for.
And are all the sites you associated with Cancer?
No. We have a blog center called http://www.quitnowblog.org which is for older kids. It helps them quit smoking and all the pain they go through to quit. The second site is http://www.schoolhealth.info/ – We just redesigned the site and are ready to start it again. With that site it is used to get parents involved in children’s schools to heal children. And then there are a lot of others.
So how do these sites do?
We’re getting a lot of response to the quit blog. It looks very popular with the target audience we are trying to achieve.
With all these sites, do you cross-promote?
Yes definitely. For example, if we do a quitnow blog and print campaign, we ensure that and print materials such as brochures and advertisements match the site.
For another site we do, http://www.texasgolfpass.com/, it is also redesigned and accompanied by posters, brochures, and so on. We are definitely trying and doing full campaigns to ensure that the themes are consistent throughout.
So, do you feel they are successful with this branding approach across multiple media?
Definitely. We really did it to ensure our sites match our print campaigns. This is now one of our strengths.
What do you want to do differently with your online campaigns?
The most important thing is to investigate Yahoo ads and everyone else outside of Google, but my biggest challenge is that I don’t have enough time to do it.
I also want to investigate search engine optimization, but I need to find a way to sell it to management. I need a single page. That’s why you need to do SEO what I can do to them and show what we need to do.
Do you think your management is resistant to SEO?
No not really. It’s just an educational thing. I have to find a way to show them why it’s so important and I don’t know where to show them on a non-technical level.
Thanks for your time, David, it was a pleasure to talk to you. One more thing, if there is one thing anyone in our community can do for the American Cancer Society, how would that be?
Oh, I don’t know. I know we need help, but there are so many areas we can use. Being a non-profit group, our budgets are always strict. I just think we help get to know more. We have all these sites that we use to distribute healthy messages, and at the same time we have others who help us to raise money. Any help we can get for this will be appreciated.
As he said, if there is something you can do to help this valuable reason, they can really use it. Whether it’s a few links to the smaller websites such as the golf pass sites or posting on the site, if you can use your SEM experience to help the word, they will really appreciate it.