Blog : nonprofit marketing

Google AdWords: A Brief Introduction

Google AdWords: A Brief Introduction

Google AdWords is an especially powerful web-based application used to create and manage text, mobile, display, and remarketing ads on Google’s advertising network. These are the ads you see on the top and right-hand side of the pages that show the results of your search. Depending upon the type of advertisement, they can be displayed in other places as well, but you will probably be most familiar with the ones shown on the Google search results page. This type of online advertising is known as pay-per-click or PPC. You will easily notice these ads as they are distinguished by a little yellow box that says ‘AD’ which indicates that they are paid promotions as opposed to the natural organic search results that are listed along with them.

Google AdWords
An example of ads displayed using Google AdWords

How Google AdWords Works

Have you ever wondered how these ads appear? Google uses a rather complicated formula (or algorithm) in order to display the most relevant ads in accordance to the search that is made. For example, if you do a Google search for ‘museums in London’, relevant ads are displayed for places such as, ‘The Imperial War Museum, London’, ‘Madame Tussauds’ and ‘ London’.

Companies use Google AdWords to place a series of ads that will be shown when particular terms are searched on It goes without saying that we all get enormous benefit from using Google to explore the world of the Internet. The reason that we get to use it all for free is because Google makes its money (lots of money!) by selling ads on this network. These ads are the core of Google’s business.

Essentially, the way Google AdWords works is that you identify words and phrases called keywords, which can be in the hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands. Then you create ads and ad campaigns using these keywords, place bids in the AdWords auction and link those ads to landing pages on your website. The AdWords bid auction is the largest auction in the world, and there are many factors used in determining the winning bid. It is not important to go into all the finer details here since you can Google it and find plenty of infographics that explain how the auction works. The bottom line though is that you are bidding against other advertisers to get your ad shown with the best placement possible.

Google Adwords for Nonprofits

The exciting news for nonprofits is that if you’re part of the Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits Program, then your organisation will get a budget to run these ads for free (see the Google Ad Grants section for more information).

AdWords is one of the most complex of Google’s products to set up and run, but it is well worth the investment of time and effort to set up your account correctly when you are participating in this program. As a participant in this generous Google program, your organization will get an ad-spend budget of US$10,000 per month on Google’s search network. To get the most out of this in-kind donation, it is really best to hire a professional for the initial setup and online maintenance for your organisation’s account. Making the initial investment and budgeting for the ongoing maintenance gets your nonprofit US$120,000 in free advertising each year. Using this effectively can vastly benefit your organisation.

Why would you want to use Google AdWords and run these ads? You can utilise these search ads for many different purposes for your organisation. You can have advertising campaigns for fundraising, promote your events, build brand awareness for your organisation, and increase traffic to your website.

The Churchill Centre: Google Adwords at Work

For example, The Churchill Centre’s AdWords campaigns are viewed nearly 500,000 times each month, generating roughly 10% of the entire monthly traffic to the website. 85% of the new members paying to join The Churchill Centre come from online via the Centre’s website and many are a result of these ad campaigns.

Using AdWords is a fantastic way to reach a global, national and local audience for your organisation. The only costs involved are the initial setup of the AdWords account and the minimal ongoing maintenance to keep everything running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

What the heck is ‘gamification’?

What the heck is ‘gamification’?

What is ‘gamification’ and how would that possibly apply to the nonprofit world?

Video gaming has been around since the 1940’s when scientists developed an analog game (yes there was a time before digital!) to simulate missiles being fired during Second World War. There were a few other primitive games developed in the following decades, but video gaming really took off in the 1970’s when Atari released the smash hit Pong.

Since this time, gaming has become ever more sophisticated in terms of the animation, strategy, Internet-based multi-player versions, virtual reality and many more innovative ways to engage players that are constantly being developed. Now, you may be asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with digital media and my nonprofit?”

We’ll get to that in just a minute.

There’s an entire discipline that has arisen around how to get players hooked on video games and to get them coming back time and time again. The marketing expression for how you use this strategy in your game is to “drive deep user engagement.”

These strategies have developed over time into what’s known as “game mechanics”. This has become quite sophisticated in the way that its done, incorporating all types of human psychological factors to increase play.

For a very elementary example, in the corporate environment these principals of game mechanics could be used for applications that employees frequently use during the course of their day. For each task, say entering a new donor in a database, points could be awarded, and a leader board online could show the individuals that have accumulated the most points. Then, an award could be given, each week, each month and so on. This introduces a bit of competition into the work environment and also gives acknowledgement and visibility to the best performers.

The use of game mechanics in technology and marketing coined a new term in 2002; “gamification”. It is a relatively new idea, and a new term, just having entered lexicon a few short years ago. Essentially what it means is using these game design techniques in non-game applications.

According the Oxford Dictionary the definition of gamification is:

[mass noun]
“The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service: gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun.”

The use of gamification in other technologies is moving into the mainstream of other types of business and marketing applications.

In September 2012, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), one of the major global accounting and consulting firms, published a white paper on how to effectively use gamification in the corporate environment. Using these techniques takes some thought, planning, and design, and will certainly put your organisation on the cutting edge. Also in 2012, just after the U.S. presidential elections, there was discussion on how to use gamification to help get a better voter turnout.