31 Days to a Better Blog – Day 9: Advertising on your site…how can this work for non-profits?

Today’s challenge by Prologger Darren Rowse was to run an advertising audit on your blog. Like many of the rest of us taking part in the challenge (see here for background information as to what it is about), it possibly isn’t relevant to the types of blogs involved in this challenge and to our aimed readership.

Saying that though, I have had two requests for support from non-profits this week alone, about advertising on their websites to help bring in some extra income. One wanted to explore the idea of ‘sympathetic’ advertising using other national organisations with helplines that may help some of the users of their youth orientated website. Another just wanted to understand how advertising worked and could they have a go at it. I personally don’t want advertising on my own site, and I know that on one of the forums I connect with, that advertising was frowned upon at first by the users and it did create some great debate, but it did lever extra monies to enable it to keep afloat in it’s early days, and now their project is being supported enough not to rely on advertising. So instead of totally discounting it, how can we explore if it does have any relevance for non profits and charities?

So what does Darren suggest about todays task?

“Run an Advertising Audit on Your Blog. I know that not everyone doing this project is making money through advertising.

It’s easy to set up advertising on your blog and to spend time optimizing it but then let it run the same way without ever giving it much more thought.

Take some time out to think strategically about the design and placement of your ads.

  • What could you do differently?
  • Would using a different size ad make them perform better?
  • Would changing the colors have an impact?”

These are very valid tips for those either using or thinking of using advertising on their sites.

I especially resonated with the last point. If you do feel inclined to use advertising, colour and the overall design layout can make a huge impact to lessen the burden of those adverts. Some of my favourite sites and blogs for resources and inspiration with web design and coding place advertising in the most awful cumbersome places which as a reader, don’t help to convey the message that the site is aiming to deliver. Or more likely, my line of reading is displaced from adverts blocking the content where I’d like to see it! Broken articles with adverts plonked in the middle really turns me off.

One example I saw (I’m not into naming and shaming) was of a learning site introducing to the internet for new webusers. It aimed to help enable new web users to feel safe with surfing. It had their well written articles on one half of the page, with totally inappropriate advertising on the other half of the page, which to the average reader totally confused the message they were giving! I’d met the tutor at an ICT conference to encourage use of the internet with non-profits; and thought her seminar workshop was great. She promoted to the participants when they got home and follow up with the excercises on her website. What must they have thought, feeling safe finally with computers after their workshop, to get bombarded with so many mixed messages?

Good design can help. If you really feel you need the advertising element to keep your site afloat, there are some good examples of some well thought out design which although carries heavy advertising, has been designed brilliantly to pull your eyes to the content rather than the advertising.
One of my favourite sites that I follow for light relief, is the excellent Spare Room blog. Really good design, colour with impact, and yes, supported by alot of advertising too. It’s nothing to do with non-profit technology or such, but I like it as a good design example, where it can carry and cope with the advertising in a balance of harmony with it’s content.

So, maybe as a non-profit you don’t want advertising directly on your site, but still want to use advertising in a way that can reach new supporters of your cause? How can this be achieved?

In the UK (and other countries) Google, offers it’s Google Grants programme which offers free advertising for not profits that qualify, that raises not only awareness but traffic to your site.
This is what Google says about it:

The Google Grants UK beta programme supports organisations sharing our philosophy of community service to help the world in areas such as science and technology, education, global public health, the environment, youth advocacy, and the arts.

Designed for UK charities which meet our requirements and are registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator or by the Inland Revenue, Google Grants is a unique free advertising programme. It harnesses the power of our flagship advertising product, Google AdWords, to non-profits seeking to inform and engage their constituents online. Google Grants has given AdWords advertising to hundreds of qualified non-profit groups whose missions range from animal welfare to literacy, from supporting homeless children to promoting HIV education.

Google Grant recipients use their award of free AdWords advertising on Google.co.uk to raise awareness and increase traffic. Three of our award recipients have achieved these results:

• Room to Read, which educates children in Vietnam, Nepal, India and Cambodia, attracted a sponsor who clicked on its AdWords ad. He has donated funds to support the education of 25 girls for the next 10 years.
• The US Fund for UNICEF’s e-commerce site, Shop UNICEF, has experienced a 43 percent increase in sales over the previous year.
• CoachArt, supporting children with life-threatening illnesses through art and athletics programs, has seen a 60 to 70 percent increase in volunteers.”

Google Grants ads appear on Google.co.uk alongside or above the search results. These Google Grants ‘Adwords’ adverts can also appear on a Custom Google Search Engine (I use this lots when designing for groups, although tend to not go for the advertising bit on the results!).
Google offers some useful advice too on how to target the right audience and use the right keywords, so this also goes back to understanding and being able to give a clear message and description and voice of your organisation which I mentioned in a recent post about writing for contented readers.

If you have a clearer identity, classifying yourself through keywording hopefully should become a simpler task (well, a little anyway!).

I’d love to hear some responses in non-profits using their sites in conjunction with advertising, so feel free to comment any highs, lows and experiences.

I’ll be posting in the next week or so, some great resources in fundraising on the internet with your non-profit website which I’m currently collating.

Filed under BB31Days, Nptech, Web.