Client Resources

Paid Search

Why paid search? Paid search refers to a variety of programs that allow advertisers to connect to people who are searching for keywords related to their products or services. These programs are inexpensive, effective ways to use your marketing dollars to reach people who are searching for you. In short, you create ads and choose keywords that reflect the services you offer. Then, when visitors search for your keywords, your ads may appear next to the search results.

A major advantage of paid search is that you only pay when people click on your ad, not when it appears. You can also set a maximum amount for how much you will spend per click, and per day, so your bills will never be higher than you expect.

Several companies offer paid search—the most popular are Google and Yahoo!, but there are many options. This insights paper uses the Google paid search program, AdWords, as an example, but the recommendations apply to other paid search options as well.

Another search option (not covered in this Insights paper, is contextual search. Working in conjunction with Google and other search engines, a variety of leading websites offer contextual advertising. These are content targeted ads that appear alongside articles that pertain to the advertiser’s message. For example, a text ad for John Kerry might appear alongside an article that mentions his name on or Yahoo!. This concept extends an advertisers’ reach beyond search engine listings and provides users with highly relevant ads. For more information on contextual search, see our Paid Promotion insights paper.

Google Grants
If you are a non-profit, you may be eligible for a Google AdWords grant. Google Grants provide non-profits with free AdWords advertising on to raise awareness and increase traffic (with a $1/click maximum bid). Google estimates that they respond to applicants within six months.

1. Click here for an overview of the process.
2. See if you are eligible for a Google Grant
3. Complete steps 1-4 below to help you write the best application you can.
4. Click here to apply.

Note: this insights paper is written with an eye toward our non-profit clients, but all of this is applicable to corporations as well, with the exception of Google Grants. Whether you are applying for a Google Grant, or setting up an AdWords campaign on your own, follow the six steps below to create stellar, effective campaigns.

Step 1: Set your goals
With a team of people who represent different parts of the organization, brainstorm all the ways you would like to get people involved in your organization. Some ideas to consider:

  • How can people help your organization, generally?
  • Do you need volunteers?
  • Do you need donations of money or goods?
  • Can people take action to support your cause?
  • Do you have a particular area of expertise or specialized information?
  • Do you offer services to the public?
  • Do you have educational services or workshops that you offer?
  • Are you holding any events or fundraisers that you want to invite people to?

List five big goals for involving people:
Sample: “Help! We need to recruit some volunteers.”

Step 2: Identify Opportunities
Now, for each goal, think of all of the ways that you offer for people to get involved. For example, if you need volunteers, you may have a weekly volunteer night, internship opportunities, and ongoing administrative openings.

List three specific opportunities for two of your goals, as specifically as possible:
Sample: “We need more volunteers at our weekly volunteer night at Planned Parenthood in East LA.”


Step 3: Determine Keywords
Take one of these opportunities and list all of the words and phrases that people might search for when looking for your opportunity. Be as specific as possible. Think of Jeopardy: your opportunity is the answer, what are the questions that would prompt it?

For one of your opportunities, make a list of ten words or phrases below:
Sample: “after-work volunteering, administrative volunteer, pro-choice volunteer, weekly volunteer opportunity, Planned Parenthood volunteer, etc.”

These are your starting keywords.

Bonus: Remember that not everyone is as great a speller as you are. Include misspellings—no matter how unlikely they seem to you.

Bonus: Google has four types of keyword matching: broad matching, phrase matching, exact matching, and negative matching. You don’t have to start with this level of detail—you can work up to it. When you are ready to learn more, use Google’s interactive demo.

Step 4: Write your pitch
It’s time to write your ads. You don’t have a lot of space to tell your story—25 characters for your title and 35 characters for each—so each word counts. For each ad, start with your keywords, and go from there. Google offers excellent recommendations for writing ads, including:
Include keywords in your ad text or title.

  • If your keywords appear in your ad text, Google users immediately recognize that your ad is relevant to their search.

Use a strong call to action.

  • A "call to action" prepares your audience for what you want them to do: register, join, subscribe, and so on.
  • Make sure that this phrase is unique and specific to your program so that it is more informative and compelling, and distinguishes you from the competition.
  • Example: "Register for membership," "Volunteer in your neighborhood today" or "Call our confidential help line."
    For more, visit:

Write two variations for each of your opportunities—you can test different wording to see which works best.

Help Planned Parenthood
Volunteer weekly after work
Sign up to attend today!

Pro-choice volunteers
Help Planned Parenthood every week
Make a difference in LA

Links: Make sure that your ads link to pages where visitors can take action—if your goal is to recruit new volunteers, link directly to your volunteer application form, or an RSVP link to your weekly volunteer night. Make the action obvious, and easy to take. Also, make sure your keywords are on the destination page.

Bonus: Avoid abbreviations in your ads. Not everyone knows your organization as well as you do, and while it’s obvious to you that PPNNE means “Planned Parenthood of Northern New England” to almost everyone else it is a mystery.

Step 5: Track your effectiveness
Set up a system to track the effectiveness of your ads. Google offers free Analytics software and a Conversion Tracker or you may have systems in place already on your website. There are lots of good options, just make sure you have one in place before you launch any ads.

Also, before you take the next step, take a minute to think about what success will look like. Do you want to recruit 15 new volunteers? Do you want to find 200 new donors? Make your goals as specific and measurable as possible. Setting goals now will help you decide if your ads are working or need improvements.

Step 6: Set up your ads online
Your offline work is done, and you are ready to go. Log into your Google Account at and convert all of your hard work to effective online ads.

If you are a non-profit and have received a Google Grant, when you first log in to your account you’ll notice that Google has already set up some ads for you, based on your application. You can keep these ads, edit the ad or the keyword, or add new campaigns/ads. To add new ads:

1. Choose your target location—do you want your ad to reach everyone in the country, or just a few zip codes?
2. Create campaigns—these are your big goals from Step 1.
3. In each campaign create ad groups—these are your opportunities from Step 1.
4. In each ad group, create ads.
5. Give each ad appropriate keywords from your initial list. You can also use Google’s Keyword tool to add to your list. There is no penalty for having a lot of keywords. You may want to start with a longer list, and then pare it down when you see what is working for you.
6. Launch your campaign!

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How much should I spend on my campaign?
A: Clients beginning AdWords campaigns often ask us how much they should spend on a Google AdWord buy. Of course, all spending is dependent on your organizational and campaign budgets, but we offer these recommendations as a starting point:

Scenario A: I’ve never done this before, and want to run a test. Depending on your budget, start at $30-100 a day for one month, and adjust from there.

Scenario B: I’m running a two-week campaign and want to get as much exposure as possible. For a short spurt of activity, try $150 to $500 a day.

Scenario C: I have $2000 a month for online advertising—should I put it all into Google AdWords? The best thing about online advertising is that you can track effectiveness of all of your media. If you’re just starting, split up your allotment into three or four media and then assess how productive each is after three months.

Q: How many keywords should I use?
A: There is no right answer to this question, but we have the following guidance to offer. First, a small group of carefully targeted keywords are far better than a large group of un-targeted keywords (“pro-choice donation” v. “donate”). Second, start with all of the keywords that immediately come to you in Step 3, use the Google Keyword tool to expand your list, then search on a few of your terms to come up with additional terms that you hadn’t thought of. If your list is now between 30-100 words, you are on the right track.

Q: Does EchoDitto recommend Google AdWords?
A: At EchoDitto, we are technology agnostic, and don’t specifically support any one program or company for online advertising. There are lots of great opportunities out there to reach your target audience online, and AdWords is only one of them—you can advertise with banner ads, dedicated emails, text ads, and more. Depending on your target audience, budget, and campaign, any one or any combination of these options may be right for you. For more information about getting the most out of paid promotion, see our Paid Promotion insights paper.

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