Your 2014 Online Marketing Plan

Hope you all are having a wonderful giving season. This being the busiest time of year for nonprofits, I'm guessing that your 2014 marketing plan has been put on the back burner for now. But I'm here to help! If you need ideas for new places to start on Jan. 1 (or Jan. 2, let's be honest), then look no further.

Search Engine Optimization

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to take a fresh look at your website and your search engine optimization (SEO) practices. Is your website showing up in organic search results when you Google key phrases? (I'm not just talking about your brand name here, but more general phrases like "wildlife conservation nonprofit"). If not, take a look at your content marketing, and see how you can make your website's content more relevant for the key phrases (or keywords) that you want your website to show highly for.

This is also a good time to look at the overall health of your website, since that also affects SEO. Are your XML Sitemap(s) and Robots.txt up to date (or do you have them at all)? Do you have any broken links on your site, or is it so slow that users often click the back button before waiting long enough for a page to load? Google Webmaster Tools can be a big help in checking the health of your site. You can submit your XML Sitemaps, check for broken links or website errors, and even see how fast your website is compared to most websites.

Cross Promotions

Cross promotions are a great tool in a nonprofit marketer's belt, particularly since they're free! A cross promotion entails two nonprofits making an agreement to send a branded email to each other's email subscribers. For example, say the American Red Cross and the USO want to do a cross promotion. The American Red Cross will send a USO email to its email subscribers (or a specific subset of them, as arranged in the agreement), and the USO will send an American Red Cross email to its email subscribers. The goal is for each nonprofit to get new email subscribers or new donors (or both!). Usually, cross promotions work best when the two nonprofits have similar missions or projects, since the current email subscribers are already interested in those topics. As in our example, the American Red Cross could pick an email topic about its Services to the Armed Forces program to send to the USO email subscribers, since that's something the USO subscribers are already known to be interested in.

Paid Search

If you're not doing paid search advertising already, you should be. Particularly as a nonprofit, since you can enroll in Google for Nonprofits and get $10,000 of free advertising spend per month through Google AdWords! Search advertising is a great way to find new donors, since the users who see your ads are already actively looking for something. For example, say you're a small local animal nonprofit. There are donors out there who are searching for nonprofits that support animals and animal rights; they just might not know about you. Guess where they go first to look for those nonprofits? Yep, Google. If your website isn't already showing up in the organic search results, a paid ad is the best way to get your name and donation link in front of them.

Facebook Advertising

Have you tried Facebook advertising yet? Many people still consider Facebook ads the new kid on the block, but Facebook has really revolutionized the concept of targeted ads. If you're looking to only show your ads to moms over 30 who live in metro areas with children aged 3-5 who like to knit, you can do that! The trick with Facebook is to set a low bar with what you're asking people to do. Unlike with paid search ads, users are not in "search mode," they're most likely catching up with friends or posting their latest cute dog/baby picture. So jumping from "seeing what's new with Carol" to donating to your nonprofit organization can be a big jump. If you set the bar a little lower, however, Facebook can be a great place to get signatures on your latest petition, or even promote downloads of your new app with Mobile App Install Ads. Facebook also just started to roll out new video ads, which could be a great tool in 2014 for those nonprofits who use videos.

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