There are many fine blog posts about how to improve the SEO or marketing for charity and nonprofit websites. This is not one of those posts.
In this blog post, I will explore how high-traffic websites with strong SEO programs can use their ranking success to help improve the world (if just the tiniest bit) by bringing awareness and clicks to important on-brand social issues.
While socially responsible, for-profit businesses have become a major trend over the past decade or two, the practice of simply donating resources to a good cause (and receiving tax benefits in the process) is accepted as a normal part of doing business.
According to Charity Navigator, U.S. corporations gave more than $20 billion to charities in 2017.
Of that, I’m guessing little to no contribution was accounted for in the Non-Branded SEO Awareness Impressions column.
On my company’s blog, BMC Blogs, I like to think about our search rankings as real estate, and our non-branded SEO awareness traffic as a valuable corporate asset.
Just like owning and maintaining the value of a house, maintaining search rankings requires improvements over time in order to not only keep the property at the good condition it hopefully started at but to also improve the property over time.
Normally, we use the traffic that results from our search ranking real estate to promote ebooks, whitepapers, analyst reports, free trials, demos, webinars, survey results, and other helpful B2B content.
Recently, we came up with a crazy new idea: what if we donated some of our content’s existing ad placements – normally devoted to our own content and messages – to good causes?
Could we generate awareness and traffic for important social issues while not damaging our existing conversion and traffic volumes?
The answer so far is a resounding yes, with minimal additional work required on top of the work we’re already doing to maintain our search rankings and resultant traffic.
How the SEO for Issue Awareness Program Works
In 2019, we’ve launched an initiative to give away some of our users’ valuable attention to support good causes.
One day per month, we’re now swapping out our right-rail skyscraper banners across our blogs website to generate awareness for good causes.
To keep it simple, we’ve selected a unique global cause for every month out of the year, such as World Health Day in April and International Museum Day in May.
For ease of management, we’re using our A/B testing tool to deploy the content change to 100% of traffic on the defined monthly days.
Additionally, we’ve made efforts to loosely coordinate which causes to support with our other corporate charitable initiatives.
This is what it looks like to our users:
The Results of our Program
After two months with this program in place, we’ve shown a Good Cause CTA to ~16,000 pageviews, and we’re on track to show a Good Cause CTA to ~100,000 pageviews in this pilot 12-month period.
We haven’t generated much in the way of clicks and traffic for these causes yet. However, as we improve the program and find best-fit causes we hope to move in that direction.
I like to think of this as our own little version of Google Ad Grants, in which Google gives away free search result ad space to non-profits.
Tips for Getting Started
- Use your SEO traffic to support existing corporate initiatives first. Afterward, expand to fill in the gaps until you have what you feel is a sufficient plan.
- Consider starting small, with just a couple of days or causes per year that are hyper-relevant to your audience.
- Don’t give away your user’s attention if you can’t afford to. As airline attendants say, put the mask on yourself first, before helping others.
- Try to streamline your CTA process as much as possible so the program runs smoothly with practically no effort by using existing testing tools, scheduling, and standardized CTA formats.
- Gain leadership’s approval before starting the program. You wouldn’t want your manager to learn about a program like this in the wrong way. Many leaders would applaud and support this type of initiative.
- Create a blog post or a short webpage explaining the program. This way your visitors can understand exactly why they’re seeing a message supporting a good cause.
A Call to Action
Are you a website owner, manager or SEO wanting to do something good with the hard work you’ve put in generating traffic from search engines?
I encourage you to find good causes and nonprofits that would be of interest to your website’s audience and simply get started.
In addition to generating goodwill and improving the world, this is an easy way to:
- Support your company’s other charitable programs.
- Lead the way toward starting to become a more socially-responsible business.
If you work for a good cause or nonprofit in need of awareness and traffic, there are a few things you can take away from this post.
- Check out Google Ad Grants to see if you can receive donated SEM visibility from Google Ads.
- Check out what content websites might be a good synergy with your cause – sites that already have banner ads or similar. Get in contact with the owners of those sites and see if they might be interested in donating some of their traffic’s attention.
- How to Activate a Sponsorship to Achieve Content Marketing & SEO Goals
- Take a Stand: Building Links Through Social Responsibility
- Should Your Brand Take a Stand on Controversial or Political Issues?
All screenshots taken by author, May 2019