Charities should make greater use of search engine marketing as a fundraising tool because it can generate "awesome" returns, delegates to the International Fundraising Congress have heard.
The method is a way of promoting websites by increasing their visibility to internet search engines, such as Google, using measures such as paid advertising or ‘optimisation’, which makes them appear higher on search lists.
Anita Yuen, global digital fundraising specialist at Unicef, said: "The returns on investment are out of control - they’re awesome."
She told delegates that search engine marketing played a crucial role in Unicef’s fundraising efforts during the emergency campaign after the earthquake in Haiti.
"Those offices that got pay-for-click ads on search engines up and running within the first 24 hours of the disaster were the ones that raised the most money overall," she said.
She said that in North America Unicef spent $691,000 (£436,000) on search activities during January 2010, and this generated revenue of $5.3m (£3.3m).
In a separate recent test campaign with virtual gifts, which was run in four countries including the UK, Unicef spent $5,000 (£3,100) on search and this generated revenue of $288,000 (£181,000).
Yuen said that SEM should be used in conjunction with offline events and fundraising methods to maximise returns. She said it should be pushed when events occur that would increase the likelihood of people searching for particular terms.
"Digital doesn’t and can’t sit in a vacuum," she said.
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