Health promotion and Google AdWords - 7 principles that will actually get you more sign-ups and donations online

Google AdWords for nonprofits

By James Mulvey

This article is part of Redbird Communications blog series covering insights, tactics, and strategies for promoting health causes with Google’s Search and Display Network. For more articles like this, please follow us on Twitter (@Redbirdcomms)

Thinking about using online advertising for your health organization? We have a starter package for organizations wanting to experiement with online advertising. Our fee is $350 for intial account set-up, copywriting, and strategy. We will then give you $100 in free AdWords advertising (aproximately 30 days of free ads on the Google Search Network) and 2 free hours of agency time, maintaining and optimizing your account. Any questions? Just drop us a line (contact).   

Google AdWords for health promotion--where to start?

In 2011, Google launched their Google for Nonprofits -an online advertising system aimed to help nonprofits reach more donors, and raise awareness. While Google has already reported nonprofits having some pretty impressive results with their search and display networks, few health organizations really understand the power of search and display advertising.

This article provides an overview of Google’s Search Network for marketing managers and those involved in overseeing the promotion and communications of health organizations and other socially-orientated enterprises. It shows you some essential differences between traditional advertising and online and how you can effectively use search marketing for your next health promotion campaign.

health promotion campaigns and online advertising

#1 Understand why Google’s AdWords is a powerful channel for health promotion campaigns 

Google has two major ways to advertise: the Google Display Network and the Search Network. This article covers search advertising. We will get into the Display Network at a later date.

Google AdWords is one of the most efficient advertising systems in the world. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad. And all ads are run in a real-time bidding auction, meaning that you can’t buy your way to the top. Traditional advertising gives the highest bidder the best real estate. If you want a full-page ad at the front--just sign the cheque. Google AdWords is different. To achieve a high placement, Google looks at your historical data, keyword choice, and your past performance. The reason is that AdWords is a performace-based channel: companies and organizations that achieve results are most likely going to invest more into AdWords. Google wants advertisers to succeed. Not just pay a bunch of money for medicore results. 

At a higher level, Google knows that the ads it serves are a direct reflection on the quality of its search engine. And so, Google rewards ‘relevancy’: ads that provide a meaningful, helpful experiences to users, giving them the information that they have come to Google to learn.

So how does a health organization or social enterprise use Google AdWords to raise awareness for a social cause or deliver important health information to the public? The answer lies in understanding the ‘search intent’ of people who use search engines. If you align your ads with the intent of the searcher, you can create an advertisement that elicits immediate action.

We will cover the major points and go over some best practices for using Google’s search network for awareness campaigns and health promotion.

#2 Tap into the power of contextual advertising

Unlike mass media advertising, Google’s advertising system is based on the principle that advertising becomes most effective when placed in the context of a user’s media experience. TV ads, print ads, and traditional broadcast media have to interrupt a user’s experience. It’s just the nature of the medium. There is no natural way to relate, for example, a vacuum cleaner advertisement to American Idol. As a result, mass media ads always try to grab a viewer or reader’s attention, interrupting them in order to have them receive their message.

This can be effective in mass media. But it will get you nowhere online. Google has built an advertising system that is based on contextual relevance: users only see ads relevant to their reason for being online.

If someone is reading up about dream vacations online--it makes sense that the best advertisements to feature would be related to hotels, cheap flights, and tropical resorts.
The result? Your ads won’t be ads. They will be valuable pieces of information that the user is happy to find and receive.

As AdWords expert Brad Geddes points out, “ads do not have to be annoying or intrusive. Ads can be very helpful if they are created properly, because advertising is not actually advertising when it is information.”

Greater relevance of an ad to an user’s intent online = greater response, lower cost, and more qualified traffic to your website.

With this in mind, here are some things that marketing managers should consider when overseeing their Google AdWord’s campaigns for health promotion.

#3 Understand to motivate

Your health organization or social enterprise might not be trying to sell cheap designer bags or vacation packages, but you are still selling something.

You are asking a user to trade their attention and energy to listen to your message. You might be using AdWords to encourage people to download your new healthy eating application. Or maybe asking people to donate to your latest fundraising cause.

It doesn’t matter. Users guard their time online just as much as they guard their money. Deliver concrete reasons for people responding, appeal to their emotions, and show the value of clicking on your ad.

Test different offers. Write different ads until you find one that resonates with your audience.

Motivation comes from understanding and getting into the heads of your target audience. Give them a reason to do the action requested.

#4 Avoid curiosity as a motivator

In traditional advertising, curiosity or borrowed interest is a powerful technique to get the attention of viewers. As you typically buy mass media impressions, the more people that you draw into your ad the better. You pay for ad space--not for individual interactions.

But in Google AdWords, you pay for each click. That means luring people into your ad with curiosity is counterproductive. A better strategy is to use the ad to qualify visitors, discouraging users outside your target market from proceeding to the click.

You can refine the focus of your market by making clear the function of your ad. Remember, Google AdWords is a search network: not a general advertising channel. You are targeting people as they search for specific answers. And the best way to get high returns is to make your ads clear solutions to search queries.

In other words, if you are using the Google Search Network to raise mass awareness--this is probably not the best strategy. You should be using display ads which are more about brand and message distribution than driving action to your website.

If you use focused keywords rather than general keywords, you will not only drive down the price of individual placements (as Google will only place them in highly relevant queries), but also convert much better as you are providing an exact match to a user’s question.

#5 Make action simple

A common mistake of health marketers is that after they get a click they simply “dump” the click onto their homepage. The idea is that as the user is interested in the ad message, they can find more information on the organization’s homepage. This will only work for extremely motivated searchers--most of your searchers will simply hit the back button and keep searching.

Think of the searcher’s perspective: they have been searching for an answer to a problem. Your ad promised an answer, an instant answer. And so, they abandoned their search to follow your ad. But instead of finding the answer at the end of the ad, they were asked to figure it out themselves.

online tactics for health promotion campaigns

Continuity between your search ad and the destination URL is extremely important. You always want to send users to a specially targeted page--not your homepage--that exactly matches your ad. For example, if you offer a free download of a health whitepaper, it’s not enough that there is a button on your homepage with that info--send them to a page where all they can do is download the paper.

Simplicity online is action.

#6 Turn one action into another action

Most health campaigns will try to get just one click. They just try to bring users to a website, get them to swallow some health information, and then let them leave.

A much more powerful model is to turn one action (the user clicking on your ad) into another action (a download, social sharing, email sign-up).

In every campaign, you should have a specific action you want to take place. It could be watching your new awareness commercial and then re-tweeting the commercial (turning one click into social sharing). Or signing up for a newsletter. Or downloading a health app. Whatever your goal, just remember that the best way to drive up conversions is to decide on one key action after users have clicked on your site.

After you have decided on the key action you want users to do on your site, you can use Google’s excellent conversion tools to figure out what is preventing people from doing these actions.

Let’s say that you want people to sign up as blood donors. You should be very attentive to the key stages in that sign-up process--such as entering a medical number. Often, it’s the position of the information that can result in abandonment.

Also, always ask for the most important information first (such as email) so that if a searcher abandons the sign-up form, you can then re-market to them.

#7 Make it easy

Let’s say you click on an ad for health information. You want the information. And then you land on a complex website with dozens of choices. What would you do? Would you dig around for the information? Most people leave.

Make it simple. And you will see results.

If you only remember three things. . .

• Search advertising is an action-orientated marketing channel. Hyper-targeted campaigns and relevant, helpful ads will provide the greatest response and action.

• Give users something. You might be a health organization, but you are asking users to donate their time and attention. Provide an incentive. A free app, a download, a fridge magnet--anything.

• Build action into your campaign. Don’t use search advertising to collect clicks--instead, focus on a user completing an action. Sign them up on an email list. Ask them to tweet your campaign message. Get them to act. You are buying their attention--so use it.

About us

Redbird Communications is an award-winning marketing agency that specializes in raising awareness and changing behavior through mass media, online, and community-based social marketing. We help clients develop cost-effective strategies and launch campaigns that create a positive impact in the world.

Redbird’s current campaigns involve energy conservation work with BC Hydro and health promotion for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon. To view our health promotion campaigns click here.

For more articles like this, please follow us on Twitter (@RedbirdComms).

$100 free starter account for health organizations and other social enterprises 

Want to test out Google AdWords for your organization? We have a starter package to help you.  Our fee is $350 for intial account set-up, copywriting, and strategy. We will then give you $100 in free AdWords advertising (aproximately 30 days of free ads on the Google Search Network) and 2 free hours of agency time, maintaining and optimizing your account. Any questions? Just drop us a line (contact).  To find out more, just drop us a line (contact).   

Free Redbird Research Report: The Most Effective Tactics for Attracting Donors and Volunteers

Google AdWords and Health Promotion


Redbird has released a free research report for non-profits.

In the report, you'll find:

  • Research on approaching business leaders, corporations, and foundations for support.
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Additional resources:

Google's special program for nonprofits

What health promotion can learn from the science of eccomerce 

16 powerful online fundraising tools

6 Common Website Branding Mistakes 

Tips for planning the length of behavioural change campaigns 

Changing behaviour? Not without your neighbour. 

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