Lee Odden

Nonprofits in Need of Search Marketing

Lee Odden     Online Marketing


I’ve had the idea in my head for a few weeks now to do some querying of people in the search, PR and social media marketing industries to get an idea what sorts of charities and non-profit causes they’re spending time, resources and money with. In the past, a lot of this kind of activity seems to get the most attention when it’s a response to a terrible event as opposed to a persistent effort. I’m an optimist on this in thinking that a large number of SEM related agencies are actively involved in a variety of such activities.

A recent post by fellow Minnesota SEM/SEO blogger Marty Weintraub, “I Was Diagnosed With Stage 3B Lymphoma” where he pointed out his own experience with cancer as well as the upcoming event sponsored by the cool cats at Best of the Web and Internet Marketers of New York to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, is a good example of using SEM resources, in this case blogs and a conference, to draw attention to a worthy cause.

As a company, TopRank does a certain amount of regional pro bono work for non-profits as well as offering a program for employees to volunteer their time to charities and causes of their choice, receiving compensation for those hours as an incentive. These causes range from the local Children’s Hospital, to animal shelters and the Humane Society, environmental causes, Make a Wish, various cancer research initiatives to working with local school fund raising programs. The pro bono work can be challenging to spend the right amount of time on because of being so busy, but it works out in the end.

I am curious what other organizations, in particular those in the search marketing industry, are doing when it comes to engaging and promoting good causes?

It seems like there’s a real opportunity for a clearinghouse of some kind that matches up SEM agencies willing to provide assistance with causes in need of online marketing services. If something like that exists that is current and active, please leave a description and links in the comments.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Lee, thank you for promoting the NYC event and raising the bar on the dialog. I never thought our search marketing blog would be a place to discuss cancer but the coincidence a search marketers’ Lymphoma benifit taking place during an SMX event we’re covering was just too much serendipity.

  2. Lee, I think this is that organization you are looking for:


  3. Hey Anthony, I did check out that site but it doesn’t work (neither the organizations or the SEM list links work) and I don’t think it’s active.

    I suppose there’s an opportunity then….

  4. I think this is a great idea – I’m not sure I have the resources (i.e. TIME!) to take it on personally but I’d love to help out in any way I can.

    I also couldn’t get the website in Anthony’s comment to work.


  5. Avatar Scott Clark says

    In response to your question, my firm provides the web work marketing for WaldenPlay, an Earthday Endeavor for kids and students. I do almost everything for the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour – a non-profit, volunteer organization which gives upcoming musicians a chance, and have long provided design, hosting and sem services to the Habitat for Humanity , Renovationstation, and misc others. It gets hard once word gets out, and I have to say no plenty of times.

    I wrote a post that came from my work with non-profits that others might find interesting. So many waste so much time and energy on their websites… so this was my effort to help on that.

    Building nonprofit websites in 2007

  6. Hey Scott, thanks for th heads up on your work. I changed it to an anchor text link as long urls can mess with the blog layout. 🙂

  7. Avatar Dave Origano says

    Hey Lee,

    I handle a lot of clients and it’s been quite a trend lately to give a part of the profits to a charity or to setup a foundation – at least amongst my European clients.

    So this trend of SEO companies sharing their services for free with non-profit organisations is completely in line with the more general trend.

    Great discovery though 😉


  8. I like the idea that people remember to help organizations that do not have the means to pay for marketing campaigns. Even if we cannot offer full scale support, stumbling and bookmarking nonprofit pages is a good start. Offering free links on select pages is another small, but important gesture.

  9. Avatar Scott Clark says

    It’s so easy for people to lose focus of what’s important when doing this type of thing.

    What’s overlooked is the amount of waste that non-profits have when it comes to web endeavors. In my experience, there were plenty of “volunteers” wanting to build sites who had zero talent and were just building it for their own portfolio. The results are unmaintainable and often discarded from neglect.

    Such a situation recently happend to me, where a small organization was overwhelmed by a wannabe web marketer and his sledghammer-to-kill-an-ant approach. All they needed was a themed WordPress blog and a couple of plug ins, with a few lessons on naming posts and building links. It is serving them well and everyone can use it. I’m doubting the volunteer had ever heard of CMS. The organization had wasted DOZENS of frustrating hours working on it and everyone had totally lost focus of their goals.

    So in some ways, high level advice and a little hard love would have made things much easier for them. They just didn’t know any better.

  10. Avatar Carrie Hill says

    Scott – great point.

    I helped our local Traditional Archer’s society build a wordpress website. Someone had quoted thousands of dollars for a dynamic website that just wasn’t necessary. Now the board members can go in and put whatever they like in there. Granted, getting the info to put IN the blog has proven harder than actually getting the dang thing built -but it’s there and available for anyone who has an interest.

    Sometimes it really can be that simple!

  11. Avatar Matt McGowan says

    You should also check out CraigsListFoundation.org – a good friend of mine started with Craig’s support. If interested let me know and I will make intro – Matt

  12. Avatar James Omdahl says

    Glad to hear about everyone’s efforts helping out non-profits. It certainly feels good to help, and often it won’t take much time to get some of these organizations to where they want to be (some of them just want to rank for their organization’s name on Google!).

    I’ve recently gotten involved with PTE-China.org, and AIDS charity working in China, helping them out with some of their SEM activities. It’s not only nice to help, but it has given me a glimpse into another world of SEM. The experience has been a win-win for sure.

    And if anyone wants to check out PTE (Prevention Through Education), please do…and any link love to their site would be more than appreciated. 🙂

  13. Great example Carrie!

    Hey Matt, thanks for the heads up on that. I’ll email you.

    Thanks for the heads up on PTE James. An excellent example of SEM for a good cause.

  14. Lee awesome post, As know I am volunteering for the Food for Everyone Foundation basically I am the marketing department. A marketing expert I am not.
    It is great to hear so many people are donating time. The PR aspect of volunteering also can not be overlooked. We always need a hand with marketing so any of you out there wanting to help change the world “One garden at a time” please contact me. Steve @(see url please) TY for the plug Lee

  15. I think this is a great idea. But there are often several problems.

    I live in the Washington DC area where we have a lot of non-profits and associations. From what I see, many of them have at best brochureware sites that they haven’t really updated since 1999. The management can be overly conservative and afraid of anything that’s technology based.

    What’s often needed is bascially a Internet/Web 101 or maybe 201. It’s a shame because so much good can be done.

    The firm I’m with, Abraham & Harrison reaches out to them and there have been some bites. But often the mentality is to have someone’s nephew create/update the site…and then it is horrible for SEO.

  16. Avatar Scott Clark says

    Jonathan – yes!

    In at least one case [large, multi-state nonprof] there was a starvation environment. Once you walked in the door they would strip you, African plains-style, of your every scrap of energy without listening to the advice that would have mattered.

    I realized soon that it was going to be impossible to even pick the LOW hanging fruit. I couldn’t get them to stop talking about animations, fancy design work and snazzy crap – and this was a BIG non-profit. They had a website with only 100 uniques per day, and 80% were short visits. It was a mess, and I had to run for my life. They still call me today with “email” and “computer” questions.