Fundraising app cast study: Graphic of workers exchanging gifts

Case Study: A Fundraising App Disrupts a Competitive Category and Grows Traffic 1,100%

Starting a business is never easy, but capturing market share in a niche category that’s dominated by a couple of household names? That requires additional outside-the-box thinking to achieve success. 

Fundraising tools fall into this category where a few big-name players compete for the same small audience. 

One fundraising app recently found itself in the challenging position of attempting to launch a new product and join this exclusive space. As a startup with precious limited resources, they had to get in front of specific prospective customers to have any hope of holding their own against the household names. 

This made command of earned channels essential for their brand. Partnering with Growth Machine was an ideal solution to create an SEO strategy that would build both their online presence and a foundation for long-term success. 

The Business Problem: Building Brand Awareness and Website Traffic in a Highly Competitive Category

Before a brand can gain market share, it needs to build brand awareness. But how does a brand with a limited budget accomplish swift growth in a highly saturated category? 

Traditional advertising would have cost the brand hundreds of thousands of dollars and cast too broad of a net for such a niche offering. 

Paid search would allow them to target their message more carefully, but with no guarantee that they’d be able to reach qualified leads. 

They needed a surefire way to reach people who were unhappy with the established brands in the category and looking for an alternative.

They knew their tool could if positioned properly, have a variety of users – not just non-profit founders and general fundraisers, but schools, sports teams, churches, and more. But each use case required slightly specific messaging in order to effectively frame it as a solution to each type of need. 

In most cases, this kind of hyper-specific, multi-pronged messaging strategy is complicated and costly to execute. They needed to find a partner who could help develop an effective strategy that would quickly put their brand in front of the right customers without breaking the bank. 

The Strategy: Build Authority and Traffic Concurrently With a Scorched-Earth Keyword Approach

Though a client with a hard-to-reach user base and a limited budget doesn’t seem like the start of a successful project, Growth Machine knew the right SEO strategy would put the brand on a strong growth trajectory. 

The client’s greatest asset was their unusually high – for a “young” website – domain authority rating (the score that reflects how authoritative and reliable Google views the site’s content compared to other sites containing similar content).

They had earned a few backlinks by working with extremely high-authority sites already. That was more than enough to allow us to skip the typical first round of extremely low-volume/low-difficulty keywords. This step is usually necessary to invite Google to start paying attention to a newer site, but it rarely results in much meaningful traffic. 

At the time, no brand in the fundraising space had made a significant investment in keyword-optimized content. This gave us – and our client – an advantage over the competition, and it looked something like this: 

  • Relentlessly searching for all keywords on the topic of fundraising, with the intention of “blanketing the web” with content related to every possible fundraising keyword. 
  • Filtering based on an unusually high level of difficulty. For most clients, especially those just starting out with their content strategy, we limit keywords to an easy-to-moderate difficulty level. But in this case, we were much more ambitious. 
  • Ensuring that every article was substantive and valuable to the reader. We never publish fluff or keyword-stuffed content – only articles that establish our clients as an authority in their space. Our fundraising client was no exception. 

Targeting Users Throughout the Sales Funnel 

We designed our content to appeal to searchers at various points in the sales funnel. Our writers provided more generalized resources for searchers just starting their fundraising journey (such as fundraiser event planning ideas for various groups) while tackling lower-funnel search queries that answered more technical questions and spoke to deeper customer pain points. Examples included how to engage donors, how to prospect for donors, and how to utilize platform functionalities like text-to-give and email marketing features. 

Eventually, as the project progressed, the Growth Machine team had exhausted the broader, top-of-funnel keywords. We pivoted the project to focus on increasingly niche keywords that were lower in volume. The competition for these keywords was almost non-existent. 

This approach allowed us to broaden the reach of the scorched-earth strategy and secure even the furthest corners of the fundraising conversation landscape for our client. 

The lower-volume keywords often spoke to non-profit platform features that positioned the client against competitors, highlighting solutions their platform provides, but competitor platforms do not. Though lower in search volume, these technical keywords were ultra-specific and attracted a highly qualified lead through the targeted nature of the query.

Identifying (and Using Content to Fill) Opportunity Gaps

Gap analyses also played a significant role in our strategy since this category had a great deal of online white space. At first glance, it may have looked like most of the important and relevant keywords were too competitive. A deeper analysis revealed that much of the content ranking for these keywords wasn’t actually as relevant as it could be. Google will rank the most relevant and highest quality article for a keyword – until something more relevant and higher quality comes along. That’s where Growth Machine’s work came in. 

We identified content that was ranking for, but only tangentially related to, relevant keywords for our client and wrote articles that directly targeted the keyword or query. This strategy provided Google with a better option to rank for the target keyword that, in most cases, Google recognized and rewarded by quickly ranking the article. 

We also dug more deeply than most competitors into the keyword landscape of the category. We analyzed areas of particular opportunity where either the competitors’ product or written content didn’t address a user pain point or where our client’s service did it far better.

For example, we created an article on GoFundMe alternatives that provided readers with solutions to a common industry pain point. Specifically, many organizations struggle to find a donation platform that allows users to easily make single and recurring online donations with minimal associated fees. Using GoFundMe, the industry-standard donation platform at the time, came at a price. Their transaction fee of nearly 3% plus 30 cents can eat up a large sum of total donations over the course of a campaign. Organizations needed a round-up of alternative solutions, and we delivered. 

Establishing a Productive Client Feedback Loop

We made the most of our monthly meetings with the client team. We wanted to understand their larger marketing strategy and activities as much as possible and adjust our content strategy to best support them. 

For example, when a member of their team appeared on a podcast, we could react by repurposing the transcript into a blog post or creating a keyword-optimized post on a related subject. 

We also did a lot of keyword brainstorming, allowing the client to weigh in and offer insight into their product and business. This helped us hone our approach and our message. 

While this degree of involvement from a client is somewhat unusual and is never required, their input and perspective were valuable assets to the project and only served to enhance the efficacy of our content strategy. They know their space and their product best, and they helped us find opportunities to cover exciting features and things that set them apart from competitors.

In sum, although the donation space was dominated by a couple of power players, no one had made a consistent and high-quality investment in online content at the time. We quickly and decisively established our client as a thought leader for searchers looking for resources about nonprofit administration, fundraising, and donation management platforms. 

The Results: Over 1,000% Organic Traffic Growth

Fundraising app case study: Traffic growth chart

Our aggressive strategy to quickly capture SERP market share paid off. The project saw almost 300% growth in organic traffic after six months of publishing. 

The site’s organic traffic grew from 3,400 organic sessions in the first month to 43,000 in month 23 of the project. That’s a 1,165% increase!

Within three months of publishing, we were able to rank the site for 23 keywords on the first page, including 11 in a coveted top-three position. 

By June of 2022 (about two years into publishing), we had gained 2,252 first-page rankings for the site, of which 550 were in a top-three position. 

Organic keywords chart by position

The most exciting part of this project’s success was that we achieved all of this growth for the client without relying exclusively on large-volume keywords. 

In fact, about 40% of the content was designed to target extremely low-volume keywords (~100 searches/month or less). Because we were strategic about selecting the right keywords at the right time throughout the project’s lifecycle, using low-volume keywords supported our client’s site growth rather than hindered it.

Learn How We Can Tailor a Content Strategy for Your Business Growth

By customizing our content strategies to our clients’ business goals and industries, we’re able to win rankings, traffic, and ultimately sales for them  –  even in the most competitive markets. 

This client continues to enjoy the success of our niche-keyword content strategy that was effective in not only increasing their organic traffic exponentially, but in establishing the brand as an authority in the online discussion within the highly competitive fundraising category. 

After 26 months of working together, we grew the client’s organic search presence and built enough SEO momentum for them to establish an in-house content marketing team. 

If you’re ready to explore how we can help your business grow online, schedule a call to get started. 

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