Walk A Mile in the User’s Shoes: Search Keyword Brainstorming for the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 | 8:14 AM

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When building a campaign, the starting point can be challenging. Beyond the organization name, what should the keywords be? Should you use specific or long queries, short or broad words? What will users search on, and where can we find a crystal ball to predict these queries?

AdWords in the Curriculum students at Michigan State University worked with the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation, and faced precisely this quandary. Leiomyosarcoma, a type of cancer, is a rare disease that affects 4 out of 1 million people.

Although AdWords campaign tools are helpful for estimating and brainstorming keywords, a preceding valuable starting point is to come up with a raw list of ideas using information about the target audience and non-profit mission.

“We tried to understand what the user went through in trying to find more information on the ailment,” explained MSU student Nupur Bihani. “It was complicated when we learned that the rarity of the disease meant that some doctors weren’t even aware of it.”

“We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of the patient, and walk ourselves through the learning process, and all of the scenarios one would find themselves in. It was really something of a humbling experience.”

Doing so led to a robust set of ideas for search keywords.

“We found that what drove the most traffic were people wanting to learn more about the disease, its symptoms and its cures. In short, people wanted to learn what they were dealing with,” said Kristyn Jones, also on the MSU team for the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation.

“The website offers so many ways to help people who are suffering, not only through support, but also education, treatment and advancing the fight against the disease,” added Ray Lee, the third member of the team.

In addition to general awareness, the foundation hoped to drive more donations through the AdWords platform. To do so, they set up a separate campaign for ribbon sales. Alongside traditional e-commerce, the MSU team found creative ways to create a quantifiable success metric beyond clicks: Facebook. Membership on Facebook for the foundation doubled from 600 to over 1,200 since the AdWords campaigns started.

As a result of the AdWords campaigns and partnership with AdWords in the Curriculum, the NLMSF has seen a surge in awareness, site visits, and donations. Stepping into the shoes of their target audience became a key part of their strategy to think outside the box and get creative with queries. Thanks to the AdWords in the Curriculum student team, NLMSF’s campaigns have become a well-oiled machine to continue to drive exposure and ribbon sales.