Nonprofits and the power of search

McKinsey has a new report out quantifying the gargantuan value of search worldwide (a free download if you register but not a must-read).  It serves as another reminder to nonprofits to pay attention to how people use the Internet and use search find and create communities of cause.  All of us who communicate about nonprofit organizations need to remember to “think keywords” — those phrases people use to search and find out about issues, ways to get involved, or consider donations.  And beyond the need to keep websites fresh and interesting, we need to remember that much of what we do now is to create content that can be “broadcast” in one-way communications or used to pepper social conversations.

A few tidbits:

  • In 2010, an average Internet user in the United States performed some 1,500 searches.
  • Some 90 percent of online users use search engines, and search represents 10 percent of the time spent by individuals on the Web, totaling about four hours per month. 
  • Some 30 percent of US Internet users now use social networks to find content, and 21 percent use them to find videos. 
  • When people search online, they are signaling information about themselves: what they are looking for, when, and in what context—for example, the Web page they visited before and after the search. Such information can be harnessed by those seeking to deliver more relevant content…

There’s some good stuff in the report about the future of search.  It starts to feel like Carl Sagan’s “billions and billion” (or “billions upon billions” depending on which account you believe)… only it’s about trillions and trillions of gigabytes of data.  How will search remain relevant when there is so much stuff out there — and so many SEO experts chasing your attention?  Will people turn more to aggregated (or vertical) sites that they trust?  What will that mean for nonprofits?

Those questions are out there in the cosmos for nonprofits, at least for now.  But McKinsey’s report is a salient and current reminder: as you choose communications media and messages, bear in mind that search is firmly embedded into most people’s daily rhythms.


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