Type in "stories of good" on search engines other than Google's, and the first links one sees tend to be those of book-selling websites. But do the same on Google, and the first item on the search page is usually a link to Our Better World (OBW), a website started by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) to showcase inspiring stories.
The reason for the different results is that OBW has made use of Google's Ad Grants programme, in which non-profit groups such as the SIF can get US$10,000 (S$12,780) of free advertising each month. This means OBW's sites appear at the top of the search list, in the area reserved for paid ads.
Ad Grants, which has been offered in more than 35 countries and supported more than 14,000 organisations since 2003, was started here in July. The Internet giant set up an office here in 2007.
Google Singapore's country director, Ms Joanna Flint, told The Straits Times: "The goal of Ad Grants is to remove barriers for Singapore-based non-profits wanting to reach audiences online."
Google's offer comes as social service providers here ramped up their Internet presence, in response to how many of those who need their help - especially the young - are looking for it online.
These providers have become more active on social media, for instance.
But Ms Flint said a key advantage that advertising through search engines has, vis-a-vis other online methods, is that it not only increases the user traffic to advertisers' websites, but also improves the "quality" of the traffic.
"The people who see the ad are those who searched for relevant keywords, so they're more likely to be engaged and interested in the ad."
OBW, which has a limited marketing budget, said it has already seen a difference in its online traffic since it began using the grant in July.
That month, it used keywords such as "football tournament" to promote its event, in which the public could play with members of the Singapore Cerebral Palsy Football Team. The Ad Grants campaign helped bring in about a third of the 32 teams taking part.
Visitors to the website from search engines rose by 70 per cent to about 11,000 a month. They also stayed on the website longer and read more pages. While those who advertise online are charged when their ads are clicked, non-profit groups could potentially have at least 5,000 clicks a month without paying, under Ad Grants.
"The online space is so cluttered, and we're competing with other advertisers," said Ms Rebecca Lim, head of Our Better World, which has featured stories such as the silver won by the Singapore Cerebral Palsy Football Team at the ASEAN Para Games in Myanmar last January.
"The grant has enabled our stories to inspire more people to do good," she said.
This article was first published on October 17, 2014.
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