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Case Study: Cuyahoga County Public Library

Location: Northeast Ohio

System Info: 27 branches that serve 47 communities, plus a service point in the county hospital

Service Area: Northeast Ohio is home to more than 117 different ethnicities, making it a melting pot of people from all backgrounds. Approximately 616,000 people live in our service district, which includes a diverse mix of urban and suburban communities. We serve some of the wealthiest and some of the poorest communities in Northeast Ohio. Overall, our service population is older than the U.S. median.

Library URL: www.cuyahogalibrary.org


Library Situation

Cuyahoga County Public Library’s two primary sources of funding are a 2.5 mill property tax levy and Ohio’s Public Library Fund, which is currently set at 1.68% of the General Revenue Fund for the FY 18–19 biennium.

Like many other libraries throughout the country, we are experiencing decreasing circulation and customer visits. At the same time, we have seen tremendous growth in the use of our e-resources, particularly our OverDrive collection, which eclipsed 2 million in circulation for the first time in 2018.

We have used Google Ads for years to help customers find the many materials, programs, and services we have to offer. (For the past several years we have worked with an outside firm to run our paid search campaigns for us.) When I heard about the Google Ad Grant, I saw it as an opportunity to reallocate the dollars we were spending on paid search to other marketing efforts. What I quickly learned was that, to maximize the grant, we would need to run a large number of campaigns—something we simply don’t have the capacity to do. Our team is small but mighty. We’re constantly juggling dozens of projects, email marketing, website content, and social media. As a result, we just don’t have the capacity or expertise to make the most of paid search.

Enter Koios. Their team is currently helping us manage more than a dozen campaigns (with more to come), and doing it better and more effectively than we could on our own.

What type of product / service have you promoted with your Google Ad Grant?

Currently we are using our grant dollars to promote the incredible breadth of our materials, services, programs, e-resources, databases, and our Beyond the Book Jacket Author Series, which has grown in recent years to more than 100 author events per year. The grant dollars have also allowed us to run an effective search campaign around our passport processing and photo services, which is a revenue generator for our library system.

What challenges was your library addressing? What goals was it trying to meet?

Koios is helping us address a key challenge—meeting our customers at their point of intention. We are very good at broadcasting our messages to our customers, but we are still learning how to best deliver our messages and content to them on their terms. Koios has helped us take a step in the right direction by more efficiently and effectively getting our messages in front of customers who are searching the web for solutions to their problems, answers to their questions, and fulfillment of their needs.

Our goals for the work we are doing in partnership with Koios are to increase awareness of the broad scope of our services and collections, drive more traffic to our website and, ultimately, connect with customers who either do not currently utilize our resources or haven’t used them in a long time.

Koios is helping us address a key challenge—meeting our customers at their point of intention.

Why did you decide to try Google Ads?

Libraries have to think beyond posters and flyers if they want to stay relevant. It’s no revelation that online is where the action is happening. The fact is, online advertising is a must to get your message in front of people, but it’s complicated to execute well and time-consuming to manage. It can also be expensive. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you may end up throwing your advertising dollars into a black hole. What library can afford to do that?

We decided to apply for the Google Ad Grant because we saw it as an opportunity to get our messages into a space where we knew we needed to be, and because we knew the budget (up to $10,000 per month) was more than adequate to be competitive in the market. We see the advertising we’re doing through Google Ads as an important piece of our overall marketing strategy and a powerful tool for reaching customers at their point of intention.

What did the start-up process look like at your library?

After receiving the grant, we had a difficult time getting our first campaign approved by Google. Koios stepped in, figured out what we had been doing wrong, and had us up and running in a day or two. After that, we sent them ideas for additional campaigns and in a very short time we had multiple campaigns running.

The introduction of Koios Ads in September 2018 led to greater awareness of the passport service ('impressions' in blue) and a near-doubling of passports processed (red) starting in January 2019.

The introduction of Koios Ads in September 2018 led to greater awareness of the passport service ('impressions' in blue) and a near-doubling of passports processed (red) starting in January 2019.


What sorts of results have you seen from using Google Ads? Have you resolved the challenges and / or met the goals that you started with?

Since we started our Google Ads search campaign for our passport processing and photo services, we’ve seen record-breaking months for revenue. It has definitely increased our visibility and driven customers to our branches who had no idea we offer such a convenient service.

Any words of wisdom you want to share with your peers?

I would tell any library interested in taking advantage of the Google Ad Grant program to consider Koios. They’ll have you up and running multiple campaigns in no time.

Once you have secured the Google Ad Grant, you may be tempted to try and manage the campaigns yourself. Don’t. Koios understands how to maximize the value of your Google Ad Grant dollars and can save you and your already overburdened marketing team lots of time, energy, and money.


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Robert J. Rua is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications at Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), the nation’s top-rated library system among its peers for 9 consecutive years in Library Journal’s Index of Public Library Service. Robert has been with CCPL for more than 11 years and is currently studying data analytics at Case Western Reserve University.

 
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Case Study: Pioneer Library System

Location: Norman, OK

System Info: 12 branches; four (soon to be five) 24-hour library kiosks; one seasonal, full-service shopping mall kiosk; eight “information stations”/”community places” and book boxes (The latter are outposts in rural areas of our three counties where customers can request and have materials delivered.)

Service Area: Pioneer Library System (PLS) serves a diverse tri-county area in central Oklahoma with branches in communities ranging from small towns with populations of less than 5,000 residents to urban libraries, including a branch located in Oklahoma City. Total population of the service area is just short of 400,000 individuals according to the 2015 U.S. Census. Demographics run the gamut from the rural and urban poor to wealthy suburbs to the major university town where the system is headquartered (Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma). We serve diverse communities which include several American Indian tribes (Kickapoo, Absentee Shawnee, Citizen Potawatomi, Chickasaw) as well as significant ethnic populations which include Hispanic, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.

Library URL: pioneerlibrarysystem.org


Library Situation

We are fortunate to be situated in an area that has a history of strong support for public libraries. We are funded primarily by ad valorem taxes, which voters in all three counties approved to be assessed at the highest rate allowed by state statute. Our application for the Google Ad Grant came through the serendipitous meeting of Koios and myself at LMCC 2017 during a time when I was actively considering ways to use Google Ads—but didn’t have sufficient staff to dedicate to the significant Google Ads workload. Nor was I aware that PLS, as a public library system, was eligible for $10,000/month in free ads—a significant consideration.

What type of product / service have you promoted with your Google Ad Grant?

Mostly databases and e-resources

What challenges was your library addressing? What goals was it trying to meet?

PLS, like other library systems, has long offered services such as Brainfuse, Mango Languages, EBSCO’s Military & Government Collection, and other databases and e-resources, but we have been frustrated with low usage. I personally attribute that to the tendency of eyes to glaze over at the use of the word “database” as well as an ignorance of the offerings of the modern library. How many times has any library marketing professional heard the phrase, “I never knew the library offered that”? I personally have lost count.


Why did you decide to try Google Ads?

PLS experimented with Google Ads on a very limited basis, and marketing staff realized the potential benefit, but was unable to dedicate the time to make it work. For an innovative system like PLS, the prospect of showing up first in a Google search for “ESL classes”—and being able to include in the ads that the classes are offered at no charge—was a very attractive one. But, again, there was just no way to integrate the significant outlay of time into the workflows of those responsible for marketing system offerings.

What did the start-up process look like at your library?

Koios made it easy to implement in a short amount of time. I worked with the team to identify the areas we wanted to hit hardest and first, and they picked up the ball and ran with it. Since then we’ve continued to increase the number of offerings we advertise. And the evidence is in the analytics: These ads are being seen and the click-through rate is extremely high.

These ads are being seen and the click-through rate is extremely high.

What sorts of results have you seen from using Google Ads? Have you resolved the challenges and / or met the goals that you started with?

It is a process. We are seeing results—but at the same time, we are only a year into this and it takes time. But we are seeing enough ROI that we are sticking with Koios. They allow PLS to implement these ads at a fraction of what it would cost us to hire a person for a position that would mostly consist of the services offered by Koios.

We have seen an increase in people using the Brainfuse HelpNow databases. We are seeing an uptick in the number of people using our literacy classes (which include citizenship and ESL). And as we analyze the monthly data, we observe that every month, higher numbers of people are clicking on our ads and then following through to sign up.

Once Pioneer Library System got started with the Koios Ads service, it has netted hundreds of clicks on its ads every week.

Once Pioneer Library System got started with the Koios Ads service, it has netted hundreds of clicks on its ads every week.


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Keith Merckx is the Marketing & Communications Manager for the Pioneer Library System in Central Oklahoma. He leads a team of five dedicated individuals, including a pair of degreed librarians, in spreading the word of the crucial work done across the system every day by PLS’s committed staff of more than 300 library professionals.

 
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Case Study: Downtown Boulder Partnership

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Summary of Activities: The Downtown Boulder Partnership (DBP) consists of three entities—a business improvement district (BID), a membership-based organization, and the Downtown Boulder Foundation. The BID provides marketing and a clean/safe program. The membership organization serves as the advocacy arm and supports a gift card program featuring 200 members. The Downtown Boulder Foundation hosts a dozen signature events throughout the year among other fundraising, sponsorship, and support initiatives.

Describe Your District: Boulder, Colorado has a population of 100,000. DBP’s district is 49 blocks in the heart of the city. The Pearl Street Mall is at the center of this vibrant shopping and dining destination. With over 170 retailers and more than 100 restaurants, the district is made up of 80% locally owned and operated businesses.

URL: www.BoulderDowntown.com


Starting Point

Our website is powered by Geocentric’s Citylight software (https://geocentric.com/citylight). Fortunately, SEO has never been an issue, and our website sees strong traffic on a consistent basis. Our social media presence is also strong. Brand recognition is high thanks in large part to the Pearl Street Mall (https://www.boulderdowntown.com/visit/history-of-pearl-street). Event branding is strong within the city and among the locals.

A sample of the Google Ads that ran for the Downtown Boulder Partnership. The list on the left shows some of the key phrases that would trigger these ads to appear in Google search results.

A sample of the Google Ads that ran for the Downtown Boulder Partnership. The list on the left shows some of the key phrases that would trigger these ads to appear in Google search results.

What challenges was your organization addressing? What goals was it trying to meet?

The Downtown Boulder Foundation arm of the organization was established in late 2016. Adding a 501(c)3 has presented many new opportunities to seek grants and funding from previously untapped resources. Through a close partnership with Geocentric, an introduction was made to Koios and the opportunity presented itself to apply Koios’ expertise in the realm of Google Ad Grants.

Increased competition from neighboring downtown districts over the past few years has presented the opportunity to figure out ways to draw people in from nearby cities by promoting the businesses and events that make the downtown Boulder district unique and special.

The total value of the campaigns these last 6 months has been over $47,152—already many times the annual amount we pay Koios for management.

Why did you decide to try Google Ads? What made advertising on Google a good fit for your organization?

The Google Ads program is a good fit for nearly any public-facing organization! Incoming referrals from Google to BoulderDowntown.com were strong and the opportunity to utilize the Google Ad Grant to boost key words and phrases was really a no-brainer. Marketing professionals are always trying to keep up with Google’s changing algorithms, and the opportunity to show up at the top of searches makes perfect sense.

What did the start-up process look like at your organization?

Teaming up with Koios to go through the Google Grant process and to establish a Google Ads account was seamless. The Koios team provided crystal-clear, step-by-step directions and additional support to get things up and running.

The time investment on our end was less than a few hours, and as soon as Google signed off on grant approvals, Koios had our account up and running. Their team has been responsive to questions that pop up, and their client dashboard provides easy-to-read and easy-to-understand analytics that we can view in a daily, monthly, or custom time frame.

What sorts of results have you seen from using Google Ads? Have you resolved the challenges and/or met the goals that you started with?

The results to date have been outstanding. In under a year since partnering with Koios, the Downtown Boulder Foundation is seeing strong results in terms of click-through rates and new views in Google. Through Google Analytics, we can see that the website is seeing a boost in monthly web traffic in the neighborhood of 68%. We’ve also generated over 278,000 impressions, building awareness of downtown as a destination for locals and tourists.

Through the Ad Grant, about 17,000 (55%) new visitors have explored downtown dining and shopping on our website. Roughly 11,500 (37%) have engaged with our upcoming events. About 2,300 (7%) searched branded terms we want to own (e.g., “downtown boulder”), and the remaining 1% considered our downtown gift cards for purchase. The total value of the campaigns these last 6 months has been over $47,152—already many times the annual amount we pay Koios for management.

Any words of wisdom you want to share with your peers?

Koios provides a great service for organizations that do not have the internal bandwidth to monitor and maintain Google Ads and stay in compliance with the Google Ad Grants. Reports are user friendly and the Koios team is responsive and accommodating to all questions and requests.


The Downtown Boulder Foundation is a top Ad Grants performer, consistently reaching the maximum $329 daily grant allowance (meaning they get as many clicks as the budget allows). Downtown organizations are great fits for Google Ad Grants because they want to promote attractions of interest to people both locally and nationally, and Google Ads can increase their visibility well beyond their immediate area.

The Downtown Boulder Foundation is a top Ad Grants performer, consistently reaching the maximum $329 daily grant allowance (meaning they get as many clicks as the budget allows). Downtown organizations are great fits for Google Ad Grants because they want to promote attractions of interest to people both locally and nationally, and Google Ads can increase their visibility well beyond their immediate area.


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Terri Takata-Smith is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the Downtown Boulder Partnership, providing strategic leadership and management of the organization’s initiatives to market and brand downtown Boulder as a premier shopping/dining/entertainment destination.

The Downtown Boulder Partnership (formerly Downtown Boulder, Inc.), is a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of downtown as the heart of the greater Boulder community. As the umbrella organization for the Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District (BID) and the Downtown Boulder Foundation (DBF), the Partnership works tirelessly to make our downtown a national model of success.