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  • Writer's pictureChristina Sjahli

Paid Advertising with Ecosia: Grow Your Business and Increase Your Social Impact

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

The Journey of Ruby Au (Growth Marketing Series)

Can social impact and profit go together? Balancing the two is challenging, and many companies find themselves choosing one or the other. However, Ecosia shows that it’s possible. Ecosia is a green search engine, and they found a way to get their paid advertising revenue work for their social impact goals — planting trees in some of the harshest places around the world.

In this episode, Ruby Au joins us to talk about Ecosia’s positive impacts on the environment and paid advertising. She shares the sustainable projects that the company has started. Along the way, they’re able to generate high revenue. Ruby also reveals the goals and measures that will guide a business towards or away from its mission. Finally, we discuss how to get paid advertising work and how people can start partnering with Ecosia.

This episode is part two of the Growth Marketing Series. It aims to show you that business finance and marketing come together to focus on your purpose. If you invest in paid advertising, your marketing team should look at traffic- and conversion-driven metrics. Furthermore, they should also examine how each campaign results in revenue. Through this, your team becomes financial ambassadors, and you’re better able to make sound data-driven decisions.

If you want to know more about how to get paid advertising work for profit and social impact, then this episode is for you!

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Discover the way Ecosia balances profit and social impact.

  2. Understand how your KPIs will always drive your decisions and investments.

  3. Learn practical tips on how to get paid advertising to work for you.


Episode Highlights

[06:40] What Led Ruby to Work for Ecosia

  • Ruby’s background is in business administration and environmental studies. She shares that the two fields look at business very differently.

  • Her interest in the two fields led her to learn about social enterprises and take a fellowship in Nairobi.

  • Ruby wanted to reconcile the conflicting views between environment and business. She wanted to use business for social good.

  • When looking into high-value business models with a scalable positive impact on the environment, Ruby found Ecosia.

  • Social enterprises don’t have a clear path as compared to the traditional career path in business.

[12:42] How Ecosia Works

  • Ecosia is a green search engine. It uses its advertising to plant trees.

  • Ecosia takes up to 100% of its advertising profit to plant trees. To date, the company has planted over 122 million trees.

  • The search engine has also grown to have a support base of over 15 million users worldwide. The more users Ecosia has, the higher its ad value becomes.

  • Ecosia is also supporting regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, and grassroots climate activism.

“Agriculture is such a large piece of what the entire planet depends on to survive. And if agriculture as a practice is depleting the earth, we're kind of shooting ourselves in the foot. But if we can do it in a way, that's regenerative and restorative, it's a double win, right?”

  • Google generates revenue from both income and user data. Meanwhile, Ecosia just focuses on advertising and is privacy-friendly.

[16:51] The Stakeholder vs. Shareholder Approaches

  • Traditional capitalist companies often use a shareholder approach. The company maximizes profits and value for the end shareholders.

  • Companies like Ecosia use a stakeholder approach where it considers the whole ecosystem.

“Now a company like Ecosia, and social companies in general, they try to take what is called a stakeholder approach. Which means the sole purpose for Ecosia existing is not just to generate wealth for shareholders, but it's looking at this ecosystem holistically.”

  • The stakeholder approach considers employees, customers, paying fair taxes, and more.

  • For example, Ecosia has a system where it prioritizes ads that are better for the customer.

[19:52] The Main Mission of Ecosia

  • Ecosia values sustainability.

  • The recently launched Green Search. It enables the user to learn about companies who are making environmental decisions. By placing icons beside companies that you search for, you can make better-informed decisions.

  • The company measures success based on tree planting and their impact, not their profits.

“The end goal always becomes, how many trees is that going to plant? That's the way we measure success as a company. And I think when it comes to advertising and paid advertising, that narrative is always front and center.”

  • This primary purpose is why the company is different from other advertising companies.

[23:09] Are Your Goals Aligned to Impact?

  • Ecosia is carbon positive. Ecosia not only plants trees, but its solar plants also put energy back into the grid.

  • If your KPI is about impact, all your actions will be towards that.

“If your KPI is impact, everything is driving towards that. And you're saying, ‘Well, if we can't be carbon positive to some extent, that's not enough,’ right? We've got to match up to the impact goals that we're setting for ourselves.”

  • Many companies have CSR projects like tree planting, but these are often side projects with a minimal budget. Not all tree planting projects are equal.

  • For Ecosia, social impact also improves the environment, helping farmers, and supporting agriculture.

  • Listen to the full episode to hear Ruby’s explanation on how Ecosia plans their projects.

[32:21] Ecosia’s User Profile

  • 60% of Ecosia users are under 35, while 30% of them are under the age of 24. The gender split is roughly 50/50.

  • Most search engine competitors have an audience much older and typically male.

  • A big part of Ecosia’s users is from the younger generation. Ruby attributes this Ecosia resonating with the younger generation’s desire to address climate change.

“Climate change is an equal topic of concern across genders. But it is also especially resonant I think, with the younger generation, because they've grown up seeing the worst effects of climate.”

  • While Ecosia started in Germany, it has also gained a following in France and the United States.

[36:06] How Paid Advertising with the Syndicated Partner Network Works

  • Ecosia uses the Microsoft advertising network. Therefore as an advertiser, you need to create a Microsoft account.

  • There are different options to choose from. This includes owned and operated only, owned and operated, and syndicate partners only. Ecosia falls under syndicate partners.

  • Being part of the Syndicated Partner Network means you increase your reach. Listen to the full episode to learn how this works and its benefits.

  • When you leverage syndicate partners, you can see which sites perform the best in terms of traffic.

  • You can narrow down your advertising bids to the domains or websites that have the most traffic for your ad.

  • The performance of your ad depends on other factors like ad placement, copywriting, and even target audience.

[42:09] How to Get Paid Advertising to Work for You

  • Before starting your campaign, make sure to plan your keyword. This helps you see the volume and competition of searches.

  • Listen to the full episode to learn about the tools you can use for keywords and how they work.

  • You can also gauge your budget and identify keywords for your business.

  • Don’t set a low budget at the start. Start high and adjust as necessary. In doing so, you’ll learn what works best for you.

[49:13] Mission and Profit Can Go Together

  • Ecosia shows that mission and profit can go together.

  • They’ve been experiencing exponential growth and targets to plant 75 million trees in the coming year.

  • This is possible only because their CEO stood his ground from the start.

  • The bigger a business becomes, the more it can stray away from its original mission. So Ecosia committed itself to not taking outside capital.

About Ruby

Ruby Au is the Head of Ecosia North America. Ecosia is the search engine that plants trees to fight climate change. As head of North American markets, Ruby is in charge of the company’s growth strategy for the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Ruby is also the founder of Lumen Labs Limited. This is a social enterprise and official partner of Edtech East Africa. The company was named HolonIQ’s 2020 List of the 50 most innovative African EdTech startups. They use software technology to design and deploy project-based computer education in the country.

Ruby is passionate about making business models relevant and accessible. Before Ecosia and Lumen Labs Limited, she worked as a consultant and business development expert in several companies. With an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Environmental Studies, Ruby believes in the power of social impact and sustainability.

Are you interested in Ruby’s work? You can check out her blog posts at Ecosia.

You can also reach her on LinkedIn.

Powerful Quotes

“There are key areas of the business where sometimes we would say, ‘Oh, these are specific sectors that really have an impact when it comes to sustainability.’ And then we might go to our search partners and kind of have a conversation around, ‘Does it make sense to adjust to these search results?’”

“It's never really about censoring the information or changing the information. It's more about highlighting the background of certain decisions so that you as a user can make better choices.”

“What it means is that Ecosia is actually removing CO2 from the air. We're not just neutral, we're actually changing the balance of CO2.”

“The most straightforward benefit is that it increases your reach, and increases your volume and increases your clicks. And that's kind of intuitive, right? As you jump into the syndicate bucket, it opens you up to more opportunities.”

“It comes down to how well you're able to communicate your impact narrative, regardless of whether it's a tangible product, or maybe it’s service. But being able to tell that story of you know, this is why we do what we do. And that's one of the reasons why Ecosia invests so much in storytelling.”

Enjoy this Podcast?

We often wonder if we can balance social impact with profit. And Ecosia shows that it’s entirely possible. They were able to get paid advertising to work for them and create a positive impact on the environment. If you enjoyed today's episode of Her CEO Journey Podcast, then hit subscribe and share it!

Write us a review and share it! If you enjoyed tuning into the show, then do not hesitate to leave us a review. You can also share this episode with the women you know so they can find financial empowerment and get their ideas into the world.

Have any questions about business finance? You can contact me through LinkedIn or schedule a chat with me at any time. You can also suggest topics you're curious about for future episodes to help your business grow. Thanks for listening!

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To fueling the life you want to live,



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