Marketing Tips for Pet Rescues and Shelters – 25 tips for a successful business

Marketing tips ideas for pet rescues and shelters

You might have the best pet rescue in your area, but potential adopters need to know about who you are, what you do, and where to find you. So, how do you spread awareness of your business, keep up with competition such as pet shops and breeders, and get people to choose you for their next pet?

Our list of 25 marketing tips for pet rescues will help you market your shelter successfully, using the latest technology and strategies!

What exactly is Marketing? Why is it important to your pet rescue or shelter?

Effective marketing allows you to:

  • use the right language to communicate with your audience
  • know your target market (who you want to connect with)
  • establish an effective communication style
  • specify who you are and what you do
  • know what differentiates you from your competition

Marketing will be more effective once you understand communication styles, have a defined target audience, know your brand, and have strong self-awareness.


Target market for pet rescues and shelters

Before you work through the marketing tips below, answer the following questions:

  • Who are we (as an organisation)?
  • What makes us different from others?
  • Who is our ideal target market?
  • What is the message they want to hear?
  • What is the best way to communicate this message to them?

In marketing, there are two main goals – brand awareness and lead generation. Effective marketing will achieve both. In the earlier stages of business growth, lead generation is usually more important, as you need clients to start adopting from you to cover outgoings. Once the business is established and you’re steadily having animals adopted, you can shift to a brand awareness campaign to keep your business top-of-mind in the target market.


25 tips to market and grow a successful pet rescue


1. Use SEO to rank high in Internet Search results

SEO marketing for pet rescues and shelters


SEO is a great digital marketing strategy for pet shelters in today’s business environment. Gone are the days when people reached for the yellow pages to search for a business. Now, most people use a digital device to type or speak into Google. This includes looking for pets!

The Search Engine Journal says “93% of online experiences begin with a search engine”.  It’s therefore very important to incorporate Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) into your marketing plan.

Ideally, your business will be #1 in Google searches for the keywords being used by your potential clients, or at least appear on the first page. This makes it easier for clients to find you and enables your business to be more profitable – without huge advertising bills or stress. Most pet shelters will find adopters in their local area, so use a local SEO strategy to drive more business to your website. SEO can be done in-house, or you can hire a professional who specialises in the field. 

If you want to keep your overheads down and have complete control over the SEO marketing for your business, start learning with SEO Course for Beginners by Georgie Hope.

SEO pet rescues and shelters

2. Create a Google Business Profile

Google My Business for pet rescues and shelters

The Google directory should be a key online marketing strategy for your business. It allows you to:

  • Add images to increase your visibility online and boost your brand identity
  • Encourage potential clients to contact you
  • Obtain more leads for your business by increasing your online exposure
  • Engage with potential clients
  • Attract more clients by creating special offers
  • Be seen on Google Maps

Create your FREE Google Business listing and ensure you complete all the details for your profile. Keep the business name, address and phone number consistent across all online listings and your website. Also, make sure you select the correct category for your business so you appear in relevant searches. Your business description will help you stand out from your competitors, so it is worth spending some time on this. Add relevant and enticing photos. Finally, ask previous and current clients to leave reviews.

Aim to get as many good reviews as possible. Two-thirds of people say they trust consumer opinions posted online. It is the third most trusted form of advertising. [Nielson] We’ll talk more about reviews in Tip #20.


3. Automate social media posts

Social media is an ideal marketing platform. It’s FREE and can have a huge impact on getting you more customers. You need to research where your specific audience is online and focus on the platforms you’re best at using. Whichever platform you choose, make sure to show off your amazing organisation and feature your happy clients. Animal photos tend to do very well online and appeal to a broad audience, which puts you at a distinct advantage.

Use the following suggestions to make your social media presence a successful marketing tool:

  • Keep content focused on building trust – post pictures of the pets you have available, write about rescue stories, feature your staff, happy customers, etc. to ease potential clients’ minds
  • Repost content created by customers, and work with influencers
  • Respond quickly to comments and messages
  • Interact with local businesses and potential customers
  • Always link back to your website from social media pages (these are called backlinks and help with SEO)
  • If you use Pinterest, Pin directly from your website to Pinterest – when somebody clicks on the Pin, it takes them to your website

A new social site making waves is TikTok, which is also worth trialling, even if you just share posts back to Instagram via Reels.

Posting regularly on your social platforms is time consuming, especially when you have many channels to post to. It’s worth utilising a website that lets you upload content to many sites with one click, and schedule posts for future dates and times. This will create a steady stream of fresh content on your social media, keeping your followers engaged, and streamlining the amount of time it takes to create marketing content. Try Hootsuite or IFTTT.


4. Promotional giveaways and raffles

promotional giveaways for pet rescues and shelters

Holding a competition for pet-related freebies can be a very effective way to generate leads and create awareness of your business. 

Giveaways can be hosted on social media or on your website. For a website-hosted giveaway, use social media platforms to drive leads back to your website, where clients must enter their information to be in the draw for a chance to win. Social media-hosted giveaways won’t allow you to get as much information about your audience, but can help you grow your social media engagement. Posts are easily liked and shared on social media pages, and with enough momentum, your promotion could go viral and create thousands of leads for your business.

For an even bigger promotion that has a wider reach, team up with other pet businesses. 

You could also have a weekly raffle that will help raise awareness and increase income.

5. Blog to your website regularly

blogging for pet rescues and shelters

Blogging is a brilliant way to express your brand’s personality. Your viewers get to know you as well as your business. You have the opportunity to engage with them honestly and intimately. 

The content of the blog is important. You can maximise your online presence by posting relevant content your potential clients might search for; tweak the blog content to work towards higher Google rankings by adding keywords. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Share exciting and interesting animal stories – what have been some of your bigger challenges, and how did you overcome them? What are some funny animal incidents that have occurred in your organisation?
  • Share location-specific blogs to boost local SEO
  • Give your audience an idea of what will happen if they adopt from you
  • Discuss items that need to be taken into consideration when adopting from a shelter
  • Turn testimonials from customers into story-structured blog posts
  • Offer tips and tricks for common adopting problems (this shows your expertise)
  • Deliver content that your readers are interested in – write for the customer, not for the sale
  • Use your well-researched SEO keywords throughout blog posts to improve your organic Google search result rankings (as discussed in Tip #1)

6. Business cards are powerful

Don’t underestimate the power of a business card or brochure. Hand out as many as you can. When you have a successful adoption, make sure the new pet owners have some of your business cards to hand out to family and friends. A lot of future business will come from word of mouth, and this spreads much easier when all of your information can be handed to someone on a card.

Your business card or brochure is a mini-introduction of you and your business. Make sure it includes your organisation’s:

  • Name & business name
  • Logo
  • Brand colours
  • Contact details
  • Website
  • Social media links
  • Design that reflects your industry 
  • A call to action

7. Create photo slideshows and videos

presentations for pet rescues and shelters

If the old saying is ‘a photo is worth a thousand words’, a video must be worth a million.

90% of customers say a video will help them make buying decisions, and 64% of customers say seeing a video will make them more likely to buy. [Forbes]

Slideshow videos are a great way to display your business. Pick 10-15 images, appropriate and engaging background music, and create a 30 second slideshow video that loops. This video should be saved to your website and shared to your social media platforms. Make sure to add an engaging caption that tells a story about your business. Some popular tools to create great images and slideshows are Lightroom, Adobe Spark and Animoto.

Video is another media form to utilise in marketing:

  • Create a behind-the-scenes video by having someone take video footage of you working 
  • Create an educational video sharing your expertise on pets
  • Create a video blog to give your viewers the chance to see and hear you, and connect with you

You can also create videos for each pet that is shared to socials. Instagram has a very easy software to create video reels and these can be posted to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr at the same time

8. Create a YouTube channel

YouTube for pet rescues and shelters

It’s definitely worth having a YouTube channel for any business. YouTube is the second most visited website in the world after Google [Alexa Internet rankings].

Make sure you link back to your website from your YouTube channel so people can easily find and contact you. Share links to your YouTube videos on social media and embed them on your website. You can also break your videos into smaller snippets for your other social media channels, and consider trialling newer mediums like TikTok and Instagram Reels.

Post the videos you have already created for your website, but try to make some content specifically for YouTube, like vlogs and tutorials. 

9. Build your email list and send newsletters 

email marketing for pet rescues and shelters

Part of your business marketing strategy should be emailing past and potential customers regularly.

You put in a lot of effort to get contact information from potential customers, even if this is just a first name and email address. Don’t waste that information. When they first made contact with you, they may not have quite been ready to adopt a pet. Keep your connection with them by communicating via email, and when they’re ready, your business will be one of the first to come to mind.

Reminding your potential customers of your organisation is a great marketing strategy because you never know when someone is looking for a pet, and you want to be the first person they think of. 

Services like Mailchimp make the process of email marketing easy and save time. You can even schedule emails and set up automations based on different types of customers.

Remember to keep your mailing list happy so they don’t unsubscribe. To avoid them losing interest, you might include:

  • Personalised anniversary emails – Send an email wishing them “Happy Anniversary”, “Happy Birthday”, etc.
  • Special Occasion emails – send holiday emails to everyone on your email list, updating them of any closure times over the holidays, and include a special holiday gift to them, such as “10% off vaccinations if booked before …”
  • Monthly Wrap-up email – send to all past, present, future and potential clients. Include a summary of the month for your business.

10. Ask for referrals from your past clients

Marketing strategies continually evolve, but one constant always remains – just how powerful word-of-mouth referrals are!

The most credible advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. 83% of people say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family. [Nielson]

Get your past clients to recruit new pet adopters. You never know who may have a friend about to look for a new cat or dog. If you make sure your past clients had a great experience with you, and have stayed front-of-mind through marketing, they should recommend you.

You can reward your past client by giving them a referral bonus and offer the new client a similar offer if they let you know they were referred on by a past client. That’s a WIN-WIN-WIN situation. You have a new adopter, the past client receives something for their effort, and the new client receives something for choosing you!

11. Send letters

Marking for pet rescues and shelters

Mail is still a great way to connect with your audience, especially if they’re of an older demographic or aren’t online. 

A letter can feel far more personal than an email or social media post, so sending the occasional reminder or marketing material to your customers’ letterboxes is a great way to make memorable contact and build trust. This will likely be in the form of manually sending letters to past clients, but you can also hire a third party to deliver flyers to letterboxes in a chosen area. 

Make sure your letters have an easy-to-read and memorable design. They should display your logo, brand colours, contact details, etc. and the writing should feel personal and reflect your brand. Tell people why they should choose your organisation, and encourage them to visit soon. 

12. Title all website images with relevant file names

Why does it matter what the photograph is named? It takes longer to rename photographs before uploading them to your website, but it is definitely worth that extra bit of effort.

Offline it may make sense to keep the image’s original file name, as this is easy to reference. But online, photographs should be renamed to include subject, location and any other relevant information (e.g. pet shelter Brisbane; Sydney RSPCA). This is because photograph names also appear in internet search results. If someone searches ‘Sydney cats’, your image could show on Google.


13. Create a pet adoption FAQs page

FAQ Page for pet rescues and shelters

Since the hesitation behind adopting pets can be based in a lack of knowledge and trust, you should do everything possible to build trust with potential customers. A great way to do this is to cover all frequently asked questions – especially ones based on rumours – to ease potential clients’ minds. This can be added as a page on your website. 

  • Clarify your experience, qualifications, skills, etc.
  • Disprove any harmful pet adoption rumours
  • Clarify pricing so potential clients feel safer financially
  • Add a CTA that leads to your reviews/testimonials, to build that final level of trust

This page should also lead back to a clear and friendly About page that details your business, your staff and your services. Make sure people see you as a real person they can trust, not just a business.

14. List in all relevant directories

pet rescues and shelters listing in directories

Online directories are designed to connect your business with clients looking for your services. There are thousands of business directories, so it’s important to find the right match for your business, location, and niche. With a pet shelter, you should feature on all free website directories related to your niche market. You can also ask your clients to review your business on the directories, which will help build your online reputation. 

These directories will be different in every area, so do your research to find as many as you can to get your name in. Once you’re signed up, you need to fill out the information in clear detail:

  • Your address
  • All contact details (make it easy for people to contact you, with many options)
  • Your website (to create a backlink)
  • Your social media platforms
  • A short bio with a hook and call to action

15. Define your niche

Most shelters specialise in a certain location, and will service different customers based on what they have to offer. Within these niches, your target audience and skillset can be defined even further.  

Ask yourself:

  • What is my greatest skill as a business owner?
  • What do I enjoy doing most in my job?
  • Who do I want to work with?
  • What work hours am I comfortable with?
  • What are my resources?
  • What sets me apart from competitors?
  • What offerings will be most profitable?

From here, define your business and ideal client as specifically as possible. This will greatly help with your marketing, as you’ll always be clear on who you are, what you want, what your target wants, and therefore how to communicate with them. Read more about defining your target audience in our blog post How to define your ideal customer.

16. Community involvement – how can they give back to you?

Marketing for pet rescues and shelters

Any business that is involved in its local community will win loyal customers. So local businesses may be very helpful in promoting you

Giving back can come in many forms. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask them to donate to silent auctions
  • Ask them to provide a prize for a raffle
  • Maybe they will adopt an office animal


17. Invest in Facebook Ads

Although it’s great if you can get social media working for you organically, sometimes you need an extra push.

It’s widely accepted now that many social media platforms won’t show your posts unless you put money behind them (especially if you’re running a business page). This means you may have to spend some money to bring in the audience you’re looking for. 

Facebook ads can take time to test before you start seeing many conversions, but it’s worthwhile if you have the budget. The great thing about Facebook ads is they can be targeted so specifically that you can reach the exact customer you want, just at the right time.

Here are some tips for giving your ads the best chance:

  • Use enticing, relevant images that capture the audience’s attention
  • Select a specific target audience for each ad, and cater the ad directly to them
  • When creating an ad, Facebook will give you options for the outcome you want (leads, clicks, engagement, etc) – choose carefully based on what your goal is for the campaign, and curate the ad with the goal in mind
  • Focus on the client – what do they want, and what can you offer them so they can get it?
  • Finish with a call to action that leads them to click (i.e. book now!)
  • You can even choose to target ads to people who have already visited your website

18. Go above and beyond to get positive feedback 

For many businesses, reviews are everything. This is especially true for pet rescues, who rely heavily on word-of-mouth marketing.

Here are some ways to ensure your clients will not only leave reviews of you online, but tell everyone about you:

  • Make a personal connection with them – don’t just do the job, but talk to and get to know every client
  • Surprise them by throwing in bonuses or discounts
  • Send a follow-up or reminder message to leave a review
  • Listen to your client’s needs and communicate effectively

Train yourself and your staff to ask clients for reviews and send a follow-up email as a reminder. 

19. Engage in local Facebook Groups

Facebook for Marketing for pet rescues and shelters

A great way to get your name known in your area is to be a regular voice in community forums. Often, people will use their local group to ask for recommendations for pets, so you need to be active there and make people remember you.

Some tips for Facebook Groups:

  • Some will let you adverise if you are a rescue or shelter so check the rules
  • Only reply to people who ask
  • Be genuine and friendly
  • Interact however you can, even if the topic isn’t related to pets
  • Create your own group as a way to interact with potential clients

20. Get endorsements and referrals from other businesses

Teaming up with related but not identical businesses is a great way to refer work to each other and generate lots of new leads. As a pet business, you might aim to partner with other pet-related businesses like veterinarians, pet supply stores, dog trainers and groomers, etc. You might find them by researching and reaching out, or by meeting people at networking events. 

One of the greatest social media marketing tools in business is LinkedIn – it shows potential clients that you’re professional, and is great for networking. Fellow professionals and past clients can give endorsements on your skills, so whenever someone new visits your page, they can see proof that you’re reliable. 

21. Work with the press

collaborate with the press

Make it not only easy, but valuable, for journalists to share news about your animal shelter. You may have some very interesting stories to tell, so leverage these in your marketing strategy. 

Use these tips to start connecting with press:

  • Post regular press releases on your website
  • Connect with local journalists
  • Re-share any news stories about you to your website and social media (rewarding the media site with a backlink/share)
  • Create news by doing interesting things in your community and business

22. Email clients on their Pets Birthday

Have a system of recording all pet’s birthdays that are adopted and email the owners on their pet’s birthday. You could set it up automatically to go out.

23. Gift Giving

Sending gifts to customers is a unique strategy that has a great impact. It’s all about making an emotional connection and telling a story. And with a 100% open rate, it’s certainly worth trying.

Gifts could be an incentive, reward, thank you, etc. They show the client that you care about them and know them well, which will help build brand loyalty. When giving gifts, make sure you consider the client and the message. What is something they would actually like? What are you trying to tell them? Avoid sending random gifts without purpose.

For a more in-depth explanation of this marketing strategy, plus ideas for gifts and messages, check out the book ‘27 Direct Mail Marketing Ideas: To Make Your Message Stick’ by Oksana Koriakova.  

24. Google Ads 

Google Ads Marketing for pet rescues and shelters

Google is the first search engine most people will use to find anything. When they’re looking for the perfect pet to meet their needs, you need to make sure you show up. Organic SEO can work well for this, but Google Ads give you an extra push to make sure you show up for the right keywords in customer searches.

Here are some tips to get your Google Ads performing at their best:

  • Evaluate your website: is it easy to navigate and does it load quickly? If not, you’ll be wasting money sending traffic to a website that doesn’t convert
  • Use Google Keyword Planner to select the best keywords for your ads and get in front of the right audience
  • Place different keywords under different ad groups (for ads that cover two offerings)
  • Consider the value you offer to potential customers and use this to motivate them to take action (click). What do they need that you can give them?
  • Use Google Analytics to see how your audience interacts with your ads, and use this information to improve future campaigns

25. Website Design and the importance of Speed

website design and speed for pet rescues and shelters

Potential clients must feel a connection with your business when browsing through your website, as this makes them more likely to contact you and make a booking. Use your visual branding and brand voice across the website to cultivate a more inviting and memorable relationship with viewers.

Your website design should display the specific services provided by your business and clearly show your contact information. Ideally, the business website will also perform well with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), as we discussed in Tip #1. 

Since clients need to have a certain amount of trust in the business they adopt from, it’s important that your business website looks and feels professional, and incites trust in the viewer. If a potential customer thinks your website is outdated, uninviting, poorly designed, or has bad writing, they will be far less likely to trust you.

Here are some key marketing suggestions for a pet rescue website:

  • Your website is the virtual storefront for your business – make sure the website design looks professional, as this reflects on your entire brand
  • Make sure you have a page for services/products offered
  • Include a photo portfolio of successful pet adoptions
  • Make it easy for potential clients to contact you – have a phone number, email and address visible, plus a contact form
  • Update the website regularly with fresh content
  • Always direct potential clients to your website from all other platforms (it’s the one platform you have complete control over)
  • Make sure your website is optimised for viewing on mobile devices

Don’t underestimate the importance of speed. Potential clients don’t have the patience or time to wait as each page of your website loads, so your website needs to load fast if you want people to take you seriously. Here are some tips to increase speed and optimise your website:

  • Compress images to reduce bandwidth and space required (but don’t alter quality)
  • Convert raw image files to JPGs 
  • Select the image size required (larger images will hinder website loading speed)
  • Embed YouTube videos
  • Use a content delivery network (CDN) to provide fast delivery of content (by using geographically distributed groups of servers)

There it is!

We hope you found our 25 tips for pet rescue marketing helpful. 

Are you ready to use SEO for organic marketing? If you want more traffic on your website, make sure you pick up Georgie Hope’s book SEO Course for Beginners

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