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How nonprofits can get the most out of their $120,000 US Google Ad Grants
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How nonprofits can get the most out of their $120,000 US Google Ad Grants

Paid Media & SEM

Google Ads offers nonprofits a monthly grant of $10,000 US, for a total of $120,000 per year. The goal? To allow nonprofits to advertise on their platform, free of charge. Essentially, this grant allows organizations to drive traffic to their websites, to spread awareness about their causes and, in doing so, to raise funds – if that’s your organization’s goal. 

In an article titled Take advantage of your NGO status in AdWords, we explain in detail how to create a Google Ad Grants account, and take advantage of the funds available. Once you’ve set up your account and been approved for a grant, then comes the hard part: optimization. 


New rules

In 2018, Google tightened up the regulations surrounding the management of Google Ad Grants. The new criteria aimed to curb the widespread tactic of bidding on very broad keywords to maximize clicks and impressions. The new rules have forced Grants recipients to come up with more relevant, targeted campaigns, which in turn drive more qualified traffic. 

The new rules require organizations to, among other things, maintain at least a 5% click-through rate and a keyword Quality Score above 2. That means getting your ads in front of the right users. It means delivering less, but doing it better. It’s now been two years since this policy was established, and the changes it’s forced on the industry have unquestionably been for the better, at least for the organizations we work with. 

In April 2019, Google added more new criteria to the Grants program, in order to make management easier for nonprofits and streamline all the criteria that need to be respected. As a result, we thought it would be helpful to create an account optimization checklist:



Optimize for a specific goal 

To get the most out of a Google Grant, you need to ensure you’re showing your ads to the right users, in other words, qualified visitors. But qualified how? That’s the first question to ask. Your Google Grants account needs to have specific conversion goals. 

Grants accounts created after September 22, 2019 are required to track meaningful conversion goals like form completions, purchases, phone calls or newsletter subscriptions. The account must record at least one such conversion per month. 

Other types of conversions can be added to the account, but won’t factor into the tally of your official conversions. They must be added to the “Other” category.


Campaign automation 

Having conversion goals in your Google Ads account not only keeps you in compliance with the Grants use policy, it also allows you to automate your campaigns. 


Smart bidding strategies

New Google Grants accounts are required to use one of the following bidding strategies: 

Maximize conversions: the algorithm sets bids likely to generate the most conversions. 

Target CPA: optimization based on the average amount you are prepared to pay for a conversion. 

Target ROAS: optimization aimed at a target return on ad investment. 

In certain cases, smart bidding strategies can allow you to get around the $2 bid limit, and therefore get a larger volume of impressions. More impressions are often synonymous with more traffic, and more investment. Smart bidding strategies are often the most effective way to maximize the $10,000 US graciously provided by Google. 


Dynamic Search Ads (DSA)

The creation of dynamic ads is a strategy that’s proven effective in circumventing limitations regarding keyword quality. 

DSAs don’t contain keywords. Ad headings are generated automatically based on the user’s search terms and the content of the landing page. This means that headings are very tailored to users’ queries. All you have to do is write the descriptions. 

DSAs are especially useful for sites that generate a large amount of new content, like news articles, or those with a large number of landing pages. DSAs look for the subject of the article and the relevant keywords in the text, and bid on queries the algorithm deems relevant. They also allow you to target a large spectrum of keywords that might get overlooked in standard keyword research and, subsequently, get around the rule requiring that you target phrases with multiple keywords.  

This type of ad reduces the time you’ll need to write headlines and do keyword research, allowing you to invest more time into optimizing your campaigns. 

We’ve seen a lot of potential with Dynamic Search Ads in the nonprofit accounts that we manage. In many cases, they are even the source of a large proportion of the site’s conversions. 


Negative keywords

When you’re using DSAs, pay close attention to the search terms that trigger your ads. You might be surprised to learn that you’re paying for searches that aren’t really aligned with the goals of your foundation. These keywords can be added to a list of negative keywords, which will prevent your ads from appearing in irrelevant queries, thereby liberating budget for more relevant searches.  


Google Grants is just one tool in a much larger digital toolbox 

Although Google Grants offers $120,000 US every year for you to use on Google’s ad platform, this media tactic has its limits and shouldn’t be the only one your organization is using. It’s only one component of a much larger ecosystem. Using Grants allows you to protect your brand and be present in searches that relate to the mission of your organization, but it doesn’t allow you to prospect. The value of Grants is all the greater when it’s paired with prospecting tactics, for example Facebook campaigns and display ads. These tactics will allow you to make your organization’s mission known to your target audience. Grants campaigns will then allow you to be present at the moment users decide to search for you. 

In order to go beyond the limitations of Google Grants, we usually recommend getting a second Google Ads account, to allow you to do prospecting and remarketing, two areas that the Google Ad Grants program doesn’t allow for. To learn more about the limitations of the program and steps required to create an account, check out our article, Take advantage of your NGO status in AdWords.

Signing up for Google Ad Grants is recommended for any nonprofit looking for more visibility. If that’s your situation and you don’t know where to start, don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts; they can help you access the $10,000 US that Google makes available for free.