Long gone are the days when direct mail and door-to-door were sufficient to get the word out about an organization. The reality of nonprofit advertising today is far more complex. And while advertising might sound like a ‘dirty word’, nonprofits can’t bring in the funds needed to fuel their important work without it.
However, money is often tight in the nonprofit world, so having an extra budget for advertising expenses is sometimes out of reach for many nonprofits. This is where the Google Ad Grants program comes in.
For many organizations, the Google Ad Grants for nonprofits serves as a strong foundation for advertising. The virtually free advertising that the program offers can help your nonprofit acquire website users while furthering your organization’s impact.
And, unlike most grants, Google Ad Grants also has a very simple application process.
Every nonprofit has unique goals. Whether you are trying to build awareness, recruit volunteers, or increase donations, Google Ad Grants can help you achieve them.
We’ve put all the basics together here in our guide to Google Ad Grant management for nonprofits. We hope it will help you set up your Google Ad Grants account and get the most out of all that the program has to offer.
What are Google Ad Grants?
Here’s how Google defines its Ad Grants program:
“Google Ad Grants provides up to $10,000 USD per month of free Google Ads advertising on Google search result pages to eligible nonprofit organizations. The program is designed to help people connect with causes to make a greater impact on the world. The program is open to organizations who join Google for Nonprofits, meet Ad Grants’ eligibility and program policies, and are approved through the Ad Grants pre-qualification process.”
Who’s Eligible for Google Ad Grants?
To be eligible for Google Ad Grants an organization must:
- Hold current and valid charity status (for example, in the US you must have a current 501(c)(3) status). Not in the US? Check your country’s definition for charity status.
- Acknowledge and agree to Google Grant’s required certifications regarding how to receive and use donations obtained from the grant (we will go into more detail).
- Have a website that is both functioning and provides adequate detail on your nonprofit.
The following organizations are not eligible for Google Grants:
- Governmental entities and organizations
- Hospitals and medical groups
- Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities
Google changed their grant account policies in early 2018, cracking down on grant accounts to increase the quality of the ads by some 35,000 organizations that use the program.
Here are the basics:
- Maintain a 5% account CTR.
- Keyword Quality Scores cannot be below 2.
- There must be at least 2 active ad groups per campaign.
- There must be at least 2 sitelink ad extensions.
- Account must have specific geo-targeting.
- No using single-word keywords, except for those on this list, and no using overly generic words. Another one-word keyword exception is your own branded keywords, but you are forbidden from using competitors’ branded keywords.
- Automated bidding strategies (like Maximize Conversions or Cost Per Acquisition) can break the $2.00 bid maximum.
- An account must be logged into at least monthly and have one or more changes implemented every 90 days. If you don’t display active management, Google will suspend your account and you’ll have to request to be reinstated.
Here’s how to make sure your grant maintains compliance and you get the most out of your advertising credit:
1. Nail the Keywords
Don’t waste your time on broad keywords like “donation,” “nonprofits,” or “San Francisco”. If you do, it’s likely that your ad won’t be shown since there are already huge organizations and other companies that are bidding on that same keyword.
Also, shift the focus from quantity to quality. Use long-tail keywords in your Google Ad Grants strategy.
Because so much of the Quality Score and CTR are determined by the relationship between targeted keywords, ad copy, and the content on the landing page, it’s essential that you create highly specific campaigns that utilize long-tail keywords with a clear landing page in mind.
Find your keywords by brainstorming a list of topics that are important to your organization. These can be anything: problems that your nonprofit is tackling, communities that you serve, issues you stand for, or services that you offer. Conduct data-driven keyword research. Take one of your keywords and enter it into Google’s Keyword Planner. You can also use a tool like Ubersuggest.
From there, create a list of keywords that are relevant to each topic (eventually, you’ll commit to focusing on one keyword per topic). Your keyword research should involve SEO tools, conversations with customers, and data from your web analytics software.
Focusing on these longer, more nuanced keywords can help you rise to the top of a specific market.
- Use the keyword in your URL. Example: www.website.org/animals/volunteer-at-shelter
- Place the keyword in the page title (H1).
- Use the keyword in the body of the text. Focus on 1 keyword as your article’s main theme, then include 2-4 other keywords that are relevant.
- Use keywords in the meta description.
- Rename image file names (alt) to reflect the keyword.
2. Work Out the “Negative Keywords”
Simply put, negative keywords are the keywords for which you don’t want your nonprofit ad to be displayed. They are the exact opposite of keywords. Using them allows you to eliminate the searches from people who aren’t looking for your organization or your programs and services.
Find related search terms and add them to the “negative keyword” list. Go to “search terms” and look for searches that are driving traffic to your site, but aren’t actually related to your content.
For example, you are running ads on the keywords “animal shelter” to attract searchers interested in adopting a cat or dog. However, you might find searches like “how to build a shelter for animals” in your search terms. Click on these terms and add them to the negative search term list. – bee measure
When the relevance of your ads is improved, your audience will find them more interesting. This means that there will be less wasted impressions on your ads. That translates into higher conversion rates and CTR rates. When your CTR increases, your Quality Score will also improve.
3. Pay Attention to Campaigns and Ad Groups
Organize your keywords into general categories. A helpful rule to follow is that all of the ad groups within a campaign should lead to the same landing page. This will create a more relevant customer journey for your audience.
An ad group in Google Ads contains one or more ads that all share a set of keywords. This is in between a campaign and an individual ad. At the ad group level, you can set up:
- Demographics of your target audience including age, gender, parental status or household income
- Where you want your ads to show at the ad-set level through keywords, topics, and placements.
Each ad group carries its own bid, which is the highest amount you’re willing to pay to get the ads within that ad group served. For Search Network campaigns, this number would be your maximum cost-per-click or Maximum CPC. Note that overall budget, bidding strategy, geotargeting, and start and end dates are all set at the campaign level, not the ad group level.
4. Get Those Landing Pages Right
The messaging and objective of your landing page must match the keyword and ad copy. In other words: it must accurately reflect what is promised in your ad.
Ensure your landing pages are fast, functional, and relevant. Constantly test your ad copy to improve your expected click-through rates. This will help ensure your keywords have a Quality Score of 2 or better.
Also, don’t drive all your traffic to your home page. To get the highest Quality Score possible from AdWords, make sure the landing page assigned to your keyword is pulled from the most relevant option on your site. If you don’t have them, build them.
Your headline is what your audience will see first. Optimize this by including your target keyword, and include specific numbers where possible.
Building out your website landing pages for specific keywords benefits SEO as well. Search engines like seeing new, content-rich pages added to your site.
You should be sending people to the best pages on your site, based on what your ads promise them. Do you want people to go to a donation page; an event page; a volunteer page; a newsletter sign up page? Deliver on your promise and send visitors to specific pages based on the keywords used.
On your landing page:
– Have a clear and compelling title and your logo.
– Have one strong call to action (CTA).
– Speak directly to the people who will click your ads.
– Have no links or buttons to other pages.
– Have testimonials or other forms of social proof.
– Include at least one image.
5. Make Use of Geo-Targeting
Regardless of how great your ad is, it probably won’t perform as well if it doesn’t appear in the right locations.
Make use of geo-targeting. Your ads should only show to searchers in locations that are relevant to you.
Google Ads location targeting allows your ads to appear in the geographic locations that you choose: countries, areas within a country, a radius around a location, or location groups, which can include places of interest, your business locations, or tiered demographics.
For example, if you work with families in Portland, there’s no sense serving ads to searchers in New York. If you’re a large international nonprofit, you might benefit from targeting entire countries.
Consider using more precise targeting if your nonprofit doesn’t run programs in all regions or cities, or you’d like to focus your advertising efforts on certain areas within a country.
Target radius around a location if you’re locally based and your beneficiaries and supporters’ base is in a radius around your location.
6. Focus on Conversions
Prior to the recent Google Ad Grant Policy overhaul, the old goal was to get as close to maxing your spend as possible.
However, these days Google Ads is pushing more towards higher conversion rates – focusing on driving high-quality traffic to your website, rather than just driving a high quantity.
Whatever your CTA (Call to Action) is – donation, newsletter sign up, volunteer application – Google wants you to take advantage of more bidding strategies like Target CPA, Maximize Conversions, and Enhanced CPC and optimize for conversions.
Together with your team, pin down which calls-to-action are most effective at driving a visitor to act.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to set up conversion tracking. By utilizing conversion tracking in Google Ads, you’ll be able to see and measure the visitor’s journey from the moment they click on your ad to when they complete an action on-site, such as signing up for your newsletter or donating.
7. Measure, Analyze, Repeat
Great campaigns are built on clear data, so it’s important to know how to analyze the results of your advertising efforts effectively. Link your Google Ads account to Google Analytics so you can analyze which campaigns and keywords are performing the best.
Pause or remove any irrelevant keywords that are overspending. Replace paused keywords with new ones. Pause, decrease bids for or remove any keywords that have lots of cost or clicks, but no conversions. Replace paused keywords with new ones. Pause, decrease bids for or remove keywords with consistently low click-through-rate (CTR). Replace paused keywords with new ones. In Google Ads, look at Search Terms and add relevant or high-performers (high CTR or conversions) as keywords.
Since Grant requirements mean you must have at least two ads per ad groups, this gives you the opportunity to test ad copy. Over time, you can determine which ad has the best CTR. You can then choose to replace the lesser performing ad.
Constantly measure and evaluate the success of your campaigns and ads and change them as needed. Furthermore, conduct an account audit every 6 months to ensure that it is still structurally sound and performing.
Here’s Whole Whale’s 6-month basic checklist:
- Must have at least 2 ad groups per campaign
- Have at least 2 ads per ad group
- Must have at least 2 sitelink ad extensions
- Have keywords in each ad group, ideally 15 or more
- Remove any keywords with a Quality Score of 2 or lower
- Set up an automated rule that pauses low Quality Score words daily
- Remove any branded keywords not owned by your organization
- Remove any single-word keywords (excluding branded words, medical conditions, and other exception keywords)
- All ads must send to your Ad Grant-approved domain
- Location targeting must only be in regions where your organization works or fundraises
Most nonprofits simply can’t compete in the crowded marketplaces of social media and digital advertising. Google Grants are helping thousands of organizations reclaim their spot in the front of users’ minds. The Grant has been helping nonprofits get an equal playing field in the online dialogue for over a decade.
The Google Ad Grant is the most effective way to serve targeted ads to your organization’s most important audiences, increase your organization’s reach by getting new visitors to sign up for your emails, increase donations and product sales, and raise awareness about your nonprofit by sending new visitors to your website each month.
If you run into something you don’t understand, Google has free help resources that can help you get back on track.
At Donorbox, we strive to make your nonprofit experience as productive as possible, whether through our online donation system or through resources on our nonprofit blog.