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Have you heard of Google Ad Grants? If not, it is the best time to change that.

Google Ad Grants is a Google initiative launched back in 2003, that allows qualifying nonprofit organizations to get $10,000 of in-kind advertising every month.

This free advertising credit can be used to promote your organization within Google search results. You can improve your brand awareness, recruit more volunteers, drive more donations, newsletter subscriptions or promote anything else that generates value to your organization. Sounds good? Read on.

How Can Your Nonprofit Apply for Google Ad Grants?

The application process is fairly straight-forward. The entire process is done online and usually takes approximately 5-10 business days. The application steps are:

  1. Check your eligibility
  2. Apply for Google For Nonprofits
  3. Submit the program survey and training
  4. Create and properly set up the new Google Ads account (I will explain the optimal account set-up later in this article)
  5. Submit your Google Ads account for review via your Google For Nonprofits account

You will get a notification email when the review has been completed. If there are any application problems, you will be able to fix them and apply again. Approved Google Ads accounts are switched to a non-billable status, which means that you can start using the Ad Grants funds!

How Does It Work?

Google Ad Grants campaigns work similarly to standard Google Ads campaigns frequently used by commercial advertisers. The principle of Google Ads advertising can be explained simply as follows:

  • The advertiser (your nonprofit) picks suitable keywords and sets campaign targeting (location, demographics, languages, etc.).
  • The advertiser writes compelling ad copy. It is recommended to highlight your competitive advantages and use some of the keywords used for targeting.
  • When people specified in your target audience search for selected keywords, your ad appears on the top or bottom of the Google search result page.
  • When your ad gets clicked, people are taken to your page and a certain amount gets deducted from your advertising credit. The actual amount is determined in an ad auction, where more competitive keywords are usually more expensive.
  • If your web Google Analytics account is set up, the advertiser can track the on-site behavior, including interaction with the website content, conversion completions, time on page & much more and attribute these actions back to original campaigns, keywords, ads, etc.
  • Campaign performance data can then be used to optimize campaigns and maximize their outcomes.

How to Set Up a New Google Ad Grants Account

Google Ad Grants program recipients must set up their Google Ads accounts in this specific manner outlined below. Because the interface of grant accounts is shared with the interface of commercial Google Ads accounts and, at the same time, not all of its functions can be used in grant accounts, it is very important to set the account up properly. Follow the new account creation steps below to prevent any activation problems:

  • Do not enter any billing info
  • Always set the account currency to USD
  • Create at least 1 campaign, 2 ad groups and 2 text ads in each ad group
  • Set up only search campaigns (no display, no video)
  • Opt-out of search partner targeting in campaign settings
  • Set up at least 1 conversion action

Program Requirements

After you set up your new Google Ads account and get approved for Google Ad Grants, your ads will start appearing and generating data. It is important to log into the account on a regular basis, monitor the performance and optimize the campaigns to maintain account compliance. The Ad Grants program has multiple mandatory compliance requirements, that are nicely explained in this video.

Here is the list of most important requirements to comply with:

  1. Maintain a minimum click-through rate of 5%
  2. Have no active keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2, single-word or overly generic keywords
  3. Have advanced account structure with at least 2 active ad groups, each with at least 2 active ads included in every active campaign
  4. Use at least 2 sitelink extensions in every campaign
  5. Campaigns are only allowed to target areas served by the organization
  6. Conversion tracking needs to be set up and at least 1 conversion per month needs to be recorded
  7. All ads need to link to an approved domain that is secured by an SSL certificate
  8. All grantees must file a program survey

Google provides a comprehensive compliance guide with optimization tips here.

Account Deactivation

Google audits all grant accounts on an ongoing basis and notifies account admins of compliance problems. Time is given to the admin to bring the account to compliance, but if that does not happen, the account is automatically deactivated. Participation in the Google Ad Grants program is not limited by time, so losing the grant due to account deactivation is something that should always be prevented. To prevent the account deactivation, I recommend you:

  • Act on the compliance report every time you receive it
  • Fix all compliance issues in a timely manner
  • Follow all program updates and changes in compliance requirements
  • Contact one of Google Certified Professionals. Some of them provide free compliance audits.

What to do if your account has already been deactivated? Don’t worry, it can be reactivated. All you need to do is to fix compliance problems specified in the deactivation notification and reach out to the support team.

Google Ad Grants Tips

I’d like to conclude this article by giving you a few practical tips on how to increase the efficiency of your grant campaigns. These tips have proven to work in most accounts we’ve managed:

  • Experiment with bidding strategies
  • Follow all in-app and email notifications
  • Manage the account actively
  • Experiment with the website content and different landing pages
  • Follow all program updates and try new features
  • Track everything meaningful to your organization
  • Verify your hypothesis by hard data
  • Try commercial Google Ads as well as other channels, especially for display, video and remarketing campaigns

The Ad Grants program is a wonderful opportunity to promote your cause online without the need to pay hefty media budgets. Follow the compliance requirements, optimize and experiment and you will be rewarded with a dramatic increase in website traffic and completions of your online goals.

All ad grantees are welcome to join the Ad Grants community, interact with other organizations, help and get help from others.

About the Author(s)

Peter Sima

Peter is a Google Ads certified professional with a background in Search Engine Marketing, Web Analytics, and Conversion Funnel Optimization. He worked on a variety of campaigns for global clients like LinkedIn, ESET & Red Bull. Since 2014, he's worked exclusively with nonprofits through his agency AboveX Digital.

Founder and Google Certified Partners Trainer for Nonprofits, AboveX Digital
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