You start off with great news…your nonprofit organization just got accepted into the Google Grant program and you’ve got up to $10,000 a month of free advertising! But then you start your campaigns and struggle to “spend” a few hundred dollars a month. What’s wrong? Why can’t you take better advantage of this offering? To provide some answers to these questions, we’ve compiled some tips based on our experiences running Google Grant programs for a variety of nonprofits.
Keep your eye on results, not on the budget
The first, most important thing about running a google grants program is to focus on the benefits it provides for your organization. Don’t get discouraged about not spending the full budget, instead focus on what it does for your organization. While $120,000 a year in advertising is attractive, for most nonprofits the opportunity to attract and engage a few more donors, provide more services to the community you serve and help people better understand and engage with your mission is what should be first and foremost in your approach to your Google Grant.
Learn and understand the rules
For years the biggest challenge in running a Google Grant program was a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) of $2.00. While that rule still applies, in January 2018 Google updated their policies to allow for more options in bidding and criteria for campaign management. Some of the key criteria for success include:
- Running Mission-Based Campaigns
- Have a high quality website
- Actively manage your account
If you haven’t watched Google’s 5-minute Intro to Ad Grant video, you may want to watch it now. One important policy update is that your campaign needs to be managed and updated frequently. Be sure to login frequently, update your ads and keywords and take advantage of some of the special features that have been added.
Build and maintain your keyword list
Keywords are the very heart of your Google AdWords campaigns. With Google’s policy update some very specific rules were introduced: Single-word keywords (with some exceptions) are no longer allowed. You also need to avoid overly generic keywords (for example you can’t just bid on your city name, you’d need to include your city with the type of service you offer… “San Francisco art museum”. Finally, words that have a low-quality score (1 or 2) are also not permitted – so you want to be sure to turn those off quickly or risk having your account deactivated. In addition to the stated policies, there are some other strategies you can implement within your keywords to improve results. One of the most important tactics is building a negative keyword list to align with your campaign efforts. Depending on your mission adding negative terms for “job, free, cheap, etc” can greatly improve the quality of the phrases you do show up for.
Keep your website fresh (and on message)
In the latest set of policies, Google got very specific about the requirements of your website. You must own the domain that users land on. Often organizations will use landing pages or microsites for specific initiatives – this is fine to do, as long as you add the domain to your account. Google offers an additional domain form for these cases. Your site also needs to be maintained, and function properly (which honestly isn’t too big of a request). Commercial activity is forbidden (unless it aligns specifically with your mission).
Use targeting and extensions to improve response
AdWords Grant Accounts are now required to have a 5% or greater click through rate (at the account, not keyword level). Geotargeting and site link extensions will help improve your results by targeting the most likely responders and providing additional links that can increase your response by 10-15%.
Take advantage of Conversion Tracking
Finally, I get to the biggest change that occurred in January – you now have the opportunity to use conversion based bidding strategies (instead of the max $2.00 CPC). Conversion tracking takes a little setup on your end and allows you to define success metrics for campaigns. You can base conversions on a variety of actions on your site including donations, form submissions, email sign-ups, or even time spent on your site. Check-out Google’s Conversion Tracking Guide for additional details and information.
Is Google trying to prevent my success?
So why does Google have so many restrictions? In the end, the restrictions make your campaigns better. They help you target better, engage the right prospects and support your mission. We strongly recommend you take the time to learn the policies and apply them well – it will pay back in much more than just the “free ad space” and help you engage with your constituents on a higher level.
If you’re interested, we’d be happy to provide a free assessment and recommendations for your Google Grant account. We’ll take a look at your account, identify opportunities and provide a 30-minute, no obligation, conference call with one of our AdWords Certified Professionals to share ideas and suggestions. To request an assessment, please complete our nonprofit request form.