Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Google Ad Grants is an amazing tool, which I believe every charity ought to sign-up to (you can see my reasons why HERE). I had used the regular Google Ads previously in a private sector business and when I found out about the Google Ad Grants ($10k per month, up to $100k annually - for all charities), I thought it was about time I got myself reacquainted with the system so that I could use it to help out a couple of my favourite charities.
It didn't look like the interface had changed all that much, and Google's systems are usually quite easy to use - the more ads you have running, the more money they make and the more information they can gather, so it's in their interest. I wanted a formal refresh, and I found a course on Udemy that is run by Digital Charity Lab which looked good, and it really was. It's called Easy, Effective Google Grant AdWords for Non-Profits, and because I'd been given access to the Leeds Castle AdWords account, I had an account to work with as I worked my way through the course.
In order to be a success, you need to follow some rules...
The behemoth that is Google aren't just going to give you $10,000 per month in ads and not expect you to work for it! The setting-up of Google ads on Ad Grants is exactly the same as setting up a regular ad, but there are some rules that you need to stick to, otherwise you will be penalised and your account will be paused, or even deactivated.
No single-word keywords are allowed
Your own brand words, some medical terms and really specific terms are allowed, but you can't use single words in your ads. For example, you can't just use the word 'homeless', you'd need to use the term 'homeless charity'
No overly-generic words or terms are allowed
For example, you can't use terms like 'free books' or 'today's news'. The keywords you use must be specific to your cause and what you do - 'Dog recue'. If the words are not relevant to what you do, it could result in poor traffic clicking through to your site which will ultimately not be good for your brand - and Google always spots this.
You can't use keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2
This may take some practise as you get to know how to set up and manage your ads, and you can check the quality score of your words to make sure they are of a high enough quality. Doing your keyword research is really important here, so that you don't end up wasting your time with an advert that might get your account suspended.
You must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month
Given that the average click-through rate of a normal site using Google Ads is around 3%, this sounds like it's a bit of a challenge but it still doable. It also encourages you to constantly monitor your account and test your ads to see what is working and you will ultimately get better at creating ads. If your CTR falls below 5%, your account will be deactivated.
You must have valid conversion tracking - if applicable
For accounts created since January 2018, ad grants policy requires that you must must implement accurate conversion tracking. This includes advertisers using the Smart Bidding Strategy. Accurate conversion tracking means that you are reporting at least one conversion per month, and that if your conversion rate is high, it's because your account is accurately set-up. Your total number of clicks should not even come close to being the same as your total number of conversions.
Your maximum CPC bid is $2
While the gift of $10,000 per month in Google Ads is a very generous gift, it is actually quite difficult to spend it - if you are managing to spend it, you're doing a great job! You can't bid over $2 per click, so it's really important that you do your keyword research so that you can be seen on the terms that are worth clicking on.
You need at least two ads per ad group
You must create at least two ad groups per campaign, both of which need a set of highly relevant and tightly-knit keywords that align with the two associated ads and destination landing pages. What Google does is pit these ads against each other so that the better-performing one will show. You can then tweak the underperforming ad so that you're always trying to improve your performance.
You need at least two sitelink ad extensions
Sitelink ad extensions are essentially extra opportunities to click directly from your ad to specific landing pages on your site. Consider what pages might be most valuable to people searching and add these as sitelinks, for example a campaign page for a fundraising campaign, the volunteer application page or 'sign-up to our newsletter'. This works in your favour, as it gives the people searching for you more snippets of information about your organisation. If you set some up at account level, Google will automatically add them to your ads.
You need to respond to the programme survey
You have to complete an annual programme survey so that Google can see how you're doing and how you're finding the system. It's due diligence on their part to ensure that you're getting the most out of their products, and you can also feed back if you're struggling or have any suggestions.