Google Grants - How to Get the Most from Your Account

by Laura MacDonald

For nonprofits, Google Grants are a huge asset in the digital arsenal. But, since December 2017, the minimum requirements required to retain a Google Grant have presented a huge challenge for grantees - with some having to dramatically adapt or scale back activity to stay in the green. So, how can nonprofits both new and old to Google Grants make sure they get the most from their monthly spend?

For nonprofits not familiar with the program, Google Grants is a donation initiative by the charitable arm of Google: Google for Nonprofits. The grant is a monthly spend of $10,000 in-kind advertising on Google’s ad platform, AdWords. Unlike a standard “paid for” AdWords account, a Google Grant account does have some limitations:

  • You will always rank below “paid for” ads bidding on the same keywords.
  • You can only run search ads and use keyword targeting.
  • Your ad spend is broken down into a daily cap of $329.00 per day.
  • You have a maximum cost per click (CPC) of $2 if you do not use the “Maximise Conversions” bid strategy.
  • You cannot bid on branded terms out with your own charity.
  • You must maintain a click-through rate (CTR) of 5%.
  • You must use geo-targeting on all campaigns.
  • Keywords must maintain a quality score of 3 or higher.
  • Bidding on single-word keywords is prohibited.
  • Campaigns must have at least two ad groups.
  • An ad group must contain at least two ads.
  • Ads must use at least two site link extensions.

The aforementioned sounds very restrictive, and looking at all the limitations in one place can come across very negative - but Google Grants really can be a powerful force for good. Just take the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as an example: their Google Grant helped to improve visibility and increase traffic by 139%. With the proper account optimisation, the traffic that the grant drove performed exceptionally well, generating a 13% conversion rate on generic terms!

Charities which are already in receipt of a grant will be no doubt familiar with the newer requirements that were introduced in December 2017 - such as the minimum quality score or prohibiting the ability to target single keyword terms. Of course, with the Christmas holidays on the horizon for many, this led to a bit of a mad scramble for grantees to ensure accounts were up to scratch!

Although these updates may have been an inconvenience for many, it’s important to remember that these changes are ultimately routed in improving the experience for the users clicking on the ads. With the exception of some charities that may operate in a particular niche where click-through rate is on average lower than 5% or in some instances where it may be appropriate to bid on a single keyword if an account is well managed, none of these updates should have caused any significant issue.

Making the Most of your Google Grant

You’ve been accepted on to the Google Grants program! Congratulations! But, where to begin?

There are plenty of avenues to explore when it comes to making the most of your Google Grant account. From doing it yourself to working with an external partner, we’ve drawn together our best advice on getting the most from your account!

agency or inhouse

Agency or In-house?

If you’re really not comfortable or feel out of your depth managing your account, the good news is the Google Grant does not prohibit you from handing over account management to a third party.

Depending on the size of your charity, there’s a very likely possibility you don’t have a dedicated digital professional operating your channels. Your volunteers and staff are likely to be time-poor - and to suddenly inherit a Google Grant can be overwhelming. Getting to grips with building a proper account structure is hard enough, never mind implementing conversion tracking! Even with all the Google help and resources available, there sometimes just aren’t enough hours in the day to sit down, learn it all and then put it into action!

Sound familiar? You’re not alone - it’s in fact often the main reason why charities choose to outsource the management of their Google Grant account to an external agency.

Choosing to appoint an agency to manage your Google Grant might seem like an expensive outlay, however, if you pick your partner wisely, what you’ll gain back in your return on investment with donations, brand awareness and other onsite conversions will make it a worthy investment. The obvious benefit of having an agency take charge of your Google Grant is their expertise in getting the most out of your account and their experience of working within the limitations of the grant.

Agencies are also likely to understand the unique financial constraints that charities face - so don’t be intimidated by enquiring about Google Grant management - it can be surprisingly affordable!

do it yourself google grant

Doing it yourself - tips for getting started

Are you up for the challenge of managing your Google Grant account yourself? We commend you! Getting started can be daunting, so we’ve prepared our top tips for getting your account up and off the ground!

Do your research

You might know your charity inside out, but do you know how users are really searching? Don’t presume that you know best. Consult Google AdWords’ best known tool: Keyword Planner. By entering a category, phrase or website into the tool, it will generate keyword ideas and in most instances, an indication of search volume.

google grant keywords

It’s worth considering your chosen keywords and their search volume - too low and it may serve little to no benefit to your site. Keyword Planner will usually also give an indication of the expected cost-per-click. Pay attention and remember that if a keyword cost is drastically above $2.00, that you may have to use the “maximise conversions” bid strategy to see any success.

Take all search volume estimates with a pinch of salt though: no tool is perfect and an estimate is really an educated guess based on historical performance.

To get started with your keyword research, start by looking at the main areas and topics available on your website. Use these areas to help guide your searches.

Structure according to your site

Much like building up a bank of keywords, when it comes to creating campaigns and ad groups within your Google Grant, you’ll need to consider the structure of your site. Getting the structure right is fairly simple:

  • You’ll need to begin with creating campaigns.
  • Campaigns should focus on broad themes relevant to your site/products/services.
  • Within a campaign, you should have a minimum of two ad groups.
  • Within each ad group, you should have a minimum of two ads.
  • Each ad group should relate to the theme of the campaign, but be more specific. 
  • The keywords within each ad group should be specific to that ad group.

Google Grant Structure

A well-structured account is important for many reasons. The first being, an easy-to-navigate account makes the day to day running of your PPC campaigns much easier to handle. Being able to jump in and out of campaigns and knowing where any one ad is at any time will reduce the possibility of making a mistake - such as letting a seasonal campaign run on too long.

Splitting up your account into campaigns and ad groups is also important from the point of view of keywords. Really, no ad group should have more than 5-10 keywords within it. Having a limit on the number of keywords per account is important, not just for relevancy, but for when it comes to conducting and breaking down essential optimisation tasks like search term reports.

ad extensions

Extend your ad capabilities

How else can we elevate your account against your competitors? One area that your Google Grant does not face restrictions in is ad extensions - a tool that can help to elevate your ads and improve click-through rate. If there’s an ad extension that is a good fit for your company, there’s no good reason not to use it.

Although there are 11 types of ad extensions that you can take advantage of, at the very least we recommend these three that take only minutes to set up:

  • Sitelink extensions - These are additional links to pages within your site that appear underneath your ad. They give your user more option and increase your click-through rate, provided the links are relevant. A minimum of two sitelink extensions must be used across your ads - this is the only ad extension requirement for your Google Grant account.
  • Call extensions - Does your charity offer a helpline service? Do you want your users to make a phone call enquiry? A call extension gives users the option to phone directly from an ad. In some countries, you can use a Google Forwarding Number to help measure your results.
  • Location extensions - Does any aspect of your charity rely on footfall, such as charity shops and donation centres? Provided you have a verified Google My Business listing, you can use location extensions to help users find your charity - by showing your ads with an address, a map or the distance to the location.

Ad extensions help to expand your “real estate” when serving on the Search Engine Results Pages. With so many ads and organic search results to choose from, even if you are serving in position one, making your ad stand out with ad extensions will help to place you at a competitive advantage.

Think about your ad creatives

Drawing back to our previous point of vying for clicks in a very competitive marketplace, how you word and present your ads are going to have a significant impact on your click-through rate and in turn the overall success of your account.

Depending on your charity’s mission, you may be able to draw on tactical messaging that emotively compels the user to take action. Selling the benefits of services or products you offer, such as “free will writing” will help to drive traffic. When it comes to writing an ad, remember, even as a charity, to see the best success from your ads, you need to address a pain point.

Remember when crafting an ad to include:

  • The keyword you are targeting
  • A call to action to motivate the user
  • Any special promotions or unique selling points
  • Ensure your landing page is relevant
  • Ensure your landing page contains your targeted keywords

As part of your Google Grant guidelines, you should be operating a minimum of two ads per ad group, however, best practice dictates that you should really be running 3-4 ads at any given time, each with different messaging. This allows you to identify what resonates best with your audience. Remember, some ads may have a lower click-through rate, but a higher conversion rate. Let ads run for a decent number of impressions (say 1,000 or more) or a week before deciding to pause.

How will you make the most of your Google Grant?

Google Grants may be harder to maintain in 2018, but for $10,000 of in-kind credit a month, we feel it’s a challenge worth taking on!

If you’re a charity that doesn’t have a Google Grant yet, head on over to Google for Nonprofits to check if you’re eligible and apply online.

Feeling like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? Don’t worry, we’re experts in managing Google Grants. Just get in touch and we’ll help get you sorted!