It’s critical to stay on top of Google Ad Grant policy updates for the Google Nonprofit program in order to keep your grant. The program, which gives nonprofits $10k of in-kind search advertising per month, requires organizations to maintain certain performance metrics to stay eligible for the grant. Updates also include additional restrictions to which keyword types organizations are eligible to bid on. These updates went into effect January 1, 2018 and were refreshed again on April 22, 2019. Read on to understand the changes and what your organization should do to stay eligible and continue taking full advantage of the program. Since April of 2019, there were no other larger shifts in the Ad Grant Policy that would impact grants in 2020 (so far).
Google Ad Grant Account Management
The current policy requires Ad Grant accounts to maintain:
- Minimum 5% CTR account-wide. Accounts will be suspended after 2 consecutive months with a CTR below 5%.
- Minimum keyword quality score of 2
- Minimum 2 ad groups per campaign
- Minimum 2 ads per ad group
- At least 2 sitelink ad extensions
Ad Grant Keyword Restrictions
Organizations advertising with a grant account are not permitted to bid on:
- Branded keywords not owned by the organization (like “YouTube” or “Google”, or names of newspapers and other organizations)
- Single-word keywords (excluding branded words, medical conditions, and other exception keywords)
- “Generic” keywords like “free videos” or “today’s news”
Ad Grant Maximum Bid and Bidding Strategies
This update will remove the $2 bid cap when using Google’s Maximize Conversions bidding strategy. The $2 maximum keyword bid still applies to all other bidding methods (like Target CPA, Enhanced CPC, maximize clicks, and manual CPC).
In order to use the Maximize Conversions bidding strategy or any other Smart bidding strategy, you must set up valid conversion tracking on your website (step-by-step instructions here).
Note that new accounts created on or after April 22, 2019 are required to use Maximize Conversions or another Smart bidding strategy (including Maximize Conversion Values, Target CPA, or Target ROAS) for all campaigns, unless they are using Smart campaigns.
Bid on branded search terms
If you’re not already, consider bidding on branded keywords. Chances are that your organization already ranks high in the organic search results for searches of your organization’s name, the name of your CEO, or other similar branded searches. Serving search ads for these keywords will likely have a high CTR as a result.
Spending some of your daily budget on branded searches might cannibalize some of your organic search traffic, but it can help increase account-wide CTR to balance out some of the lower CTR campaigns and ad groups in your account.
Refine your ad groups
Keeping ad groups hyper-specific can also help increase CTR. The closer the connection between keyword and ad copy, the more relevant your ad will be to users, and the more likely they are to click. Scan your account for ad groups that might function better as two or three separate ad groups. Keep these buckets of keywords and ads as specific as possible (without making your grant unmanageable).
Consider these simple ad copy strategies
Small tweaks to ad copy can mean big gains in CTR. Try:
- Using sitelink extensions, callouts, and other ad extensions
- Using keyword insertion
- Including top keywords in an ad’s display URL
Using ‘Maximize Conversion’ Bidding
While the $2 bid cap remains for most bidding strategies, Google has removed the CPC cap for any campaigns using Google’s Maximize Conversion bid type, allowing organizations with the grant to potentially spend more than $2 per click for the first time.
The Maximize Conversion bidding strategy is fairly simple:
- You build a campaign and choose the “Maximize Conversions” bid strategy
- When a user searches something and your ad is eligible to show, instead of using the maximum CPC you typically set yourself (which has historically been at most $2 for grant accounts), Google sets a CPC bid for you
- The bid is automatically optimized by Google at the time of the auction based on historical data for the campaign with the intention of achieving as many conversions within a budget as possible
- Advertisers cannot set a maximum CPC or maximum cost per conversion — you leave all the spending up to Google
The potential benefit here is that Google uses machine learning technology and historical data to understand who is most likely to convert and when. This means that overall conversions from your Ads traffic may increase. And, because Google lifted the $2 CPC cap for this bidding strategy, organizations may be more competitive when it comes to outbidding paid Ads account competitors for top ad positions.
The downside is that Google might think a click is worth $15, and you might disagree.
Our recommendation here is in line with our recommendation for most things: Test it. Switch to Maximize Conversion bidding for your top-converting campaigns and evaluate how how spend, sessions, CTR, and conversions change. If you’re not seeing any lift after a month, switch back.
Note that you’ll want to test this on campaigns that typically convert well and have at least 100 conversions per month so Google has enough historical and live data to learn from.
Driving Meaningful Conversions
In line with the recent years’ policy updates, the Google Ad Grant program has shifted focus from driving traffic for its grantees to increasing the number of meaningful conversions resulting from nonprofit Google Ads activity.
These key conversions are the sort that can be measured through concrete online user action and commitment to your cause. Google defines meaningful conversions by providing examples such as “donations, purchases, ticket sales, membership registrations, email sign-ups, volunteer sign-ups” and other types of goal completions that indicate clear interest in or engagement with your organization. Meaningful conversions exclude shallow site usage goals such as page views or time on site — while these goals can exist in your Google Ad Grant account, they have to use the “Other” category, instead of “Conversions.”
For new accounts created on or after April 22, 2019, at least one meaningful conversion must be set up, and it must convert at least one time per month. The Google Ad Grant activation guide provides more details on setting up meaningful conversions.
Google Ad Grant for Nonprofits
Learn how to apply for and effectively manage the Google Ad Grant
How to stay Google Ad Grant Compliant in 2021
1: Clean Up Your Account
Make sure each campaign has enough ad groups, each ad group has enough ads, and that you’re using sitelink extensions on all campaigns. Take the time to weed out some less-relevant keywords and keywords that have low quality scores.
When in doubt, pause a campaign or ad group; they can always be edited and restarted at a later time. The goal should be staying compliant with new policies and maintaining eligibility in the short-term. Optimization of the account can be the next step.
2: Maintain 5% CTR
Once you’ve cleaned up your account, focus on pulling your account-wide click-through rate (CTR) up to 5% — if it isn’t already there. Again, don’t worry about spending through the full daily budget for now. Just work on getting those quality metrics where they need to be for your organization to keep the grant. Some ideas to help in this area:
Have any questions on the new Google Ad Grant policies? Tweet us @WholeWhale.