Google Ad Grants is a Google scheme by which eligible registered charitable and non-profit organisations can receive $10,000 per month in-kind to spend on their PPC Google search ads, in order to reach a larger audience and more donors.
This guide provides an introduction to Google Ad Grants and how eligible organisations can apply to, and make the most of this scheme.
What is Google Ad Grants and who is eligible to receive it?
Google Ad Grants is a Google scheme by which eligible registered charitable and non-profit organisations can receive $10,000 per month in-kind to spend on Google search ads, in order to reach a larger audience and more donors.
Google have a list of criteria that an organisation must meet in order to qualify for the grant, including:
Valid charity status
A website with substantial content on, and a clear description of your mission and what you do
Agree to and follow Google’s Ad Grants terms and conditions
The first step in applying for Google Ad Grants is to register with them as a non-profit organisation.
In order to do this, you will first need validation by TechSoup – or one of their regional partners – to prove that you are a non-profit organisation. In the UK, this can be done by visiting Tech Trust.
Once you have completed your registration with tt-exchange, you will be provided with a validation token, which will then allow you to register with Google as a non-profit.
If you’d like more information on the process, Google have a handy help page.
Once you’ve applied, it can take up to 2 weeks to find out whether your organisation has been successfully validated. Once it has, you can then go on to apply for Ad Grants.
Applying for a Google Ad Grants account
Once you are registered with Google for Nonprofits, you may then enrol in the various schemes and products available through the program, including Google Ad Grants.
Once again, Google have a handy help page that tells you what you will need in order to enrol.
A Google Ads account created for Ad Grants. You won’t be able to use your existing Ads account if it has payment information associated with it. Make sure you skip the billing section when you set this account up!
Make sure you use the same admin account that you used to set up your Google for Nonprofits, in order to set up your Google Ads account.
After that, it’s just a case of signing in to your Google for Nonprofits account and selecting enrol, under the Google Ad Grants section.
Once you have completed the required steps, you’ll find out whether your application was successful within 3 days.
Creating a Google Ad Grants account
Once you have successfully enrolled, it’s time to set up your Google Ad Grants account. Be sure that you follow the guidance carefully to avoid having to do it all over again!
Once the account itself is created, you will need to create your campaigns, as you would with any other Google Ads account. Make sure that you follow the specific guidance for Grants that’s provided in the link above.
You or your agency will need to:
Create your campaign
Write your ad copy and add sitelinks to appropriate landing pages
Create Ad Groups containing your keywords
Make sure that conversion tracking is set up
Submit your account for review
It can then take up to 10 days for your account to be reviewed for compliance.
Maintaining Google Grants status and staying compliant
Once you have achieved Google Grants status, you’ll need to ensure that you remain compliant in order to maintain it.
The most up-to-date Ad Grants policy information can be found here.
Some key things to bear in mind are:
Excessively generic keywords are not to be used
Low quality score keywords (anything below a 3) are not to be used
Other than a few special exclusions (brand terms, and certain medical conditions), single word keywords are not to be used
You must have working conversion tracking
Accounts must use geo-targeting
You need a minimum of 2 ad groups in each campaign
You need a minimum of 2 ads in each ad group
You need a minimum of 2 sitelink ad extensions
You must complete Google’s annual Ad Grants survey
Your click-through rate must remain at 5% or higher
Understanding the limitations of Google Grants
Whilst incredibly valuable, Google Ad Grants does have some limitations that you’ll need to be aware of:
Ad Grants is for search only, you can’t build campaigns on Google’s Display Network, so no display or video campaigns are allowed
You can’t advertise on partner networks, just Google’s own search network
You cannot use audience lists, so no RLSA’s, and demographic bidding is also out of the question
There are $2 bid limits in place, unless you are happy using Maximise Conversions as your bid optimisation strategy, in which case, the limits are removed
There are daily budget limits in place: $329 for Google Grants and $1,315 for Grants Pro (however you can no longer apply for this – find out why here)
Your website cannot use AdSense ads
You cannot use IP exclusions in your Ad Grants account
Optimising an existing Google Grants account for better performance
Setting up your account is just the first step, now you’ll need to maximise performance to ensure that your Google Grant is helping you achieve your KPIs.
Our top tips for doing so are as follows:
Explore dynamic campaigns with DSAs
Dynamic search ads allow you to quickly cover large areas of your website and serve ads with a dynamic headline and landing page based on the user’s search query.
You should always proceed with caution with these campaigns and make sure you’re combing the search query reports frequently to exclude irrelevant terms.
You can also exclude sections of your website from appearing such as an FAQ page or sitemap.
In our experience, they are perfect for filling any keyword gaps in your account and can often unearth high-priority terms you hadn’t yet considered.
Move any high-performance keywords that work, out of DSAs and into their own non-dynamic campaign to get even more out of them.
Make use of both ad formats: expanded text & responsive ads
An expanded text ad is simply the addition of a 3rd headline and 2nd description field. Google doesn’t always guarantee that they will show, but it’s worth testing additional messaging to see if you can improve engagement.
With responsive ads you can enter up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines. Google will then dynamically combine them and start optimising towards the best variants.
You may have to request the latter format as it is currently still in beta, but our initial testing has shown that higher click-through rates can be achieved.
Test the automated bidding strategy: maximise conversions
At the beginning of 2018, Google introduced new eligibility criteria for maintaining your Google Grants status. At the same time they allowed non-profits to rise above the $2 bid cap on their Google Grants keywords if they use the maximise conversions bidding strategy.
The idea of this strategy is to take advantage of Google’s AI and machine learning to get you more conversions for the campaign budget you set. The system is also supposed to get more cost-efficient over time, by driving conversions up and spend down.
Test this strategy carefully as you may find that your avg. CPCs skyrocket as the system tries (and potentially fails) to get you a conversion, blowing your daily budget in the process.
With careful implementation however, we’ve seen some great results and have been more competitive on terms that demand a bid higher than the $2 Grants limit.
Use a paid account in harmony with Google Grants
As already discussed, there are a number of restrictions with any Google Grants account, which aren’t present when using your own paid budgets.
We would recommend setting up a paid account for those instances where you need to guarantee a certain level of visibility that Grants might not be able to afford – particularly for competitive terms.
We also recommend keeping the same campaigns active in Grants. Don’t worry, this won’t impact your Grants eligibly as they will never run at the same time. Google will always prefer the campaign that uses your own budget, it just means that once the daily spend for your paid version has been used up, the Grants version can resume activity. It might not have the same visibility, but it’s better than no visibility at all.
“Coast Digital went beyond just doing what we asked. They were obviously extremely knowledgeable and experienced. We wanted a company that understood the ethics of the charity. What I think impressed us most was their professionalism.” – SurvivorsUK
“Coast Digital is an absolute pleasure to work with. The whole team there understands who we are and what our requirements are, and they regularly go above and beyond to deliver for us. They keep momentum up even when our tiny in-house team here is struggling, and for that I am hugely thankful.” – Action Against Hunger
“Coast have been an extension of our small digital team and have supported in both consultancy and in our daily operations. They are a pleasure to work with and very patient.” – The Cystic Fibrosis Trust
Here at Coast Digital, we have a vast amount of experience working with non-profit organisations on their paid marketing activity, including helping them make the most of their Google Ad Grants accounts. If you work for a non-profit organisation that could benefit from assistance with Google Ad Grants, contact us today!