Insider’s Guide to Google Ad Grants: Google AdWords for Nonprofits

27 Jul 2017 Paper cup that says

Google Ad Grants provide select 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with $10,000 worth of Google AdWords advertisements—to be used within the Google AdWords search engine marketing platform.

Is your nonprofit eligible?

Google Ad Grants for nonprofits is part of the Google for Nonprofits program. To become eligible, you should:

  • Apply to Google for Nonprofits.

  • Hold valid charity status. See the Google For Nonprofits website for definitions of charity status.

  • Agree to Google’s required certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use.

  • Have a live website with substantial content.

Important note: Government agencies, hospitals, schools, and academic institutions are not eligible for Google for Nonprofits. Philanthropic arms of educational institutions are eligible.

Program Details for Google Grants for Nonprofits

AdWords is Google’s targeted pay-per-click (PPC) advertising product. When you search using Google, AdWords advertisements are the first search results atop the page, usually with a small, green "Ad" icon next to them.

The Google grants for nonprofits program includes:

  • You’ll have a set monthly budget of $10,000 (or $329 daily).

  • You are limited to a $2 maximum cost-per-click (CPC).

  • You are not eligible to appear on search partners or the display network.

  • Your ad will only appear on Google.com, which means text ads are the only available format.

  • If you don’t use the $10,000 monthly budget, you lose it. Your budget does not carry over month after month.

These limitations make running an AdWords campaign more difficult. But there are ways to get the most out of this free marketing tool. 

AdWords vs AdWords Express

Google has two PPC marketing platforms to choose from: 

  1. The original AdWords interface—where you conduct your own keyword research, write your own ads, create conversion tracking for your campaigns, build your own links, and control advanced settings such as keyword bidding, negative keywords, device bidding, and A/B testing ad copy.
  2. AdWords Express—advertised as the solution for businesses and organizations that don’t have the time or resources to manage their AdWords account in-depth. We strongly advise against using this platform, especially if you’re using Google grants for nonprofits.

Why AdWords Express is NOT the Right Choice for Your Nonprofit

  1. No conversion tracking. How do you know if your ad is successful? Evaluating your ads by the number of clicks they receive is insufficient. People can click your ad all day, but are they performing the desired call-to-action on your website? Are you looking to gain more donations? Volunteers? The only way to know if your ad is performing adequately is through conversion tracking (which isn't available via AdWords Express). 

  2. Keywords are automatically selected by industry. Google limits your cost-per-click bidding at $2. Without controlling which keywords you’re bidding on, you can't control how your dollars are used. 

  3. All keywords are set to "broad match." Broad match keywords are keywords that are entered into the AdWords auction pool with needing only one word to match the search query. For example, if you’re bidding on ‘donations for cancer research’ and someone searches for "used car donations," your ad will display because the term "donations" matched. Broad matches can lower your quality score while also receiving clicks from users outside your target audience.

How to Structure Your Google AdWords Account

You’ve received eligibility. You understand the stipulations involved in using your $10,000 Google AdWords in-kind donation. You know that the original AdWords platform will show the best return on investment.

You're now ready to implement your advertisements. What should be your first step in structuring your AdWords account?

1. Keyword research

Which keywords will you bid on? What terms can we bid on with our limited $2 CPC? Keyword research is the most important part of your advertising plan. 

Your best bet is to focus on long-tail keywords.

For example, if I am using a Google Ad Grant to attract donations for cancer research, I’m going to perform keyword research around "cancer research donations."

Chart for google grants for nonprofit keyword search volume

As you can see from the chart above, "cancer research donation" and "donate to cancer research" have a lower average monthly search volume and suggested bid than the other options.

The higher the average monthly search volume, the higher the competition for that keyword will be (see the "Suggested bid" column). So we want to put our money towards more specific long-tail keywords with a lower search volume. This will increase the likelihood of our ad being chosen to appear in the top four positions on Google’s SERP:

google adwords for nonprofit top four positions on Google's SERP

For more detailed information on how to conduct keyword research for your organization, please see our How to Do Free Keyword Research Using Google AdWords Keyword Planner article.

2. Negative keyword list

To avoid having a set of keywords that give you unwanted impressions or clicks, you can create a list of these negative keywords. These are words that won't be used in placing your ads.  Just add it to your negative keyword list and the change will apply to all of the campaigns that share the list.

snapshot of Google AdWords for nonprofit's negative keyword list

3. Ad Groups

Split your keyword into different categories to create highly targeted and relevant ads—and to easily monitor the performance of your keywords.

For example, you could have one ad group focused on donations, one to promote services and events, and another for reaching out to recruit volunteers. This distinction allows you to better track the progress of each campaign.

An example of google grants for nonprofit ad groups

4. Ad Copy

The quality of your advertisement text (i.e., copy) is the biggest influence on whether people click it. This is your chance to tell your story. Follow these guidelines to ensure you’re creating the best content for your audience:

  • Include keywords in your ad text or title.

If your keywords appear in your ad text, users immediately recognize that your ad is relevant to their search.

  • Adopt a clear style.

Short, non-repetitive sentences work best. Double-check spelling and grammar, and avoid uncommon acronyms and abbreviations.

  • Identify the unique aspects of your organization and services.

What makes your website useful, relevant, and different? Call attention to the unique benefits you offer to attract more Google users. Example: "Search our physician database to find a specialist in your area" or "Chat with other breast cancer survivors."

  • Include a strong call to action.

A "call to action" prepares your audience for what you want them to do: register, join, subscribe, and so on. Make sure that this phrase is unique and specific to your program so that it is more informative and compelling, and distinguishes you from the competition. (Examples: "Register for membership," "Volunteer in your neighborhood today," or "Call our confidential help line.")

an example of google adwords for nonprofits ad

Ad Extensions

After you select your keywords and create your campaign’s ad groups, you’ll want to be sure to take advantage of sitelink extensions. In recent years, Google has rolled out various sitelink extension options that expand your real estate on the SERP page and give users the information they need with one click.

Location extensions

Encourage people to visit your organization by showing your location, a call button, and a link to your organization details page—which can include your hours, photos of your organization, and directions to get there. If you want customers to visit your location but to call a centralized line (rather than specific locations’ numbers), use call extensions with your location extensions.

Callout extensions

Add additional text to your ad, like “free pick-up” or “tax deductible.” Callouts can be used to encourage people to convert offline.

Call extensions

Encourage people to call your organization by adding a phone number or call button to your ads.

Message extensions

Encourage people to send you text messages from your ad. Available globally at the campaign or ad group levels.

Sitelink extensions

Link people directly to specific pages of your website (like “donate online” and “volunteer today”). 

Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is a powerful tool in AdWords that lets you identify how well your ad campaign is generating leads, sales, downloads, email sign-ups, and other key actions for your organization. The data recorded by conversion tracking allows you to identify which areas of your campaign are working and not working, so you can optimize your bids, ad text, and keywords accordingly.

snapshot of conversion tracking column within google adwords

The Final Word

Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits can be a powerful tool for your online marketing strategy. Google AdWords gives you to power to put your organization in front of people who are actively searching for what your organization does.

This might seem overwhelming, but if you follow these steps, you'll be up and running in no time. If you need assistance with Google Ad Grants, be sure to get in touch

Tara Morrow

Online Marketing Manager

A numbers geek at heart, Tara helps clients craft online marketing campaigns that return a positive ROI. And she can prove it!

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