Google's Ad Grants

Are you a charity organisation looking to expand your reach online? If so, Google is offering an incredible $10,000 (roughly £7,500) per month for you to spend on Google Ads, for FREE!! This initiative is designed to help your non-profit organisations further their mission online, whether that’s; attracting donations, raising awareness, sharing the impact of your charitable work or attracting volunteers.

Google Ads can be a very powerful tool in your digital marketing strategy, if it is used correctly. This guide aims to educate you on how Google's Ad grant can be used to help your charitable organisation further its mission online.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads, formally known as Google Adwords, is Google’s advertising platform. The tool manages advertising placements in their search engine and on their display network. When using Google’s search engine, you’ll notice ad slots at the top and bottom of the results page (up to 4 slots), these are known as search ads. They are text based (unless it’s a Google Shopping advert) and target the keywords a user is searching, this means that your advert is only ever shown for relevant users. The display network manages banner advertising slots on over 2 million websites throughout the internet. However, this type of advert is not included in the Google Ad grant and must be funded separately.

Why is Google doing this?

It costs Google nothing to show ads within their own search results. Google is going to display a search results page anyway, whether there are adverts on it or not, so there are no additional costs with giving charities this advertising space. The only cost is the lost opportunity cost that comes with those charities not spending genuine money on these ad slots, but very few charities would have the funds to invest in PPC campaigns anyway. The goodwill and positive PR benefit they receive from the Ad Grants far outweighs any lost advertising revenue it costs them.

Why is this important for non-profit organisations?

Advertising on search engines offers an incredible way to effectively reach your target audience, because their usage is based on intent. When a user searches for a keyword they’re indicating that they have an interest in that topic at that specific moment, this is the most effective time to place an advert in front of a user, particularly if it is highly relevant to their search term. Advertising to users which have the intent of finding more about a particular cause or a type of charity gives you the opportunity to match their intent with your mission.

Users generally do not have an issue with advertising, and even pay far more attention to it, when it’s relevant to their intent. Google Ads Grants presents an incredible opportunity to reach a highly relevant audience at no charge.

The setup process

It’s not as straightforward as ticking a checkbox to say you’re a charity, Google’s process for their Ad Grants is a little bit more awkward. Here are the key steps you’ll need to follow:

1. Eligibility

To claim the Google Ad Grant you must be registered as a charitable organisation, you can’t be a government, health care or academic organisation. However, philanthropic arms of educational organisations are applicable. You’ll also need to prove that you own the website where you’re directing this traffic.

2. Applying

You’ll firstly need a validation token from TechSoup, this is an international organisation setup for helping non-profits. The application process can take up to 4 weeks, so get your registration completed ASAP.

Once you have your TechSoup token, head over to Google’s registration page, here you’ll need to enter your token number and your tax ID (or employer ID). This will then be submitted for approval.

3. Set up your account

You need to choose between the full Google Ads platform and a scaled back Ads Express. We would always recommend the full Google Ads platform because this gives you all of the options to optimise your campaign, plus changing it from Ads Express can be a cumbersome process.

Once you’ve decided which platform to use, you’ll need to complete the setup, here are a few things you’ll need to do:

  • Skip the billing section. Do not enter any payment information at all.
  • If you’re asked, select USD as your currency, even if you’re UK based.
  • Use the same email address as your Google Nonprofits account.
  • Only create text ads, and text ad extensions, do not setup any display campaigns.
  • Setup at least two sitelink ad extensions for all Adgroups.
  • Create at least two Adgroups.
  • Setup your geo targeting for each campaign, do not leave it as worldwide.

4. Submitting Your Account

Once you have everything setup on your account, you need to submit it for approval. This will take up to 4 weeks because it needs to be manually checked to ensure your campaigns abide by Google’s Ad Grant policies.

Performance Standards

Sadly, you can’t just setup the campaign and leave it to run all by itself, it needs constant maintenance. Google sets performance requirements which you must hit in order to keep your grant status, below are the main requirements:

  • Account management – You are required to login at least once every 2 months, but in reality you should be logging in weekly to manage your account.
  • Ad spend – You need to get close to spending the $10,000 every month, so be sure not to make your targeting too restricted. It’s important to have a balance between spending enough every month and maintaining relevancy to keep your click through rate high enough (I’ll explain this shortly).
  • Tracking goals – On your website you’ll have certain actions that you want your user to do, this could be making a donation or filling out a form. These goals should be tracked in your Google Analytics account and Google Ads account, then they should be added into your campaigns so you can see which keywords/ads/campaigns are performing best. This is good practice for any Google Ads campaign, but it is understandably a requirement for the Google Ads Grant.

2018 Changes to Google Ad Grants

In 2018 big changes were made to the rules which charities must follow when running a campaign. Here is an overview of the changes:

  • Bid cap – Previously you were limited on how much you could bid for each keyword placement (set at $2 per click), this made it very hard to compete if you were a new charity just starting with Google Ad Grant. Now, with a ‘maximize conversions’ bidding strategy, you can bid competitively.
  • Click through rate – The click through rate is the percentage of people that click on your advert after coming across it on the search engine results page. Previously, your click through rate could be as low or as high as you want. Now though, if it falls below 5% for more than 2 months, your grant status will be revoked.
  • Quality score – The quality score is a rating Google gives your keywords depending on your landing page experience, the relevancy of your ad to the keyword and your expected click through rate. The quality score is used in combination with the keyword bid to decide the position of your ad relative to your competition, the higher your score, the more competitive your charity can be. There is now a minimum quality score of 3, if your keyword falls below this it will be excluded.

These changes make a lot of sense because they’re focused on levelling the playing field for new and existing charities, plus they encourage charities to focus on relevant ad placements and quality ad text.

A word to charities under ‘umbrella organisations’

If you’re a small charity which operates under a larger umbrella organisation, you may not be able to receive the Google Ads Grant. This is because in order to be eligible, you need to be classed as a completely separate charity with your own address and charity number.

Need help?

Here is the self-promotion bit – I’m Sam Taylor, an independent digital marketing consultant specialising in online advertising, particularly Google Ads. I’m an official Google Partner and I can help you to setup and effectively manage your campaigns. Plus, because I’m independent and not part of a large agency, I can give you the agency experience without the agency price tag. Call me on 07825293768 or email sam@red3.digital to start discussing your next campaign.

Sam Taylor