Guest blog post from Max Kryzhanovskiy, Preseident and CEO of MOS Creative, a digital marketing and growth strategy firm that uses data to help organizations develop focused website and fundraising strategy.
Have you heard of the Google Ad Grants Program for nonprofits? It’s a program that gives nonprofits the chance to advertise on Google AdWords at no cost to the nonprofit. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? This program gives qualified organizations $10,000 per month (YES, PER MONTH) in AdWords spend to be used to promote their missions and initiatives on Google.com. To qualify, a nonprofit organization must go through the application process, and to keep the grant they must follow the following program details.
Here are the details to receive the Grant:
To be eligible for Google Grants an organization must:
- Hold current and valid charity status (for example, in the US you must have a current 501(c)(3) status)
- Acknowledge and agree to Google Grant’s required certifications regarding how to receive and use donations obtained from the grant
- Have a website that is both functioning and provides adequate detail on your nonprofit
Seems simple so far, right?
The following organizations are not eligible for Google Grants:
- Governmental entities and organizations
- Hospitals and medical groups
- Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions and universities (philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible).
Now that you have the grant, you’re probably wondering how to make sure that you keep your Eligibility for your Google Ad Grant. Don’t worry, this is still the easy part.
So, how do you maintain eligibility?
- All the ads in your account must link to the nonprofit URL that was approved in your application process.
- Be proactive in your AdWords management by logging in to the account monthly. If a nonprofit advertiser who has a Google Grant does not log into their AdWords account, the account is subject to being paused without notification.
- The ads you are promoting must reflect the mission of your nonprofit. You can advertise to sell products as long as 100% of the proceeds are going to support your program.
- The ads you create cannot point to pages that are used to primarily send visitors to other websites.
- Your ads cannot offer financial products, such as mortgages or credit cards. Your ads also cannot be asking for donations in the form of large goods such as cars, boats or property donations. Keywords related to this activity are also not allowed.
- Your website cannot display ads from Google AdSense or other affiliate advertising links while participating in Google Grants.
Google states that any violation of these guidelines are subject to removal from the program. And they do mean it. They also reserve the right to supplement or amend these eligibility guidelines at any time.
Now that you know how to qualify for the Grant and how to keep it, let’s talk about best practices of AdWords marketing for nonprofits.
Google Grant recipients receive free AdWords advertising, but only to display their ads on Google.com. If you receive a Google Grant, you will have to build and manage your own AdWords account similar as if you were paying advertisers. What this means is that you will have full control over your AdWords account and Google will not be managing anything for you. Now, here is where it where it becomes a little tricky.
Here are some restrictions:
First, your daily budget will need to be set at $329 a day ($10,000 per month). It sounds like a lot of money to spend in one day, except you cannot have keywords with a Max CPC over $2.00. I want to put things in perspective for you - 90% of all CPC on Google are between $6 and $15; this will take some work. Plus, your ads can only appear on Google.com – you cannot use Search Partners and since you can only be on Google.com with text ads, you are not eligible for the Display Network either.
So, with these restrictions, it might be a little more difficult to manage a PPC account than you expected. The main part of Google Grants is the money, and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Due to some of these restrictions, some of you may have a hard time finding a way to spend $10,000 per month. Reports show that on average nonprofits use only about $300 per month from the $10,000 that is given. If you’re struggling to spend your dough, here are some basic ideas for what you can use your grant for:
- promoting events and selling tickets
- growing online donations and fundraising
- raising awareness
- building email lists
- connecting with supporters
- recruiting volunteers
- initiating sponsor relationships
- signing up newsletter subscribers
- registering memberships
Let’s face some facts. The majority of nonprofits don't have the time, in-house expertise, or resources to benefit from all of the $10,000 worth of free advertising provided by Google every month especially with the $2 max CPC. So, here are some basic AdWords campaign optimization recommendations to use for higher Ad spend:
Always start with best practices to set up your AdWords account and your Google Analytics account. Make sure to merge them together.
Don’t go overboard with negative keywords; you need to spend this money. Yes, you’re going to want to block traffic that is nowhere near relevant to your site/organization, but you’re not measuring on ROI or even ROAS (Return on AdWords Spend) in the same manner as you would for an account where you are putting in your own marketing dollars. You’re still going to want to set negatives to block out completely irrelevant traffic; for example if you were looking for clothing donations and have “Clothing” as one of your ad groups, you would want to set “Car” as a negative keyword. You should also be looking at your query information to see not only what queries are triggering your ads, but to monitor for irrelevant traffic. I would also say that if you’re a nonprofit looking for monetary donations, you should think outside the box and also be including keywords looking for volunteers, making people aware of your services, and asking for non-monetary donations as well. You have to use a completely different type of strategy to come close to your daily spend, especially with such specific restrictions. That also means that you are going to need to find more keywords to get more traffic and find ways to spend the money. Since you aren’t measuring your ROI as strictly, you can do this. Remember, this is free ad spend!
Pay extra attention to this part; this part is very important. In terms of keywords selection, be sure to pick relevant terms and match types (we’ll get into this in a little bit). I know you are going to be driven to not only spend the money, but make sure you are being competitive. While it is hard to compete using a keyword that is usually a $6 CPC when you can only have a $2 Max CPC, this means you’re going to have to get very creative, using longer tail keywords and going a little outside of the box to find searchers. You will also have to keep adding new long tail keywords. In this case, the more the merrier. Again, you can even go for other keywords associated with your business to help bring in more traffic. (Think about the example above, instead of just monetary donations, talk about other opportunities your organization provides.)
Keyword Match Types
Be sure not to restrict your match types too much. Again, you need to spend this budget to hit your goals and get the most out of it. Broad match types are going to bring you a lot of impressions and potential clicks. This will also allow for you to be open to more searches. Once you gather this data in Google Analytics, you can then decide what keywords should be considered negative. If, for instance, you’re a nonprofit looking to only receive donations through your paid search efforts, you might find that you are receiving traffic from people who are looking for assistance from your nonprofit. Is this a bad thing? No, it might not be exactly who you are marketing to, but it is also spreading awareness of the organization. You are still going to find keywords that you’re going to want to be on phrase and exact match on; use them, but make sure they are keywords that can handle the max CPC of $2 limit and are still competitive.
Now that you have your campaign set up and running, here is how to track your results in Google Analytics in order to improve, optimize, and grow your campaign:
Organize your campaigns into categories:
- General Awareness – This might include your branded terms, or perhaps general facts or statistics about what you are promoting. The goals of these campaigns could include more broad reaching things like page views (with good engagement), video views or social shares.
- Donor Benefit Focused – This might include campaigns that use the modifying terms “help”, “contribute”, “support”, “volunteer” or “donate”.
- Recipient Benefit Focused – This might include campaigns that use the modifying terms “save”, “stop”, “prevent”, “achieve” or other such words.
- Events – Local, national or global events deserve a campaign that promotes the events. You can choose to geo-target a specific set of cities where the event is taking place. These campaigns would have ads that are specifically speaking to the time and place of the event.
Make sure to set up conversion goals. Remember to link your Google AdWords with Google Analytics.
Always have goals set up to record how each dollar works for you. Goals could be donations, inquiries, volunteer sign-ups, email newsletter sign-ups, or even social shares. My best suggestion is to import your Google Analytics goals into AdWords. Tracking conversions is important so you can get the correct information you need to make better decisions for your nonprofit account.
Below are some metrics that you can select. I recommend to start with Bounce Rate, Pages per session, and Average session duration. You can always add more if needed.
The key for managing a Google Grant account is this: not to set it up and forget it (it needs to have active account management to continue running). You always want to check for new opportunities and tailor each campaign specifically for your mission. The Google AdWords for Nonprofits program is a great advertising program that helps nonprofits everywhere. You have Google Grant option, but you can also get involved with YouTube for Nonprofits, Google Earth for Nonprofits, and Google Apps for Nonprofits.
Do you run a Google AdWords Grant account? If so, what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them? Share in the comments below!
If you have more questions, or are looking for help, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org