Massive new Ad Grants changes announced—here’s what not for profits need to do

by Kyle Vermeulen
February 7, 2018

Google Ad Grants, the super-generous $120,000-of-free-advertising-a-year program, has recently announced new requirements. And it means that some not for profits are at risk of losing their grant.

The announcement

In December, Google sent emails to account owners and updated their policies announcing the new Google Ad Grants changes. The main updates are:

  • Grant recipients now need to keep their CTR (click through rate) above 5% at the account level.

  • Grant recipients now need to keep their minimum quality score above 3 at the keyword level.

  • Google has removed the $2 max bid cap, which means NFP’s can bid on higher value words (this is good news).

  • Google is requiring some minor account structure changes including geo-targeting, a minimum of two active ad groups with two active text ads, and a minimum of two sitelinks.

The policy changes have become effective as of January 1st and if your account doesn’t achieve at least a 5% CTR for two consecutive months, your account will be canceled and you will lose your grant.

These changes pose the risk of not for profits losing $120,000 a year of in-kind advertising if not addressed immediately (or $480,000 for those on in the now-defunct GrantsPro plan). Note that NFPs can apply for account reinstatement—so the decision doesn’t appear to be binding or permanent— but that’s not something you’d want to risk.

Why Google made these new Ad Grants changes

Although the changes likely mean a fair bit of work for NFPs in the short term, they’re intended to clean up the Adwords landscape — which is ultimately good for everyone in the long term.

The end users will get more relevant and better-targeted ads, the overall Google search experience will improve, and NFPs will drive more targeted (but potentially less) traffic with a higher likelihood to convert.

Previously, Google has given NFPs an easy road with Ad Grants by allowing organisations to set up broad targeting and set-and-forget campaigns. Now, NFPs will need to dedicate more time, resources and expertise to keep their ads relevant and higher performing.

As stated in their official announcement:

We’ve grown to proudly serve over 35,000 nonprofits and recently reviewed our policies to add clarity and raise standards of quality for our free advertising grants.”

What you need to do

Ok, here’s the important bit.

  1. Immediately review your campaigns, and pause any ad groups that are performing below a 5% CTR
    This will prevent you from losing your grant, which is obviously the most important urgent action. And before you turn underperforming ads back on, we recommend you:

  2. Update your ads and ad groups to follow best practices
    This means improving your ad copy by removing low-quality keywords, and optimising current ads. Don’t use generic and broad keywords or single non-branded keywords. Keep in mind, the minimum quality score has been raised to ‘3’ at the keyword level.

  3. Align your messages and campaigns
    Keep in mind that Google’s quality score takes into account not just your ad, but the landing page that you’re sending traffic to. If you haven’t already, it’s worth building unique landing pages that match the search campaign for your organisation’s high-traffic or high-value terms. This doesn’t need to be a giant website project—tools like instapage are available to help you create simple landing pages.

  4. Make sure you have geo-targeting turned on.
    If you’re an Australian not for profit, it doesn’t make sense to drive traffic from Sweden to your page. No offence to the Swedes–they’re lovely–but unlikely to convert. Google has added geo-targeting as a requirement for Ad Grant accounts.Here’s the official guide to turning geo-targeting on in your account.

  5. Don’t forget to take advantage of the $2 bid limit removal.
    In trying to clean up the Adwords landscape, Google is incentivising you to have strong conversion results by providing you a way to be more competitive in the Adwords space. Make sure you have conversions set up on your accounts and for your campaigns that have plenty of conversion data, turn on the ‘Maximise Conversion’ bid strategy. Google will then use machine learning to drive the most conversions while ignoring the $2 bid limit previously imposed.

Need help?

At ntegrity, our consultants are working closely with current clients to make sure they’re well ahead of these changes.

If you’re a Google Ad Grants recipient and need help getting your account sorted, feel free to reach out. We have three certified AdWords experts on our team who would be happy to help advise and implement the required changes.