How to maximise your Google Grants account

by Cameron McMaster
August 19, 2020

As a charity or not-for-profit, you must take advantage of Google Grants.

Google Grants is a straightforward offering: 10,000 USD per month of free search advertising on Google for not-for-profit organisations. That’s right: free.

Despite not costing you a thing, it’s important that you maximise this opportunity and avoid non-compliance issues. Google Grants is not a ‘set and forget’ platform, it requires account management, strategic keyword selection, targeting and compelling ad copy.

At ntegrity, we manage Google Grants and paid Google Search Ads campaigns for a large number of Australian not-for-profits. Our goal is to use the entire US$10,000 budget every month to drive traffic to the most strategic pages on our clients’ websites.

Based on our experience, here are some key ways to maximise results on your Google Grants accounts:

Use relevant and specific keywords

You must select keywords that are relevant to your organisation, campaign or service. For a full guide on how to identify the highest-value keywords for your organisation, read this article.

Be specific in your keyword selection: keywords that are not specific to your organisation’s activities may be targeted by other charities or not-for-profit organisations operating in the same field, and they will quickly outbid you in Google’s rankings auction. For example, instead of bidding on ‘appeals’, bid on ‘homelessness appeals in melbourne’ or ‘donate to christmas appeal’.

You should also ensure that your ad copy and landing pages include these keywords to make sure you’re targeting the right people, and to improve the quality score of your ads.

The more specific and relevant your keyword selection is, the more likely you are to reach the right people through your ads.

Google’s scrapping of the $2 bid limit is beneficial to those who know how to harness it

Google Grants has a maximum manual keyword bid of $2. But it’s a myth that this is an absolute cap on ad bids:  you can bid above this if you select a ‘maximise conversions’ bidding strategy. This bidding strategy uses machine learning to automatically find the best price you should pay for specific keywords, based on the actions taken by people who visit your site. It will likely bid higher on keywords where you have a higher chance of gaining conversions.

In order to enable the ‘maximise conversions’ bidding strategy, you must first set up conversion tracking and change campaign setting bidding to ‘maximise conversions’.

Stay on top of the changes to be competitive

The Google Ads platform, interface and ranking algorithm is constantly changing. It’s important to keep at the forefront of these changes to remain competitive.

Most recently, Google introduced the ability to create three headlines and two descriptions for ads, giving them more ‘real estate’ in search results. And the more real estate you have, the more detail you can give about your website, and the more likely someone is to click your ad!

It’s important to make sure you are taking advantage of any new ad space or extensions that are being launched by Google to stay competitive in Google search. Google regularly posts feature updates and news here, or you can stay updated via our Instagram Live broadcasts.

Regularly audit your account to make sure it’s compliant

Review your account to ensure it is compliant with Google’s policy. Things you should consider include:

  • Keeping campaigns above the minimum 5% click-through rate (CTR). Make sure you pause any keywords with a high number of impressions but low clicks, or CTR below 5%

  • Using geo-targeting appropriately (for example, if services are only available in Victoria, set geo-targeting to Victoria)

  • Including a minimum of two ad groups, two ads and two sitelink extensions

  • Ensuring you are not bidding on singular or generic keywords

  • Ensure that your conversion tracking is working as intended

Start slow and stay on top of optimisations

Large Google Grants accounts are harder to manage and can spiral out of compliance very quickly. To prevent this, start with the basics to ensure you can control what happens within your account, and work up to a larger capacity.

We recommend taking a “test and learn” approach when managing the ads in your account. Changing too many things at once is confusing, and makes it hard to identify what works and what doesn’t. Some key places you can start are:

  • Assessing individual keywords to identify the best-performing ones

  • Finding the most effective audience targeting

  • Testing ad copy within an ad group

If you are optimising an existing account, we recommend first pausing all non-compliant campaigns. Then focus on managing one or two ad groups each week and slowly working your way through the rest of your account. It might be a slow process, but it means you’ll know you’re still getting high-quality traffic while you work on those trickier ad groups.

Use automated rules

For the time-starved Grants manager, automation is your best friend. Automated rules can help you get on top of issues early-on, and prevent any non-compliance. A few automated rules that we’ve found useful:

  • Auto-pausing keywords with a quality score of 2 or lower

  • Auto-pausing keywords with consistently low click-through rates

Join the Ad Grants Community

The best way to learn how to maximise your Google Grants account is to hear from others. If you have an issue or want to grow in your management of Google Grants, you can connect with other NFPs and people trying to achieve goals just like yours through the Ad Grants Community.

If all else fails, ask for help earlier rather than later

If you’re struggling to use every dollar of your Google Grants, or don’t see results from your campaigns, don’t wait until you’re non-compliant and pulled offline – ask for immediate support from a Grants specialist (like ntegrity!) before it’s too late.

While Google will identify the reason your account is non-compliant, it is closed-lipped about how long it will take to reactivate your account once you’ve fixed the outstanding issues. This can take anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks, which is wasted $$$ of free advertising spend.

Ultimately, Google Grants is a great thing for NFPs. We’ve seen exceptional results & growth for our NFP clients because of them, but Google is certainly making NFPs work for their free USD 120,000 yearly advertising spend.

Need help?

At ntegrity, our consultants are Google Ad Grants experts, and we know there’s so much more to Google Grants if you want to maximise the benefits. Get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation with an ntegrity search specialist.