Google Ads

In this webinar, we discuss the most up to date best practices to use when optimizing your Google Ad Grant. In 2021 we’ve seen sudden increases in available budget, changing rules about identity verification, and even the use of new features. This session will leave you better prepared to maximize the value of your ad grant in 2021.

Slide Deck


Chris Earp: So we want to start with the basics. Basically, whenever we’re talking about Google Ad Grants, we feel it’s a good idea to remind people of a few key items that kind of. Underpin a successful ad grant strategy. And it really comes with acknowledging that Ad Grants is a different product from the kinds of paid search tools that most of us are using with our paid advertising campaigns, whether it’s fundraising or advocacy.

Anne Davis: Yeah. And real quick, if you have any questions or anything, post those in the chat and we’ll try to get to them at the end of this recording as well.

Chris Earp: We’re gonna send you a recording as well, just afterwards. Apologies, I forgot to mention that

Anne Davis: at the top. No worries. Yeah, so we’ll try to make some time for questions, and we’ll follow up if we don’t get to all of them.

But yeah, so paid search and Grants, there are a couple key differences. The first being that paids CMS always out-compete Grants ads. So this means that for example, if a paid account and Grants account are bidding for the same term in that same option, the ad from that paid account is always going to show up first.

But Grants accounts can fill gaps in search impression, share and are great for driving traffic to content with keywords that aren’t super highly competitive Paid SCM has more features, targeting options and different bidding rules than Google Grants. Grants has a lot of restrictions to what you can and can’t do in the account.

We’ll get into more of those kind of distinctions later on, but just important to note that while the, tool itself is very similar, there are some restrictions within the grant account. Optimizing for a grant campaign is also different than paid because of these different features. For Grants, our main goal in many cases is to make sure that we’re spending that full $10,000 each month, driving traffic promoting new content for high search volume search terms while paid, we found has worked really well for those more competitive terms and great for your more specific fundraising campaigns where you’re really trying to measure that ROI.

Chris Earp: Now because the algorithm is different from a traditional paid search account, there are strategic implications in how you set up campaigns, how you research them, how you optimize them, all of that good stuff. And it really starts with the fact that you are always going to lose in competitions with paid ads.

So if you wanted to serve Google Grant’s ads against a term that’s being frequently purchased in the paid ad space, then it’s unlikely that you’ll even be able to deliver very many impressions at all. And if you can’t deliver impressions, you can’t spend the ad grant and you can’t further your mission using it.

So it’s very important to apply yourself to the research and setting up which campaigns are going to work for you. One good place to start. If you’re starting from scratch is what kind of content is already doing a good job for you? Organic search wise. Is there a great blog post or page that you have full of great information that maybe got picked up by the knowledge graph or structured snippets?

That can be a great place to start because it means that people are looking for it and you’ve got great content about it. And certainly, you might be doing well in SEO for that. Article, but there are plenty of other entry points that you can use by targeting keywords quickly users in Google and targeting Ad Grants ads at those queries, as long as they’re not competitive.

So research is important before you build these campaigns, but this is also not technically real money. What it is unused search inventory. So that means that you can start broad. And let the campaign work for you and do research for you. So you don’t want to go overly broad because it’s not allowed you couldn’t just target a single keyword to a single word.

But you could start broader than you would with paid search because you can allow the tool to deliver impressions. And then you can look at what users are actually searching to trigger your ads and adopt those as keywords if you want to. And so this is a really useful tool in Grants or strategy and Grants that we don’t typically we get to apply in paid search.

Now, the last thing is that since this is a grant from Google, they’ve got all these compliance requirements, which we’ll touch on. But it’s not just getting compliant because you want to keep your Grants. Google wants you to succeed. They want to unlock cooler features for you so that they can go and tell the public look at all these tools we’re giving non-profits to succeed.

So a good evidence of this is recently when they allowed advertisers to start using automated bidding in the Google Grant, they said, listen, we’re going to let you use our AI. And when you use our AI to deliver your ads, you’re going to be able to actually be even more competitive against other Google Ad Grants.

You used to be limited to $2 maximum bid per click in a Google ad grant. But if you use automated bidding, Google says, have at it, and I’ve seen them go as high as eight or $9 in spaces where you’re only competing against other Ad Grants. So there’s lots of benefits to staying compliant and staying aggressive about compliance and adoption of new features.

Anne Davis: Yeah, definitely. And if you don’t have a grant yeah, It’s very easy to sign up. Google has done a lot to make it more of a streamlined process. A couple of years ago was very challenging and confusing, but the first step really is to just create a Google for non-profits account.

And then from there you would insert your company information and apply for the for the grant. There are a couple of restricted verticals. So for example, government entities and organizations, hospitals, medical groups, schools any academic institutions or universities, they’re not eligible for Google and for nonprofits, but any other C3.

Non-profit is eligible. So from there, after you’re eligible, then you would apply for the grant sign up. And another thing to notice that your website does have to be high quality and all your pages do have to be. Secure. But after you are approved and setting up the account, it’s really important to have a well thought out plan.

Look at, look in Google Analytics, there’s a console, see what pages are driving traffic. Find gaps in organic search, for example, where you may be showing up on the second or third page for a certain term, Grants is a great way to fill those gaps and try to get those, key content pages to the top of that first page.

And then connecting with key stakeholders is also important to just determine what content is a priority to push out and what goals you all have important to be aligned, on all fronts when using the grant to make it the most effective tool for your organization. And then finally staying compliant is really important.

You can’t just set up a grant and then walk away because it’s $10,000 of free money a month. There are policies that you must remain in compliance with, which we’ll go over on the next side. And Google’s always updating and tweaking its requirements. So it’s important to keep an eye on digital resources.

Always continuing your learning. There’s a Grants community forum that is great to be a part of and share knowledge from other nonprofit organizations and agencies. And then finally hiring an agency to manage this tool for your organization is hugely important. We’re part of the Google Grants, professional community.

So we do get early access to upcoming updates, potential, potentially new opportunities for additional Grants, funding, that sort of thing. Just making sure that you, have a team in place to really get the maximum value out of your Google Grants.

Chris Earp: Sure. And just from a resourcing perspective, we’ll dig into this a little bit more later on, but we find that the clients for whom we’re managing the grant, get more value out of it because they can align internally on the kinds of strategic choices and then see them act it out through our implementation.

Oftentimes stakeholders don’t have a lot of time for the Google Grant or aren’t exactly sure which of their content is represented there. And if you’ve got someone doing the implementation, you could align internally and really, actually further concrete goals using the green. But in order to do that, obviously you need to stay compliant.

Anne I’ll pass it to you.

Anne Davis: Thank you. Yeah. So there’s, Google has a lot of great resources on their website. If you search Google Grants, requirements or compliance, but just like little overview campaign structure, there’s a couple of requirements here. Every campaign must have at least two ad groups

within that campaign and there must be at least two site link extensions. So those are just some simple laying the foundation of ways to further your compliance and the Grants account. Geo-targeting, this is something that is a capability within the Grants account. You can target anywhere in the U S and then you are able to narrow down specifically by campaign to more specific locations.

If you’d like to like for example, if you’re promoting a event in a certain state, it wouldn’t make sense if your event is in New York to, for that ad to display in California and that sort of thing. Google Analytics is a great tool to use here to see where your traffic is coming from on your site organically, indirectly, and that can help you prioritize locations.

If you’d like to go that route. Keyword targeting is another really important one. Chris said, we always recommend going a little more broad and then narrowing down once you collect more data and figure out which keywords are driving the most traffic. A keyword planner is a tool within Google ads that is great to show you recommended search terms and projected search volume. So you can make sure that there actually are people out there searching for your the content that’s on your site and that you’re not just making a campaign that no one is going to see. One thing here is that there are no one-word keywords allowed in Grants accounts.

That’s just one thing to flag and that the quality score does need to be a three or above for these keywords. And then Chris touched on this, but automated bidding is huge whenever we can. We try to optimize our Grants campaigns for automated bidding, because it’s allows us to be more competitive in these auctions because we are limited by that $2 max cost per click

metric that if you aren’t using automated bidding, that is a restriction there. And then this type hand in hand with that conversion tracking element if you’re using automated bidding, you likely will need to be automating toward the conversion goal, whether that’s email or a donation or a download or a webinar sign up, that sort of thing.

Conversion tracking is definitely an essential component of any Google account, but definitely for Grants accounts. And you want to ensure that’s all set up prior to launching the account, launching a new campaign and making sure that you’re optimizing towards these conversions whenever you can.

There’s a 5% minimum click-through rate that you’re required to meet within the Grants account. But if you do fall below this, there is a 30-day grace period for any of these compliance policies. So you do have a month to turn things around. Google won’t just pause your account out of nowhere.

And then finally rules and automations. These are great tools that Google offers to help keep your account in compliance, especially if you’re not in the account every day, keeping an eye on things. And this could be things like setting up an automated rule that pauses a keyword that falls below a certain click through rate thresholds, or even pausing keywords that fall below that quality score threshold.

Those sorts of things are great little tips and kind of automations that can help save you time and keep your grant and compliance.

Chris Earp: So that’s the basics. Those are the things that are the foundation of a successful at grant program. And like every other bit of technology and marketing strategy, we had to adapt few unforeseen circumstances. In 2020, we had the pandemic, we had racial justice and various other kinds of.

demonstrations and social change happening. And the Ad Grants platform, like everything else reacted to it. And through that reaction, we were able to learn a few things. One thing that’s important to note is that at this point, Google has demonstrated on three separate occasions that they are willing to give Ad Grants a cash injection.

At the very bottom of the screen, there that’s one calendar year of ad spend for one of our clients that’s tracking two enormous jumps in advertising spend through the grant. Now we were advised of this, luckily, because we were a part of this ad grant certified professionals community. We’re able to anticipate it and adjust the campaigns in order to take on all that additional volume.

But, guaranteed, if you’re not maximizing ad spend in your account right now, and all of a sudden it’s able to spend two or three times that amount, i e drive two or three times that volume of traffic to your website and potentially new users who could become donors or otherwise engaged with your mission,

you will lose out. How do you maximize spend? There’s a number of ways to do it. Certainly you need to do a lot of testing. Identify your best content and get your account to the point that it’s chomping at the bit. And if you want to, you could easily deliver more clicks. You want your primary limiting factor to be your spend, not the search volume associated with the kinds of keywords you’re targeting now.

Because a new spend threshold can really shock machine learning. That’s another thing to be able to anticipate. Basically machine learning learns how to be successful within a particular situation or scale. And if all of a sudden you double or triple the scale. Then you haven’t worked your way up to it and allowed the machine learning to train into new each new level of increased spend.

If you double and triple it, it can shock it and cause the machine learning to reenter a learning phase during what you might see a bit of a downtick in performance. Now there are a few ways to deal with that. But. Even just knowing that this is the case, it could prevent you from making a bunch of potentially hazardous adjustments.

If you saw performance declining with a bunch of increased spend, having this information, you might be able to say, okay let’s give it a few days. See where the machine learning Mets out, rather than all of a sudden pausing a bunch of keywords or otherwise changing your account because of this change in spend and the resulting volatility and the machine work.

Now it’s also really, important that you are optimizing a diverse number of optimizing for a diverse number of conversions. It could be a donation. It could be somebody downloading an asset, a social share a lead generated through an email form. Make sure that you’re capturing all of the valuable actions, because those are the actions that your machine learning can optimize against and find you the best

most search volume to search for your grant. And the last thing is, since we are in this phase of really adopting and maximizing the value of machine learning, use new ad formats, use responsive search ads. There’s no reason to be using exclusively old formats like expanded text ads. When you use responsive search ads, they can react in tandem to the machine learning.

That’s learning how to upscale based on an injection of funding and just to put a finer point on it, the reason that Google is giving out more money is if you’re helping with coronavirus relief, for example, you might’ve seen a bump in your ad budget. If you were helping with the racial justice cause, you might’ve seen a bump in your ad budget.

And many of us saw bumps in our budget just during December, during end of year, because Google wants to prove that we can use Ad Grants to raise money, which we certainly did in 2020. So these were the biggest takeaways that we took from a changing environment in 2020, and how to use app Grants.

Anne Davis: Yeah, thanks, Chris. Yeah, a lot has definitely changed and there’ve been a lot of new opportunities, I think in the last year that our Grants has provided. And I’m hoping that continues. There are some advanced features that the Ad Grants offers that I think are great to use. And we try to use these as much as we can.

The first is you can actually create an audience on top of your search campaigns. So it’s actually not targeting this audience, but it’s an observational audience. And what this does is for example, you can. Set an audience of people who have visited your site in the last 30 days, and then see if they are coming back to your site via your Grants campaign.

You can also set up geo-targeted observational audiences to see if there are people if you’re based in New York and you want to see people in your local organization, you want to see how many people are actually coming from your state or region. Then you can also set up audience, like all the audiences like that to observe.

Observe behavior, and then from there you can make adjustments to your actual targeting based on those learnings. This also goes hand in hand with that deeper integration with Google Analytics because they’re both Google products. There are a lot of great integrations that are built in to Google Analytics that allow you to be able to really granularly see how people are engaging with your website content after they come to your page via a Google Grants ad.

One thing we always recommend is to use a UTM parameters, whenever you can, to be able to track user behavior within Google Analytics from any sort of paid campaign, but definitely Grants and then setting up goals within Google Analytics and importing those. So that you’re aligned on your conversion goals throughout all, channels that you’re marketing or advertising on.

Additionally add extensions can address gaps and deliverability. We always, a lot of times, and recently we done during year end is in the Grants. We’ve added an ad extension for the last week of December leading, like calling out that match. So that no matter if you’re searching for content on the site, that hopefully that extension will appear on that ad is just another call to action and a little lift to help support other campaigns.

Attribution window settings is also something to think about when you’re setting up a campaign. The default setting is last click attribution, which means that once someone clicks on your ad, then they fill out a contact form in that same session, that would be counted as last click attribution, but there are some other settings, for example, one called time decay, which helps you trace back conversions to your campaign, even if they ultimately didn’t convert within that session.

And for example search your site directly the next day and ended up filling out that contact form, or making a donation later on. So those are a couple of great. Great tools. I love the attribution window setting one, because that helps to see the assisted conversion value of the Grants account.

And then Chris did already touch a good amount on the responsive search ad component, but these are just dynamic ads, a great way to test messaging. We always try to include at least one of these within every ad group because we typically see a higher click through rate and stronger performance among ads like this.

Chris Earp: To keep the ball rolling on things that changed in 2020, we also saw a Facebook style identity verification program rolled out by Google. It’s very easy. Basically they just want users to be able to see who paid for an ad, why it’s there. And so all you need to do is pull a W-9 with your EIN or TIN and submit a web form.

It’s usually very, fast, but I do think it’s important that if you have an agency handling this on your behalf, make sure that you’ve got an internal stakeholder verify that agency, that, and then your grant, you do. So you want to make sure that you’ve got some kind of administrative control of the account.


Now, moving into 2021, I want to be conscious of time here, so we’re going to forge ahead with our tips for how to move into the coming year. And, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the foundation of a strong,

Anne Davis: Yeah, so I think we talked about a lot of this, but a fully compliant account, all these items are really just essential as you move forward and expand your Grants and make it work better for you and for your organizational goals.

But  having a compliant account is key. Once you have that foundation you’re solid, you’re a couple of percentage points above that 5% click through rate, and you’re not just trying to get that account in compliance, then you can really start to test things, expand your account,

adding new content is more rolls out, update your goals like that, that, compliance piece is something that’s important, but you don’t want to keep on thinking about it in the back of your mind, if you’re really teetering on compliant and not compliant. So having that full compliance I think is really important moving forward into this year.

And then of course, you know that in internal stakeholder and content accountability, oftentimes we’ll find that if we’re bringing on a new client managing their Grants, they don’t know who’s been managing it. For the last few months or a year, they don’t know what kind of content is driving to.

And it’s likely not meeting your goals. So it’s a good time to refocus and reevaluate on how you can make your grant work for you and meet the goals that you’re working toward across all of your other channels. And then working measurement framework that accurately captures the value of a Grants account.

And that ties into that data-driven goals bullet point at the bottom as well. You want to make sure that you’re conversion tracking and the way that you’re reporting and measuring is setting you up for success. And data as king, we want to make sure that we are tracking toward these goals in a way that’s.

That, that makes sense for the organization and that we’re actually measuring the impact of the Grants because a lot of times it’s $10,000 of free money, but that’s still $10,000 to help support your mission and your goals. So it’s important to make sure that you’re continuing to constantly track toward those goals.

And then coordination with other advertising and communications campaigns for brand consistency is important. Oftentimes organizations will update their, brand. Brand strategy, brand guidelines. You want to make sure that the messaging that you’re using an email and on your website are also being reflected and that your Grant’s account isn’t being swept under the rug, because that is still a place where potential donors or members are interacting with your brand.

So you want to make sure it’s consistent.

Chris Earp: Yeah. Another way to think about this huge chunk of traffic is just by the number of sessions it’s driving. You could easily be driving somewhere close to 15,000 users to site every month for that grant. That’s not an insignificant chunk of traffic.

And so it’s really important if you take nothing else from this presentation, which specific goals is the grant driving. Do you know how much an average grant user is worth? How often do they convert to a donor? Are you putting sub sources on the URL so that who was acquired through the grant and how quickly they get to first gift through your email program, this was the kind of tracking that makes digital advertising valuable at all the level of granular detail that you can measure in real time and react to.

So don’t take that Grant’s traffic for granted. It really didn’t mean to make a pun there, but for me it was the grant integrated into your content calendar. Oftentimes organizations will simply just use the grant to drive traffic to some key pages, but you could do a lot more.

And one way that you could get more from a grant is making sure that you’re using the right kind of automated bidding. If you’re doing lead generation, you want to get. The cheapest lead possible. It makes sense to use maximizes conversions instead of target CPA. If you want to really evenly spread your goals across a different, a few different campaigns and do that by running them on target CPA and making sure that budget is distributed pretty evenly as you’re optimizing for those conversions.

That’s another option. We talked about this before. Most of it, but I think another important thing to touch on here is negative keyword lists. If you’ve had a grant for three to five years and you’ve got all of that great search query history, you can go in and find the keywords that just aren’t driving goals.

And if you’re getting enough traffic that you don’t have to worry about hitting your spend amount every month, then you can start to really improve traffic quality. Now finally note that there are a few final sort of extra gold star material components you could get here. The first is make sure your grant is part of the content calendar, because even if no one is Googling your organization or keywords, you can be find-able for related to that.

Calendar temple event, maybe its water day or earth day or something like that, your ads could still carry a message out. They could show a site link extension that says click to view our photo contest or check out our earth day campaign or whatever the case might be, just because people aren’t Googling.

And it doesn’t mean you can’t tell audiences about it. And that’s how you might use a site like extension. Now, remember that you’re using sub source so that you can actually get the lifetime value and all those other donor metrics about Grants people make sure that you are actually doing copy testing and the grant and paid search and passing the learnings back and forth.

Oftentimes you’ve got a lot of copy testing, potential on Grants that you can apply either to other campaigns like Facebook campaigns, et cetera, where you’re working with limited snippets of copy. Or you can easily apply learnings from your paid social campaigns and test some of those best performing headlines in Ad Grants to see if audiences prefer them.

Finally always watch out for Google’s automated suggestions. When Google is making a recommendation, sometimes it’s not the most tactical recommendation, but if they’re recommending a feature that you’re not using and you can get your account compliance and optimization score as close to 100 as possible, that’s when you’re really in gold star material. Getting optimization scores close to a hundred percent is always rewarded by Google. And

with that, we’ve got one minute left. So I do want to encourage you all to please email us your questions. We are very excited to answer them. We love Google Ad Grants. We’ve got some recent blog material out that touches on other ad tech issues like the deescalation of third-party cookies.

And if you look through our blogs, you’ll find more ad grant material there. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate you. And we’re excited to hear from you.

Anne Davis: Yep. Thank you. Have a great rest of your afternoon. And thank you for taking the time.