Google Ad Grants: Is there such a thing as free paid search advertising?

This article was updated on 22/01/2020.

In order to help registered charities share their stories with audiences across the globe, Google has a long-standing non-profit ad scheme, Google Ad Grants, which allows organisations to reach the top of Google’s search results with zero investment. If you’re a charity in need of a helping hand, read on to find out how it works, if you’re eligible and how Croud can help support you with your Paid Search efforts.

The current Google Ad Grants programme is one of several products that have been made available by Google to support non-profit organisations; it’s a donation programme that distributes free in-kind advertising to eligible charities, up to the value of $10k per month. However, no money is free money, so to benefit from this free advertising you do need to meet certain criteria, both initially and ongoing.

Who’s eligible?

Eligibility requirements can vary by country; however, if you’re an organisation that holds a valid charity status, it’s likely that you are able to apply. If you’re unsure of your eligibility, why not contact us.

How to get started?

In order to get started with Google Ad Grants, you or your dedicated paid search agency would need to:

Now to the hard bit – maintaining eligibility

 Despite grant accounts using the same system as normal, paid-for ad accounts, there are several restrictions in place that make them quite different.

Our website’s content must be unique to your organisation & any commercial profits must go towards supporting your mission. 

Google must be able to identify that the account is being actively managed and looked at. For example, by:

  • Optimising your campaign budgets and ad positioning
  • Refreshing your creative strategy
  • Showing growth in paid search performance 
  • And many more…

All Ad Grant accounts must:

  • Maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month (which is harder than it sounds!).
  • Have specified geo-targeting to show ads in locations relevant to your nonprofit
  • Have at least two active ad groups per campaign, each containing a set of closely related keywords and 2 active ad texts
  • Have at least two  sitelink ad extensions
  • Track at least two “meaningful” conversion goals (sign-ups, donations etc)

In addition to the above, you are also expected to fill in a Google survey annually to assess your organisation’s needs.

Although these are just a few of the current benchmarks, Google is regularly updating their eligibility requirements, something which your paid search manager or agency will need to ensure they keep on top of.

To help keep track of your account’s compliance, Google has recently launched the Ad Grants Account Review Dashboard which provides you with up-to-date information to help prevent account suspension.

What happens if you fall short?

In the event that the minimum CTR requirement (assessed bi-monthly), or any of the other eleven compliance requirements, are not met, your account will be deactivated. You may request that your account be reinstated after you have made changes to bring the account into compliance.

You also have the option of switching to a more restrictive, completely automated AdWords Express account. Although this needs no hands-on management, this also comes with the drawback of having no control over:

  • Your brand’s tone of voice
  • Ad messaging
  • Targeting
  • Your overall paid search strategy

Croud’s top tips for Ad Grant accounts

Although every organisation is unique, we’ve compiled a few of our top tips from our wealth of experience managing a portfolio of grant accounts…

  • Money, money, money: As you are restricted to a $329USD daily spend, you need to make sure that you are allocating this as effectively as possible, focusing on activity with the highest performance and most relevant messaging.
  • Quality is key: Recent findings from Google showed that Ad Grants were disproportionately lower in quality when compared to standard ads; because of this Google has decided to apply a filter to prevent lower quality ads from showing.
  • Automation is king: Ensure you make the most use out of the automated bidding strategies as possible.

In summary

Google Grants is a great initiative for any charity and will help you rank highly on Google’s search results, gaining you exposure and directing thousands of new visitors to your site. Whether you’re aiming to encourage sign-ups for services, raising awareness for projects, encouraging people to download documents, boosting donations, or all of them at once – whatever your mission, Google Grants is a valuable opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

Still unsure? Why not contact us today to see what we can do to help set up and manage your account, or improve an existing account?

by Katie White
22 January 2020



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