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Google Ad Grants: Is there such a thing as free paid search advertising?4 min read

Google recently launched some changes to their long-standing non-profit ad scheme which helps registered charities to share their stories with audiences across the globe, by reaching 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 if you’re eligible, how it works, and how Croud can help support you with your paid search efforts.

The current Google Ad Grants programme, formerly GrantsPro, 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 $10,000 per month. However, this isn’t just ‘free’ money to do what you like with. To access these grants you need to meet certain criteria, both initially and on an ongoing basis.

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:

  • Begin by applying to Google for Nonprofits
  • Hold valid charity status
  • Agree to Google’s Terms & Conditions
  • Have a live website with substantial content

Now to the hard bit – maintaining eligibility

  • Commercial advertising is only allowed if 100% of the proceeds go towards supporting the program
  • Google must be able to identify that the account is being actively managed and looked at. This could be by optimising your campaign budgets and ad positioning, refreshing your creative strategy, showing growth in paid search performance, or several other initiatives
  • All Ad Grants AdWords accounts must maintain a click-through rate of at least 5% each month (which is harder than it sounds!)
  • All accounts must also have specified geo-targeting to show ads in locations relevant to your nonprofit
  • All Ad Grants account must have at least two active ad groups per campaign, each containing a set of closely related keywords and two active ad texts, as well as at least two sitelink ad extensions

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 eligibility requirements (with some changes due imminently), something which your paid search manager or agency will need to ensure they keep on top of.

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

What happens if you fall short?

In the event that the minimum click-through rate requirement (assessed bi-monthly), or any other requirements, are not met, your account will be cancelled. 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 top tips from our wealth of experience managing a portfolio of Google Ad Grant accounts…

  • Money, money, money: As you are restricted to a monthly spend of US$10,000, which equates to an average US$329 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 Ad 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 Ad 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?