Google Grant Checklist: 15 Tips for Nonprofits
Does your nonprofit have the $10,000/month Google Ad Grant, but you don’t feel like you're maximizing the potential impact from the program? Here is a checklist of 15 quick tips for ways to make sure you are getting as much meaningful exposure as possible. These lessons emerged from managing Google Grant accounts for over 300 nonprofits, so you can be confident that they are fully battle-tested.
No. 1: Conversion Tracking
This is often the last priority when it should be the first. Conversion tracking is now required of all Google Grant accounts and is the foundation for effective account management. Use Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to track actions such as people filling out forms, watching videos, clicking buttons to sign up, buy tickets, donate and so forth.
No. 2: Conversion Categorization and Settings
Once your conversions have been created and imported from Google Analytics into Google Ads, you have the option to categorize them. While each conversion defaults to a category of “other,” you can change this and specify whether each conversion is a “lead,” “view of key page” and so forth. This helps Google understand the value of the different conversions you have created.
You can also set the conversion window (which defaults to 30 days) to make it longer, as some big conversions may take a lot of time and you don’t want to lose data. Finally, you can change the attribution mode from “last click” to one of the others settings. This will allow you to capture the impact of people potentially clicking on multiple ads before they convert. We like to use “time decay.”
No. 3: Maximize Conversions Bid Strategy
Now that your conversions are set up, you can use the maximize conversions bid strategy on all of your campaigns. This will allow Google to bid above the $2 cost per click limit, giving your ads a competitive advantage over those who are not using this approach. Maximize conversions also tells the Google algorithm to intelligently find people who are more likely to convert and bid more aggressively when they search for your keywords.
No. 4: Website Readiness: Quality of Content
One of the biggest issues that prevents nonprofits from maximizing the value of the Google Grant is not having high quality on their website. If you need a diagnostic, we created a free Google Grant website readiness rubric that will give you a quick score.
We consider a website page “promotable” (high quality with respect to the Google Grant) if it has these four characteristics:
- It is focused on a single topic (having many programs all listed on one page isn’t ideal for the Google Grant)
- The topic is something people are searching for (unfortunately, no one is searching for how a nonprofit’s latest fundraising event went)
- There is sufficient content on the page (more than just a few sentences)
- There is a call-to-action on the page (so visitors know what their next step should be)
No. 5: Website Readiness: Quantity of Content
Once you have some high-quality pages on your website, the next lever you can pull is making more of them! Nonprofit websites typically need at least 10 high-quality, promotable pages to have good results with the Google Grant. But the best websites have many dozens or even hundreds of pages, which gives them an enormous amount of content to write ads for.
No. 6: Total Daily Budget Set to $329/Day
This is a quick fix: If you have a normal Google Ad Grant account with a $10,000/month budget, the total of the daily budgets of all your active campaigns should equal $329/day. When we take on new clients, this is an area that is often incorrect, but is quick to fix.
No. 7: No Single-Word Keywords
The next few topics are not just suggestions. They are requirements, under the Google Grant compliance rules. Failure to follow these instructions can lead to your Grant getting suspended, which can be a painful process to reverse.
First up, make sure that there are no keywords in your account that are only a single word, unless you have applied for and received an exception from Google.
For example, if your organization funds scholarships for kids to attend a tennis camp, you cannot just use “tennis” as a keyword. You would have to use phrases like “tennis camp” or “tennis scholarship.”
No. 8: No Keywords With a Quality Score of 1 or 2
Each keyword you add to your account is given a quality score by Google, on a one to 10 scale. Keywords that receive a quality score of less than three must be paused.
No. 9: At Least 2 Ad Groups Per Campaign (But Ideally Many More)
The Google Grant rules require that there be at least two ad groups in each active campaign. But in an ideal world, you would have many, many more. We have clients who have been with us for over three years who have extremely developed accounts that have over 100 ad groups, each targeting a very tightly focused set of keywords, as we will discuss below.
No. 10: Tightly Focused Keywords Lists
Each ad group contains a set of keywords and a set of ads. These keywords should all be very tightly grouped together. For example, if your nonprofit offers free coding classes for youth, and you have both a middle school and a high school program, those two topics should definitely have their own ad groups. Other ad groups might be themed around the topics of:
- “Free coding classes.” This ad group might have the keywords:
- Free coding classes
- No cost coding classes
- Free coding classes near me
- “Youth coding classes.” This ad group might have the keywords:
- Youth coding classes
- Youth coding
- Youth learn to code
No. 11: At Least 2 Ads Per Ad Group (But Ideally 3)
The Google Grant requires that each active ad group have at least two active ads, but as you will see in a moment, we recommend three, with one responsive search ad in the mix.
When creating ads, try to use as many of the allowed headlines, descriptions and characters as you can. If there is space for three headlines and two descriptions, fill in all five of these areas and try to max out the character count in each one.
No. 12: At Least One Responsive Search Ad Per Ad Group
Responsive search ads are a relatively new feature that allows you to provide Google with many different potential headlines for an ad. Google will then take these headlines and mix and match them to find the best combination for a given searcher. As a result, RSAs tend to outperform traditional expanded text ads over time, provided they are well-written.
No. 13: Appropriate Geo-Targeting
This is another Google Grant rule: only target people in areas that make sense for your organization. If you are Rotary International, for example, then international targeting across many countries makes sense. But if you are Chicago Area Runners Association and only serve Chicago and the surrounding area, the geo-targeting should be more limited.
No. 14: EIN in the Website Footer
It is a best practice to put your nonprofit’s EIN in the website footer. This helps prevent issues with disapproved ads, as any page that contains a call-to-action to donate (including just a link to your donate page) needs to contain this information.
No. 15: Work on the Account Weekly
Finally, and as you can see from all of the above, managing the Google Grant requires an enormous amount of work. We recommend setting aside time each and every week to give your grant focused attention. As progress compounds over weeks and months, this can pay enormous dividends.
And of course, if you don’t have time for all of this, Nonprofit Megaphone is happy to help.
Grant Hensel is the founder of Nonprofit Megaphone, an agency focused exclusively on acquiring and managing the Google Ad Grant for nonprofits. His team takes pride in their 100 percent success rate helping nonprofits receive the grant and in helping dozens of organizations use the funds to make a difference.