Changes to Google Ad Grants Program Create Headaches for Nonprofits

A new requirement that advertisers hit a certain performance threshold to remain in Google’s Ad Grants program is proving easier said than done for some nonprofits.

Google’s changes to its Ad Grants program for nonprofits are proving harder to follow than many anticipated.

Ad Grants offers nonprofits up to $10,000 per month in free advertising on Google AdWords. But changes announced in December put tougher requirements on performance: A nonprofit’s ads must maintain clickthrough rates (CTR) above 5 percent, and if they miss that mark two months in a row, the organization can be removed from the program at least temporarily.

Nonprofits that rely on the service are raising concerns that the performance requirement is too stringent. The Greenlining Institute, a California social justice group, told Reuters last week that it is struggling to meet the standard.

“We’re very grateful for the program,” said Conrad Contreras, the group’s communications manager. “But 5 percent in two months, it’s just unrealistic.”

Google says it has increased training for nonprofits, with the goal of boosting their CTRs.

“We revised our Ad Grants policies to help nonprofits be more effective with AdWords and improve the quality of their ads, which will lead to targeted awareness of their projects and mission,” the company told Reuters. It said the average rate was around 6 percent in February.

Tactical Approaches

So, what should a nonprofit using this program do? Search Engine Journal contributor Joe Castro recommends removing low-quality keywords to help improve your clickthrough rate, as well as analyzing your ad groups, site links, and location targeting in the interface to ensure the keywords you’re using are relevant to the audience you’re trying to hit.

Castro, a search engine marketing manager at Elevation Advertising, noted that his company worked with a client that had been with the old version of the program, which put price caps on the search terms advertisers could use, requiring that they use a broader number of terms to get anywhere close to reaching the $10,000 Google was offering.

“Like many other grant accounts we have seen, the account was built to spend as much of the budget as possible and not as focused on relevancy and performance like a normal (paid) AdWords account might be,” Castro noted. “Upon taking over the grant account, our main focus was improving the clickthrough rate to exceed the 5 percent minimum.”

Even though staying in the network is challenging, Castro concludes that nonprofits “should do everything you can to hold onto this benefit.”

Are you using the Google Ad Grants offering? What have you learned in recent months? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

(Varijanta/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!