Everything you need to know, all in one place
Google’s Ad Grants: we love to talk about it here at Twenti. However, if your nonprofit is just starting out online, or has simply never heard of the scheme before, it can be pretty confusing. That’s why we’ve put all the information you need on the Ad Grants – what they are, what the benefits are and how to access them – in an in-depth guide that you can read here and/or download as an ebook.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
1. What are the Google Ad Grants?
Google Ad Grants offer up to $10,000 (roughly £8,000) in advertising credit every month to nonprofits all over the globe.
This means £8,000 every month to spend on advertising in Google’s search engine results to greatly increase your visibility, website traffic, and, hopefully, donations. Over a year, this is around £100,000.
The Google Ad Grant has been active since 2003; in this time, it has awarded over 115,000 Ad Grants and $8 billion in free advertising to nonprofits in over 50 countries.
You can access nearly £100,000 a year of free advertising credit for your nonprofit!
Google for Nonprofits
The Ad Grant is only accessible with a Google for Nonprofits account. There are a number of other benefits with Google’s nonprofit program including free access to Google’s G Suite which includes email and document collaboration tools.
Google for nonprofits includes:
- G Suite collaboration apps and tools
- Gmail software, for sending professional, secure emails
- Access to exclusive Youtube advertising and donation features for nonprofits
- $10,000 a month in ad credit with the Google Ad Grant
- Vault, for safe and secure cloud storage for messages and documents
- Google Maps and Earth features that allow you to map your projects and progress on these platforms
2. Who can access the Google Ad Grant?
In the UK, you must be a nonprofit with recognised charity status to apply for the Grant. For most nonprofits (those based in England or Wales), this means you need to be registered with the Charity Commission and/or registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as tax exempt.
Elsewhere in the UK?
You may need to register with a different commission if you are not based in England or Wales, check how to apply here.
Not in the UK?
If your organisation is based in another country, you can click here to check that Google operates in your country and see the country’s charity eligibility requirements.
However, not all nonprofit organisations are eligible. You cannot be:
- A governmental organisation
- A healthcare organisation or hospital
- An educational institution (such as a school or university)
If you are a philanthropic arm of an educational institution, you can still apply. Schools and universities should look into the Google for Education scheme. If you are a charitable organisation but affiliated with an educational institution, you can still apply for the grant.
You will also need to meet a set of requirements for a high-quality website, which we cover in the next section.
3. What are the website requirements?
To access the Google Ad Grants, you need to meet detailed requirements for a high-quality website. These can be broken down into 4 main categories:
- Website setup
- Website design
- Commercial activity
Through meeting these criteria, you’ll not only qualify for the Grants but provide a great experience for your supporters. If your website is informative, easy-to-use and attractive, users are more likely to donate.
Most website searches now come from mobile devices so you’ll want to ensure your site adapts to different screen sizes.
When setting up your website, you must:
- Own your own domain name
- Secure and encrypt your website with HTTPs
- Use content unique to your organisation
Your website should be high-quality and must include:
- No broken links
- Fast loading time
- Easy, clear navigation
- Detailed information about your projects
- Robust, thought-out mission statement
- Regular content updates especially to events calendars
- Substantial site content
You must limit or avoid advertising on your site. Any advertising should be unobtrusive and relevant to your cause. Importantly, you should not receive any money for third-party ads, for example through Google AdSense.
You are allowed some limited commercial activity on your website, but this is restricted:
- Make sure commercial activity is not the main purpose of your site and that your nonprofit serves the general public in some way and not just people who pay for a product or service
- Make clear how any limited commercial activity serves your mission, for example with an annual report
- You cannot accept any money for blogs or vlogs (video blogs) as this is another type of commercial activity
- Do not only promise results after a consultation or after a product or service is bought
4. What are the benefits?
If used correctly, Google’s Ad Grant (of up to around £100,000 annually) is going to mean huge increase in your amount of advertising. These are the key benefits of using Google Ads:
- Increased brand visibility
- Increased web traffic
- More donations
- More volunteers
- Easy to find for those who need to access your services
5. How do Google ads work?
To find out how Google Ads work, let’s follow the process of a web user performing an online search to see where your ads might show up.
1. A user searches Google
When someone wants to find some information online, they’ll type their search query into Google. Have a look at our diagram below.
2. Search results are displayed
If your ad is relevant to the search query, it will appear at the top of the page. It is displayed above the organic (unpaid) search results that are found by Google’s algorithm, but below any other paid ads.
There are several factors which decide if an ad appears in search results (see ‘when will supporters see my ads’ chapter) including the targeting criteria you select, the quality of your ad, and the amount you have ‘bid’ on a search term.
3. User sees your ad
Google’s user sees your ad and reads the content that displays for the ad. The ads are text only, containing a headline and a few lines of text. They can’t contain images or videos. You can add some customisation, such as adding more links. Here’s a general idea of what your ad will look like:
4. Users clicks on your ad
If the user decides that the ad content looks interesting and relevant, they click through to your website. Since Google ads are pay-per-click, a fee is deducted from your ad account credit for this click.
5. User interacts with your site
It’s important you keep tracking what your users then do once they have clicked through to your site. This will let you know if the traffic you are receiving is actually delivering value to your organisation. You should always track your conversions, such as donation amounts and volunteer sign ups.
6. Track and refine your ads
By studying your data, collected from users interacting with both your ads and your website, you can identify where you are losing potential supporters. Using this information, you can make changes to improve performance and optimise both your ads and your website over time.
6. When will supporters see my ads?
There are three main factors which affect whether your ads will appear in search results;
- The way you target your ads (such as by location or demographic)
- The quality of your ads and their relevance to the search query
- The amount you bid on the keywords you want to rank for
Your ad position also depends on you being within your budget (or having Grant credit available) – if you can’t pay for your ads when they are clicked, they won’t show.
Let’s break down the key factors which influence when your ads are shown:
By targeting your ads you can choose to who, when and where you show your ads – see some further targeting options on the right. Note the Google Ad Grant requires that you always target your ads by location (geo-targeting).
Geo-targeting makes sure your ads are only shown in locations in which they are relevant. This might be a specific city, an area of a country (such as a county), or a whole country. When you create your ads, you select where each ad campaign should appear. You can choose different geo-targets for different campaigns.
Google checks the relevance of your ad and landing page content against the keyword(s) you’ve chosen. Your corresponding quality score, combined with the bid amount equals your ad rank score. The ad rank dictates the ad position or the order in which the ads appear on search results pages – the higher the ad rank the higher the ad position.
Ad rank: The ad with the highest ad rank score will rank first in the search results for the selected search query. It’s usually best to rank first in the result, but if you have the second or third highest score, your ad may still appear.
Quality score: You are assigned a Quality Score for each keyword you select. This is determined by how relevant your keyword is to your ad’s content and to the content on your website’s landing page (the URL your ad links to).
Bid amount: Your Quality Score is multiplied by how much you have bid on that keyword in the keyword auction. You can read more in the next section.
The better and more relevant your ad, the less credit you will need to use for it to rank first.
When you select your keywords, you choose a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) you are willing to pay for that keyword – this becomes your bid in the auction for this keyword.
There are several points to keep in mind here:
- There are some search terms you can’t bid on, such as names of other organisations and most single words (other than your brand name)
- Bidding can also be adjusted by factors like location or device (i.e. you might bid 50% more for users near you)
- Google can automatically handle keyword bidding for you with the ‘Maximise Conversions’ setting
For Ad Grant users, your maximum CPC bid is set at $2 (roughly £1.60). This means you usually cannot bid on keywords that cost more than $2.00 per click. To get around this remember that if you increase your keyword’s Quality Score, by creating highly relevant ads, the amount you need to bid in order to rank will decrease.
However, you can also bid on keywords which have a higher CPC by using the maximise conversions setting. This is when you have set up conversion tracking with defined goals (such as a newsletter sign up) on your account and Google’s algorithm automatically sets your keyword bid amount for your ads.
7. How do I know if my ads are working?
Most nonprofits don’t maximise the Ad Grant’s potential. On average, each cause only uses $300 or 3% of their $10,000 monthly allowance – that’s a lot of missed opportunity!
Ads are constantly changing and so need frequent monitoring to make sure they are still appearing correctly and attracting supporters to your site.
This is done through analytics and conversion tracking. You can track each step of the user’s progress with key metrics to then find areas to improve. This an essential part of the Ad Grant process and allows you to maximise your reach.
Track metrics for each ad campaign and individual keywords using custom dashboards in order to monitor and optimise performance.
The ‘impressions’ of your ad are how many people are seeing your ad, regardless of whether they click on it or not. Firstly, this is important because if few people are seeing your ad then it is unlikely to be successful.
Secondly, it can be useful to know how many people are seeing and learning a little about your nonprofit even if it is not useful to them to click through to your website at this time.
Low impressions could mean:
- Your keywords are uncommon and not often searched for (there are not many search results to display your ad)
- Your ad quality score is too low and you are being outbid (your ad isn’t appearing in search results)
Understanding if your ads are attracting visitors to your site is obviously central to evaluating their effectiveness. Your click-through-rate (CTR) tells you what percentage of people who see your ad, click on it.
If you are seeing a low CTR, you would re-evaluate your choice of keywords and/or your ad content. This should be the central metric that you are always seeking to optimise, especially since in order to stay eligible for the grants you must maintain a CTR of more than 5%.
This is how many users visit your site by clicking on your ads. You might know what percentage of viewers are clicking on your ads (CTR), but this doesn’t tell you how many – it could be 10 users or 1000 users.
If you aren’t actually getting many people to visit your site, you probably need to create more ad campaigns with more keywords to get your nonprofit seen by more people.
Your website bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave your site after viewing only one page. This generally indicates that users have not found the information they are looking for.
As it can signal areas for improvement on your site, it is really important to track your bounce rate. Remember that you will need to gather more statistics (or even better user recordings) to work out what the issue is.
High bounce rate could mean:
- Your ad content doesn’t accurately represent your landing page
- Your landing page isn’t relevant for the search query
- Your page doesn’t contain enough (relevant) information or is too vague
- Your website is difficult to use
- Your website loads too slowly
- Your website doesn’t have a clear navigation or clear calls to action (so users get stuck on a single page)
A conversion rate is the percentage of the people who click on your ads who then go on to complete a specific action on your site. For many nonprofits this will be donating to your cause, but it could be any action(s) that are central to completing your nonprofit’s goals.
You only need one conversion a month to stay within Google’s policy demands, but, ideally, you’ll get as many as possible.
Possible conversions you could track include:
- Donations made
- Forms submitted
- Newsletter sign-ups
- Ticket sales
- Phone calls
- Contact forms sent
- Purchases made
- Blog comments
- Volunteer sign-ups
Few conversions can mean:
- Your website is low quality
- Your ads aren’t representative of your website or organisation
- You don’t have enough clear calls-to-action
Once you collect your data it’s important to display it in a way that makes it easy to interpret. Custom dashboards, like the one below, clearly show how your Ad Grants are contributing to your nonprofit’s goals and allow you to monitor performance and identify areas for improvement:
8. How do I get started?
The Grants are accessed through a Google for Nonprofits account. If you are registered with the Charity Commission or tax exempt, you can begin applying.
1. Register with Charity Digital: To apply you need to be verified as a nonprofit by the local branch of Techsoup, Charity Digital (UK). You’ll get a verification token to use when you apply for Google for Nonprofits.
2. Request a Google for Nonprofits account: Enter your details and your Techsoup verification code on the website. You’ll receive an email once your request has been accepted. Click here to go to Google for Nonprofits.
3. Apply for the Grant: Once you have a Google for Nonprofits account set up, you can apply for the Grant and activate other products like G Suite.
9. How do I stay eligible?
To keep receiving the Google Ad Grant’s $10,000 every month, your ads need to pass certain performance requirements.
If you don’t meet these criteria, your account will be deactivated, which is why monitoring performance on a regular basis is highly recommended.
However, you can ask for your account to be reinstated once you have made changes to comply with Google’s requirements. If your changes are accepted, you will be able to access the grant again. Some of the most common reasons accounts get deactivated are the following:
- You must have two active ad groups per campaign, with a set of closely related keywords and two unique text ads.
- You have to maintain an average 5% click-through-rate for your ads – 2 consecutive months under 5% will trigger account deactivation.
- You must have conversion tracking set up on your account and complete at least one conversion a month.
10. How can Twenti help?
On average nonprofits use only $300 or 3% of the available credit – that’s a lot of missed opportunity!
We are a digital marketing agency which helps small and medium-sized nonprofits access and maximise the Google Ad Grants.
Not all organisations have the technical knowledge to effectively initiate and manage large Ad Grant campaigns, and even if they have the knowledge, they don’t have the time. With our Ad Grant management service, we can help you with every part of the process, whether you need full set-up and Grant application, or just tracking and management.
Our services include:
- Design high-quality, Grant-ready websites
- Set up and launch custom ad campaigns
- Use advanced targeting and keyword optimisation
- Track and optimise ad performance
- Visualise your data in our custom dashboards
- Optimise campaigns and renew Grant access
If you secure the Google Ad Grant for your nonprofit you need to use it wisely. Here is Twenti’s advise on how to use the grant to increase donations.
Want to access $10,000 a month in free advertising credits? Follow our checklist to find out how you can access Google’s Ad Grant with a great website.
The Google Ad Grant is your free ticket to $10,000 worth of monthly free in-kind advertising, so make sure you’re eligible with our checklist!
£8,000/month of free ad credit?