What is the Google Ad Grants programme?
Google Ad Grants provides non-profit organisations with up to $10,000 USD of free AdWords advertising spend per month. Organisations that meet the eligibility criteria will be able to use this spend to help promote their cause to a wide audience. Note that their are some restrictions that differ from regular self-funded AdWords accounts, such as the ability to use text ads only, a restriction to keyword targeted campaigns and a maximum bid of $2.00 USD.
In December 2017 Google announced plans to introduce new policies surrounding Grants account management and these began to be enforced from 1st January 2018. These policy changes are not to be ignored as they could lead to the loss of your Ad Grant from Google should they not be acted upon.
What exactly is Google asking us to do?
Well, these changes are split into two main areas of change; Structural and Performance:
Each Grants account must now have at least two sitelink ad extensions; within each campaign there must be two active ad groups and within each of those, two active text ads and a bunch of keywords deemed closely related. These keywords must have a Quality Score of more than two and cannot be single words (with a few exceptions). There are also a number of other limitations regarding branded words and overly generic terms; full details are available in this article. There has also been a change in requirements regarding geo-targeting; previously you were simply able to target campaigns globally and add location exclusions, but now you must include the countries you specifically want to target. For the most part, these requirements are easy to implement and will generally already be in place but it is worth a quick check over.
The focus of this article however is to help you adhere to the new Performance policies, or policy I should say, and boy have they made it a good one. You must now maintain an account average 5% click through rate each month; should this not be met for more than two consecutive months, your account will be deactivated. In a usual paid account, this is not so much of a concern as there are lots of ways to boost that CTR, but in the case of a Grants account your options are slightly more limited due to the restrictions on the actions you’re able to make in the account.
How can you hit that all important 5% CTR?
I’m going to run you through a few out of the box, and some not so out of the box, suggestions on how to make it over the finish line looking at five main areas; Bid Adjustments, Ad Extensions, Ad Copy, Account Settings and Targeting.
Making use of bid adjustments
Bid adjustments were sometimes something Grants Account managers didn’t focus much time on; the flat rate bid was always set at $2 and that was that. However, now we need to be sure that we’re not overspending on activity that generates a poor CTR. Therefore, it’s worth checking Device and Location performance and identifying if there are any specific areas that may be dragging down the CTR and then implementing negative bid adjustments if so. It’s also a good idea to have a look at performance at a keyword level to see if there are any outliers here that sit well below 5% CTR and consider pausing these, particularly if they have a low Quality Score.
Creative use of Ad Extensions
Ad extensions shouldn’t be overlooked when trying to push up that CTR. For starters make sure they’re applied at campaign level and relevant to the content of each campaign. There are however other ways to consider using Ad Extensions that may not immediately spring to mind. Structured Snippets offer an alternative way to give more detail on what you cover in a concise way. If you’re a charity whose main aim is to generate donations then it may be worth outlining the different types of donations available such as recurring donations, mobile donations, gift donations and so on. Additionally, Price Extensions can be used in creative ways to inform the user of just what a donation may be worth; for example a £5 donation may buy 4 people access to clean water. This is a quick way of allowing the user to visualise what a difference their donation can make and should impact CTR positively.
Improve your ad copy
A complete overhaul of your ad copy is certainly not an ideal solution. It’s time consuming and doesn’t promise quick improvement, however there are few easy changes that can be integrated into your existing ad copy to try and give that CTR a little boost. First, IF functions for mobile can be used to change the ad copy that is seen based on whether the user is on a mobile device or not. Introducing phrases such as “quick and easy mobile donations” should highlight to users just how easy it is to donate via mobile and encourage them to take the time to donate (read Laura’s guide on how to set them up). Secondly, Countdowns in your ad copy can create a sense of urgency, help your ad stand out and usually result in a good uplift in CTR. These could countdown to relevant days that you run activity for, such as International Day of Charity or World Humanitarian Day, or to public holidays should they be relevant to your charity’s activity.
Changes to your Campaign settings
There are few quick changes you can make to your account settings that should help to push up that CTR. Firstly, review Google Search Partners performance - great for generating volume but it may not always be the best idea to have them turned on. This does depend on the account, but a general rule of thumb is that CTR for Search Partners is lower than usual activity, so take the time to see what’s best for your Account. Secondly, implement the new Maximise Conversions Bid Strategy, the best part of the changes to the Google Grants policy is that it came along with a change to the bidding strategies that are available for use in Grants Accounts. Previously we were limited to manual bidding with a cap of $2; Maximise Conversions however removes this cap and uses machine learning to automatically choose the best bid in each auction based on past performance to achieve as many conversions as possible within your budget. Based on the nature of the strategy this should help you to increase that CTR. What do you do however if your conversion data is limited or you don’t track conversions but simply want to raise awareness for a cause? In this case it’s worth considering introducing GA Session Quality as a metric to go off and then setting GA Goals based on this. For example a visitor spending more than three minutes on site or looking at a specific number of pages during a session could be considered to be a conversion. Read more on Session Quality here.
Hone in on your target audience
One real frustration of Grants accounts is that sometimes as much as you try, the most vital campaigns in your account have a CTR that just doesn’t seem to budge. It then may be an idea to build out targeted campaigns for people who are most likely to convert (or have a high Session Quality). It’s worth thinking about and identifying just who is the audience your charity targets? Who is most likely to make that generous donation? At the same time look at who historically has proven to be most likely to convert based on your data. From there you can build out personas, hone in on their age, gender, location and what it is that makes them interested in your charity. Anecdotally, you may find that different age groups tend to perform different actions on site. For example, younger audiences may make one off donations whereas older audiences subscribe to monthly contributions. Tailoring your ad copy to these different audiences could increase your CTR. The next step could be making the preferred donation method more prominent for each age group.
What if you don’t manage to adhere to these new policies in time?
Should you find that your account is cancelled due to certain requirements not yet being adhered to, you are able to request the account is reinstated once you have made the required adjustments to align with the new policies. However, it is worth making sure to regularly review your CTR as should your account be reinstated once, Google will not provide a second chance for you to re-enable your account. Consider setting up alerts when your CTR drops to 5% or below so that you have time to make necessary adjustments to the account to pull up your monthly average.