Google’s Nonprofit Ad Grant Program Revamp

The company is making higher-value keywords available to nonprofits that take part in its charitable Ad Grants program, but it will require that those nonprofits maintain high clickthrough rates to stay in the program.

If Google is at the center of your nonprofit marketing strategies, you may want to listen closely to the changes the company is making to its advertising program this month.

The company, which offers nongovernmental organizations—including, in the U.S., those with 501(c)(3) tax status—up to $10,000 per month to use on Google AdWords as part of its Google Ad Grants program, is shifting some of the requirements of the widely used program, which more than 35,000 nonprofits rely on.

This is a major benefit for charitable organizations, but the program has traditionally had limitations that made it difficult to actually spend that $10,000 each month. Specifically, the program only allowed advertisers to bid on search terms with a cap of $2 or lower.

However, as Search Engine Land notes, the program now allows nonprofit advertisers to bid at higher rates using a bid strategy called maximize conversions. That allows for higher bids than the standard under Google’s prior rules.

But while that’s certainly the main benefit, the changes also come with some downsides. Most prominent among them is a requirement that clickthrough rates (CTR) on Ad Grant ads stay above 5 percent—a major jump from the prior requirement of 1 percent. Those who fail to reach the minimum standard will be removed from the program, though they can apply for reactivation later.

“We recognize there are reasons why CTR may fluctuate, so you’ll be alerted through in-product notifications if your account is at risk of falling below 5 percent CTR with educational resources offered to improve,” Google states in an informational page about the change. “If the CTR requirement isn’t met for two consecutive months, your account will be cancelled. You may request your account to be reinstated after you’ve adjusted your keywords to bring your account into compliance.”

The changes, per the online advertising firm WordStream, also require that nonprofits not bid on branded keywords unaffiliated with the company, single-word keywords that aren’t branded, or extremely broad keywords. WordStream’s Allen Finn says that these rules should be easy to comply with, but other quality requirements, including that keywords linking to your site have a Quality Score of 2 or higher, might be more challenging.

“To make sure you stay above this low-water mark, weave your keywords into your ad copy, ensure your landing pages are fast, functional, and relevant, and constantly test your ad copy to improve your expected clickthrough rates,” Finn writes.

The approach, per Search Engine Land, appears to be aimed at ensuring nonprofits maximize the value of the grants being offered to them. Google told the website that a 5 percent clickthrough rate is actually a little lower than it sees from the nonprofits that take part in the program.

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