Lessons Learned While Implementing Google Ad Grants Policy Updates

Earlier this year we outlined a collection of changes to the Google Ad Grants policy affecting more than 35,000 nonprofit organizations – and promptly set out to review all of our nonprofit client accounts for compliance.

What we found were varying degrees of action required within each of our managed nonprofit Ad Grants accounts. Here are a few lessons learned and insights (and maybe a gripe or two) we picked up along the way.

Ad Account Structure

  • Do: Spend time cleaning up your ad account structure.
  • Don’t: Neglect expanding your ad’s real estate with ad extensions.

Luckily, most of our grant accounts were already aligned with the revised account structure requirements, which state that each campaign must include at least two ad groups. each of those ad groups must include at least two text ads, at least two sitelinks ad extensions and highly-targeted long-tail keywords. Given that this is typically how we prefer to structure our pay-per-click (PPC) accounts, as it allows us to create robust and highly-targeted campaigns, we were able to whiz through this piece fairly quickly with only a few tweaks here and there. Even if you’re managing a regular, paid PPC account, this is a good best practice to consider, as well.

Keyword Targeting

  • Do: Sort and filter to quickly weed out banned low quality or competitor keywords.
  • Don’t: Cry when you have to pause half of your top performing keywords.

From there, we moved on to reviewing the keyword targeting across the accounts to ensure we were not targeting any low-quality terms (quality score of less than 3), any non-owned brand terms (i.e. competitor) or any single, non-branded terms, which are now outlawed under the new policy.

Take it from us and save yourself some time by taking advantage of your filtering options to identify and pause disallowed keywords in bulk. It was easy to sort and pause any keywords that didn’t have the required quality score and we did a quick filter to weed out any non-owned brand terms. But one of my biggest gripes on this change stemmed from updating one of our healthcare client accounts. They provide birth control services and are no longer able to target branded birth control searches, despite past success, and can now only target the generic birth control method searches. We’re likely going to see a dip in impression share and ultimately conversions with some of the keywords we’re pausing, but better to do so than risk having the account on lock-down for disregarding the rules.

Click-through Rate (CTR)

  • Do: Invest time in creating highly-targeted campaigns through micro-focused ad groups with relevant and high-performing keywords, ad extensions and ad copy
  • Don’t: Think this part is going to be a quick fix

This is where we found we had a bit of work to do. To be honest, the 5% CTR minimum came as quite a shock to us. Most of our Google Ad Grants accounts’ CTRs had been hovering somewhere between 2.5% and 4.5% before the revised policy rolled out, which we had historically felt pretty good about given that industry standards suggest that a strong CTR is 1-2% or higher.

Knowing that a jump to 5% minimum CTR was a little aggressive, we dove in quickly to re-optimize our PPC campaigns, knowing fully that this would be the one area that would take the longest to produce the change we needed to be compliant.

Our strategies for getting there varied greatly between accounts and included things like updating bid strategies, expanding with micro-targeted ad groups, removing under-performing keywords and revising ad copy. It took several weeks to see the results we were looking for, but ultimately these changes made our account CTRs stronger and above and beyond that 5% minimum.

Bid Strategy

  • Do: Build in new, meaningful conversion goals.
  • Don’t: Switch bid strategies prematurely.

After years of being bound by a $2.00 cost-per-click (CPC) maximum on Ad Grants accounts, it was refreshing to learn that there was potential to lift the limit. The only catch? You have to use the Maximize for Conversions model. Ideally we like to see at least 20 or so conversions within a month in any given campaign to switch to that model and be eligible to drop the $2.00 CPC.

This has proven to be a little bit more difficult given the focus of some of our nonprofit client accounts that are interested in driving brand awareness or for others who have smaller target audiences and search volume where the conversions just aren’t there. For others, we’ve built in some destination goals, in addition to phone calls, donations, event signups and contact form submissions.

We have seen some very positive results on some campaigns (though not all) where we had substantial conversion data to support the switch. Assuming you have the conversion data to back up such a strategy, it may be worth a shot to see if this approach will work for your Ad Grants account.

Google Ad Grants Annual Survey

  • Do: Check your email for this survey notification.
  • Don’t: Let this slip through the cracks.

One other pesky little requirement that can easily slip through the cracks is completing Google’s annual Ad Grants program survey, which eventually showed up in our inbox. Be sure to check the inbox associated with your Ad Grants account for this email notification to avoid having your account shut down.

Our Results After Implementing Google Ad Grants Updates

Now that it’s been a couple of months since making the necessary updates, we’re actually quite pleased with the results we’re seeing. Here are a few of our favorite examples:

Results From Implementing Google Ad Grants Policy Updates

  • Local Healthcare Clinic
    • CTR increased from 5.61% to 6.87%
    • Conversion rate increased from 5.72% to 8.44%
  • National Rehabilitation Hospital
    • CTR increased from 3.48% to 5.86%
    • Conversion rate increased from 3.21% to 4.84%
  • National Music Program
    • CTR increased from 3.68% to 6.76%
    • Conversion rate increased from 3.30% to 4.25%

All of these improvements are very encouraging that we’re moving in the right direction to drive more quality traffic to the website. But our work doesn’t end here. As with any PPC account, it’s never a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Ongoing monitoring and management will be critical to ensuring that we remain compliant with these updated Google Ad Grants policies – and ultimately that we continue to drive quality leads to our nonprofit partners’ websites.

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