Is Your Nonprofit Ready for Free Google Ads?

Is your non-profit in the market for driving better traffic to your website? You are in luck, because Google wants to give you up to $10K a month of ad space for free! (Well, sort of.)

Google Ads display your message to people who are searching for nonprofits like yours, and getting that kind of placement for free is a great opportunity for under-resourced organizations looking for more visibility. But before you jump in and apply, make sure you know what the full cost to your organization will be, because this free gift does come with some strings attached. To help untangle those strings, we’re going to provide some tips you should keep in mind as you prepare, apply, and manage a Google Ads Grant, in order to make it worthwhile for your organization.

Laptop with hand emerging from the screen holding a gift box held by puppet strings.

Like with any responsible grant-making, there are some eligibility qualifications and additional hoops to jump through, so make sure you are prepared to meet those requirements. If you’re new to all of this, or find yourself needing a refresh on the meaning of conversions, campaigns, and keywords (oh my!), the Google Ads glossary is a great reference to keep on hand.

Step 1: Know What You Want, and Why You Want it  

Before you apply, make sure you can paint a clear picture of what your Google ad campaign strategy should be.

A campaign strategy should clearly define your:  

  • Target geographic locations: focus on a single town, multiple regions, or entire countries, but usually the more curated the location, the better your results will be!
  • Keywords: choose a mix of terms or phrases that describe your organization or your constituents from the perspective of your target audience.
  • Landing page: perhaps most critical to a successful campaign, where do you want your new ad traffic to land, and what exactly do you want them to do once they get there? Make sure the relevant information and steps you want users to take are crystal clear on that page. (But if you think your website needs work, we can help with that!)

Step 2: Apply and Set Up a Campaign (Hint: Keep it Simple)

First, you’ll need to make sure you are set up on Google for Nonprofits. Then, using that same username, you’ll create your Google Ads Grant account.

When you start the grant application process you will be guided to set up your first campaign. This first one should be one of many campaigns you will run, so don’t feel like you need to put every idea in at once. Start with something simple, like a brand awareness campaign that will serve up ads anytime someone searches your organization name (or variations on it).  Once you get your footing, you can explore more targeted campaigns for individual programs or specific actions you want users to take.

Step 3: Maintain, Learn, Improve!

Once you’re approved and launch your first campaign with your Google Ads Grant, you’ll need to set aside time each month to optimize keywords, test out new campaigns, and make other adjustments. These best practices will help you leverage the power of your campaigns to work better for your goals, but you also need to show some sort of account update every 30 days in order to keep the grant, so make sure you’re carving out enough time for maintenance.

Best Practices for Google Ads Maintenance

  • Keep Your Keywords Quality. If you have keywords that aren’t performing well (if the Keyword Quality Score is under 3) you should shut them off, or try a new landing page.
  • Ads Need Clicks! You are required to maintain a Click-Through Rate (CTR) monthly average of at least 5%, so make sure you turn off any ads that aren’t working and test new ones to find the high CTR sweet spot. (Feeling adventurous? Try long-tail keywords to improve your CTR!)  
  • Try an Extension. If you have upcoming events, seasonal promotions or just want to call out donations, test out site extensions to see how they can best lift your overall CTR.

Ready to get started? You can begin your application, or dig into Google’s comprehensive resources on the Google Ads Grant here.

And if you think you’re ready but maybe you’ll need help along the way, let us know! Radish Lab helps our clients manage their Google Ads Grants. From boosting your search rankings, to increasing traffic to your site, to capturing more donations and event registrants, we would love to help craft and maintain your campaigns to meet your organizational goals.

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