When you’re looking to improve your nonprofit’s marketing and web presence, there are a lot of great tools you can use. Mightycause can help you take your fundraising to the next level, allows you to create awesome team and peer-to-peer campaigns and provides all the tools you need to fundraise for campaigns and year-round. Email marketing software can help you engage your donors. And a Google Ad Grant seems like a no-brainer, right?

But not so fast! Google Ad Grants can help nonprofits reach new people and professionalize their marketing, but they can also be time-consuming and cumbersome to manage. How do you know if a Google Ad Grant is right for your nonprofit?

If you’re considering applying for a Google Ad Grant, Mightycause has pulled together some important questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

But first …

The Basics

Before we can get into whether a Google Ad Grant is right for your nonprofit, we’ll need to go over some basic information about Google AdWords and Google Ad Grants.

Google AdWords 101

Google AdWords is a search engine marketing (SEM) platform. Companies create ads that link to pages on their website and bid on keywords. Other companies are bidding on the same keywords. Google uses a ranking system called Ad Rank to determine which ads get shown to users searching a keyword, in what order. Ad Rank takes several factors into account: the quality of your ad, your bid, the quality of your landing page, your use of ad extensions, something called your Ad Rank threshold, and how relevant your ad is to the user’s search. When a user searches for a keyword, their results will have ads mixed in with organic (or unpaid) search results. For instance, this is what it looks like when I Google “bow ties”:

Paid ads are labeled as such so users will know when they’re being advertised to. Google has placed the ads on the search engine results page (SERP) based on AdRank; because Google knows a lot about me, how I search and which pages I click, you might see different ads in a different order. When I click on one of the ads, the company will be charged. AdWords is pay-per-click, or PPC, advertising so you’re not charged unless someone clicks on your ad. How much you pay depends on your bid, what others have bid, your rank, and the quality of your ad. (Your company will not necessarily be charged your maximum bid.)

If this sounds a little complicated, that’s because it totally is. AdWords is one of the more complex marketing tools available. And this is only a quick overview of how search campaigns work! Google AdWords also allows companies to create display network campaigns that show their ad all over the Google Display Network, which includes over 2 million websites, and has powerful targeting tools that helps ads reach the right users and use their marketing budget most effectively.

What is a Google Ad Grant?

Google Ad Grants is a program Google created to help nonprofit organizations. In the United States, any nonprofit organization with valid charity status is eligible to apply for a Google Ad Grant.

When you’re approved, your nonprofit receives $10,000 in in-kind advertising each month. Google Ad Grants are only for search network campaigns, so your ads will be text-only, and you have a maximum bid of $2.00 for each keyword. (You can go over the cap if you use a certain bidding strategy, called Maximize Conversions, which automates bidding for you.)

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying for a Google Ad Grant

1. Do I have the know-how?

I won’t lie to you: there is a reason Google AdWords Certification is a great addition to a marketer’s resume. AdWords is one of the tougher advertising tools to master. (I’m AdWords certified and still learn new things about AdWords every day!) The good news is that you don’t need to be AdWords certified to use a Google Grant. Plus, Google provides all of the training you need for free.

The downside is that there is a lot to learn, if you’re a novice. AdWords is an advertising platform that is difficult to learn on the fly. And you’ll need some basic knowledge about PPC advertising, keywords, SEO, and how search engines work. If you have that background and are willing to take on the challenge, a Google Ad Grant may be perfect for you! If you’re still struggling to figure out how to use Facebook’s targeting tools (or have never tried), you may want to hold off until you get a little more comfortable with online advertising first.

2. Do I have the time?

AdWords is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of advertising. You’ll need time to set up your campaigns, and you’ll also need a little time each day to babysit your campaign. You’ll want to add and remove keywords, adjust your bids, tweak your ads and so on. So, think realistically about your capacity, and consider whether it’s something you can easily build into your schedule.

If you’re not sure if you can manage it yourself, it may be a great opportunity to find a volunteer with AdWords experience who can help you set up your campaigns and manage them for you.

3. What are my goals?

Sometimes it’s tempting to apply for a Google Ad Grant just because it’s there. It’s not hard to get approved — and it’s the sort of thing that would be great to tell your board, right? $10,000 per month from Google! How awesome is that?!

But unless getting more traffic to your website is one of your nonprofit’s major goals, a Google Ad Grant could turn into a huge time-suck that you aren’t able to leverage successfully. If you’d simply like to boost your presence in search results or make it easier for people to find your nonprofit, there are ways you can optimize your existing website or make updates to your business listing on Google that require less effort and can improve your visibility.

Think hard about your goals and whether AdWords is the best, most effective way to achieve them.

4. How robust is my website?

In order to be eligible for a Google Ad Grant, you’ll need to have a “live website with substantial content.” When was the last time you updated your nonprofit’s website? If it’s been awhile, you’ll want to make sure your website is in good shape before applying for a Google Ad Grant. (And if you’re still using your Mightycause page as your website, you’ll need to build your own custom site before even considering a Google Ad Grant.)

Another thing you’ll want to think about is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO and AdWords work hand-in-hand. So, if you’re not sure if you’re targeting keywords with any pages on your website, you may want to work on improving your website’s SEO first. This guide from Moz is a great place to start if you want to learn about SEO.

5. Am I confident our nonprofits’ ads can perform?

Google Ad Grants have some specific performance requirements for nonprofits. Some, like having two sitelink extensions, are easy. Others, like maintaining a 5% clickthrough rate (CTR), are more difficult. If you fail to meet these requirements, your account can be deactivated — and having an account reinstated can be a very tricky process.

If you’re an AdWords neophyte, a Google Ad Grant probably isn’t right for you. But, if you’re comfortable with PPC advertising, writing ad copy, and your organization has an awesome website, an Ad Grant might be perfect for you!

If You’re Not Ready for a Google Ad Grant Yet

If you’ve come to the conclusion that an Ad Grant isn’t right for you at this time, don’t sweat it! There are steps you can take to improve your search presence and get more traffic to your website. And, down the road, you may be ready for that grant!

Next Steps:

  • Update your website
  • Learn about SEO and optimize your website
  • Make sure your nonprofit’s business info is up to date on Google
  • Create an AdWords account
  • Get comfortable using AdWords
  • Complete some free AdWords training
  • Launch your first AdWords Campaign!

You can also try running a campaign on Mightycause and using it to test out different advertising techniques to see what works best for your organization! Try adding on a PPC campaign to a Giving Day like #GivingTuesday. The more data you can gather about how effective PPC advertising can be for your nonprofit, the better you will be able to assess whether a Google Ad Grant is a worthwhile thing to pursue.

If You’re Ready for a Google Ad Grant

Go forth and apply!


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