Google Ad Grants 101

Jul 21, 2020  |  By Peter Billias  |  

Running a successful digital advertising campaign is a difficult task for any organization to take on. The never-ending list of tasks that are required to deliver against marketing objectives can be mind-numbing, which is why our clients turn to Civilian for expertise and guidance to navigate the murky advertising waters. One such solution that we’ve found invaluable to our nonprofit clients is Google for Nonprofits and the Google Ad Grants program. In a nutshell, the program can provide up to $10,000 of free monthly advertising credits that are used for Google search engine marketing.

What Is Search Engine Marketing?

These are text-based ads which are triggered by specific keyword entries on the Google search engine. They appear at the top of the search page, below paying advertisers, but above organic (non-paid) web content. These ads can be used in a number of different ways such as generating donations, recruiting volunteers, or simply to generate a buzz of awareness to consumers actively searching for information related to an organization’s mission. An example of one of our clients, a paint recycling program, participating in the program can be found below.

Before reading any further we should explain that there are certain qualifications that must be met in order to be eligible for the program, along with operating in a country which has launched Google for Nonprofits. For starters:

  1. Your organization must hold a valid charity status and be verified as a nonprofit by TechSoup or a local TechSoup partner;
  2. Have a high-quality website which meets the Ad Grants website policy;
  3. Get approved through the Ad Grants pre-qualification process;
  4. And once approved, maintain eligibility for Google Ad Grants by abiding by the program policies.

In general, those are the key components of the application process, which in itself is relatively straight-forward.  The difficulty comes in maintaining eligibility by following the program policies.  That’s where Civilian’s digital gurus step in and deliver the most value to our clients. There are several sections of compliance which must be satisfied in order to continue participating in the program.

No Single-Word or Overly Generic Keywords Permitted

There are certain exceptions to this requirement (branded keywords, approved medical conditions, and others), but more than likely the use of single-word keywords will not fly with Google. Using our aforementioned paint recycling client for example, the use of the keyword “recycling” would be disapproved and open the account up to suspension if not remedied. Rather, we use the keyword term “paint recycle locations” to fulfill the program policies.

Google Ad Grants Search Keyword List

Must Maintain A 5% Click-Through Rate (CTR) Each Month

A “click-through rate” is a percentage metric which is calculated by taking the number of times and ad was served (impressions) and dividing it by the number of clicks on the ad. This metric is used to determine effectiveness, and the 5% threshold would suggest that for every 100 times your ad is served, at least 5 consumers found the ad content relevant enough to click on the ad.

No Keywords with A Quality Score of 1 Or 2 Permitted

What is a “quality score” you might ask? Essentially it is an assessment of your selected keywords to estimate the relevance of your ad based on what the consumer is searching for in the engine and the page to which you are sending this searcher. The quality of your ads is based on the expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.  These are ranked on a scale from 1 to 10, so having ads determined to be of low-quality score might warrant a second look to determine if they are truly useful to the consumer.

Must Have Valid and Accurate Conversion Tracking

This is a requirement for all accounts created since January 2018 and any advertisers in the program using Smart Bidding strategies. Accurate conversion tracking indicates that an advertiser is reporting at least one conversion per month. A conversion is a metric used to indicate some sort of action, usually on your website. This could mean whether a click on an ad led a consumer to make a purchase, call your business, or download an app, among other things. This process involves setting up a conversion either in Google Ads or Google Analytics, and is accomplished by placing a piece of code which records the conversion after being triggered by one of the events mentioned previously.

Must Have At Least Two Ads Per Ad Group, Per Campaign, And Sitelink Extensions

All of these things relate to the structure of the campaign within the Google Ads platform. Ad groups are clusters of ads that contain content specific to the keywords which are being searched for. Sitelink extensions are clickable text which allow more opportunity to jump directly to the landing page on your website which is most relevant to the consumer. Setup for these can be tricky, but once you’ve identified what ad copy is specific to the keywords being searched, getting everything operational is a breeze. The image below contains an example of what setting up an ad looks like.

Google Ad Grants Search Ad Setup Screen

Must Respond to Program Survey

Circulated annually, this survey’s completion is required by all participating advertisers to assess overall satisfaction, advertiser understanding of the program and its capabilities, opportunities to learn more about specific grant functions, and other questions related to the continued success of an organization leveraging the program.

Wrap Up

What we’ve outlined above is the nuts and bolts of getting a Google Ad Grants campaign up and running. There are a number of tricks of the trade which allow advertisers to automate processes and ensure that their eligibility remains intact. However, strong, optimized performance is the goal once the campaign goes live. Doing so involves testing multiple variations of ad creative, continually monitoring performance, adjusting search term keyword strategies, and some serious number crunching to analyze the data.

If you’d like to learn more about the Google Ad Grants, and other advertising options available, please contact us at

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