bottle caps all in blue except for two which are in red. Image used for article about google's ad grants

December 19, 2017; WordStream

As we welcome the new year, 2018 also will mark some big changes in Google’s AdWords program for nonprofits. Starting January 1st, Google is making significant adjustments to their policies around ad grants. Although some of these changes may appear daunting to organizations that have taken their $10,000, no-strings-attached monthly budget for granted, they should actually encourage organizations to do the extra work to discover quality keywords that in return bring higher quality users to your website and online resources.

The greatest news coming from these changes is that the $2.00 cap on costs-per-click (CPCs) in AdWords will be eliminated for organizations that build their campaigns using an automated bidding strategy called “Maximize Conversions.” Maximize conversions bidding is an AdWords smart bidding strategy that automatically determines the optimal CPC bid to help get the most conversions for AdWords campaigns while also ensuring your organization adequately spends its budget. The $2.00 CPC cap has been a hindrance to nonprofits in the Google AdWords Grant program for years, as prices for keywords have skyrocketed given the need for companies to focus on improving paid search traffic and SEO.

Another big change that could alarm some nonprofits is that Google will now require click-through rates (CTR) to stay above 5 percent in order to keep AdWords grants. If an organization falls below an average CTR of 5 percent for two consecutive months, their account will be temporarily suspended. This modification will likely cause many AdWords accounts to be shut down in the coming months.

Here are three ways to increase your campaign click-through rates in AdWords:

The Google Ad Grants team is heavily pushing quality with a majority of these adjustments. Here are some other significant policy changes to AdWords of which nonprofits should be aware:

  • Keywords must have quality scores of 3 or higher. This change will eliminate generic terms like “free books” or single keyword terms like “foundations.”
  • Each AdWords campaign must include at least two ad groups with at least two ads running.
  • AdWords accounts also must have at least two sitelink extensions.
  • You must have geotargeting active within your account.
  • Nonprofits cannot buy branded keywords they do not own. For example, your organization cannot bid for terms like “Google” or “Facebook” or variations such as “Macys” anymore.

More than 35,000 nonprofits participate in the Google Grants program, and many of these organizations could be in danger of losing their grant all together if they are not responsibly managing their AdWords grant campaign and adhering to these stricter guidelines.

If your organization does not have the capacity to spend time strategizing higher quality AdWords campaigns, you could use AdWords Express. However, doing so will completely automate the process, leaving Google with a lesser or incomplete understanding of your organization’s mission or goals. As such, we generally advise against it.

These changes should mostly be good news for nonprofits and inspire you to ensure your AdWords campaign budget is effectively spent.—Aine Creedon