Setting Up Your First Google Ad Grant Campaign for Success (And Compliance)

Google Ad Grants is a fantastic way to get your nonprofit’s name out there. The program provides access to $10,000 USD of in-kind advertising each month, enabling organizations to raise greater awareness, increase donations, and recruit more volunteers to power their mission, all without spending their own money.

But to really reach its full potential, an effective ad campaign needs a strategy and light maintenance. This might seem daunting if you’ve never done this before, but it doesn’t have to be. By setting up a clear campaign at the outset, you will save your organization time in the long run since ads like this need only be tweaked weekly, or at least bi-weekly, to make the most of your Google Ad Grant money over a long stretch of time.

Plan Your Ads By Setting Goals

Google Ads are divided into campaigns and categories. Ad campaigns share a general theme, while all the ads in a group share a specific goal. For instance, if a homeless shelter wants to raise awareness of the services they offer to the community, then that goal could be their campaign theme. All of their ads will inform the audience about the services the shelter offers. However, in order to meet that goal, the campaign might consist of groups of ads where each group focuses on a specific service, such as a group of ads that focus on shower programs, a group of ads that focus on meal programs, and another group of ads about the shelter’s clothing bank.

Google requires ad groups to have at least two different ads per group. This benefits you by allowing for A/B testing; if one ad performs better, then the other ad might need to be improved. Through continual testing and revision, your ads will become more effective. Similarly, it’s important to run more than one campaign at a time. Doing so will help you reach different audiences and use the whole $10,000 that Google offers monthly.

Since Google Ads are driven by specific goals, the first step in any ad campaign is to think about your organization’s end goal: do you want to increase visitors to your site? improve name recognition? convince more people to volunteer? improve donations during a season when they usually drop off? Whatever your goal is, that will drive the way you design your ad campaign and ad groups.

Build Your Ads Using Effective Keywords

To create the most effective ads, think about your organization from your audience’s perspective. How would someone searching online find you? What words or phrases would they use? Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Moz’s Keyword Explorer can be useful, but free tools such as Google Trends and Answer the Public can be highly effective resources as well. The important thing is to figure out what language you need to use to connect with your audience.

Once you have established the keywords you want to optimize for, group similar keywords together and start pairing them with your goals. As you do this, it may be helpful to consider the content currently on your website. Each ad you produce will need to lead back to a landing page on your website where a user can convert, meaning they act on the ad’s call to action. Consider our previous example of a homeless shelter whose goal is to increase awareness of their services. If one group of ads is designed to improve awareness of the shelter’s clothing bank, then those ads need to lead back to the page on the shelter’s website that addresses the clothing bank. If we know this, then we can ask ourselves which of our keywords are most likely to draw traffic to that page. 

Managing Your Ad Campaign

Google Analytics will provide you with information on how individual ads and keywords are performing. Google suggests checking this information biweekly, but especially when a campaign is new, it’s a good idea to check weekly. Build on your successful keywords and ads while gradually experimenting with —or nixing—your low-performers.

But what else can you do to keep a campaign converting?

Besides checking the performance of individual keywords and ads, Google Analytics allows you to view hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly performance data, helping you determine the times when users are most likely to convert. By determining your most successful times, you can actually set your ads to run during those times, maximizing your Ad Grant dollars.

Another helpful tool is the Google Ads IF functions. When enabled, IF functions allow you to run a different set of ads for certain users when certain conditions are met. For instance, if a user has returned to your website multiple times, you can tell Google Ads to show the user an ad with a stronger call to action since there is a greater likelihood the user will convert. In such a case, you may want the user to see an ad from a different group than before, such as an ad that urges a donation to the aforementioned clothing bank rather than an ad that simply informs users about it.

Remember to adjust your keywords seasonally. This doesn’t mean that your foundational keywords go out the window, but rather that you add appropriate seasonally-related keywords to your existing content. It’s important to consider the timing of seasonal content as well. The experts at Yoast suggest starting seasonal content 45 days before a special holiday or event. Depending on how in depth your campaign is, it may be appropriate to add a seasonal landing page for seasonal ad content to direct to. This can be highly effective for a special fundraiser, for instance, and can be repurposed year after year.

Finally, make sure your landing pages are in order. If an ad contains a specific call to action, but the landing page it leads to does not allow users to act on the call to action, or the method of converting is unclear or complicated, users may become frustrated. Make converting as easy as possible for users.

Follow the Ad Grant Guidelines

By far, the most important way to make your Google Ad Grants campaign successful is to follow the Ad Grant guidelines, which were last updated on January 1, 2018. Failure to comply with these guidelines will result in the suspension of your account. You can also view a PDF guide here. These guidelines in brief are:

  • Maintain a minimum 5% click-through rate (CTR). Accounts with a CTR below 5% for 2 consecutive months will be suspended.
  • A minimum keyword quality score of 2.
  • Maintain at least 2 ad groups per campaign, and
  • Maintain at least 2 ads per ad group.
  • Include at least two sitelink extensions.

While there are many nuances to navigate in setting up and maintaining a successful Google Ad Grant campaign, careful planning and regular maintenance can help you find success for your nonprofit. Much of it comes down to the same old basics of good SEO.

Once you get your ads up and running, you may find that your old website just isn’t cutting it anymore. If that’s the case, Key Medium offers beautiful, affordable websites designed for purpose-driven organizations just like yours. We believe in the importance of giving back to our community, which is why we offer award-winning websites at discounted rates to nonprofit organizations. From branding and web design to SEO audits, contact Key Medium today and find out how we can take your web presence to the next level.


Brittany Howard, a US-based English professor and education content writer

Brittany Howard hails from Columbus, Georgia, where she lives with her three cats and teaches college English. She holds an M.A in English from Valdosta State University.