By John Eberhard

Google has a program for non-profit organizations called Google Grants. If you are a registered non-profit organization, you can apply and get an approved account with them that allows you to run up to $10,000 in ads per month – for free!

It sounds great and it is, but there is a lot to know about this in order to get results from it.

The first thing to know is that Google takes all the people who are advertising in paid accounts for a given keyword, and whenever someone types in that keyword, they call that the auction. All the paid advertisers (not Google Grant advertisers) are displayed to the people typing in that keyword, in an order determined by several things such as how much they are bidding, and other factors like what Google calls the quality score.

So what you need to know and what hardly anyone knows is that Google displays all the paid advertisers in the auction. And then after that, they will display all the Google Grant advertisers in a separate, second auction. So it’s kind of like the Google Grant advertisers are getting the leftovers.

This is the reason why many Google Grant advertisers put up a campaign, wait days or weeks, and get no action or hardly any action. And when I say hardly any or no action, I mean hardly any or no impressions. This term applies to how many people your ad was displayed to. Like around 200 impressions or less after a month. And if you get only 200 impressions in a month, you are only going to get a small handful of clicks, if any, and you won’t be able to spend more than $100 of your $10,000 grant.

Since this type of laughable performance is not normally what you get on Google when you have a paid account, and I am Google Ads Certified and have been managing accounts since 2005, this caused me to dig until I found out the above.

So what can you do about this? Luckily there are some things you can do.

  1. Google Grants works best if you can select a large geographical area for the ads to display, like several states wide or nationally. It’s not really going to work if you set the geotargeting to a 20-mile radius around your location for example.
  2. Get a really big list of keywords. Use the Google Keyword Planner and type in a handful of similar keywords and they will give you a list of 500-1,500. Export them into a spreadsheet, then go through the list and delete any that aren’t appropriate for your topic. Ideally you want a lot of keywords, with high monthly searches. Also make sure that you have keywords that are all on one related topic in each ad group. And make sure your ads and your landing pages are all on that one topic. For a different topic, set up a separate ad group.
  3. Set up your campaign with the bid strategy of Maximize Conversions. This allows you to bypass the limitation of a $2.00 bid that Google normally applies to Google Grant accounts.
  4. I had a friend set me up with a Google conversion, that is recorded when someone is on your page for longer than 60 seconds, rather than the usual conversion when someone fills out the form on your landing page. This means you get lots of conversions and Google rewards that.
  5. You should try out multiple campaigns for various topics related to your organization, and see which one works best. You may find that some of them do not work at all, but one or two work great, you get high impressions and clicks and all the rest. The only thing I can figure on this is that for the ones that work better, there are fewer advertisers in the paid auction and so more searchers end up seeing the Grant auction. I could be wrong about that though.

Applying the above points, I have been able to get one campaign working exceptionally well, with, in the last month, 30,017 impressions, 3,704 clicks, a clickthrough rate of 12.34%, and 38 people registering for a webinar. And I was able to spend $8,625.78 of my $10,000 grant.

The 38 people is not a great conversion rate, but I can work on that by making changes to the landing page or testing multiple landing pages.

Good luck with Google Grants.