March 12, 2015

How to Get Free Advertising for Your Nonprofit with Google Ad Grants

Sarah Beauchemin • Guest Blogger

You Should Know

  • Google AdWords can be a fantastic tool for driving traffic to your site.
  • If you’re an eligible nonprofit, Google will give you $10,000 per month in free AdWords credits.

You know those promoted links that appear above and to the right of your search results when you Google something? That’s Google AdWords, Google’s online marketing service, in action. A business creates its personalized campaign in AdWords, and voila! Katie’s Cast Iron Cookware pops up right above your search results for “large skillet.” AdWords is, hands down, one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your organization’s website.

However, (and you knew it was coming)… AdWords campaigns can be expensive. Expensive as in, “wow, we just drained our entire annual marketing budget for three months of AdWords.” For nonprofits, whose very existence counts on every dollar being properly allocated, this is not an option.

But don’t go sending Joe in Development out front to spin a neon sign just yet. Google feels your pain, which is why they created Google Ad Grants: a nonprofit edition of AdWords that gives your org $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords advertising. Score!

What Ad Grants Does

Ad Grant recipients get free advertising on Google search result pages. You build and manage your own AdWords marketing campaign just the same as any AdWords customer would. The only difference is that recipients may only use the grant to promote mission-based ads and keywords.

How it works is simple: you create your ad, people see your ad, and people click on your ad. You’re only charged when people click on your ad and are directly routed to your website (commonly referred to as “pay per click” or “cost per click”). The cost per click varies depending on factors such as the competitiveness of the search criteria and how high in the rankings you want to be.

NOTE: If your nonprofit’s a superstar and blowing right through the monthly $10,000, you may be eligible for the Grantspro program, which ups your Ad Grant to $40,000 per month!

Who’s Eligible?

To be eligible for Ad Grants, your org needs to hold current and valid 501(c)(3) status and cannot be a government organization; a hospital or healthcare entity; or a school, childcare center, or university (Google has a separate program for education institutions). Additionally, your organization needs to have a “functioning website with substantial content,” which Visceral’s talented staff can easily take care of for you.

Do you meet the criteria and are ready to apply for an Ad Grant? Go for it!

Making the Most of Your Google Ad Grant

We want your Ad Grant campaign to be as effective as possible, so here are some things to keep in mind when you start one:

  • Be armed and ready – You’ve set up your campaign, and people are clicking on your ad and coming to your site. Awesome! But what do they see when they arrive? The landing page to which they’re directed matters just as much as, if not more, than the ad itself. Be sure the page is clean, easy to navigate, and definitely mobile-responsive. Also, the content must be clear, informative, and very relevant to the search keywords.
  • Don’t overreach – It’s easy to get excited and try to cram dozens of keywords into an AdWords campaign and hope for the best. In reality, a more focused approach works better. Identify no more than 5-8 keywords per campaign and go with proven, important keywords that are most directly related to your cause.
  • Keep up with it – AdWords is a truly outstanding program, but it can’t run itself (at least not yet!). It’s critical that you track and measure your progress using the myriad of tools AdWords and Google Analytics provide. At the beginning of your campaign, you should be doing this about twice a week.
  • Fix what’s broken – Don’t be afraid to tweak – or delete – campaigns that aren’t working. If after ten days you haven’t seen the progress you were hoping for, it’s time to make a change. Don’t worry if that’s the case; it will likely take several attempts at a campaign before finding something that sticks.

Because AdWords campaigns are such an integral part of current marketing strategies, a Google Ad Grant can truly transform how your nonprofit does business. The increased exposure can lead to many exciting opportunities such as a global donor base, partnerships with other nonprofits that share your mission, and a larger social media presence.

If you only apply for one grant this month, Google Ad Grants should be it! If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.


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