7 Big Mistakes Made with the Google Ad Grant

Imagine walking into a casino, and the cashier hands you a briefcase with $10,000 in chips, and says you can use it however you want, as long as you use it in their casino. How could you say no, right!? That’s exactly what the Google AdWords Grant is for Nonprofits – free money!

Once you have this Ad Grant, there are some ways to screw it up, and guardrails that will can get your account suspended.

1. Not following the new Ad Grant Guidelines

The Google Ad Grant team updated some of the fundamental rules of the grant and how it can be spent. Here is a brief summary of those rules, which if violated will get your account suspended:

For more on these changes, check out this summary.


2. Promising puppies and not having puppies, aka Poor User Experience

Nobody likes bad directions…especially your web visitors. When spending Google’s money, you should be sending people to the best pages on your site, based on what your ads promise them. Do you want people to go to a donation page; a take action page; a volunteer page; a newsletter sign up page? Think about your goals, and about which pages reflect those goals, so you can send people to a specific destination with the right keywords. For example, it is easy to get a lot of traffic by promising “free puppies,” but when users click those ads and go to a landing page that asks for a donation instead, bad things happen. Consider how you are priming the users coming to your site based on the keywords, ad copy, and targeting.


3. Using Just One Ad in a group

You should always be testing ad copy to see what resonates more with people, and what increases click-through rates on your site. For every ad group, make sure you write at least two ads – not only is this necessary to test messaging, but it’s actually required by Google that each ad group has at least two ads. So write your ads, and then compare their performance after they’ve been live for a week or so. Which ad has the higher click-through-rate? Which ad leads to more conversions and engagement on your website? Swap out the losing ad for new copy, and keep the tests going!


4. Having broad, catch-all terms

Don’t waste your time on broad keywords like “donation”, “events” or “New York City.” Most likely your ad won’t be shown since there are already huge organizations and other companies that are bidding on that same keyword. Plus, Google has started to add regulations that restrict AdWords Grant accounts from bidding on ‘generic’ and single-word keywords. Instead of going general, look for long-tail keywords that are a little more specific. For example; instead of “shoes,” use “red Nike mens running shoes.” These keywords will not only drive more qualified traffic to your site, but they’re also typically cheaper.


5. Ignoring Your Landing Pages

Here’s a quick example. When the Wright brothers were building their plane, all their competitors were focusing on the engine. They were trying to make the most powerful one, to get their plane in the air. The Wright brothers focused on the wings instead. They knew that without the wings the plane would never fly, no matter how powerful the engine was. The same thing applies for Google AdWords – you can try to pick all the best keywords, you can optimize your bids, but if your landing page isn’t great, Google will notice, and will not want to send people your ads. A bad, or irrelevant, landing page can also make your keyword quality score suffer, which can put you at risk for losing the grant. Not to mention, higher quality scores often lead to lower cost-per-click, which means you get more traffic for the same amount of money! Your landing page should contain the keywords you’re bidding on and the keywords in your ad copy. This will help keep your quality score up and increase your chances of reaching, capturing, and converting the most qualified audiences. The importance of your landing page quality can’t be emphasized enough: Include a custom view in AdWords that shows landing page scores so you can keep track.


6. Seasonal keyword adjusting and cleaning

Ignoring that there are seasons of weather, behavior, holidays and cause related events in your ad grant strategy is a huge missed opportunity. Don’t push winter coats in June, and think about how you might take advantage of potential giving holiday moments like Valentine’s Day.

Spring cleaning on keywords that have a quality score under 3 is also a good idea to do regularly. These keywords can sometimes be grouped into new ad groups or just removed all together.


7. Ignoring time and place

By default, most accounts will be set up to spend throughout the day across the native country you’re in (for us that is the United States). This completely misses the potential value of dividing up the regional areas and creating more targeted keyword/ad copy to speak to that region! Imagine trying to convince Yankee fans to buy Red Sox gear, or SF Giants fans to buy LA Dodger’s gear!? Thinking regionally can give you tons of new ideas to reach and segment your audience.

Next, time of day can be one of the biggest variables that determines how people convert and what they are looking for. At Whole Whale, we’ve seen as much as a 30% difference between time of day on conversions for email registration. This makes sense: By 9pm fewer people are buying coffee, so why spend your ad money trying to change that trend?

Speaking of trends, you can explore hourly interest in the keywords your interested in with a 7 day Google Trends search. For example, here is the hourly trend for the term “volunteer.”


Need more AdWords tips? Check out our full list of digital advertising resources.