Google Ad Grant and Google Ads Best Practices for 2019


2018 was certainly a crazy year, in more ways than one. Perhaps the absolute craziest thing that happened was back in January, when Google announced new policy updates to its Ad Grant that threw the nonprofit CPC community for a loop! Luckily, we’ve been keeping track of how those policy changes have played out and are now ready to bring you the best Google Ad Grant and Google Ads best practices for 2019.


1. Focus on Conversions, Not Spend  

We’ve talked a lot about maxing out your Google Ad Grant. After all, it is essentially $10,000/month in free money from Google. While you want to make sure you’re still using the money as efficiently as possible, it’s important to note that Google Ads is pushing Grant recipients towards more than just driving traffic to your website, but driving traffic that will convert.


These conversions could be signing up to your org’s newsletter or donating to your cause. Ultimately, Google wants you to take advantage of more bidding strategies like Target CPA, Maximize Conversions, and Enhanced CPC and optimize for conversions. You can use this as an opportunity to test different bidding options other than the default Manual CPC to see what drives the most goal conversions with your audience. Depending on the results, these tests could help your team to re-think your digital advertising strategy, and which calls-to-action are most effective at driving a visitor down your funnel of engagement.


2. Have Conversion Tracking Set Up

With Google’s push to prioritize conversions over traffic, it’s more important than ever to make sure you set up conversion tracking. The first step is making sure you have your Google Ads account linked to your Google Analytics account. Once you have goals implemented in Google Analytics, (you do have goals, right?), it just takes a few steps to import them as conversions and start tracking in Google Ads. Then you’ll be able to see things like which ads are driving the most users to sign up for your monthly newsletter, or what type of messaging drives the most donations.


Of course, you’ll always want to refer to Google Analytics for a more granular look at how users are behaving on specific pages, but having conversion tracking set up in Google Ads gives you a high-level view on how different campaigns are leading to different actions on-site. If you’re just looking to dip your toes in the water, you can set up Google Ads specific goals and events directly within the platform, although it’s a best practice link it with Google Analytics to get a more holistic view of your user’s online journey.


3. Experiment with Match Types

In our experience working with the Google Ad Grant, we think keyword match types are underappreciated. While differentiating them can get a little confusing, taking the time to incorporate them in your account will bring in higher quality traffic. All keywords are automatically labeled as broad match, which can help you reach a wider audience. However, with that wider audience is the potential for irrelevant users coming to your site. If you’re trying to drive people to sign up to become organ donors, and you have the broad match keywordhow to donate organs,” your ad could potentially show up for a the query “how to sell organs,” which you wouldn’t want.


Enter: Match types! These allow you to essentially tell Google exactly when you want your ad to show up for a given keyword. By using brackets around your [keyword], you’ll be saying you only want your ads to show when those exact words are typed in that exact order. There’s also happy mediums between broad and exact, like broad match modifier and phrase. In the example above, you’d probably want to make use of phrase match around “donate organs.” Don’t be afraid to use negative keywords and enter certain terms that should never trigger one of your ads. As always, testing out different match types and seeing how they perform is the best way to determine what works best for your org.


4. Keyword Insertion Tool

Another general best practice we’ve seen around keywords this year relates to writing ad copy. For your next A/B test, try out keyword insertion. It’s a feature that dynamically pulls in a user’s search term and inserts it into the headline of your ad, making it hyper-relevant and increasing the chances that the searcher will click on it, which will help you maintain the Grant by keeping up an account-wide CTR of greater than 5%.

In the example above, Google would pull in the user’s search query as the first headline. If for some reason it couldn’t, it would just use “Giving Tuesday Stats & Facts.”

We’ve seen this method increase click-through-rate for our clients and outperform all other ad variations if done strategically. But a word to the wise: Make sure your keyword list is cleaned up to ensure your ad won’t trigger for any funky or unrelated searches. Be cautious here if you’re bidding on competitor branded keywords, as Google might insert their name into the ad, making for a very confusing user experience.  


Google Ad Grant Dos and Don'ts5. Take Advantage of Automated Rules  

Ever since Google made policy updates to the Google Ad Grant at the beginning of 2018, it can feel like a lot of added pressure to keep an eye on the minor requirements. By setting up an automated rule in Google Ads to automatically pause any keyword whos quality scores drops to a 2 or lower can help prevent sudden account suspension. To create this automate rule:


  1. Sign into your Google Ads account and click on the Tools icon in the top nav bar.
  2. Bulk Actions → Rules
  3. Click on the “+” icon and select Keyword Rules
  4. You can then choose to pause keywords and apply the condition that we’re bringing quality score is </= 2.
  5. Name your new automated rule and hit ‘Save”


No more daily checking to weed out low quality keywords! You also have the option to receive emails every time the rules run, or only when there are changes or errors. If you’re finding that your keywords are constantly being paused, try some of these methods to find fresh ones.


6. Always Be Testing

Ads, that is. Since the new year, Google has upped the number of recommended ads per ad group from 2 to 3. It’s not a requirement, but it’s definitely a best practice as it gives you the opportunity to experiment with not only messaging, but also any new features that Google rolls out. For example, they recently launched an expanded text ad format, which includes an optional 3rd headline and 2nd description. More text = more real estate on the search engine results page (SERP). We’ve been testing this format out with some of our clients and, in most cases, the expanded text ad outperforms all other variations in terms of impressions and click-through-rate.


Have any more best practices that we missed? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us @WholeWhale.