Google Ads Glossary

Google Ad Grant

If you’ve come to this page, you’re probably trying to figure out how to better advertise on Google. Welcome! We know it can be hard work, and at times an endless lexicon of new vocabulary. This comprehensive Google Ads Glossary can serve as your go-to guide when you’re navigating the waters of Google Ads terminology. Knowing the lingo is key to increasing your reach and maximizing your impact by effectively managing your own account.

We’ve written this glossary for all, but have also kept in mind our friends in the nonprofit sector who are working to maximize the Google Ad Grant. Feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it whenever you need to.

Ad Group

Ad groups live within your campaigns. An ad group is a bucket of closely-related keywords and the ads they’re attached to. Google Ad Grant accounts are required to have at least two live ad groups in each campaign at all times.

Ad Rank

How Google prioritizes ads display. This is determined by your ad’s cost-per-click (CPC) bid and quality score. If you’re interested, you can learn more  about the inner workings of the Google Ads auction system. Note: Google does prioritize paid ad accounts over grant accounts when it comes to auction space. Grant accounts are considered for placement only when there is leftover inventory.

Ad Schedule

The dates and times you want your ads to be seen. If you know most of your donations are made during work hours, you might use ad scheduling to pause your campaigns during evening hours when folks are less likely to donate, so you can concentrate your budget during high-potential hours.


The text ad that is shown to users in the search engine results page after searching a phrase that matches a keyword in your account. Grant accounts are required to have at least two live ads in each ad group at all times.

AdWords Express

Essentially the automated version of Google Ads. You create an account, write an ad, and let Google do the rest from there. Sound too good to be true? Check out the pros and cons of using Google AdWords Express.

Automated Rules

A tool that automatically updates your campaigns, ad groups, or keywords based on conditions you set. For example, you can create an automated rule to automatically pause any keyword that has a quality score of 2 or lower (to ensure that you stay compliant with Google’s grant policies). Automated rules can help you minimize the time spent monitoring your account on a day-to-day basis.

Bid Adjustments

A way to automatically increase or decrease your CPC bid based on a variety of settings (including time of day, day of the week, device, location, etc.). If you know that the conversion rate for donations on mobile devices is very low, you may set a -50% bid adjustment for mobile devices in your donation campaign (indicating that you are willing to spend 50% less for clicks from users on mobile phones).

Broad Match

A keyword match type that permits your ad to be shown whenever someone searches that phrase, or a phrase that is similar to it. For example, if you input the keyword volunteer opportunities as a broad match keyword, it may match to search queries like volunteer positions or community service ideas.


Campaigns house ad groups. Budget, location targeting, language targeting, and other settings are all set at the campaign level. You will have multiple campaigns within your account. Here’s how to set up your first Google Ads campaign.

Change History

A report that shows you all changes made in your account, including the date and time it was made and the email address of the user who made it. This is helpful for identifying the cause of any unexpected changes in performance.


Engagement with your ad and the page it links to. Every time a user is served your ad and clicks on it, a click is logged.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

Total Clicks / Total Impressions. This tells us the percentage of people that clicked on an ad after it was served to them. Typically, the higher, the better! Ad Grant accounts are required to maintain at least a 5% CTR account-wide.


A key action taken on your website that indicates user engagement (video views, email signups, donations, etc.). You need to configure these as goals in your Google Analytics account. Conversions are key to understanding the value of site traffic and campaigns! Setting up conversion tracking and connecting your Google Analytics account to your Ad Grant account will allow you to see key conversion data in the Google Ads interface.

Cost per Click (CPC)

Total Cost of Your Clicks / Total Number of Clicks. What you actually paid for a click on your ad.

Daily Budget

The maximum amount you’re willing to spend on a campaign in a given day. For Grant accounts, this is capped at about $329 per day.

Destination URL

The URL of the page on your site that you send users to after they click on your ad.

Display URL

The URL that is actually shown to users in your ad. This doesn’t need to exactly match the destination URL, as long as you aren’t baiting-and-switching users. For example, your destination URL may be, and your Display URL may simply be

Exact Match

A keyword match type that tells Google to only show the ad affiliated with the keyword if a user types that phrase in exactly. If you input [volunteer opportunities] as an exact match keyword, it will show only when someone types volunteer opportunities into their Google search bar.


The setting that allows you to choose in which territories your ads show. You can get as specific targeting a congressional district, or as broad as an entire county. Grant accounts are required to include some level of geotargeting, and are required to target locations in which their services are relevant (either the countries you work in or the countries where you fundraise or have offices).

Google Analytics

Google’s free web analytics tool that allows you to see exactly what users are doing on your website. This is crucial in understanding how your Google Ads campaigns are doing. Whole Whale has tons of free Google Analytics resources, including a free 8-week email course to get you mastering the basics in no time.

Google Display Network

The Google Display Network (GDN) contains more than 2 million websites, videos, and apps where your ads can appear. Combined, the GDN reaches over 90% of all internet users, and is a great place to show your ads to audiences who might be earlier in the buying and consideration process compared to those on Google Search. Note that Grant-based ads are not eligible to show ads on the GDN.


An impression is counted any time your ad appears on the results page of Google search.


Words or phrases that you choose to associate with your ads. When a user searches for something on Google that matches to a keyword in your account, the affiliated ad will appear in the search results.

Keyword Planner

A tool in the Google Ads interface used for finding new keywords, estimating search volume, and other competition metrics.

Language Targeting

A key setting that at the campaign level. Be sure that both your keywords and ad copy match the language you are targeting!

Limited by Budget

You’ll sometimes see a campaign in your account being flagged as being limited by budget. This simply means that the budget you have set for the campaign isn’t high enough to accommodate all of the searches for the keywords you’ve chosen. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — just an indication that you could potentially  spend more on that campaign.

Low Search Volume

You’ll sometimes see a keyword in your account being flagged as having low search volume. This means that the relevant keyword(s) doesn’t have a high search history in Google. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing — just an indication that those keywords will likely generate fewer impressions and clicks than other keywords.

Maximum CPC Bid (Max CPC)

The maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click. For Grant accounts, this is capped at $2, unless you’re using the Maximize Conversions bidding strategy.

Negative Keywords

A keyword match type that excludes your ad from being served for certain search terms. Negative keywords can help you avoid having ads served for irrelevant or inappropriate searches. For example, an organ donation nonprofit that wants to reach people searching for organ donation may include clothing or electronics as negative keywords to avoid showing their ads to people searching for places to donate household items.

Phrase Match

A keyword match type that permits your ad to be shown only when a specific phrase is included somewhere in a search. For example, adding volunteer opportunities as a phrase match keyword would allow your ads to be shown for volunteer opportunities in Ohio, or for student volunteer opportunities, but not for volunteer positions near me.


A number from 1-10 that communicates where on the search engine results page (SERP) your ad was shown. The closer to #1 your position is, the closer to the top of the page your ad was shown. Grant accounts typically see a lower position than paid accounts due to Google’s Ad Grant policies.

Quality Score

A score from 1-10 that Google assigns to keywords to indicate the quality that the keyword, ad, and landing page are delivering to users. The closer to 10, the better! Google’s Ad Rank considers quality score when determining which ads to serve, and typically the higher your quality score, the lower the CPC for a keyword. Grant accounts are required to maintain a keyword score of 2 or higher for all keywords in their account, and risk suspension if they continue to bid on low quality score keywords.

Search Term, or Search Query

The words or phrase that a user actually typed into Google. These searches are then matched to the keywords you included in your Ad Groups, and that is how ads are chosen to be delivered. In Google Ads, this report is called the Search Terms report. In Google Analytics, it’s referred to as the Search Queries report.

Sitelink Extension

An additional link that lives at the bottom of your ad that points people to additional pages on your website. These are set up by you, and are a great way to take up more virtual real estate on the SERP. Google requires Grant accounts to have at least 2 unique sitelink extensions in their account.

If you’re a Google Ads newbie and would like to dive deeper about how to set up an account from scratch, how to write awesome ads, where to find keywords, and how to measure success within your account, enroll in our three-hour Whole Whale University course. You’ll learn how to make the absolute best use of this grant, which will mean thousands more users taking meaningful action on your site this year. We’ve managed over $4 million in Google Ad Grants and we want to help you get free money too!

Nonprofit grants can be so hit-or-miss and stressful to obtain – but hopefully the Google Ad Grant is a painless application process that will have some real and tangible impact for your organization.

See something we missed? Tweet us @WholeWhale!