Google Ads Optimization Checklist for Nonprofits

Google Ad Grant

So you’ve got the Google Ad Grant for nonprofits and now have access to $10,000 per month worth of Google Ads to send traffic to your site. Amazing! But the work doesn’t stop once your account is approved. In order to really get the most out of the grant (and to ensure that you are compliant with current Google Ad Grant policies) you need to make a practice of continually optimizing your ads at the campaign, ad set, and individual ad level. Sound overwhelming? No worries. We’ve created a Google Ads optimization checklist for nonprofits to maintain the grant and drive meaningful conversions from ad traffic.

Google Ads optimization checklist for nonprofits

Our Google Ads optimization checklist for nonprofits is divided into 2 parts:

Google Ads account audit

Use this part of the checklist the first time you go into an account, or the first time you’ve gone in in a while. This will ensure that your account is set up for success. We then recommend conducting an audit every 6 months to see the full 360 of your account and ensure that it is still structurally sound. Regular audits are particularly important if you have multiple people managing or contributing to your Ad Grant account.

Ongoing Google Ads maintenance and optimization

After you run an audit of your Google Ads account, refer to this part of the checklist on a monthly basis to make sure you’re in peak performance and maximizing conversions. It should take about 2 hours to go through the account and make updates, though this will also depend on how many campaigns you have.

Google Ads Optimization Checklist (Every Month)

Account distribution

  1. In Google Ads, under Reports, look at the Final URL by Cost. If one page is receiving too much of the Ad Grant, decrease the daily budgets for that page’s campaigns.
  2. In Google Analytics, under Acquisition, look at All Traffic. Which pages convert at the highest rates? Send Google Ads traffic there (depending on your goals).


  1. Create an automated rule to pause any keywords with quality score less than or equal to 2. During regular account maintenance, remove any low q-score keywords paused by this rule.
  2. Pause or remove any irrelevant keywords that are overspending. Replace paused keywords with new ones
  3. Pause, decrease bids for, or remove any keywords that have lots of cost or clicks, but no conversions. Replace paused keywords with new ones
  4. Pause, decrease bids for, or remove keywords with consistently low click-through-rate (CTR). Replace paused keywords with new ones
  5. In Google Ads, look at Search Terms and add relevant or high-performers (high CTRs or conversions) as keywords
  6. In Google Analytics, under Acquisition →  Google Ads, look at Keywords and sort by conversion rate. Change the view to Weighted Sort to see the keywords that are performing best both in terms of traffic and conversion rate combined. Build out more of these.

Ad Copy

Responsive search ads inherently include multiple variations — meaning Google mixes and matches headlines and descriptions for maximum optimization performance. Which means, it’s ok that Grant advertisers only include 1 ad in each ad group.

  1. Look at copy success with strategic testing. Write your ads, and then monitor their ad variation performance after they’ve been live for a week or so to see what combinations of headlines and descriptions do the best. Then build on what works. 
  2. Which ad has the higher click-through-rate? 
  3. Which ad in each ad group has the higher conversion rate? 
  4. What was different about that iteration?
  5. Which ad leads to more engagement on your website? Swap out the losing ad for a new copy, and keep the tests going! 
  6. Pause or edit the ad with the lower click-through-rate and create a new ad variation test.

Google Ads Audit Checklist (Every 6 Months)

  1. Must have at least 2 ad groups per campaign
  2. Must have at least 2 ads per ad group No longer applicable as of July 2022.  Beginning June 30, 2022, advertisers will no longer be able to create or edit expanded text ads. Instead, advertisers will need to create Google’s new default search ad – a responsive search ad. Because responsive search ads inherently contain multiple ad variations, the policy requirement around maintaining 2 ads per ad group has been removed.
  3. Must have at least 2 sitelink ad extensions
  4. Must have keywords in each ad group, ideally 15 or more
  5. Remove any keywords with quality score of 2 or lower
  6. Set up an automated rule that pauses low q-score words daily
  7. Remove any branded keywords not owned by your organization
  8. Remove any single-word keywords (excluding branded words, medical conditions, and other exception keywords)
  9. All ads must be sent to your Ad Grant-approved domain
  10. Location targeting must only be in regions where your organization works or fundraises

You could bookmark this page…  or you could also download our checklist cheat sheet to keep on your desktop, print for your office, and share with coworkers. Plus, you sign up below to stay in the loop with the latest resources on the Google Ad Grant and more. Double-win!

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 Grants and we want to help you get free money too!