A Nonprofit Guide to Google Display and Youtube Ads

Digital Advertising

Are you ready to move beyond Google AdWords? Did you enjoy gettin’ creepy with Facebook Ads? You’ve come to the right place. There are seemingly endless ways to advertise across platforms and reach audiences far and wide. Let’s dive into Google Display Network and YouTube advertising fundamentals so you can devise the right strategy for your nonprofit.

What is the Google Display Network?

Google Display Network is an effective platform for advertising your organization on relevant websites. Unlike the Google Search Network which targets users who are typing directly into Google, GDN ads show up on the sites that users visit. It’s a more passive form of advertising, but it is no less effective: the Google Display Network reaches 90% of global internet users expanding across 2 million sites. Even though you can’t use your Ad Grant to run these ads, it could be worth investing a portion of your advertising budget if you want to reach a specific audience.

Display ads let you:

  • Place ads on sites relevant to what your organization.
  • Show those ads to people that are likely to be the most interested through targeting and re-marketing.
  • Manage and track your budget, campaigns, and results as you go.
  • Measure cost per click, cost per thousand impressions, and cost per acquisition.


What you need for a GDN ad

  • Image: .jpeg, .png, or .gif in one of these Google Display Network approved sizes
    • Vertical rectangle: 240 x 400
    • Mobile leaderboard: 320 x 50
    • Banner: 468 x 60
    • Leaderboard: 728 x 90
    • Square: 250 x 250
    • Small square: 200 x 200
    • Large rectangle: 336 x 280
    • Inline rectangle: 300 x 250
    • Skyscraper: 120 x 600
    • Wide skyscraper: 160 x 600
    • Half-page: 300 x 600
    • Large leaderboard: 970×90
    • Large mobile banner: 320 x 100
    • Billboard: 970 x 250
    • Portrait: 300 x 1050
  • Landing page: URL on your site where you want users to land and convert

What are YouTube Ads?

A YouTube ad is a promotion that appears before other videos on YouTube, or that appear beside playing videos and in search results. Any video uploaded to YouTube can be used as an ad, which is perfect for those of us that love to reduce, reuse, recycle.

YouTube ads let you:

  • Turn your YouTube videos into advertisements.
  • Place ads on other videos or YouTube channels relevant to your organization.
  • Show those ads to people that are likely to be the most interested through targeting and re-marketing.
  • Manage and track your budget, campaigns, and results as you go.
  • Measure cost per view and cost per click.

What you need for a YouTube Ad

  • YouTube video link
  • Landing page: URL on your site where you want users to land and convert


Best practices for both

Start with Re-marketing

When you see an ad or video for a nonprofit you already know and love, you are more like to notice, pay attention, and click through than you would for an unfamiliar organization. This is re-marketing: showing ads to users who have already visited your site and shown interest in your organization. These ads are effective because they keep past visitors engaged, targets individuals you already know are interested in your message, and pulls them down the funnel of engagement. For example, after researching Google and the display network for this article, I started to see their ads everywhere:

GDN remarketing

It seems spooky at first, Is the internet reading my mind? But it works. When users see your nonprofit over and over again, you build name recognition and remind them why they want to click through.

(Wisely) place your bets

Besides re-marketing, there are many other (slightly creepy) ways to target ads at relevant audiences. You can focus on

Contextual targeting

Show ads on sites, videos, or YouTube channels related to your keywords, targeting users based on the type of content they consume. This way you can find engaged users interested in your mission. If you are the National Black Programming Consortium and you want to reach budding Black filmmakers, you want to place your ads on sites about Black media or videos by Black directors.

Placement targeting

Show ads on specific websites, videos, or YouTube channels that you choose. This makes it super easy if you already know the sites, videos, or channels that your audience visits. Running an ad featuring Bob the Drag Queen? Make sure it is appearing on channels that post about RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Interest category and keyword targeting

Show ads to people interested in certain topics. For example, if your nonprofit provides tutoring for elementary school students in New York, focus on users interested in “tutoring” and searching for “tutors in New York.”

Topic targeting

Show ads on sites, videos, and YouTube channels that are relevant to a certain topic. If it sounds similar to interest categories, that’s because it is. But in this case, you could choose to show ads only on sites related to tutoring for students in New York.

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Geographic and language targeting

Get an even more specific audience with geographic and language targeting. Your ads will resonate even more if your message matches the language and mentions the geographic location you want to reach. If Donate Life wants to increase donations from Spanish-speakers in Texas, they could write an ad in Spanish featuring donation statistics in Texas.

Demographic targeting

Show ads to people based on age or gender. If Girls Who Code is running an ad where they hope to recruit new students for a summer immersion program, they might target “women age 13-18.”

Follow your budget

Start out small when you test and wait to invest more when you know what works and what doesn’t. Impact scales with your budget, so you can drive impact with $5,000 or even just $5. Increase or decrease your bids depending on your goals: if you want to get eyeballs on your videos, focus on high impressions or click-to-views, if you want to drive traffic to your site, focus on clicks-to-site. Always keep a portion set aside for testing, because moods, sites, and your messaging changes, and you always want to be optimizing.

Always be testing

How can your organization stand out in the crowd on your budget? Currently, the majority of Google Display ads are plain text ads, partially because many sites only support text ads. However, image ads not only stand out in the crowd, but may be able to tell a better story depending on your message. Do you have persuasive statistics and calls to action? Is your organization more visual like charity:water? Experiment with formats that fit with your nonprofit’s image, assets, and goals.

The CTA drives

The call-to-action is extremely important in motivating your audience to click through. Make sure it is clear, engaging, and relevant to the ads messaging. In YouTube, you can add a call-to-action overlay on running videos to increase viewer engagement and add an interesting element to the ads.

Get creepy for social good. The more targeted your campaign, the more likely users will be interested and engage. Everybody wins! Because who doesn’t love when a Google Display or YouTube ad feels tailor-made to them and their needs? A happy audience is a more-likely-to-click-through audience.

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!