At the start of 2018, Google rolled out a set of new policies governing their Ad Grant program that provides $10,000/month in advertising credit for Google Search advertising. The effect these new policies have had is greater than any other change in the history of the program, and has had widespread repercussions positively and negatively. Let’s take a look at what we have seen this year through the lens of our clients’ accounts.
One of the biggest changes that affected every strategy in all our accounts involves limits to what keywords can be bid on in auction. Most of these restrictions, like the requirement of maintaining a minimum quality score, made sense from the beginning. To put it simply, this new rule keeps low quality ads from showing, and increases trust in Google’s Ad Platform (something everyone in the digital marketing world can appreciate). On the other end, especially in the early months of 2018, the idea that a keyword could meet every necessary qualification, from CTR to Conversions to Quality Score, and still be considered “Overly Generic,” was a challenging pill to swallow. For the most part, these changes have improved the type of work we can do for nonprofits, while only creating a few obstacles.
Automated Bidding, $2 Bid Cap, And Confusion
When we talk to nonprofits with a grasp of the importance of digital marketing, and don’t use the Google Ad Grant, the same question always comes up: “What about the $2 bid cap? My industry is too competitive for that.” This all changed with the advent of automated bidding strategies. Google has had some level of automation for years, and has been pushing their AI bidding strategies in paid accounts for the past two years. When we were presented with the opportunity to use AI Bidding to go above the $2 cap on our clients’ Google Ad Grants, we jumped at the chance. Using one of the automated bidding strategies takes all control of what is paid per click out of the hands of the account manager, and into the hands of Google’s AI. For our clients, this has been a major benefit, allowing us to show ads only to users who are likely to donate, sign up for a newsletter, or perform some other valuable interaction. However, many nonprofits (and sometimes their agencies) have been confused by the new rules and try to manually bid higher which can result in suspension from the program.
Understanding value has always been a challenge. What is it worth when someone sees an ad, clicks it, or does something on a website? For businesses, this is pretty straightforward, but for nonprofits it becomes more and more complicated due to the wide variety of audiences they serve, and the goals they have. The Ad Grant policy update has brought this challenge to the forefront. Nonprofits and agencies must now think about this and go the extra mile, as Google requires conversions to be tracked and and assigned value, either dynamically via donation value, or manually with clear value and assurance that they are tracked accurately.
All of these changes make the landscape year to year unrecognizable. Less potential keywords, more automation, and strict conversion tracking rules all add up to overall better results for organized nonprofits. However, it can be much more difficult to parse the results. Typically nonprofits following the policies closely and successfully see less overall clicks and impressions, but a much stronger showing on value.
Written By: Cause Inspired Media, COO, Sean Kerr