Using Google Ads: Paid Search or the Google Ad Grant?

Using Google Ads

Using Google Ads: Paid Search or the Google Ad Grant?

Google is the largest search engine on the planet, processing an average of over 40,000 search queries every second. That is why advertising with Google should be an important part of your nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy. Nonprofits have two options when advertising with the Google Search Network – creating a paid Google Ads account or applying for the Google Ad Grant. Just what is the difference between paying for Google Ads and the Google Ad Grant, and how do you figure out which is right for your nonprofit? 

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is Google’s advertising software that allows advertisers to pay to show their ads for specific searches on and their search partners. These ads appear when people perform searches and sit above organic results which makes them valuable for spreading awareness. Advertisers can also pay to have their ads displayed on the Google Display Network which is comprised of third-party websites that have partnered with Google and agreed to serve Google ads. 

How does it work?

Google decides what ads appear and where they appear by holding an auction. The Ads Auction happens every time a user performs a search using keywords and determines which ads will appear on a page and in what order. The determining factors include:

  • The maximum amount of money you tell Google Ads you’re willing to pay for a click on your ad.
  • The overall Quality Score of your ad and the landing page that it links back to. 
  • The expected impact from your ad extensions, which includes additional information such as phone numbers and links to specific pages. 

The combination of these three factors makes it so that even with a limited budget, if your ads are relevant and creative, your ads can still perform well with a smaller budget.

the google ads auction: budget, quality score, impact

Using Google Ads

Creating a Google Ads account is simple, however, managing an account can be difficult and time-consuming. From your ad account, you are able to create and manage ad campaigns. Within these campaigns, you can create different ad groups that can be used to focus on specific keywords, create unique ad text, and direct people toward individual landing pages. A major component of optimizing your Google Ads account is determining which strategies work best for your nonprofit, the conversions you want to track, and how much you are willing to spend.

Many nonprofits realize the benefits of advertising with Google, with the most optimal strategy being a combination of Paid Search and Ad Grant Strategies with a 5:1 return on ad spend. Unfortunately, most organizations do not feel they have the money to use an Ads account or the time to maintain an Ad Grant account, let alone utilizing both. Thankfully for them, the Google Ad Grant is free to use. In case you are unaware, the Google Ad Grant is a $120,000 per year grant that Google gives to nonprofits for use on the Ads network. Unlike a normal Ads account, accounts using the Ad Grant have certain limitations in how they are run.

What’s different about the Google Ad Grant?

As stated previously, the Google Ad Grant is free to qualifying nonprofits. To qualify, your nonprofit must hold valid charity status and acknowledge and agree to Google’s required terms concerning nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use. After qualifying, your nonprofit will receive a $10,000 monthly credit for use on Google’s Search Network. The money from the Ad Grant is not eligible for use on the Google Display Network or search partners. In order to ensure that your account continues to qualify for the Google Ad Grant, you must adhere to Google’s account management policy. Summarized below:

  • Your account has to have proper geo-targeting to ensure that your ads will show where they are relevant and useful. 
  • You must have at least two active ad groups per campaign.
  • Your ads need to have at least two unique sitelink extensions.
  • Your account must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month, and not meeting this requirement for 2 consecutive months can lead to your account being temporarily deactivated.
  • You are required to track and acquire meaningful conversions. Meaningful conversions fall along the lines of donations, ticket sales, email sign-ups, and form completions.
  • You must use conversion-based Smart bidding for all campaigns unless you are using Smart campaigns. Each campaign is required to use either Maximize conversions, maximize conversion values, Target CPA, or Target ROAS bidding. 
  • You need to go into your account at least once a month to perform an optimization.
  • Your nonprofit is required to fill out periodic surveys from Google to gauge how your organization is benefiting from Ad Grants. 

The key differences between a regular Google Ads account and an Ad Grant account is the level of flexibility afforded, the amount of money spent, and where on the page each account’s ad type shows. So long as a paid advertiser is adhering to basic Google policies, they are free to do as they wish without any limitations placed upon ad placement, where nonprofits using the Ad Grant are held to a higher standard and will always show lower than paid ads. This higher level of scrutiny and restriction makes sense considering the Ad Grant is free. 

So which form of advertising with Google makes sense for nonprofits to use? If your organization has a clear goal in mind, the answer is both. Using paid search to bolster what you receive from the Ad Grant can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your digital marketing plan. Due to the complexity of this type of strategy we recommend working with a professional that understands all parts of the digital advertising ecosystem and testing as you grow from Google Ad Grants to complimenting it with a paid search or display campaign. That is why we recommend starting with the Ad Grant and then expanding based on your level of success. 

For those who are looking to maximize their success with the Google Ad Grant, you should consider working with a Google Certified Professional Agency like Cause Inspired Media to manage your Ad Grant and other digital marketing. Certified agencies are specialized to work with the Ad Grant and have the knowledge and skills necessary to draw out its full potential. If you are unsure of what to look for when choosing an agency, we recommend reading our guide on how to choose a Google Certified Professional.

If you have any questions about the Google Ad Grant, or you are interested in having Cause Inspired Media manage your Ad Grant, contact us.