Google AdWords schemes for non-profit organisations shaken up

Google AdWords has completed some significant updates to its scheme for non-profit organisations, with several policy changes already in place.

The Ad Grants programme gives charities monthly search advertising grants of up to $10,000, and more than 35,000 organisations take part in the scheme.

Before Christmas, advertisers and agencies started receiving emails about a number of major policy changes, introduced to “add clarity and raise quality standards for Google’s free advertising grants.”

While this may be good news for searchers, if you’re a charity or other non-profit organisation, you need to be prepared.

Here’s an overview of the updates, now effective:

1.)New 5% CTR requirement

Accounts must maintain a CTR or click-through rate of at least 5%. If you miss that threshold for two months in a row, your account could be suspended.

Where there’s a risk of cancellation, Google says it will “alert through in-product notifications, with educational resources offered to improve.”

It also points out that this new CTR minimum is already lower than the current programme average, and that the updates, including those mentioned below, should help most accounts to keep the 5% average CTR quite easily.

To put things in context, one digital agency specialising in non-profit organisations explained that most Ad Grant accounts it handled had a typical CTR of between 1.5% and 4%.

So it’s by no means an impossible task, particularly if you bid on keywords aligned with your organisation’s goals, and use powerful ad copy.

But, of course, every account fluctuates, sometimes due to factors such as seasonality which are beyond your control. So don’t let things get anywhere near the stage of cancellation or put that $10,000 worth of advertising at risk.

While you can ask to have your account reinstated, that’ll need a complete account overhaul of all issues affecting CTR.

It’s much better to structure your account to avoid cancellations in the first place. That means using geo-targeting, so your ads reach searchers in areas relevant to your organisation.

Each campaign you run should have at least two active ad groups, containing related keywords and two active text ads. You should also feature a minimum of two sitelink extensions, ideally implemented at the campaign or ad group level.

2.) Lifting of the $2 bid cap

Google Grants has lifted the $2 bid cap when campaigns use the Maximize Conversions bid strategy. This bid optimisation strategy automatically sets bids to maximize the potential for improved conversion volume. It decides the perfect bid for any given ad.

3.) Other changes

There have been other policy updates, including:

  • Keywords need to have a quality score of at least 3
  • You can no longer buy a branded keyword you don’t own
  • Most single-word keywords are now banned, effectively meaning non-profits have to choose well-targeted keywords

Every ad and keyword in your account “must reflect your organisation’s primary mission, be relevant to your non-profit…and be specific enough to provide a good experience for the user seeing your ads.”

Google says it’s giving accounts time to adjust to the changes, although some in the industry have criticised the introduction of big updates at short notice. And while some say Google is now encouraging non-profits towards the alternative of AdWords Express, the search giant insists this remains only an option.

At Front Page Advantage, we know these changes may seem daunting for charities, and we’re here to help. Talk to us today if you’re a non-profit organisation, and we’ll help steer you through it all.