Jan 2018 – Changes To Google Ad Grants – Non Profit Accounts at Risk

by | Jan 7, 2018

13 min read

google grants lets-do-step2_1xGoogle Ad Grants is a programme offering AdWords credit up to $10,000 per month for non-profit entities.
Effective 1st January 2018, new policies will impact how your account qualifies for the monthly grant budget. Updated policies available on Google site. If you’re a Non-profit and currently run a Google AdWords, forward this to your account manager.
If you’re a non-profit that does not know of Google’s Ad Grant program you can find out if you are eligible first before starting the application process. You will need to be a registered charity with TechSoup, but qualified organizations receive up to $10,000 per month in Ad Spend.

Key changes to Google Ad Grants

  1. Accounts must maintain Click Through Rate (CTR) of min 5%
  2. Keywords with a Quality Score of 2 or less
  3. Lift of the max. $2 cost per click (CPC)
  4. Accounts must contain campaigns with geo-targeting. (good practice)
  5. Bidding on single-word keywords prohibited (in most cases). More info (good practice)
  6. Campaigns contain min. 2 ad groups with at least 2 live ads in each. (good practice)
  7. Accounts also must have at least two site link extensions active. (good practice)
  8. Branded keywords only for the ones they own (cannot buy competitors or non-related brands)

As you would see, most changes imposed are derived from best practices. Making grant money spend more efficient

1. Click Through Rate (CTR) of min 5%

The most important change is the new CTR minimum threshold. Google Ad Grants Accounts are now required to maintain a minimum of 5% Click Through Rate.
Google Ad Grants - CTR example
This change will require most accounts to review the following:

  1. account strategy
  2. campaign setup
  3. Adgroup setup
  4. Adcopies
  5. Keyword match targeting and selection

Definition by Google of Click Through Rate (CTR):  is the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown: clicks ÷ impressions = CTR. For example, if you had 5 clicks and 100 impressions, then your CTR would be 5%.
Click Through Rate is a key element in Google AdWords to determine the quality of an advertiser account and campaigns. It is one of the main components of AdWords Quality Score.
What if I miss the threshold: Accounts that miss the threshold for two consecutive months will be suspended. In product notification
Accounts in jeopardy of being cancelled will be “alerted through in-product notifications if your account is at risk of falling below 5 percent CTR with educational resources offered to improve.”
According to a US-based digital agency specialised in non-profits “… most Ad Grant accounts we look at typically have a 1.5 percent to 4 percent click-thru rate.” This would mean a number of accounts could be at risk of seeing their grants revoked.
If you are at risk of losing your grant, contact us today
Google Ad Grants - notifications

2. Keywords with a Quality Score of 2 or less

According to Google studies showed that ads from Non-profits ad grants accounts were of lower quality than standard, paid ads. In most case, removing or updating keywords with low-quality scores is a good practice and can help your account reach the minimum threshold for 5% click-through rate.

3. Lift of the max. $2 cost per click (CPC)

this change is a double edge sword. Accessing more competitive keywords can help an organisation tap into more seasonal or popular terms and stop being ‘priced out’ of potential targets.
However, it also means that AdWords management needs to be more thorough to avoid burning through the grant quickly. Some keywords out there are ridiculously expensive, especially when they deal with medical

Google Ad Grant - Example Removal CTR

An example of how a bad keyword selection can burn your budget

4. Campaigns with geotargeting

Most non-profit organisations have set target markets in term of geography. By encouraging/forcing NFP organisations to set geotargeting for their campaigns, Google Ad Grants team is reducing the risk of wasted clicks and budgets.

Google Ad Grants - irrelevant geo targeting

Bad Targeting is likely to lead to poor CTR and wasted spend


5. Single-word keywords prohibited

Single word keywords/search queries that are not brand related are often very broad. Meaning, it is often hard to derive a proper intent from just 1 word.
The screenshot below shows how costly these keywords can be in AdWords. Words like “donation” or “charity” give little idea of what the intention of the user is. Are they looking for a charity to donate to? Or are they looking how donation might affect their tax return? Both objectives are relevant to the keywords mentioned, yet the chances for someone conducting a basic search to actually donate is relatively slim.

Google Ad Grants - no single word keyword

Single word search queries are rarely well targeted. Leading to high costs and low impact

6. Min. 2 ad groups with at least 2 live ads

Again a good practice exercise suggested by Google here.
You want to always be testing new ways of conveying your message. even if you have a strong winner for a specific adgroup, you may find that different ads resonate better with a subset of target customers.

7. Sitelink extensions

Sitelink extensions typically improve click-through rate by providing great “shelf space” to your ad or enabling users to pick a specific topic associated with your ad.

8. Branded keywords only for the ones they own

A common cause of low-quality score is poor click-through rate. Bidding on non-relevant keywords such as other brands is likely to drive your average CTR down and this can be quite detrimental (see point 1). Review your account and make sure you are not bidding on competitors terms (either purposely or inadvertently)


Overall, we see these changes as a good thing. A more stringent threshold means more care and quality will be put in accounts, maximising this generous grant.
Review and Improvement of keyword targeting (match type and negative keywords) are often a quick win to rapidly boost Click Through Rate. However, more thoughts need to be given to your account structure and strategy to ensure your account remains compliant.
With only 2 months of ‘grace period’ offered by Google and changes already upon us, it is important to ensure campaigns are reviewed and updated as early as possible.

Need Help To Keep Your Google Ad Grant Account Compliant?

If you are not sure how well your campaigns are performing or need help bringing your account to the new threshold, we can help you get up to speed.
[gdlr_accordion style=”style-1″ initial=”1″]
[gdlr_tab title=”Learn AdWords & Digital Marketing While Working With Us”]
A key differentiator for us is we love our work and we enjoy sharing our knowledge and helping clients gain experience while working with us.
Some of our team members have been training folks for many years. Our top shot analytics specialist wrote the Google Analytics course, Our PPC expert is one of the are best-rated trainers on websites like Udemy and our Managing Director is often found teaching classes at unis or general assembly school for entrepreneurs.
[gdlr_tab title=”What Is Included?”]
We treat non-profits like any other clients. With the due care and professionalism necessary to deliver the right value for your organisation.

  1. We offer a free 30 min. consultation where we cover our approach and answer questions you may have related to our engagement.
  2. Our team then run through a comprehensive health check of your account based on our objectives and current status of campaigns.
  3. During the review period, a member of our team will provide your team with an overview of AdWords and what to look for in the future
  4. Once reviewed, our team apply the most critical fixes and provide a report on changes and future opportunities for improvement
  5. Once the fix is completed, our team will discuss further opportunities or areas of improvement if needed. This is a no-strings attached conversation [/gdlr_tab]

[gdlr_tab title=”How Long Will It Take?”]ACCORDION_CONTENT_2[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”How Much Will It Cost?”]
Our health check + initial fixes is usually between $3,500 – $4,500. For some NFP this is enough to provide a healthy base to work on.
For those interested in improving further their performance, our typical engagement for AdWords management for non-profits range from $1,500 to $2,500 per month depending on the size and complexity of campaigns.
[gdlr_tab title=”How Quickly Can You Fix Our Account?”]
Our health check + initial fixes are usually done in 2-3 weeks.
Ongoing optimisation plan is customised to each client but our experience suggests good results for a minimum of 3-6 months plan
[gdlr_tab title=”Who Will Work On The Project”]
We assign a dedicated project manager to your account
The account will be serviced by high-quality AdWords professionals.
We organise a weekly call + email with a point of contact in your team
The team will update you on the most critical fixes and implement approved changes
You will receive a report on what we found, how we fixed it and further opportunities to improve your digital performance
We do our best work in tandem with digital marketing and/or website management teams.
Contact us. We usually respond within 1/2 working day.
Contact us


Recommended for you

Get Our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter and receive monthly updates on what we’ve been up to, digital marketing news and more.

Your personal information will not be shared, and we don’t like mail spam or pushy salesmen either!