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Capitalizing on Now-Even-More-Effective Free Advertising From Google

I considered titling this piece, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Recent Google Nonprofit Ad Grant Changes”, but ultimately, I believe the revisions will cause non-profit Grant recipients to achieve better ad campaign results. So, really, it’s all good.

If you’re not familiar with the Grant Program, whether you’re responsible for creating awareness or causing service use among populations you serve – or for growing donations or volunteers – you may be missing out on a free, extremely-effective means of accomplishing these objectives. Incredibly, Google awards non-profit organizations world-wide, who meet its eligibility requirements, with $120,000 in FREE annual Google Adwords “search” advertising. And, the advertising Grant is indefinite and simply requires recipients to complete an annual survey.

Based on my own and other marketing experts’ experiences, Grants ARE being regularly awarded to eligible non-profits who follow the slightly complex application procedures – Grants aren’t unicorns or pipedreams! You can learn more about minimum eligibility requirements at https://www.google.com/grants/.

The type of advertising awarded is “text” vs. “image.”  Ads appear at the top or bottom of Google search engine results pages when an individual enters terms relevant to a non-profit’s services and mission in the search engine. In the case below, ads are being presented to searchers entering terms such as “help coping with sudden illness.”

Ad Grants sample ad

HOW YOU’LL BENEFIT FROM 2018 PROGRAM CHANGES

While the $ amount associated with the annual advertising budget awarded remains the same, Google made a significant policy change to make 2018 Grants more valuable. With Google AdWords, advertisers bid against each other to have their text ads shown for terms they believe their audiences will be searching on, known as “keywords.” Grant recipients used to be restricted by how much they could bid to have their ads shown for desirable keywords, which often meant that for-profit or non-profit organizations with deeper financial pockets had their ads shown far more frequently than Grant recipients’. The great news is that the cap has been removed related to how much a non-profit can bid, using their free advertising $ pool.

WHY YOU’LL NEED AN IN-HOUSE OR EXTERNAL ADWORDS EXPERT

While Google has made it easier for non-profits to have their ads shown more often to appropriate “searchers”, to take advantage of this opportunity, Grant recipients now must:

  • Achieve a minimum of a 5% click-thru rate on their ads, i.e., at least 5% of the individuals to whom a Grant recipient presents ads must click on the ad to land on the recipient’s website.
  • Use more advanced AdWords features and results tracking, such as “site links” (links that appear below ad copy that reference and point to unique Grant recipient website pages) and conversion tracking that tallies when desired outcomes, such as clicking on a certain link within a page, occurs.
  • Complete additional Grant application steps, such as registering with TechSoup.

Awardees must have a staff member or engage a marketing consultant who:

  • knows the “ins and outs” of Google AdWords and how to employ and optimize advanced features and tracking
  • can both interpret the Grant application process and has the capacity to deal with some of the hiccups that will likely occur

As alluded to in my intro, despite recent Grant changes, I believe using expert staff or consultant time to apply for and maintain a Grant will still render a very positive ROI. Given that ad click-thru costs often range from $0.30 – $5.00, a $120,000 budget goes a long way toward creating awareness or causing other desired outcomes such as service use, and event ticket sales. Thus, ongoing, annual financial benefits should far outweigh the costs associated with obtaining and effectively employing a Grant.