Did you know that nonprofit organisations can get free advertising dollars from Google every single day? By enrolling in the Google Ad Grant program, Google awards nonprofits with $329 a day in free advertising. You are free to use this roughly $10,000 per month on Google AdWords search campaigns.
First off, let’s take a moment to appreciate the magnitude of what Google is doing with this program. Many for-profit businesses have entire departments and budgets set aside for PPC (pay-per-click) marketing. These companies spend a lot of money on Google AdWords every month to draw attention to their website and hopefully drive conversions and revenues. By subsidising AdWords campaigns for nonprofits, Google is going out of its way to level the playing field for NPOs.
Google Ad Grants and the $2 Campaign Limit
In the past, Google restricted nonprofits to spending $2 maximum per ad through Google Ad Grants. The way AdWords works is that businesses ‘bid’ a certain amount of money for sponsored ad space on Google search result pages. For highly searched, in-demand keywords, the winning bids can be expensive. The highest bidder then wins the ad spot and pays the agreed upon sum of money for each click they get (hence the name pay-per-click advertising). Because of the $2 limit, NPOs have traditionally not been able to compete for the highest-traffic searches. Instead, they’ve needed to find unique keywords that were less expensive but still relevant to their brand message.
Things are changing, though. As of December 2017, Google has eliminated the $2 cost-per-click Ad Grants limit—at least for NPOs using maximise conversions bidding. To get the most out of Ad Grants, in other words, you need to be using the maximise conversions bidding method.
Granted, you would want to be using maximise conversions bidding anyway. With maximise conversions, AdWords is essentially setting your bids for you to get you the most conversions based on your budget. Using sophisticated machine learning technology, the system tailors your bids for every single ad auction, helping you land better ad spots for less money.
Using Goals to Dictate Your Automated Bidding Strategy
Maximise conversions bidding is just one type of automated bidding allowed by AdWords. Google also offers several other automated bidding ‘goals’ that businesses can use to dictate their bidding strategies. Each goal impacts how AdWords will bid for ads on your behalf. As such, it is imperative to pick the goal that aligns with what you are hoping to accomplish through AdWords. Here are the goals you can choose from for your automated bid strategy:
- Increase site visits: With this goal enabled, Google will bid on ads in such a way that maximises the number of clicks on your ad.
- Increase visibility on Google searches: In part, Google AdWords is about getting your business on the first page of Google. This goal tells AdWords to set bids so that your ads will appear on the first page of a relevant search—preferably at the top.
- Outrank other domains: A business would use this goal if there were a specific business or domain it wished to outrank regarding ad positioning.
- Maximise the effectiveness of your Target CPA: This goal lets you set a Target CPA (cost-per-acquisition) and then bids accordingly. It is meant to help you get as many conversions as possible at your set CPA rate.
- Meet your target return on ad spending: With Target ROAS, teams can tell AdWords to hit a certain return on ad spending with its automated bids.
- Get more conversions: With maximise conversions bidding, AdWords bids to 1) spend your entire budget and 2) get as many conversions as possible with that budget.
As mentioned previously, nonprofits must choose to maximise conversions bidding if they wish to avoid Google’s $2-per-bid limit. You can still use the other automated bidding goal options if you wish. For instance, if your nonprofit has a clear return on spend goal, you might prefer to use the Target ROAS goal strategy. However, thanks to Google’s decision to waive the $2 bid cap for maximise conversions bidding, it’s easier to use maximise conversions for any Google Ad Grants campaign.
Setting up Maximise Conversions Bidding
If you want to set up maximise conversions bidding for your AdWords campaign, your first step should be to set up conversion tracking. This feature will allow Google to monitor when your ad clicks are leading to certain types of visitor activity, like donations or newsletter subscriptions. The process for setting up conversion tracking will vary depending on what your preferred conversion actually is. For instance, if the desired conversion is a customer completing an action on your website (such as a donation or purchase) the setup process will be different than if your goal was to get a customer to pick up the phone and call your organisation directly. You can learn how to set up conversion tracking for your specific conversion goal on Google’s AdWords Help page.
Once conversion tracking is properly set up, enabling maximise conversions bidding should be easy. All you need to do is open your AdWords account, navigate to the campaign in question, open the settings menu, and select ‘Bidding.’ Under ‘Select your bid strategy,’ choose ‘Maximise Conversions.’
Remember that AdWords will start spending your entire daily budget under the maximise conversions bidding structure. Some NPOs have daily bid budgets that they’ve never spent in total, thanks to Google’s old $2 bid limit. These organisations sometimes aren’t prepared for the big increase in spending that a total budget spend can bring. Just to be safe, double check your daily AdWords budget to make sure it aligns with what you are comfortable spending.
What about Analytics Goals? Improving the Conversion Potential of Your Website
Monitoring your AdWords campaign is good, but that’s’ not the end of the story! One of the big problems for nonprofits that do take advantage of Ad Grants is that their websites aren’t set up to nourish, retain, or convert the leads from those campaigns. Making use of AdWords goals is an excellent way to start improving your site’s conversion capability.
You can find and start setting up goals by signing into Google Analytics, clicking ‘Admin,’ selecting the relevant Analytics view or account, clicking ‘Goals’ and then clicking ‘+ New Goal.’ You can set up several different goal types, including Destination goals, Duration goals, and Event goals. An Event goal might track when users press play on a video on your page, while a Duration goal would be when a user spent a certain amount of time on your site. Destination goals, though, are probably the most common, as they allow you to track key interactions that users are having with your website.
Goal Completion Location is crucial for Destination goals. Essentially, a Destination goal is marked as ‘complete’ when a visitor views a certain page of your website. The page that triggers the goal is called the ‘Goal Completion Location.’ Sometimes, Goal Completion Locations will just be pages you want users to visit. For a nonprofit, there might be a goal that is triggered anytime someone reads a page about volunteering for a fundraising event. Other times, you might set up a funnel, wherein users must visit several screens or pages in succession before a goal is triggered. You can have as many steps in the funnel as you wish. You might use this setup to guide users through the processing of donating to your nonprofit, with the final donation thank you page functioning as the Goal Completion Location.
Using goals and Goal Completion Locations within Google Analytics—along with Smart Goals for your AdWords campaign—can help your nonprofit get the most out of its free Ad Grant dollars. By understanding better how users are interacting with your site, you can improve the structure to encourage more engagement and more conversions.