Is yours one of the 35,000+ nonprofit organizations receiving a Google Ad Grant? If so, recent Google Ad Grants policy updates (effective January 1, 2018) may affect you.

Failing to follow strict guidelines may result in a suspension or canceled account! Don’t let this happen to you.

We want to help you stay compliant and continue receiving up to $10,000 in free Google AdWords advertising each month to promote your organization and keep bringing qualified visitors to your site. While Google says these changes are to add clarity and raise standards of quality, we want to make sure they make sense to you and your team. Below, we go over some major changes and how they could require adjustments to your current campaigns.

Keyword Restrictions

As Google states, “AdWords works best when an organization’s message is relevant to the user’s search. To help you to get the right audience and to help users find what they’re looking for, each ad and keyword in your Ad Grants AdWords account must reflect your organization’s primary mission, be relevant to your nonprofit’s programs and services, and be specific enough to provide a good experience for the user seeing your ads.

In the past, there were less restrictions put on keywords and nonprofits were able to use almost any keyword they desired. This has changed a bit and account maintenance will require more pruning and optimization. Here are some of the keywords and queries that are not permitted in your Google Ad Grant ads, taken directly from the Mission-Based Campaigns page:

  • Branded words that you don’t own, like “YouTube” or “Google,” or names of newspapers or other organizations
  • Single-word keywords (excluding your own branded words, recognized medical conditions, and a small number of exception keywords published here)
    • Note terms with dashes, periods, or special characters are not treated as single-word keywords
  • Overly generic keywords like “free videos,” “e-books,” “today’s news,” “easy yoga,” “download games,” “job alert,” names of places, names of historical events/people
  • Keywords with a Quality Score of 2 or less

In addition to keyword restrictions, another change is that you will penalized if you’re providing or selling branded products or services that you don’t own.

Account Structure

From the looks of these changes, we’ve gathered that Google really wants to encourage the use of segmentation so that your audience is being shown the right ad at the right time. In the past, nonprofits were able to get away with loose structure where they could have one campaign with one ad group, and one ad and no targeting. But that has changed.

  • Ad Grants accounts must have specific geo-targeting to show ads in locations relevant to your nonprofit.
  • Ad Grants AdWords accounts must have:

Although Google says that if you cannot meet the requirements above, you can pause your AdWords campaigns and use AdWords Express, we don’t recommend doing so. AdWords Express automatically structures your account, which means you have zero control over your account. In other words,

  1. Keywords are chosen automatically
  2. All keywords are broad match
  3. No option for negative keywords
  4. Cannot target device types
  5. No ad extensions

Perhaps the Scariest Change Yet

Google is implementing a mandatory account level CTR of 5%! CTR, or click-through rate, measures how often people click on your ad after it’s shown to them (each time an ad is seen is an impression). Mathematically speaking, it’s clicks divided by impressions. If this CTR requirement isn’t met for two months in a row, your account will be suspended or canceled. While you can request your account to be reinstated after you bring your account back into compliance, it’s a real pain that should be avoided if possible.

If you’re fairly new at AdWords account management, a 5% CTR rate will be difficult to obtain. Since we usually advise people to avoid AdWords Express, we want to emphasize that manually managing your accounts in 2018 will take a lot of work. Google wants to set the bar high, so hitting these metrics won’t be easy.

Let’s End on a Positive Note

There is one change that should be beneficial to your campaigns if you’re tracking conversions. Before 2018, Google set a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid at $2. That is, nonprofits could only bid up to $2 even if they needed to bid more to meet their account goals due to a high average CPC for their industry sector. This has been lifted for accounts that change their bid strategy to Maximize Conversions Bidding.

This is great news since a cap of $2 might not even rank your ad on the first page of Google if it’s a competitive keyword. Now there’s an opportunity to rank higher and still acquire as many conversions as the Ad Grants budget allows. The new rules will also result in using fewer keywords in your account, so it should be easier to manage once you find the right combinations.

Help is on the Way!

While all of these rules went into effect on January 1, 2018, keep in mind that you have two whole months to organize and clean everything up in your account before review. Of course, we always recommend that people do their research and see what changes are taking place.

But, help is here if you need it! At JB Media, we have many years of experience working with nonprofits and managing Google Ad Grant accounts, if you need help or have any questions, please feel free to contact us through this simple form, or reach out to Justin Belleme,