Nonprofit? Here’s How to Get Free Ads on Google

Google’s Ad Grants program provides nonprofits with a great opportunity to spread their message: $10,000 of free advertising to spend on AdWords – the ads that appear on the results page after you Google something. But with free advertising, comes strict guidelines. In this article, we’ll cover some of the major requirements and best practices to make sure your organization stays within good standing.

Who Qualifies?

To be applicable for the Google Ad Grants program, your organization must exist for charitable purposes and all of your ads must be mission-based. To maintain eligibility month-to-month, you must also adhere to the program policies outlined below.

Bid Strategies

A bid is the maximum dollar amount that an advertiser wants to spend to reach their campaign goals. Knowing what you want your ads to accomplish is the first step in selecting a bid strategy. Google allows advertisers to maximize campaign performance towards clicks, impressions, conversions, video views (for video ads) or engagement. Most people default to a cost-per-click (CPC) bid strategy to drive traffic to their website. Once a bid strategy is selected, your ads are automatically placed in a real-time auction where they are programmatically placed based on the competitive landscape and your maximum bid. Unlike a regular Google search campaign, nonprofits must conform to one of two bidding strategies, each of which poses different benefits and challenges.

  • Maximum Cost-Per-Click (CPC) Bid of $2
    This is the initial bidding strategy set by Google. The idea behind this bidding model is to make sure that your ads are extremely relevant. However, it can be difficult to spend all $10,000 with such a low bid.
  • Maximize Conversions
    This is a new bidding option that Google introduced earlier this year to leverage their machine learning capabilities. Instead of being based on the bid, this type of campaign focuses on showing ads to people who are more likely to convert – e.g., visit a specific landing page on your website, fill out a form or buy tickets to a fundraising event. You should determine these goals prior to setting up the campaign so you know how to optimize throughout. While this tactic may sound more “hands off,” it will require you to set up precise conversion goals and continually optimize your campaign.
“Monitor your campaigns to make sure they remain within good standing.”

Keeping Your Account in Good Standing

The most important of all is monitoring your campaigns to make sure they remain within good standing. Below are the main things to monitor so you don’t lose your ad grant:

  • +5 Percent Click-Through Rate (CTR)
    This is the most difficult of all and will also affect which of the above bidding strategies you choose. A campaign’s click-through rate (CTR) is calculated by dividing the number of times someone clicked on the ad by the number of times the ad was shown (clicks/impressions). If you fall below five clicks per 100 impressions for two consecutive months, your Ad Grants account will be temporarily suspended.
  • Keywords
    Google has also set a few rules regarding the keywords you can use for your Ad Grants campaign. The types of keywords you can use are limited, and all of them must have a Quality Score of at least 2. Here is a list of keyword types that cannot be used:
    • Single keywords – because the goal of Google Ad Grants is to drive relevant traffic to your website, single words are too broad for Google to bid on at such a low cost. Your own brand keywords, approved medical conditions and some other cases are deemed an exception to this policy.
    • Branded keywords that are not specifically related to your brand – you are not allowed to bid on keywords that include the name of a competitor or related service in your area (i.e. museums cannot bid on names of other museums).
    • Generic keywords – you can’t use keywords that are broad in nature and don’t relate to the mission, such as “things to do,” “best videos,” “today’s news,” or people’s names (unless they relate to your mission).
    • Keywords that promote violence, hatred or discrimination
  • Account Structure Policy
    Google asks you to complete a yearly Google Ad Grants program survey, and at minimum, your campaign will need to include:
    • At least two ad groups
    • At least two active text ads
    • At least two sitelink extensions
    • Geotargeting

Awareness is always a primary goal of nonprofits, and Google Ad Grants makes that possible, providing you with the opportunity to reach your community without using donated dollars, freeing up funds for other issues that matter to you – and giving your board and community peace of mind.

Learn more about how nonprofits can be more effective online.

Want a hand with your Google ad grant? We can help.



Google – Mission-Based Campaigns

Wordstream – Google Ad Grant Policy Changes

Google – Account Management Policy

Tags: Web & Digital, Media Planning & Buying

Put our experts to work

Contact Us