Managing Google Ad Grants is an art and science. At its core, it’s a technology platform that presents small text ads to people searching online with Google. The ads are only presented to the specific individuals who are using keywords related to the ads. For example, someone searching for red shoes, would see ads related to red shoes, as well as the organic, non-ads that have to do with red shoes. That’s an over-simplification, but it does outline the key advertising process.
Yet, to be more factual, a better description would need to include important nuances, such as the fact that not all ads may be shown for any given search, even if the keywords are perfectly matched, since other advertisers also have ads they want displayed at the same time. It’s a competitive process. And to make things more interesting, even if there were no competition, some ads might still not be shown, if Google deems them to be low quality. In other words, someone could be searching for red shoes, and even if there are only a few advertisers, Google might show only the best ad, even though they have space to run more ads (especially for any business that elects to bid less, or pay less, for the keywords).
In the commercial world, since businesses are paying to show the ads related to the keywords (more accurately, they are paying for people to click on ads related to specific keywords), those who are paying for the keywords will only run them for some amount of time if the ads are not profitable. So, there’s a self-selection process. If the ads don’t make money, the business will stop paying for them or will continue to do the necessary work to improve the ads. (Technically, the ads themselves are only part of the process. There is important work in managing the keywords and other factors related to the ads).
On the other hand, in the nonprofit world, there has been a tendency for nonprofits to continue to run low-quality ads indefinitely — since Google was footing the bill.
That changed in 2018.
Up until 2018, a nonprofit could obtain Google Ad Grants, do a poor job of using the advertising, but still gain some results and continue on indefinitely. That ended in 2018 with changes Google made to their ad grants. Now, there are performance thresholds that must be maintained, or Google will suspend a nonprofit’s ad grants.
And so they have.
In record numbers.
In other words, the necessity to learn Google Ad Grants Management is higher than at any time the past.
LEARNING GOOGLE AD GRANTS MANAGEMENT
Like anything else, and especially learning technology, the mechanics of managing Google Ad Grants can be grasped. More to the point, such needs to be learned to gain productive value from Google Ad Grants. And since 2018, basic Google Ad Grants Management must be learned to even keep the ad grants.
Make no mistake: Poor ad grants management will result in a loss of Google Ad Grants.
Heck, even good management can result in 30-day suspension notices, because a good manager will always try new advertising ideas. That’s really the crux of what ad management is all about. It’s a process of continually testing ideas that show promise and then pruning away those that don’t demonstrate such promise, while improving those that do.
30-day suspension notices do not effect the account for a month. They are simply a notice from Google that if certain things are not remedied in 30 days the account will be suspended and all ads will stop. So, an account can be managed properly and as part of routine management experience, receive suspension notices without the ads ever being stopped.
An important advantage to attain is to have at least one high-performing campaign in a Google Ad Grants account. If one campaign consistently maintains high performance metrics, it can prop up other lower-performing campaigns, while they are being developed. Of course, an even better position is to have multiple campaigns that are robust. Realistically, that can take a while of regular maintenance and management to achieve.
By the way, even a suspended account can be reactivated in a few weeks (which is one of the services Nonprofit Fire provides). But there are no ads running while the account is suspended.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN GOOGLE AD GRANTS MANAGEMENT?
Fundamental to becoming proficient with Google Ad Grants Management would be a blend of creativity and acute analytical prowess. However, even that is not enough without these two characteristics:
1) A willingness to continually learn
2) Gaining real-world experience
Expert knowledge today can become eclipsed tomorrow by new strategies. On a macro level, a nonprofit could have been reasonably satisfied with their Google Ad Grants performance for years and then be surprised to find their entire account is canceled in 2018 due to new rules.
On a micro level, most campaigns have some undefined limited life. A campaign could perform well for a good length of time with ongoing maintenance and then one day begin to crash slowly over the course of several months. For example, what if red shoes became unfashionable? Less people would search for them. Or what if many more entities started advertising red shoes? Smarter or wealthier competition could push down earlier advertisers of red shoes. Hence, new strategies should be continually developed.
The key is ongoing learning.
Like most things in life, there’s no substitute for experience. For example, a sincere effort could be made by a new Google Ad Grants Manager, who recently read a book and/or did an online course. (Both should be done!)
But such a person could still miss the boat by a wide margin. They may come up with an apparently interesting campaign idea, develop some seemingly workable ads, select appropriate starting keywords, categorize them in proper ad groups and spend the time to get all the settings right in the Google Ad Grants platform. In other words, they could mechanically execute what Google requires. But once the campaign is live, very little happens. Or in some cases, nothing at all happens. (This is not hypothetical. This does occur). The key here is for such a person to recognize that they are simply gaining experience. And by the way, there is no substitute for actual Google Ad Grants experience. Not just experience with Google Ads, in general.
Although Google Ad Grants is a scaled-down version of the commercial Google Ads platform (previously called Adwords), there are some important differences that might be missed by a veteran of Google Ads, who is not familiar with Google Ad Grants. For example, some nonprofit campaigns are simply going to be very challenged to become productive with Google Ad Grants. A primary reason would be if the nonprofit is attempting to compete in a market dominated by commercial entities. For example, nonprofits that have a mission to help people get off drugs, or handle debt problems or lose weight, will be challenged because Google always provides priority to advertisers who are paying with real money, as opposed to ad grants. In other words, in those markets, where the competition is unusually high and includes commercial entities that have been developing their campaigns for years, a Google Ad Grants Manager is going to have a tough time.
WHO ARE THE BEST PERSONS TO BECOME GOOGLE AD GRANTS MANAGERS?
A1) Someone who is already an expert with Google Ads is an ideal prospect. However, they can also become frustrated because the Google Ad Grants platform seems identical to what they are accustomed to (because it is). But if they don’t realize that there are built-in and unseen limitations, they could become perplexed. And once they learn about the limitations, they could then determine they don’t want to bother with it because their experience is better served in the commercial world. But assuming such a person does learn and embrace the difference, such a person is an excellent candidate for Google Ad Grants Management.
B1) A patient, detail-oriented person who is creative and comfortable with technology and who also has knowledge of advertising, is another good candidate. Since Google Ad Grants is only a slice of Google Ads, such a person does not have to learn the whole universe of Google Ads. They can focus on Google Ad Grants only and methodically learn it and become proficient over time by gaining actual experience.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME PROFICIENT WITH GOOGLE AD GRANTS MANAGEMENT?
A2) Someone who is already an expert with Google Ads could become proficient with Google Ad Grants in a matter of weeks, depending upon how enthusiastic they are about mastering the differences. Theoretically, they could just study the differences in an afternoon. But if they are already an expert with Google Ads, the limitations will necessitate breaking habits and assumptions they have ingrained in their management process and they will probably have to bump into the limitations in the real world to meaningfully embrace such.
B2) It’s difficult to say how much time a new person would require to really become competent with Google Ad Grants. One unique challenge is that the Google Ads platform (again, it’s the same platform for Google Ad Grants, but it’s scaled down), is in a continual state of evolution. Not all the changes are relevant to Google Ad Grants proper, but ongoing changes are normal. It so happens that 2018 was the year of the biggest changes so far for Google Ad Grants. But in 2016 Google canceled their Grants Pro program, which was a significant change. (Grants Pro allowed up to $40K/mo in ad grants for qualified Google Ad Grants recipients). Anyway, if a person is diligent about learning and applying Google Ad Grants, they should be able to attain a level of proficiency in about 2 years. Having said that, after ten years, they may not consider they knew much in their first few years.
WHAT’S THE “OTHER SIDE” OF GOOGLE AD GRANTS?
It’s an unfortunate reality that a large number of Google Ad Grants Managers only focus on one side of the Google Ad Grants equation. It’s understandable. But unfortunate, nevertheless.
Google Ad Grants for nonprofits and the full power of Google Ads for commercial entities are both designed for one purpose: to bring visitors to your website. It’s a never-ending job to continue to improve the side of the equation that gets that visitor to click an ad. But what happens after a person has clicked the ad? All the work is for naught if there is not a thoughtful and well crafted experience awaiting that new visitor. Otherwise, they will be gone in seconds and many will never return.
Whose job is it to create that experience?
Rightfully so, Google Ad Grants Managers will state with confidence that such is the responsibility of the nonprofit. Factually, it’s true. Google Ad Grants Managers work backwards from the page the nonprofit tells them to bring visitors. Heck, many nonprofits just select their home page or their donation page as the target for visitors. However, for a variety of reasons, these are usually poor choices.
By the way, online donations are attainable, but not usually on an initial visit by someone unfamiliar with your nonprofit. For a complete strategy for nonprofit fundraising using Google Ad Grants, visit the Perpetual Fundraising Engine.
Now, a new Google Ad Grants Manager will not think twice about your direction. That person will do what they can to develop campaigns to bring visitors to the page you select. Their ultimate results may be hit or miss, no matter how sincere their efforts.
An experienced Google Ad Grants Manager may suggest that you consider a web page that is more meaningful to potential visitors or directly aligns with an attainable goal.
Yet, some experienced Google Ad Grants Managers will not challenge your landing page selection. (The web page you want visitors to “land” or arrive on). They know it opens up a substantial and important discussion that is outside of their responsibility. And they are also not getting paid to do so. In effect, it’s the most important thing they could tell you, but it’s not in their best interests to do so.
Hence, we come down to the most important part of this article: Story.
GOOGLE AD GRANTS STORY TRIANGLE
If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, it should be this: The single, most important factor regarding your Google Ad Grants success is the “marketing story” that embraces the ads, the keywords, the landing pages and all the messaging.
You can have a very competent Google Ad Grants Manager and still have little success if you are working with a poor or mediocre marketing story.
However, you can have good results with a great story and mediocre Google Ad Grants Management.
In an ideal world, you’d have an appropriate Google Ad Grants marketing story and superb Google Ad Grants Management. That is how you gain the most value for your nonprofit from Google Ad Grants.
Story development requires the most search advertising and Google Ad Grants experience to get right.
Cue the Google Ad Grants Story Triangle.
The Google Ad Grants Story Triangle is about developing the right topic, the right keywords, and the right free giveaway, in a way that are all mutually relevant to your nonprofit mission. It requires a tailor-made landing page. Such a story will usually boil down to one specific concept that informs all messaging, including the keywords, the ads, the landing pages, images, videos, infographics, educational materials, etc., that are all connected to your nonprofit. This is too big a topic to cover at the end of this article, but it’s outlined in more detail in the following video that will make Google Ad Grants work more productively for your nonprofit.
Visit the following link:
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF
In conclusion, be patient with yourself. Google has developed the largest advertising platform in the world. As a for-profit enterprise, Google makes the vast majority of their wealth from businesses paying to use their ad platform. They allow nonprofits to use a slice of this same platform for no cost. That slice is very powerful when used appropriately. When used effectively, it can be the single most important asset for getting your nonprofit message out to the world.