Google Grants – The Updates

Google Grants – The Updates

Emily Walton

Head of Outreach & PPC at Roots Creative Ltd
Emily Walton

Latest posts by Emily Walton (see all)

As much as I like to badger Google for squeezing as much value out of their clients as possible, I can admit that their Google Grants program is extremely generous. Google provides non-profit organisations with up to $10,000/month “free” advertising spend on their AdWords marketing platform.

Until January 2018, a brief summary of the restrictions that Google imposed on the Grants advertisers was that you had to only advertise on the Search Network, you couldn’t make use of search partners and you couldn’t bid more than $2 cost per click. (Or for those of you who aren’t into the PPC-jargon, you were limited in your position on the results page and also where you could show your ad on the internet.) The cost per click restriction was to encourage the use of more relevant keywords and better landing pages in order to improve ad rank through improving your quality scores.

This then led to quite a substantial influx of PPC-imposters; bidding on any keyword that vaguely related to their charity as to utilise every penny of the “free” budget available, which had been targeted to… the world. (Example for the PPC-enthusiasts; ‘charity’ or ‘donation’ on broad match). What we need to remember at this point is that Google wants to make searcher’s experience as streamlined as it can be (better user experience on Google = more users of Google). This influx of vaguely relevant ads, this unthought-through or haphazard user journey to site, was damaging to that user experience and therefore damaging to Google’s reputation as a search engine.

This brought about a major development in the “rules” of managing a grants account and a serious crack-down on your do’s/don’ts:

Keyword bidding:

  • No bidding on other organisation’s brand names
  • No single word keywords that are too broad to reflect the mission of the NPO
  • Quality scores have to be 3 and above.
  • The $2 CPC cap is lifted, as long as you use the bid optimization strategy called Maximize Conversions – enabling Google to bid whatever they like if they see a conversion more


  • Location targeting can only be those relevant to the organisation (no more showing in South Africa for charities that support shelter for the homeless in London…)


  • At least 2 active ad groups per campaign, with 2 active text ads within them.
  • Maintain a 5% CTR each month
  • Accounts that miss that threshold for two consecutive months will be suspended
  • Complete an annual survey around your participation in the grants account

AdWords Express Implications

I feel that though a lot of these rules are there to improve user experience, there’s also a background motive for Google; AdWords Express. This is Google’s version of me (PPC manager); an automated account that manages your account without the need for daily management or upkeep. The implications of the above restrictions imply some level of knowledge of managing an AdWords account, for example, knowing what quality scores are, what influences your quality scores and how to improve them.

Since most NGO’s have very little disposable time to start learning about things like the impact of changing their targeting bid strategy on performance; this then pushes them to hand the reigns back to Google for their automated AI robots to run themselves.

So, what does this mean for you?

If you’re an NGO thinking about expanding your reach through Google Grants then the new rules mean that you need to do it properly or risk having your account suspended and losing $329 of “free advertising budget” each day.

Before considering AdWords Express – remember that ultimately, Google are there to make money, while experienced PPC managers are there to squeeze every ounce of value from your Google Grants account.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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