The last time I published some tips was in 2019, so I thought it was about time I racked my brain to come up with some new Google Ad Grant management advice that I would give to someone in charge of managing a grant for charity. This list is in no particular order, so I suggest you read it first and then set aside a day in your 2022 diary to work your way through implementing each of the tips because some are quick wins while others may take you a little longer.
Only use responsive search ads
If you edit an Expanded Text Ad you will see the following warning:
⚠ Starting 30 June 2022, you’ll no longer be able to create or edit Expanded Text Ads. Learn more.
This notice should be the reason you need to start using Responsive Search Ads. If you’re worried about the lack of control over how your ads look, then pin the headlines into the positions that you require.
Pinning headlines gives you greater control over your ad copy, however this will affect the Ad Strength score, as it reduces flexibility.
Use a paid budget for valuable keywords
An important rule to remember is that a Google Ad Grantee will not appear above a paying advertiser in the search results. So when a charity wants to bid on keywords that have a monetary value such as “donate to dementia”, I often find they have little chance of receiving that donation unless they use a paid budget to appear top.
One way to find out if this is necessary is to look at the Auction Insights for that Ad Group in your Ad Grant account.
You can see that the charity “You” gets 59% of the impressions for “donate to dementia” keywords; however, only 1.72% of the time they are at the top of the page. I know both their Responsive Search Ad and page relevance have a high-quality score and I can see one of the competing ad results has nothing to do with dementia, so the limiting factor here is not using a paid budget.
To use a paid budget for ads you will need to create a new Google Ad Account which will be billed.
Use broad match keywords
Keyword Match Types no longer function how you’d expect them to, learn more about Keyword Match Types. A lot of accounts will have been using Broad Match Modifier, which was a separate matching behaviour and it’s no longer available. “This change means that existing BMM keywords will behave exactly as if they were phrase keywords.” I found that these changes affected the performance of a lot of accounts so I removed all BMM keywords and reintroduced Broad Match keywords which can then be edited to become Phrase or Exact Match if necessary.
For Google Ad Grants, you have a luxury that paid advertisers can’t afford, a free budget. This means you can use Broad Match and make some mistakes by spending money on search terms that are not very relevant to your mission but learn from these mistakes. Make sure that you add these Search Terms to your Negative Keywords so you don’t continue to spend budget on them in the future.
Use image extensions
There’s already a blog on my website about image extensions for Ad Grant accounts but in short, they are useful and yes, you should use them!
Optimise your landing pages
The number one reason a charity will fail to make the most of their Google Ad Grant is not having search engine optimised (SEO) content on their website. This is also the biggest reason for poor Organic performance, so getting it right will make a difference to your charity mission.
The key to Google Ad Grant success is this formula:
Quality Score = Ad Relevance + Landing Page Experience + Expected CTR
Without a high-quality score, your well-written ads are not likely to perform very well, especially for valuable/competitive keywords.
To ensure a high-quality landing page experience you will need to understand Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), and User Experience (UX). I would suggest you learn about SEO with Moz and then subscribe to their 30-day free trial. Before this trial ends, get the Moz Pro Non-Profit Discount which will get you 75% off their subscription.
The more relevant your ads and landing pages are to the user, the more likely it is that you'll see higher Quality Scores.
Set up Google Analytics 4 and connect it to your Google Ad Grant
Google Analytics 4 was launched in October 2020 and it’s my guess that less than 5% of nonprofits have upgraded to it.
Don’t expect GA4 to be more intuitive than Universal Analytics; however, there are some benefits such as enhanced measurement which automatically tracks actions such as outbound clicks, file downloads, and video engagement. These measurements are for tracking average engagement time which has replaced bounce rate. RIP.
If you're currently using Universal Analytics (aka GA3), you can learn more about GA4 and then upgrade by visiting the admin section of your Google Analytics account and selecting “GA4 Setup Assistant”.
Once you have learned how to set up additional event and conversion tracking with GA4, you can then import these conversions into your Google Ad Grant.
Note: GDPR came into effect in 2018 and I still get contacted by charities with websites that have either no cookie acceptance message on their website or one that will record Google Analytics data regardless of whether the user accepts the cookie or not.
Google Analytics is covered by the requirements of the EU Cookie Law. This means website owners must seek consent for the use of GA. Consent is required because analytics cookies are not strictly necessary to provide the service that the user requests.
I haven’t reviewed all the options out there but I quickly found CookieHub—a great choice for small charities as it’s free up to 25,000 sessions per month. If you do need the premium version, you can use the promo code, MJE5MTGW, to get a 10% discount on all subscriptions.
Assign values to conversions
A couple of years back, most Google Ad Grants accounts functioned using just a couple of flimsy conversions such as visited 2 pages and spent 2 minutes on site. These types of conversions aren’t particularly helpful for understanding if a user visiting your website is engaged. If you have upgraded to GA4, you will have some events automatically available that you can use as conversions such as file downloads; however, there are many more events that you should consider setting up conversions for, such as:
Contact form completed
Click to call or email
Subscribed to newsletter
Visited your social media pages
Signed up for an event
Signed a petition
Completed a volunteer application
Once you have imported these conversions into your Google Ad Grant account you can assign them a monetary value. For example, each time a user completes your volunteer application form this could be worth £50 to your organisation, a subscription to your newsletter £5 or petition signature £2.50. Not all conversions are equal—some are worth more to your charity than others. If you assign values to your conversions, you'll be able to see the total value-driven, rather than simply the number of conversions that have happened. And you'll be able to identify and focus on high-value conversions. Read Google’s “Set conversion values” help page for more information.
Value your supporters by creating /thank-you pages
One of the easiest ways to track a conversion is to measure how many users visit a page that only a user performing a particular action can reach. Don’t forget to assign it a value!
For example, if a user signs up to your newsletter they need to submit their details first. On submission, you can redirect them to a page that says “thank you for subscribing.” The URL for this page might be something like /thank-you-newsletter. Each visit to this page is likely to be a subscription unless the user keeps revisiting this page.
This is a great opportunity to really say thank you. If a person signs up to your newsletter, you could say “Thank you for subscribing, here’s a video message from our CEO about what to expect from us. Check your inbox now for our welcome email and make sure to follow us on social media as we sometimes post special news here first.” How much better is this than a lazy bit of text that just says “complete”?
Action account recommendations
Your Google Ad account will display recommendations, which you can apply or dismiss to increase your optimisation score. Optimisation score is an estimate of how well your Google Ads account is set to perform. Scores run from 0–100%, with 100% meaning that your account can perform at its full potential. Note that these are not Google Ad Grant specific, they are designed for all Google Ad users so definitely don’t just accept all recommendations as correct—some of them will be wrong!
Learn more about optimisation scores.