Tag Archives: adwords

Google Grant for Charities: sweet, free money.

cash stackers

Are you eligible for $120k free ad spend every year?

Did you know UK-registered charities are highly likely to be eligible for $120,000 free Adwords spend per-year, through Google’s non-profit programme? There are other benefits to the programme, including free use of the Google Apps suite – but this post focuses solely on the Adwords grant.

Applying for the grant is quick and easy, with no major strings attached…

…except that actually running the account requires a specific approach, due to rules imposed on Grant accounts:

  • You can’t spend more than $329 in a day (yes, Grants operate in dollars)
  • You can’t set bids higher than $2 (a relatively low amount).
  • You can only run standard, keyword-based activity: no fancy remarketing for you.
  • You can only show standard text ads: no image ads, video ads or other formats.
  • There are certain limitations regarding the tone of the ad copy.
    You can only show ads on Google search results pages: no other websites or search engines.

None of these limitations apply to a normal, non-grant Adwords account, so you have to change your mindset for Grant success if you’re used to running non-Grant accounts. We outline some of the main differences below, but the first task is to…

…Get your Google Grant
Check the UK eligibility guidelines, and if you meet them, fill out the short application form. Wait for a bit. Receive grant.

Bidding strategy
With non-Grant Adwords, perhaps the biggest Golden Rule is to avoid overbidding – i.e. going for super-high ad positions which only result in a fraction of the clicks & conversions. With Grant accounts, this rule is turned on its head:

As Grant media spend is free, and you are limited to a relatively low $2 bid level, you may as well max everything out at $2: as long as you are not hitting your $329 daily spend cap. At that point, you may want to start lowering bids to generate more clicks for your $329 (unless you’re going for GrantsPro: see below).

Keyword strategy
As with bidding, Grant keyword strategies differ fundamentally from non-Grant accounts. With non-Grant, branching out into new themes should be done with utmost caution, as the more tenuously-related the theme is to your business, the greater the risk of money down the drain.

With Grant accounts, It’s open season. Because media spend is free, you may as well branch out into as many related or half-related themes. They’re not all guaranteed to work (probably due to a low Quality Score) but they are all worth testing.

Ad creative strategy
Because Grant bids are limited to $2, optimising ad copy in a Grant account is even more important than for a paid account. Without getting into the granular details of Google’s ad ranking mechanism, just know that bid amount and clickthrough rate are two of the biggest components when calculating ad position.

Grant accounts don’t have the luxury of bidding higher than $2, and they compete in the same auction as non-Grant ads – So are at a disadvantage. For this reason, optimising your ad copy (to increase clickthrough rate) becomes even more pertinent. Sweep your accounts at least bi-monthly, inserting fresh ad variants and pausing low-performing ones, to help push your CTR up and up. Better ad copy = higher ad positions for the same $2 bid level.

Landing page strategy
Landing page quality is another major factor in the ranking mechanism. So for the same reason as above (Grant bids capped at $2) optimising your landing pages is even more important for Grant accounts then paid accounts. Better landing pages = higher ad positions for the same $2 bid level.

Run a paid Adwords account too
As great as $10k/month free media spend is, there are times when the limitations feel restrictive. For example, do you want to run Remarketing activity? Sorry, that’s paid account-only. Want to maximise exposure during a really important campaign? Sorry again, when you’ve spent $329 your ads go offline until tomorrow.

For these and many other reasons, we recommend creating a paid Adwords account to work in parallel. It doesn’t have to be always-on – but it’s great to have it set up ready for use. After all, we don’t usually choose when our content suddenly goes viral.

Originally published on Sift Digital’s site on 06/11/2015.

Adwords listings visual change: spot the ad!

Google Adwords ads have always been, shall we say, visually subtle. Their motivation for doing this is obvious enough. This is Dark Patterns 101.

Well Google just changed the visual layout of their results pages again, and now, the top-ranking (centre-column) ads are near-indistinguishable from organic results.

New ad format:

The new ad format. PPC and organic listings blended into one big e-mush.


… compared with the old ad format (for the same search query):

The old ad format. Ads much more distinguishable from organic listings.
The old ad format. Ads much more distinguishable from organic listings.

 What this means for you:

  • Paid listings are even more likely to be mistaken for organic listings. So whatever is at the top of the page, wins.
  • Competitor ads appearing for searches on your brand name (above your #1 organic listing) are likely to be mistaken for your organic listing.

The inevitable, painful-to-type recommendations are:

  • Organic listings have been rendered less effective, so it’s less feasible to rely solely on them.
  • Ignoring PPC altogether is now less feasible.
  • You really need to bid on your brand terms now (a common past bone of contention – this latest change seals it).

Do no evil, eh?