Episode 1: Google Ad Grants

Interested in learning more about the Google Ad Grant for non profits – learn more about it and wrap your ears round episode 1 of the Digital Ninjas podcast.

Need urgent help with your Google Ad Grant? Find out more about our Google Ad Grant services or get in contact with a Ninja today.

[widget id=”custom_html-3″]

Google Ad Grant Podcast In Words

Brendan (host):

Welcome to episode one of the Digital Ninjas Podcast. I’m here with head ninja and founder, Jon Dawson. My name is Brendan Hill, and today we’re going to dive into the Google ad grant.

Brendan (host):

Digital Ninjas is one of Australia’s leading agencies and they’re on a mission to help nonprofits maximise their results from digital. And one of the best ways that charities can do this is through the Google ad grant. So Jon, welcome to the show.

Jonny:

Thanks Brendan. Thanks for the introduction.

Brendan (host):

And can you tell us what is the Google ad grant?

Jonny:

Yeah, of course. The ad grant is something that I’m very passionate about. It’s a program I’ve been involved in for 10 years plus when I first started my nonprofit marketing and fundraising career. Essentially Google have offered this incentive for nonprofits for 12 years plus now, and it’s at the moment $10,000 a month US of free ad spend on Google search marketing products. So it’s a really powerful tool to add to your marketing armory. It comes with a few restrictions, which we can talk about later. But if you’re a charity and looking to get visibility for your calls, whether you’re looking to raise funds, promote the services to end users that you might have or just get information and awareness out into the public, search is a really effective way of doing that. It’s still a heavily used channel and it lets you display relevant ads to people who are searching for information that you may have on your website.

Brendan (host):

And you mentioned $10,000 US a month, very generous from Google. What can charities and not for profits, what can they expect to achieve with 10,000 a month in ad spend?

Jonny:

Yes, so essentially it’s about getting in front of eyeballs, so that people who are searching for particular topics can find you. So if you’re a charity for example that deals with mental health issues or you might deal with issues facing young people or parents, or you might be helping people living in poverty, first and foremost, you can reach people who are looking for information on those topics. But when you start getting into the detail of this, you can use it to reach people who may have value to your organisation from a potential supporter or donor perspective. So people who are looking to donate and support causes or people who are looking to setup and participate in fundraising events to raise money for your cause.

Jonny:

There’s all sorts of different ways you can use it. The way we generally start working with a cause would be to discuss their objectives and figure out exactly what they’re looking to achieve at a top level, and then working down from there we can look at the content that they’ve already got on their website. Hopefully a lot of that addresses our objectives. If it doesn’t, you can create content specifically for search. One of the great things about search marketing in particular is that it’s an eye into the mind of what people are thinking, what they want, what they’re looking for. So you find a lot of startup businesses will use search as a starting point to figure out their proposition. Because if it’s something that’s in demand already, you can find out exactly what people are looking for on why they’re looking through, through doing keyword research. And it really gives you this deep understanding of consumer behavior.

Jonny:

So again, from a cause perspective, from a charity perspective, it’s really, really powerful because you might … We’re doing some keyword research for mental health the other day and there’s all sorts of questions that people have about mental health as a top line topic, and obviously there’s many sub strands of topics that feed into mental health as a headline, but there were searches as diverse as, what mental health condition does Winnie the Pooh have, like really surprising things when we went and did the keyword research.

Brendan (host):

Right.

Jonny:

So you can lead to all these alleyways of information that you may be able to provide people and bring them into the subject matter and generate engagement.

Brendan (host):

So you’ve met with the charity, you’ve discussed their objectives, they have content that’s aligned with the objectives. So the next step, how do these guys actually get the Google ad grant?

Jonny:

Yeah. Okay. If you haven’t already got the ad grant, it’s a fairly straightforward process. There’s essentially two main steps that you’ve got to follow, and there’s some documentation to this which we’ll link to from within the website, but it’s first of all really, really important to follow the instructions to the letter because if you don’t, there’s a few gotchas in the process that can really set you back and delay things by weeks.

Jonny:

But the starting point is to go through the local nonprofit certifier that Google partner with, they’re called TechSoup, or Connecting Up they’re otherwise known as. You go through an application process with these. Many charities have already done this because TechSoup actually give you access to discounts across a range of different products. So from Microsoft, from other software vendors, Tableau, and anybody who offers an incentive for nonprofits, and what TechSoup do is they validate your status as a registered and eligible nonprofit for these discounts.

Jonny:

Once you’ve done that, they’ll give you an API key that you can then go to the Google nonprofits website with and apply for the Google nonprofits program. Once you go through that process and get accredited as an eligible nonprofit, you’ve got to start the process of setting up your ad grant account. That’s generally where we come in and help people. It’s something you can work through yourself. But again, just make sure you follow the documentation to the letter. Little things like setting your account US dollars and not Australian dollars or whatever your local currency might be, it’s got to be US dollars regardless of where in the world you’re located. You’ve got to have your account linked to the Google analytics account and you’ve got to have a certain structure within the account when it comes to keywords, campaigns and ad groups. They’ve got to be set up in a specific way for it to get approved.

Brendan (host):

What stage of nonprofits are we talking about here? Can really early stage nonprofits use the grant? Can later stage, larger nonprofits utilise this?

Jonny:

Yeah, we work with people across the board. So we’ve got some really established nonprofits that we’ve worked with for a long time. So the Smith Family, The Flying Doctors, UNICEF, those sort of people who are really well known globally all make exceptional use of the grant. But we also work with some real grass roots organisations. Some people have come to us who haven’t yet even got a website. In that scenario it’s difficult, because you’ve got to have a website to make the run work. But what we often recommend them to do just to get started is to setup a very basic landing page style website, apply for the grant, start making use of it from branded traffic and some of the traffic that’s really closely related to that cause, and start building up awareness of their organisation. But it is there for everybody and it’s probably the smaller organisations who would notice the impact much faster.

Jonny:

Generally for a bigger organisation, because they’re more established, they’ve generally been around for longer, they’ll have more content. So it can be a bit easier to drive large volumes of traffic for those bigger organisations. But both types of organisations stand to benefit from it.

Brendan (host):

So you’re sounding pretty good so far, $10,000 US a month, increased awareness, increased conversions, a bit tricky to set up, but what other limitations should people be aware of when they’re setting up the Google ad grant?

Jonny:

So there’s a couple of restrictions. The biggest one is that you can only advertise on the Google search network, and it’s Google’s owned search networks. So they have a couple of advertising assets or places your ads can appear when you’re using Google. They have the Google display network, which is basically when your ads are displayed on third party websites that Google don’t own, but the publishers will embed Google code to display banners or text ads as you’re browsing the internet, and some websites embed the Google search bar. Those websites are not reachable using the ad grant alone. You can have a separate paid account, which we often recommend to do as part of the strategy. But you can only advertise on Google’s owned assets. So google.com.au in Australia, but obviously the reach of that is enormous. The number of people going there on any one day is huge. So that in itself is not too much of a limitation.

Jonny:

The other things to be aware of, the $10,000 monthly budget is broken down into a daily budget of $329. So the thing to bear in mind though is if you have a campaign that’s going to give you a big spike in traffic, so if you’re trying to assist with an emergency campaign, so the recent bushfires in Australia could be a good example of that, where you’re trying to reach a lot of people very quickly, that $329 daily budget will become limited very quickly, meaning that your ads stop displaying once the budget is exhausted. So in those scenarios, again, you’ve sometimes to think about having a paid strategy alongside the grants.

Jonny:

The other big restriction is $2 per click bid limit. For those of you that know how Google ads works, you pay per click and the cost-per-click is based on a number of factors including the relevance of the ad, but also the level of competition. So the $2 bid limit can become quite limiting and if it’s a very competitive keyword that you’re pursuing. Typically there are things like, donate to charity, would be pretty much out of reach of the grant. However, there’s been some recent changes in that, that allow you to use some of Google’s smart bidding strategies to push above the $2 bid limit. So this is a reason why it’s really important to link your Google ads account with an analytics account so you can import your conversion data, and conversion data as in number of people who sign up to newsletters, number of people who donate, number of people who take other important actions of value to the organisation. The way these smart bid strategies work is that Google self optimises towards keywords that it forecasts are going to give you the biggest return for the investment in the grants. And it will deliver ads more frequently to those people. But it also allows you to push above the $2 bid limit, which is a really good opportunity.

Jonny:

Other things to be aware of, there’s a minimum standards of account maintenance. Number of times you’ve got to optimise in a month. Also, the structure that you’ve got to have set up, you’ve got to be using site link extensions across the account. So these get a little bit more detailed and technical, but they’re quite simple to set up. It just takes time, and to set them up effectively you’ve got to be thinking about which pockets of people you’re reaching for each campaign or ad group.

Jonny:

So yeah, they’re the main ones.

Brendan (host):

So taking a step back, where does the Google ad grant sit in the overall marketing strategy of a non-for-profit? Does it sit alongside their organic SEO? And can you tell us the difference between SEO and SEM and how does it all fit together?

Jonny:

Yeah, sure. The Google ad grant for me is something that’s foundational in any kind of marketing program for a nonprofit. It’s something that takes free money, so regardless of whether or not you get an outside expert to help you with it, you should apply for it and you should be trying to use it to the best of your ability. It’s a really good foundational part of any marketing program. The way I used to look at it was that it was almost like bottom of funnel activity when you’re looking at search. So it’s something that’s always on. It’s something that in theory should deliver you predictable results over time because you’ve got content that’s established, you know the rough search volumes based on the keyword research you’ve done, and you can build on that and build things up over time.

Jonny:

The bottom of funnel analogy isn’t technically correct because bottom of funnel typically means that you’re targeting only people who will convert, but it’s also really good tool for reaching people higher up the funnel who are researching, looking for general information. So it kind of fits in to all stages of the decision making process, if you want to call it that.

Jonny:

In terms of the fit with the Google ad grant and the SEO, so search engine optimisation is the practice of, and we’ll talk more about this in a future podcast, hopefully, is optimising your organic or your non-paid results to display higher up the Google search results page, the ad grant or a paid Google ads account are really effective tools to use alongside any SEO work that you’re doing. Because what it will let you do is reliably predict the volume of search traffic against the keyword because you’re actually doing it. You’re getting instant results from a paid account. You turn it on, you start displaying your ads immediately. An SEO investment can take six months plus to pay off, but the most important thing that you get from using the ad grant or a paid ad account alongside doing SEO would be you get to see how that traffic performs on your site. So how do people actually, what do they do when they come after searching that keyword? Did they convert? Was it the wrong type of person that you brought in? Did they just bounce sponsor Google?

Jonny:

So you get all this data before you make the decision on whether or not to invest in this longer term SEO. So I definitely recommend that people at least dip their toe in the water of paid search and ideally the ad grant if you’re an eligible nonprofit to test out search and what it can do for your organisation.

Brendan (host):

Yeah, definitely. And in terms of maximising the use of the Google ad grant, what are some of the ways that nonprofits can do that?

Jonny:

Lots of people, if they haven’t done search marketing before will just want to set it up and leave it. And that approach definitely doesn’t deliver long term value to the organisation because what tends to happen is you’ll see an initial spike in performance and traffic coming through and then as behavior changes, as the account kind of bads in you’ll see things fall away again if you don’t make any changes. So there’s this constant cycle of checking user behavior, making sure they reach relevant landing pages, looking at the types of search queries that are triggering your ads and either changing where you’re directing those people, adding and improving your content or changing and improving the structure of your Google ads accounts. It’s an ongoing process.

Jonny:

Definitely what I would be looking to do is if you’ve got events coming up or activities or you’re in the news, making sure you move quickly to cover those topics in your Google ads account, because any kind of media exposure you have, any kind of events that are coming up will inevitably drive search interest. So what we often see is organisations who will run television advertising campaigns, or they’ll have a media moment, a PR story in the news, but they won’t compliment that with a paid ad or a Google ad grant ad, and all that means is you miss out on an opportunity because you’re not necessarily ranked number one in the organic results at that stage for that term. So it’s a really important thing to do is to go in there, make sure you’re ranking for things that currently are front of people’s mind. So when people are asking that question, your ad is displayed at the top of the results page and people come to you hopefully the inflammation

Brendan (host):

In terms of non-for-profits doing that themselves, we talked about setting it up earlier in the podcast. I guess your view would be to use Digital Ninja.

Jonny:

Yeah, definitely.

Brendan (host):

But what are the advantages of using someone that has done this for hundreds of non for profits before?

Jonny:

I would definitely recommend using Digital Ninjas, but I think I might be a bit biased. You can run this activity yourself. The challenge that a lot of nonprofits and companies face in doing it is time and priority. So because people within an organisation are typically involved in so many different areas of work, even if they’re a digital specialist, there’s so many deep verticals of knowledge for digital, it tends to be difficult unless you’re a really big organisation that can employ a decent sized team that has lots of vertical expertise and time to spend on this stuff. It can make it difficult to spend the time that it deserves.

Jonny:

So generally the benefits I think of using a partner like us, would be first and foremost, it’s what we do every day. We’re always on top of the latest changes to the interface. Some years Google will make over a thousand changes to the ads interface.

Brendan (host):

Wow.

Jonny:

So there’s a lot to keep up with, some of them major, some of them pretty minor. There’s always new product enhancements coming out. But the thing we’re really proud of as a business is we went through a fairly thorough accreditation process to become Google ad grants certified partners back in 2019, and this is a new program that Google established for their nonprofits team internally to work with businesses like ourselves who are on the ground every day dealing with nonprofits and the challenges they face to try and bring some of that feedback into Google and to help them improve the ad grants program over time.

Jonny:

So I think that’s a really, really big benefit of working with somebody like us, is that you get this early exposure to early stage betas as well, who have been part of this certified professional program, but also a direct line to the team that are making the strategic decisions within Google for the nonprofits program.

Brendan (host):

Wow. What about YouTube ads? I think they’re called True View now. Is that the new name?

Jonny:

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. That’s one of the ad formats that you can run on YouTube.

Brendan (host):

Right. Right. So how does that work? I’ve seen some great examples lately from nonprofits. I’ve seen some charity water YouTube ads. True View.

Jonny:

Yeah.

Brendan (host):

I mean how do you get started with that?

Jonny:

So the moment you can’t run YouTube ads or display ads through the ad grant account.

Brendan (host):

Right.

Jonny:

It’s not an eligible ad format. The display thing makes sense because the display network is typically shown on a third party website and Google shares revenue every time someone clicks on that with a publisher. YouTube is an interesting one. Maybe this is an area where we may see some advancement in the program in the future. We’ve not heard anything officially from Google on this, but I guess with it being a Google owned property, maybe they could offer free ad space to eligible charities, but it’s a tricky one and it’s worth knowing that the YouTube site is part of the nonprofits program, so you can register to get your nonprofit additional capability on YouTube, so showing the donate button alongside your videos is one example of some of the functionality you get access to.

Jonny:

So that’s worth exploring, but you can’t through the ad grant run YouTube ads, you’ve got to have a separate Google ads paid account.

Brendan (host):

Right.

Jonny:

But it’s still something lots of people are experimenting with at the moment. We’ve seen some cases of some good fundraising success, especially the targeting in YouTube and the display network in general is getting more and more powerful, and the ad formats are changing so they’re becoming more action focused. So it’s less of a brand or engagement channel if you want it to be, but equally you can use YouTube for engagement and brand reach.

Brendan (host):

Nice, nice. So a lot of good information today, Jon, about the Google ads grant. So I’ve seen you’ve rolled out the Google ads grant for charities of all sizes. I’ve seen you roll it out for early stage nonprofits, like Educating The Future. They’re a nonprofit that helps children in Timor-Leste.

Jonny:

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

Brendan (host):

Get back to preschool, and they’re building a lot of preschools over there. I think it was 61% of children are not in preschool, so I’ve seen you roll out the ad grant for them with good results. And then I’ve seen larger organisations, like UNICEF, across all different regions. You’ve done some great work there. Just wanted to finish off with a few stories. Can you tell us about some of the earlier stage guys, when they’ve rolled out, what’s happened, and then for some of the larger nonprofits as well. What has the experience been like for them?

Jonny:

Yeah, of course. Yeah, I guess one of the smallest organisations, other than Educating The Future, which is a very grassroots charity set up by a small group of ex high school friends, I think it was, in our Sydney, and they’ve done an amazing job and have an amazing impact, and the ad grant has only been a tiny part of that for them, but it’s definitely added value along the way. But also we worked with a really small organisation called Neuroblastoma, which was set up by a lady who was personally affected by neuroblastoma. We helped her set up and build out the ad grant and promote some of her grassroots fundraising events to great effect, and that’s still something that’s going on today. But also helping people, it’s a very rare disease compared to some others, but it just lets her get the organisation in front of people who are looking for information on that topic who’ve been personally affected. So they know they’ve got support, they know that there’s somebody working on this and they know there’s somebody driving research in the area forward.

Jonny:

On the bigger organisation front, we’ve worked with people like the Smith Family and The Flying Doctors for quite some time with our ad grant. one of the things that gets really exciting when you’re doing things over the long term is you can actually start using the data that you get on a daily basis from the ad grant to start driving new propositions for the charities.

Brendan (host):

Right.

Jonny:

So for The Flying Doctors for example, we got this really good piece of insight we were running some campaigns around first aid and first aid kit downloads. While we were doing that, we saw there were a lot of people in Queensland who were searching for snake bite treatment tips. And we found this insight into the team at The Flying Doctors and it led to the whole development of a new proposition around snake bite prevention and snakebite treatment and into a new lead generation proposition that they use for fundraising purposes. So that kind of stuff is really, really cool. It’s this eye into the mind of supporters and consumers and that can really help you think of new ideas of engaging with people and bringing them into the good work that your cause is doing.

Brendan (host):

Yeah. Amazing.

Jonny:

Yeah.

Brendan (host):

Well, Jon, thank you so much for enlightening me on the Google ads grant. You’ll be able to find the transcript of this episode and all the links of all of the resources that we mentioned along with some case studies at DigitalNinjas.com/podcast. And before we wrap up, Jon, anything you’d like to say?

Jonny:

Thank you for your time, Brendan, in running the podcast and we’ll make sure there’s some relevant links and information on the page along with this podcast. So yeah, thank you everybody for listening.