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Google Ad Grants Recent Changes for Nonprofits: Overview

Adwords Changes to Google for Nonprofits: Overview

On December 17, 2017 Google announced a revamping of the rules for their Ad Grants program, a charitable initiative presently providing 35,000 nonprofits with $120,000 USD of in-kind advertising annually from AdWords. Updated program policies and compliance requirements went into effect as of Jan 1, 2018 for all current Ad Grants recipients:


We read the fine points, and essentially nonprofit AdWords accounts now require more oversight and consistency in management to keep their Google grant funding.

Fear not! If you are hearing of these changes for the first time just now, you're not alone. We're ready to walk you through what you need to know step-by-step. Below, we've compiled the most pertinent and pressing points to be aware of to keep your account updated and grant active.

I. Maintain a 5% Clickthrough rate (CTR) average minimum or say goodbye.

Google will disable accounts that fall below a 5% CTR for two months beginning Jan 1, 2018.

II. Campaigns created must consist of at least two ad groups with two text ads running in each.

All campaigns in your nonprofit's AdWords account must now feature at least two active ad groups, which must contain related keywords in a minimum of two active ads.

III. Only keywords with quality scores of 3 or higher are ok.

 Keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 will no longer be acceptable by AdWords and need to be modified or paused.

IV. A minimum of two active site link extensions per account is mandatory.

Site link extensions are additional URL's that show in ads providing a visitor with other links to click on to learn more information about your organization or ad content. Google's updated Ad Grants policy now requires you keep two of these active in your AdWords account at all the times.

V. All campaigns must implement geo-targeting.

 Nonprofit AdWords grantees are now required to implement geo-targeting criteria or location based settings for their campaigns.

VI. The $2.00 bid cap can be lifted.

Here is some good news! Now, nonprofits who don't want to be restricted to the $2 bid cap have the option to change to the Maximize Conversions bid strategy. Maximize Conversions is not a requirement within the newly announced changes, but should be considered as part of your organization's long-term strategic plan. If your nonprofit doesn't mind the $2 bid cap, you don't need to make any changes.

VII. No bidding on branded words (unless your nonprofit already owns them).

Google now requires all keywords in an account must "reflect your organization's primary mission," "be relevant to the goods or services offered," and "be specific enough to provide a good experience for the user seeing your ads." So, unless you are Facebook, you can't bid on the keyword Facebook. 

VIII. Most single-word keywords are now prohibited​.

While there is a short list of exception words, with this change Google is encouraging nonprofits to select keywords which focus directly on your target audience or a specific description around a word. This will bring you better results.  

Another Option: AdWords Express account

Adwords Express is an optional program which structures your AdWords account for you, identifying keywords you want to get in front of. This sounds great in theory, but if you've ever seen some of the "opportunities" that AdWords has suggested for your account, the number of keywords which have nothing to do with your services or mission is astounding. AdWords Express is like getting these suggestions on steroids. Using this platform, nonprofit's ultimately lose - relinquishing control of how their grant funding is targeted and spent. We strongly recommend you avoid using AdWords Express if possible.

That's it! 

Our next article in this series, Google Ad Grants Recent Changes for Nonprofits: The Complete Guide expands on the eight points above, detailing where to look within your account to assess your status with step-by-step instructions and screenshots on how to make changes.  For those who prefer step-by-step videos, check-out our Monday Loves You YouTube channel.

If you are not familiar with the Google For Nonprofits AdWords $120,000 grant for free online advertising then let us know.  We'll give you the details and show you where to apply.