Improving Google Grants for Nonprofits

Solar-powered flashlights. Inflatable dartboards. Books about how to read. Nonalcoholic beer. All inventions lacking a practical purpose.
From the vantage of many nonprofit marketers, you can add Google Grants to that list.

In an effort to aid the not-for-profit community, Google offers a program called, Google Grants. All 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities can apply to receive a monthly AdWords stipend of up to $10,000 to be used toward pay per click (PPC) marketing efforts. All it takes is a simple application process, and with approval from Google, a nonprofit can be up and running with a free Adwords campaign.

Google Grants for Nonprofits

While the search giant should be lauded for this program and the potential good it can do, the Google Grants program does not come without its restrictions. First, advertisers may only use the search network (no content network or display units may be utilized). More importantly and debilitating, campaigns must adhere to a cost per click (CPC) bid limit of $1.00. For nonprofits with broad mission statements in crowded markets, this bid limit is the equivalent of PPC handcuffs. The max bid restriction has even caused several previous Google Grant beneficiaries to emit a facetious, “thanks for everything, Google!”, walk away from the “free” money, and create their own traditional, pay-to-play AdWords campaigns. To demonstrate this stifling impediment, here are just a few sample keywords and their recommended bids (i.e. bids that would consistently land them on the first page of search results).

Los Angeles Charity – $5.18
Volunteer in New York – $1.30
Donate Online – $10.95

With rates like these it’s easy to see how nonprofits can get frustrated with Google Grants very quickly. However, there is a way to make the program work for every organization that chooses to use it. Here are some tips to ensure your Google Grants program does not go unappreciated and underutilized.

Know Your Key Metric → CPC

Getting more traction for your campaign is difficult without having a goal. The objective of this game is to earn the most meaningful clicks within the $10,000 budget limit. To do that, focus on getting more clicks at a lower per click rate. As you manage your campaign and report metrics, focus on lowering the average cost per click (e.g. if your current average CPC is 85¢, aim to get it to 75¢ and so on). However, be mindful of the quality of your traffic. Clicks with no conversions or visits to mission-critical content are likely not helping your cause.

Implement Long Tail Keywords

If your campaign is using keywords like “volunteer” or “hunger” or even “donate to charity”, I wish you the best of luck. Another approach is to get more specific. Keywords like those just mentioned are simply to broad, expensive and lack the specificity necessary to deliver a positive result. Long Tail keywords are much more focused. Most long tail terms are at least three words in length. While they are by no means comparable to their one-word counterparts with respect to search volume or demand on an individual basis, a carefully designed paid search campaign incorporates many of them. Dozens of long tail terms can drive the same amount of traffic as one or two “head” terms. The primary difference is that long tail terms are less expensive and often lead to higher conversion rates.

Check out the graphic below for further explanation of the Long Tail of Search.

Search Marketing & The Long Tail

Granted, long tail terms can be difficult to pinpoint. Here are a few pointers for building your long tail list.

  • Perform exhaustive keyword research with the Google Keyword Tool and other popular research tools. This can be time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth the work.
  • Rely on Google Analytics. View your search traffic reports to identify phrases that are driving traffic from both paid and organic sources. You may find that there are terms already generating valuable traffic from natural search. Focus on those keywords that are generating desired conversions.
  • Use a tool like MergeWords to build out a list of derivatives quickly.

Utilize Match Types

Match types are keyword parameters that instruct Google Adwords how to handle your ad. Depending on the match types you use, your text advertisement will display for either expansive or extremely limited audiences.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the different match types offered.

  • Broad : show my ad whenever this phrase or words within the phrase are searched
  • Phrase : show my ad when the phrase is searched in the precise order specified (place keyword phrase in quotes)
  • Exact : show my ad only when the phrase is searched exactly as I have specified (place keyword phrase in brackets)
  • Modified Broad : Show my ad when the phrase or words noted with a “+” are searched (place a + in front of target words within the phrase)
  • Negative : Never show my ad when this term is used (place a – in front of words that are off target)

Proper use of match types adds specificity to your keywords. In theory, the more specific you can get, the lower your cost per click will be. To clarify, the recommendation here is to employ keywords with Phrase and Exact match types to target more long tail phrases. Save some time by using the JUMBO Keyword tool when applying match types to a large volume of phrases. Also, utilize Modified Broad effectively to increase reach in a targeted fashion.

Are you managing a paid search campaign with Google Grants? What other ways have you found to solve the $1 CPC maximum riddle?