The Google Ad Grant program provides free AdWords advertising to eligible non-profit organizations, and yet the average grantee only uses about $330 per month out of the $10,000 that Google offers! Many grantees have trouble using the free advertising effectively because of the limitations attached to the Grant. Some of the limitations that can affect what youre able to spend include:

  • Grantees have a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) of $2
  • The Ad Grant can be used for text ads only
  • Ads can only be shown in the search engine results page (SERP)
  • Ads must link to one non-profit website domain
  • Ads will always show below any traditional paying advertiser

So, how can you maximize your Grant?

Get Creative With Keywords

Do your research to find keywords that are highly relevant to the objective of your campaign. Mine your website for content and use tools such as Google Webmaster Tools and Google Keyword Planner to identify where the opportunities are and what the competition is like.

Think outside the box. Longer tail keywords are more specific search terms (3 or 4 words) that tend to have lower search volume but also less competition. Users who search these more specific phrases tend to be further along in the decision making process and could be more likely to buy or donate. Because there is typically less competition for these types of keywords you can more easily compete with a max CPC of $2.

Consider your keyword match types. There will be some keywords that youll want to stick to phrase or exact match but using broad match where appropriate will allow your ads to show for a wider variety of search queries which can help increase awareness.

Account Structure " Set Yourself Up For Success

Create tightly themed campaigns by using 5-7 similar keywords per ad group. More focused ad groups tend to see better performance.

Make sure the keywords and ad copy are relevant to your landing page. The homepage is not always the best place to send traffic. Instead, send traffic to the page of your site that best speaks to the objective of your campaign or ad group. Also, consider using subdomains as a way to get around only being able to use one URL. As long as the root domain is the URL approved under the Grant, youre good to go!

Quality score is important for all AdWords campaigns but even more so when your bids are limited. Quality score is determined by how relevant your keywords, ads and landing pages are to a given user as well as other factors like click-through rate and account history. A higher quality score leads to better ad positions and lower CPCs.


Select accelerated as your delivery method. Accelerated delivery will allow your ads to be seen more often which will give you more opportunity for exposure. With campaigns that have a limited budget accelerated delivery isnt the way to go, but when youre working with free money, go for it!

Targeting " Cast Your Net A Little Wider

Most campaigns focus on getting quality impressions instead of quantity, but the Grant provides a unique opportunity to maximize your exposure and build awareness. You should absolutely target your ideal customer, but by keeping your geographic and demographic targeting a little more inclusive you will benefit from the extra exposure and potential conversions.

Dont Set It And Forget It " Optimize!

Once your campaign is running and youve collected some data its time to optimize! There are a number of ways you can improve performance, so depending on what youre seeing in your campaign consider making the following optimizations:

  • Adding negative keywords: negative keywords will prevent Google from showing your ad when a certain keyword is searched. This can help focus your exposure on more relevant search queries and users who are more likely to convert.
  • Pausing underperforming ads and keywords: if you have some ads that arent performing well or have some keywords with a low quality score, pause them so your better performing ads can show more often.
  • A/B testing: consider testing a new variation of your top performing ad copy against the original ad to see a boost in performance. This will help you to identify what kind of messaging works best for your campaign.

Other things you can use to help your ads stand out and boost performance:

  • Sitelinks: text ads are eligible to show 2-6 links to other pages of your site below the ad copy. Sitelinks help you take up more space on the SERP and can help improve your quality score.
  • Image extensions: images allow your search ad to stand out among your competition when your ad is in the top position and can improve click-through rates. If you have images on your site that are appropriate for your campaign, use them!
  • Review extensions: users like to see reviews when searching online. If you have some good ones be sure to include review extensions, they can help boost click-through rates.


By getting creative, setting yourself up for success and optimizing you can accomplish a lot with your Google Ad Grant without it costing you anything. However, you may find that some campaigns could benefit from some additional flexibility when the competition exceeds your max CPC. Dont be afraid to compliment your Grant efforts by investing in a paid campaign when the potential rewards are greater than the cost.

Next Steps