Non-Profit Digital Advertising: Balancing Google Grants with Google AdWords

Google offers a number of types of digital advertising, but within the Search category (text ads) Google offers non-profits two tools to purchase search ads: Google AdWords, which is paid, and Google Grants, which allows non-profit organizations to qualify for up to $10,000 per month in search advertising. 

Google Grants works very much like AdWords, but with a few extra parameters, in exchange for being free:

  • No bids above $2.00 CPC (cost per click)
  • When you ad is served, it will appear below any paid ads
  • Your campaigns must be keyword-targeted

So knowing that not all of your keywords are going to be below $2.00 CPC, best practice is to have both a Google Grants account for keywords under the limit, and a Google AdWords paid account for keywords over the limit. Keywords that are above $2.00 are likely valuable to your organization, which is why their search volume and competition status price the CPC higher, which means you should be bidding on those keywords in a paid Google AdWords account, but there are likely relevant keywords that either don’t have a high search volume or don’t have much competition of other organizations bidding on them (or both) that cause the CPC to be under $2.00, so you should be bidding on those from your Google Grants account so that you don’t have to pay for them! 

While managing the two platforms in tandem takes some time and attention, you can and should use the same campaign, ad group, and ad copy structure between the two accounts for consistency. From there, just divvy up the keywords so that anything with a current CPC of $1.90 goes into the Google Grants account, and everything above $1.90 goes into the Google AdWords account. The reason we draw the line below the technical limit is because the going CPC for a keyword fluctuates based on search volume and competition, so we want to give the keywords a little wiggle room so you don’t lose out on searches based on an adjustment of a few cents. 

From there, it’s best practice to monitor your keywords’ CPCs in both accounts, and every couple weeks “move” keywords between your two accounts. In Google Grants, if any keywords have gone above $1.90, pause them in that account and add them to the appropriate campaign and ad group in Google AdWords. And if any keywords in Google AdWords have fallen below $1.90, pause them in that account and add them to the appropriate campaign and ad group in the Google Grants account. You’ll always want to pause keywords, and not delete them, because it’s likely that they keywords in this “on the fence” CPC range, will likely fluctuate up and down and you’ll end up moving them back and forth as time goes on. As mentioned, this does take some extra time to manage, but doing so allows you to take as much advantage as possible of Google’s free advertising dollars while also not losing out on important searches your organization needs in the case that you do have to pay for them. 

By investing the time to monitor and manage the balance between Google Grants and Google AdWords, your organization can maximize digital advertising exposure while minimizing advertising spend.