For those who weren’t reading search engine marketing news over the holidays, instead spending “quality time” with “family” and “friends,” there was an earthquake for nonprofits who use Google Grants.

I must preface this with the fact that Google is the only major advertising platform I know of with a program like Google Grants.  Facebook won’t give you free advertising on its platform (perhaps the reason it’s now eliminating transaction fees – more on this later this week).  And try getting a TV station to run your DRTV spot or a newspaper to run your ad gratis.

So when I say that requiring most nonprofits to make massive changes to their AdWords account in 15 days over Christmas and New Years in order to keep their Grants has all the sensitivity of burlap underwear, know that I do so with love.

And also with love  by repeating the statement that you should participate in Google Grants.

Now, to the changes.  There’s some good news: the $2 cost-per-click limit has been lifted for those who are optimizing toward conversions.  (You are optimizing toward conversions, right?).  There’s some bad news: they are phasing out the $40,000 per month version of the program, making it so you can only spend a maximum of $10,000 per month. And there are a bunch of things you should be doing anyway: including sitelinks, having multiple ads in multiple ad groups, keeping high quality scores (over 3), using sitelink extensions, and others.

But the massive change is this:  Google now requires you to have a click-through rate (CTR) of 5% instead of 1%.  (Lest I get into rant-ish territory again, I’ll simply state that for-profit advertisers are not being held to the same standards and leave it at that.)

(Also, raising the $2 limit as long as you optimize toward conversions, while requiring the ad account to optimize toward a high CTR standard, makes no sense.  OK, now I’m done.)

If you are like a great many accounts that hover in that 2-4% CTR range, you have some pruning to do.  Some simple steps:

  • Look through the list of keywords that people use to get to your site and add negative keywords that exclude the inappropriate ones. For example, a term like DUI defense attorneys is competed for in the double, sometimes triple, digit dollar CPC range.  If you are MADD, not only can you not afford to pay for people searching for those terms, but you actively don’t want to.  Your donors believe (and this may be shocking to some) that the easiest way not to get convicted of a DUI is not to drive drunk.  So, adding attorney and lawyer to the negative keyword list will save your CTR rate and help you attract the attention you want.  This is not a fun task, as people search for some things that are even worse than DUI defensive attorneys.  Depending on your organization, you may want to have “video” as a negative keyword on some ad groups – I recently did this for an organization that helps victims of torture who didn’t want to market to people looking for videos of torture.  I’m guessing the same thing happens to organizations that work on animal abuse.  And you will almost always want to have negative keywords for sex, porn, xxx, jade, and bangs (Charity Jade and Charity Bangs are the names of two adult film actresses, something I could have happily lived a full life without knowing; you don’t want people coming to your charity looking for the wrong Charity).
  • Geotarget your ads. If you only serve people in Boston, only market to people in Boston.  Google is now requiring this, but you can also use it strategically in your bidding.  Let’s say you know that people in one area are far better donors than in others (a good example of this is museums, which will often have donor lifetime values of local patrons that are multiples of those who are farther flung).  You can prioritize your ads strategy, bidding higher and into more marginal keywords for audiences who will be better donors.
  • Weed out your weak words. Google has explicitly banned single-word keywords, as these tend to bring in the most undifferentiated audiences.  And good riddance to most of them (although it does limit a nonprofit’s ability to react to the news as thousands of people search for, for example, Rohinga when stories come out).  Similarly, you should sort your keywords by CTR and brutally interrogate those with low CTRs.  Should they be paused? Revised for greater specificity? Or are they so important that you will count on other keywords to bring up their game?
  • And your weak ads. You must have at least two ads running in every ad group.  As we talked about last week with testing, you might have enough volume to run minor tests, but for most keywords, you should be running entirely different types of ads so you can see what gets your potential constituents going.

But most of all, you now have an excuse to focus on users’ experiences.  If you have an ad about your efforts in Belize and a person searched for Belize relief, they will not be satisfied if you put them through to a generic donation form (Belize it or not!).  Your quality score will rise if you can create landing pages that continue the experience from your keywords.  Speeding your site using Google’s tools also will improve your quality score.

Additionally, you should be taking your keywords and breaking them down into smaller chunks.  I work with a foundation supporting high school debate programs.  Instead of one ad group of debate keywords, we’re working to separate out those people who are searching for high school debate (where they get a traditional ad), college debate (where the ads talk about how high school debate created the basis of their knowledge), and other types of debate (using negative keywords like “health care” because “health care debate” searchers are not what we’re looking for).  From there, we’ll then lead to context-specific landing pages.

This isn’t a bad practice generally – walking through each step of your donation funnels and making sure that your donation form matches your ad or that there’s something on your home page that relates to what a person just got in the mail.

So good luck to everyone trying to get to the 5% CTR number.  Please let us know if you need help or advice!


This article was posted in: Communications, Integrated fundraising and marketing, Media usage / trends, Mobile marketing and fundraising, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media, Uncategorized.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.