One of the biggest benefits about Google Ad Grants is that it doesn’t lock your organization out of running a paid Google ad campaign.
The first question most people ask is this: if I’m already getting free ads, why would I want to also pay for them? Why spend any money, $10,000 per month is more than enough?
While this question has been answered by many others, I want to provide the standard answers and also give evidence from our own client work of the benefits of concurrently running Google Grant and paid ad campaigns.
The 6 Usual (and Compelling) Reasons for a Paid Campaign
1. More Opportunity
When your paid ad budget runs out for the day, your Grant campaign can take over. By running both you always will have a chance to show up for keywords that are important to you. Similarly, the paid campaign ensures that your ads show up for your most important keywords, regardless of how competitive they are (competition usually hinders the effectiveness of Grant ads).
2. Broader Targeting
The Grant campaign allows you to target broadly, including keywords that have less possible relevance for your organization, which still have the potential to get results. If you were only running a paid campaign, you wouldn’t target these keywords, but by running the Grant campaign you can discover new keywords and opportunities that you wouldn’t have discovered without a large paid ad budget.
3. More Focused & Effective Budget
Similarly, running a paid campaign alongside your Grant campaign enables you keep your paid budget focused on your most important keywords. This can help you keep the paid budget lower, while still making it very effective.
4. More Competitive Keywords
A paid campaign allows you to target more expensive or more competitive keywords that you wouldn’t be able to get any results for with a Grant campaign alone (for example, “Giving Tuesday”, which ranges around $19 cost per click at the top of the range near the day itself, is usually out of reach for a Grant campaign). This also helps you more quickly target keywords that your Grants campaign could eventually get results with, but only after Google has enough conversion data. By using paid ads, you can immediately target these keywords before you have any conversion data in your Grants campaign.
5. Better-informed Paid Strategy
This was mentioned above, but more specifically you can use data from the Grant campaign to inform your paid campaign – here’s how:
· What keywords, ads, bid strategies, and landing pages are leading to conversions?
· What relevant keywords are not getting impressions because you are losing Impression Share due to the bid limits of a Grants campaign? Keywords that are relevant but losing impression share are great candidates to test in a paid campaign.
Reviewing these things in your Grant campaign can help your paid campaign strategy. The below screenshot shows a solid keyword that is converting at nearly 7%, but the ads are showing up less than 10% of the time. Targeting this same keyword in the paid campaign would allow the organization to show up (increase Impression Share) a lot more, and therefore get more results.
6. More Options & Flexibility
Paid campaigns have less requirements and restrictions than Grants campaigns and give you more flexibility to reach people. Specifically, with paid ads you can:
· use the full range of bidding strategies
· use the full range of ad campaign types (Display, Video, App, Shopping),
· use Remarketing Lists
· target branded or competitor keywords that don’t belong to you (ex: if you’re an animal shelter, it makes sense to target the keyword “Humane Society”; however, you cannot do this with a Grants account, but you can with a paid account).
The 7th (Potential) Reason for a Paid Campaign
7. Possible Boost to Your Grant Results
From our own anecdotal reviews, running a paid campaign can boost your Grants results between 47% – 61%!
I’ll explain why this could be and give examples of our work with clients before and after adding a paid campaign, but please understand this is anecdotal, and we are still learning and sharing as we go.
Our Clients’ Results
Here are examples from six clients who ran a Grant campaign alone, added a paid campaign, and the effect this change made on their results.
Client 1) In January of 2021, we started a new paid campaign for a client we had been working with for many years (running only a Grant campaign). Within 4 months, the conversions in their Grant campaigns increased by an average of 147% per month.
Clients 2 and 3) Two other clients who started with only Grant campaigns and later added paid (and whose data we analyzed from over the last few years), had very similar increases – 150% and 155%.
Clients 4 and 5) Now, because we cannot be certain about these results, we also must share that of three remaining clients we reviewed, two of their Grant campaigns were unchanged after adding paid campaigns. This being said, their paid campaigns are doing very well, in part because so much testing and learning can be done for free in their Grant campaigns. We can try new keywords and get data that helps us maximize their paid budget.
Client 6) Finally, in the last client’s campaign that we reviewed, their Grant campaign conversions actually dropped 10% after adding the paid campaign. This seems to indicate that the boost to a Grants campaign after adding a paid campaign may simply be anecdotal. Nevertheless, this client’s overall conversions are much higher, and so losing performance in their Grant campaign has still be worthwhile due to achieving more total conversions.
Possible Reasons for this Effect
Google offers a tool to advertisers called cross-account attribution. This tools enables companies with more than one ad account* to do conversion tracking across multiple accounts; this both helps Google’s software to get results more effectively, and can help you learn how keywords, ads, and campaigns in one account are helping conversions in another account.
*Normally multiple ad accounts are not allowed, but there are exceptions: when a company has multiple locations across a country and needs an ad account for each one, and of course for nonprofits who have both Grants and Paid accounts!
Assuming you’ve set up conversion tracking, whenever your ad campaign leads to a conversion (whether you define that as a donation, new subscriber, or something else), that conversion data gets fed back into your ad campaign. Google can use this information to help you better optimize performance.
On the user side, Google tracks what the user searched, the time of day they made the search, the device they were using, and any other data available, and compiles it in your ad account. Similarly, on the advertiser’s side, Google tracks your keyword that was triggered, your ad copy, and your landing page. All this data is then used to help your ads show up at the most opportune times.
For example, if you are a nonprofit who bakes cakes for kids’ birthdays for low-income families, you might discover that you have high conversion rates on Fridays, on mobile devices, among females, who searched for phrases like “cheap birthday cake for kids”.
In the future, anytime these variables are similar for a search, Google will prioritize showing your ad at the top, because their software now has the data to prove that these variables often lead to conversions for your ads.
If you are running Grants ads for keywords that should be relevant for you, but your ads are not showing because the bid is too high, it’s usually helpful to change your bid strategy to a Smart one, like Maximize Conversions. This allows Google to automate your bids, going well above the $2 limit if needed, to ensure that for searches likely to lead to a conversion, your ads will show.
The problem is, if you don’t have any conversions for those keywords, your ad might not show for that search, because Google doesn’t have the data to help “maximize conversions”!
Running a paid campaign for those keywords can enable you to start getting conversions, which then gives Google more data, data it can use to optimize your Grants campaign!
All this having been said, we are still in-process of testing cross-account attribution with our clients to see if this tool brings more measurable, provable results. If it does have an obvious effect, you can be sure we will share what we learn here!
What You Can Do Now
Ultimately, even if our own anecdotal evidence does not prove that there is a repeatable, measurable effect on Grant campaigns after adding a paid campaign, there are still a lot of convincing reasons for you to create and test a small budget with paid ads.
Our recommendation: set aside a paid budget (start at $500 / month) for three months and see what results it brings!