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5 Google Ads Tips for Nonprofits

Between Google Ad Grants and paid ad accounts, search ads are a key advertising tactic for many nonprofits. It makes sense after all – search ads allow you to get in front of people at their moment of consideration when they’re actively seeking out what you have to offer, whether it be a place to make a donation or a program that serves their individual needs. But for nonprofits, especially right now, budgets can be tight. That’s why it is essential to make sure your campaigns are set up to help your organization achieve its goals in an efficient manner.

We’ve compiled a list of 5 tips to help you maximize the potential of your Google Ads campaigns. 

1. Structure for success 

A well-structured account will put your organization leaps and bounds ahead of the competition and better equip you to hit your goals. 

Google Search accounts are made up of many parts, including campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads. The example below gives a pared-down version of a well-structured account.

Google Ads

As you can see in the example, keywords are grouped into tightly themed ad groups which roll into more broadly themed campaigns. Within each ad group, there are also a number of ads that tie back to the keywords.

Here are a few tips for making sure your account is set up for success:

    • Group your campaigns by intent and goal. For instance, you may want to have separate campaigns for lead generation and fundraising. I also prefer to separate brand keywords (words that contain your organization’s name) and non-brand keywords (words that don’t include your organization) for reporting and optimization as they tend to perform very differently.
    • Group keywords into tightly themed ad groups based on both intent and wording. This will help you write ad copy that directly addresses what the searcher is looking for.  While “nonprofit” and “charity” might have similar meanings, putting them in separate ad groups will allow you to write very specific copy which will lead to higher click-through rates and lower costs per click – win/win!
    • Use multiple match types. Yeah, broad match is cool, but have you ever tried modified broad match? Especially for brand searches, adding a (+) to modify a broad keyword and ensure you only match to search terms that contain key phrases can improve efficiency significantly. Broad match is great for prospecting for new search terms, but generally less successful from a relevance and efficiency standpoint. I typically like to start accounts using mostly exact match and broad match modified or phrase match keywords, with a handful of broad keywords interspersed to help identifying new keyword themes.
      • Here is a brief guide to the different match types, in order of specificity:
        • Exact ([exact]): Search query exactly or almost exactly matches they keyword. These typically have the lowest reach, but most control.
          • E.g. keyword = [dog training], search query = dog training
        • Phrase (“phrase”): Search query must contain the keywords in order, but can also contain other terms before and/or after
          • E.g. keyword = “dog training”, search query = best dog training near me
        • Modified Broad (+modified +broad): Search query must contain the word(s) with the + sign next to them, but they can be in any order. The query can also contain other words as well
          • E.g. keyword = +dog +training, search query = training for my dog
        • Broad (broad): Search query is related to the keyword but doesn’t necessarily match any part of it. Typically these have the highest reach, but least control. 
          • E.g. keyword = dog training, search query = puppy classes
    • Take the time to write thoughtful ad copy that speaks directly to the search, and include 3-5 different ad variations. This is not fast. This is not always fun. But having super relevant ad copy can make a huge difference when it comes to driving cost-effective traffic and, ultimately, conversions. When writing ad copy, include keywords from the ad group, as well as a value proposition and call to action. You may also want to test Dynamic Keyword Insertion in titles so they reflect the exact keywords you’re targeting, as long as it does not cause the ads to become misleading.
    • Don’t forget about ad extensions. Make sure to include relevant sitelinks, callouts and structured snippets in your campaigns. These not only provide more information about your organization and help you take up more space in search results, but can also improve click-through rate and quality score.


2. Leverage Google’s Automated Bid Strategies

Google’s automated bid strategies have made significant strides in recent years and quite honestly do a pretty bang-up job of delivering results. Because automated bid strategies rely on real-time auction signals and user behavior, they can be much more effective than us humans at reaching the right people at the right time with the right ads. They also save you a ton of time compared to bidding manually.

When using automated bid strategies, it’s best to start with strategies that broadly align with your goals (maximize clicks, maximize conversions or maximize conversion value) then refine them once you have more data. For instance, if your focus is lead generation you might start with the Maximize Conversions bid strategy, then move to Target CPA once you have enough conversions (rule of thumb is 15+ conversions in the last 30 days). For target CPA and target ROAS strategies, you’ll want to start with goals that reflect current performance. Over time, you’ll adjust the goals to improve efficiency.

When using automated bid strategies, the more data you have the better. Grouping campaigns with similar goals into portfolio-based bid strategies gives Google’s algorithm more data to work with and helps to improve outcomes across the account as a whole.


3. Own the conversation on your brand terms 

Clients are often skeptical of this. After all, why would you pay for traffic you are already going to get organically? But the real question you should be asking is – how much traffic are you actually missing out on by only showing up in organic results? The truth is, bidding on your brand terms actually adds incremental value. It helps you maintain top position when there are competitors in the space, gives you full control over your messaging and landing page experience, and adds to your bottom line.

We recently tested this for one of our clients who was concerned that paid search was cannibalizing organic. The results proved that this could not be further from the truth. For the test, we suppressed brand campaigns in 10 markets, then measured the % change in conversions for those markets compared to 10 markets with similar traffic and conversion performance where we did not pause brand campaigns. The finding? Total conversions declined by 29% in the markets where brand paid search was paused, compared to a 26% increase in conversions where brand paid search was active. Even more interestingly, conversions from organic searches increased in both the test and control markets. The entire loss during the testing period came directly from the absence of paid search.


4. Expand Your Reach With Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads allow you to target people who are searching for terms that relate to the content of your website, rather than by keywords. If you haven’t tried dynamic search ads yet, they are a fantastic way to increase your reach, get ahead of relevant search trends and identify new keyword themes.


5. Embrace Change

Search campaigns are never set-it-and-forget-it. Trends change, goals shift, performance varies and new features are released. Now more than ever things are changing fast. It’s important to keep an eye on your campaigns and adjust as needed. Pull search query reports often to find new keywords to add, or negative terms to exclude. Monitor budgets to make sure spend is going to the right places. Pause keywords that are bringing you down. Test new keywords and ads. Update your strategy to reflect changing organizational priorities. Evaluate new Google Ads features. Monitor search trends and industry insights and make sure you’re part of the right conversations. Don’t be afraid to test new things and build off your learnings.


Looking for more tips? Check out our free resource below.

The Ultimate How-to-Guide to Google Ad Grants



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