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Major Changes to Google’s Ad Grant Program

A few months ago, we shared some information with you regarding the changes coming to Google’s Ad Grant program on our blog. Now, as Google has made a few points clearer, we’d like to give you an update.

As a general overview, the Google Ad Grants Program gives eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofits the opportunity to advertise on Google AdWords free of cost. Eligible nonprofits receive $10,000 a month in AdWords to create ads promoting their organizations in Google search results. Over 35,000 nonprofits participate in the Google Grants program worldwide, and it has always been a great resource for supporting a nonprofit’s online advertising presence without spending actual money.

Google Grant accounts have always had limitations and restrictions on what they could be utilized for, making it more difficult for them to compete against regular paid search ads. Because of this, we have always recommended that nonprofits have both a grant and regular paid search account to receive maximum exposure on Google search’s engine results page (SERP). With the new changes Google has implemented, these restrictions have become even more limiting than before.

Google updated the policies for Google Grant account management and specifically how to avoid a Google Grant account suspension. All these changes were effective starting January 1, 2018. The biggest updates include:

1. The overall click-through rate (CTR) of a grant account must maintain a minimum of 5%. Accounts that miss the 5% CTR threshold for two consecutive months will be suspended. Google will provide a warning within your account if it is at risk of missing this threshold.

This is the biggest change, as many Google Grant accounts fall under this minimum CTR. Google is aware that the overall average CTR for all grant accounts is lower than 5% and has implemented other policy updates to grants to help lift overall performance and remove low-performing keywords. These policy updates include:

  • Nonprofits cannot bid on branded keywords they do not own
  • Keywords must have a quality score of 3 or higher
  • Campaigns must have at least two ad groups and at least two ads and sitelinks active within each ad group
  • Accounts must utilize geotargeting
  • Most single-word keywords will be prohibited as well as exceedingly generic keywords


2. Google has lifted the $2 cost-per-click (CPC) maximum for campaigns using the Maximize Conversions bid strategy. This is one of Google’s automated bid strategies that uses machine learning to automatically optimize bids to help get the most conversions for your campaign (within its designated budget) based on an account’s historical performance. If proper conversion tracking is in place, this will help grant campaigns be more competitive in search auctions.

3. The GrantsPro program will no longer be accepting new applications. This program allows grant accounts that are able to spend more than $10K a month the ability to receive $40K of spend a month. With this change, all current GrantsPro accounts that are able to spend over $10k a month can retain their status as long as they follow the new guidelines. Google is not currently accepting new applications from this program even if your account is eligible.

What these changes mean for your Google Grant account:

In the past, one of the biggest benefits of having a Google Grant account was that it allowed the ability to bid on any relevant keyword to increase exposure and broaden your organization’s search audience. In Grant accounts, organizations have been able to include keywords outside of brand keywords that they wouldn’t necessarily want to spend money on in a paid account. The new 5% CTR minimum is going to significantly limit what keywords organizations can bid on. Having relevant ad copy and landing pages to ensure keywords have good quality scores are going to be more important than ever.

Google began sending non-compliance notices on January 1 and will give accounts some time to make the necessary adjustments. Any account that gets deactivated because of these policy changes can still contact Google support for reinstatement. To avoid the suspension of your Google Grant account, we recommend implementing all necessary optimizations to follow these new guidelines by the end of January. Full information regarding the Google Grant policy changes and other resources from Google regarding these changes can be found HERE.

As always, if we can help you navigate the new rules of the Google Grant program, or help in any other way on our digital advertising program, please contact us!

Brooke Faison