Google Grant Compliance: A Guide to Avoid Suspension

Grant Hensel • May 17, 2021

While challenging to adhere to grant requirements, organizations offering this funding put standards in place for a reason. They want to make sure they award the money to nonprofits that will spend it responsibly. Google Ad Grants are no exception!

Through the Google Ad Grants program, participating organizations receive $10,000 to spend on Google Ads each month. The money is allocated automatically based on your activity in the Google Ads interface. This means that the money never actually reaches your organization, making it an in-kind contribution and simplifying the accounting. Best of all, the grant will reactivate for as long as your nonprofit needs it.  

There’s just one catch: participating nonprofits must follow the Google Grant compliance rules. Otherwise, their accounts will be suspended. This isn’t intended to veer you away from the program. Instead, you just have to put some extra effort into researching the program’s rules — especially since Google updates them every so often.

Whether you’re just now hearing about Google Grants or your account has been flagged for not maintaining compliance, we’re here to help! We’ll explore the purpose behind the program’s rules before diving into actionable tips to keep your account active, including:

  • Understand Why Google Implements Compliance Requirements
  • Assign A Knowledgeable Google Grant Compliance Manager
  • Follow The Required Account Structure
  • Choose Keywords That Align With The Google Ad Grant Rules
  • Maintain A 5% Click-Through Rate Each Month
  • Track Meaningful Conversions For Your Cause

It’s no secret Google is the most popular search engine. Advertising space within Google Search empowers your nonprofit to share its mission with a global audience. As such, it’s worth spending some extra time researching the most important Google Ad Grant rules.

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1. Understand Why Google Implements Compliance Requirements

As we mentioned, every grantmaking organization aims to award funds to nonprofits that will spend the money in ways that will advance their missions. That’s why they require nonprofits to go through an intricate vetting process. The primary goal of Google Grants eligibility rules is to create meaningful conversions, not just spend as much money on advertisements as possible.

When the program launched around 20 years ago, no Google Grant compliance rules were in place. Instead of connecting with likely prospects, nonprofits were more focused on spending as much money as possible to increase their search visibility.

This led to nonprofits doing the following:

  • Advertising any content on their website, including pages people wouldn’t find useful
  • Targeting the wrong keywords that didn’t align with the searcher’s intent and would bring unqualified prospects

This decreased the program’s value and probably led to confused users encountering content they didn’t want to interact with. Instead of shutting down the program, Google’s experts took a different approach. They started discussing how they could require nonprofits to create more meaningful ads for mission-centric topics. Thus, the Google Grant compliance rules were officially launched in 2018.

2. Assign A Knowledgeable Google Grant Compliance Manager

As with most initiatives, it’s essential to have a plan in place before taking on Google Ad Grants. Consider designating a specific person or team at your organization to manage your account, respond to campaign performance data, and ensure you consistently meet all Google Grant compliance standards.

As your Google Grant manager adapts to the rules and features of the program, they can increase the grant’s value for your organization.

Even if they’re not yet an expert, assigning a dedicated account manager allows them to grow their expertise and acquire the necessary talent for effective Google Grant management. The Google Ads interface is simple to use but has more complex features that take some time to learn.

However, many organizations — especially smaller ones — don’t have the staff bandwidth to devote an internal team member’s time to manage ads. Instead, they outsource the work to a Google Grants agency. 

Getting Attention’s guide to Google Grants agencies explores the scope of what these agencies will handle. For instance, a professional agency will manage the following related to compliance:

  • Keyword research. A professional will have plenty of search engine marketing (SEM) knowledge, allowing them to pick keywords to connect you with qualified prospects and meet Google’s quality standards.
  • Landing page optimization. One of the primary requirements for initial eligibility is valuable website content. An agency will help you pick and optimize your most important landing pages to promote.
  • Valid conversion tracking. Google requires you to implement accurate conversion tracking. A professional agency will have experience with Google Analytics and help you pick the best conversion goals for your nonprofit.

A professional agency’s expertise extends beyond understanding the Google Ad Grant rules. For example, they can help you drive more meaningful conversions and develop the best ad copy most likely to convert users.

Whether you assign someone internally or outsource the work, assigning a grant manager lays a stable foundation for maintaining your nonprofit’s Google Grant compliance. 

3. Follow The Required Account Structure

Google’s compliance standards are designed to ensure nonprofits use the Google Ad Grant to some degree of success. These standards incentivize organizations to maintain the proper structure of their Google Ads account and build it out to include the necessary elements.

For instance, Google requires all grantees to:

  • Have at least one responsive search ad (RSA) in every ad group
  • Include at least two active ads in every campaign

This structure ensures your account has all the necessary elements for success. Let’s break down the structure your account will need to follow to adhere to Google Grant compliance standards:

  • Campaigns: These are the largest building blocks of the Google Ads interface. Campaigns contain multiple ad groups and even more ads. They are themed around a goal or topic, allowing for easy ad organization. Common topics include “Volunteers,” “Donations,” or specific campaigns.
  • Ad Groups: Within your campaigns, you’ll have ad groups that inherit their campaign’s theme. While campaigns are general, ad groups become more specific. Ad groups are created around specific keywords someone might search. So, the ad that appears in any given Google search depends on the keywords in the associated ad group.
  • Ads: This is the smallest element but arguably the most important. When you create multiple ads, Google automatically rotates between them, giving you data on how they perform. This allows grant managers to evaluate ad performance and make changes. Responsive search ads (RSA) automate the process for you, picking the best-performing headlines and descriptions based on what you provide.

While this is the required account structure, it’s also likely to yield the best results for your organization. Following this structure will provide you with insightful performance data you can then use to produce better ads over time.

4. Choose Keywords That Align With The Google Ad Grant Rules

As we previously mentioned, each ad group is associated with particular keywords that determine when and to whom your ads are shown on the Google results page. So a major part of complying with the program’s rules is keyword research. You’ll need to choose mission-centric keywords that will connect you with likely prospects. Otherwise, ads might be shown to users with an entirely different search intent who aren’t actually searching for charitable causes to support.

As part of their Google Grant compliance rules, Google breaks down keyword-specific regulations, requiring you to be strategic in your keyword choices. The goal is to prevent users from loading up their ad groups with every possible keyword. There are even explicit bans on some types of keywords. For example, Google doesn’t allow: 

  • Single-Word Keywords
  • Generic Keywords
  • Keywords with A Quality Score Below 3

The first two requirements ensure keywords are specific to what you’re advertising. Allowing generic or single-word keywords could easily congest the Google Ads system, leading to ads that aren’t as relevant to a searcher’s inquiry. However, there are some exceptions to this policy. For instance, your own brand keywords, approved medical conditions, and some other cases are deemed acceptable.

The third requirement is based on Google’s quality score. This score is a number between one and 10 and is determined by an algorithm. In essence, the score reflects a keyword’s relevance to both the ad and the landing page attached to the ad. If they’re all in congruence, the score will be higher, and your ad will be more likely to be shown.

NXUnite’s guide to Google Ad Grants explains you can also use the negative keyword feature to refine your keyword strategy. You can prevent your content from being displayed for certain search terms, so you’ll only show up for relevant searches.

5. Maintain A 5% Click-Through Rate Each Month

Each ad’s click-through rate (CTR) is incredibly important. If you work in cause-related marketing, you’ve likely encountered this metric for different marketing platforms, such as email. With emails, you can use CTR to determine the effectiveness of your subject lines, sender name, and preview text. In the context of Google Ad Grants, it’s not much different. While Google will calculate your CTR for you, it doesn’t hurt to know how it’s calculated.

To calculate CTR for your Google Ads, divide the number of clicks your ad receives by the number of impressions. 

Clicks are the number of times a user clicks on your ad, while impressions are the number of times an ad is shown to users. Google requires you to maintain a 5% click-through rate each month. Failing to meet a 5% CTR for two consecutive months might result in temporary account deactivation.

Essentially, the CTR requirement sets the minimum benchmark for success. So long as 5 out of every 100 people presented with your ad click on it, you’ll remain compliant with Google Ad Grant rules.

Google uses this metric to determine compliance because it easily reports whether an ad is relevant to a given search. For example, a low CTR suggests the ad isn’t appealing to the searcher.

Note that a 5% CTR is only the minimum threshold you should meet. Highly successful Google Ad accounts will have a higher rate than that. While the Google Ads interface gives you most of the necessary information to enhance your ads, using other tools like Google Analytics can help you gather more insights into how you can drive more clicks.

6. Track Meaningful Conversions For Your Cause

Conversion tracking is the final Google Grant compliance standard we’ll cover. Conversions are a big indicator of whether your campaigns are successful and are the most meaningful metric to monitor.

A conversion occurs when a user completes a valuable action for your organization. You are at complete liberty to determine what your conversions are, but common ones include:

  • Online donations 
  • Volunteer registrations
  • Event registrations
  • Newsletter signups
  • A minimum amount of time spent on your site (e.g., 5 minutes)

Google requires you to track conversions and have at least one conversion every month. To track conversions, you must install Google Analytics on your website. Google Analytics easily integrates with Google Ads and gives you a full suite of other data you can use to hone your digital presence.

Further, these conversions must be valuable and non-trivial. While trivial conversions may boost your stats, these conversions won’t actually create value for your organization and may mislead anyone using them in their decision-making. If you have a high conversion rate, Google Grant compliance standards require you to confirm it’s meaningful to your work. If you have a low conversion rate, that may indicate you should revisit your keywords, adjust the ad content, or optimize the landing page.

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Final Thoughts on The Google Grant Compliance Rules

Google’s compliance standards aren’t meant to be overly restrictive or burdensome. Instead, they’re designed to ensure your Google Ads account is set up for success. By actively pursuing Google Grant compliance, your organization can lay a foundation for successful search engine marketing.

Once you get the hang of complying with the rules, you’ll be equipped with all the tools necessary to take your Google Ads account to the next level. Over time, you’ll learn how to write better ads, target more focused keywords, and boost your conversion rates. With effective Google Ad Grant management, your organization will be in a strong position to share your mission with the world.