Google Grant Ads Case Study: Lower Traffic, Higher Value

Case Study: Google Grant

You may remember that cold, scary day in 2017 when Google announced that they were bringing in new rules and conditions for Google Grant Ad accounts, and would be shutting down accounts that didn’t comply.  When I started as Head of Digital in Barnardos Ireland in January 2018, one of the first things on my priority list was to overhaul our Google Grant Ad account to make sure that we stayed compliant and didn’t lose our account.  I had to fit this into an extremely busy schedule and so focused on a few key tasks. 

The actions I undertook:

  • Paused all the campaigns that weren’t getting a high click through rate
  • Checked that the most important campaigns (such as brand, shops, jobs, training) were all up to date and providing relevant information
  • Cleaned up the Sitelinks and made sure each active campaign had useful, relevant extensions
  • Checked that all the active campaigns were compliant with Google’s new rules (at least two Ad Groups per campaign, at least two Ads per Ad Group, no single keywords except for brand terms, etc)
  • Changed the bid strategy to the newly permitted Maximise Conversions on all the campaigns that were conversions-focused

My main goal with this was to maintain our Google Grant account: it had delivered extremely valuable traffic in the past and I knew it would be a huge mistake to let it lapse.  I saw the work I did in early 2018 as essential maintenance, and my main hope was that we would obtain a strong click through rate that I could then build on further when there was time to give it more attention. I had a gut feeling that we wouldn’t suffer too much where conversions were concerned, as I know that relevant traffic is always more valuable, but I didn’t expect much growth in conversions due to the reduced traffic.  

However, the results that I got at the end of the year significantly exceeded those expectations. Yay!

The results

I expected conversions to do ok, with maybe a small dip.  In fact, we saw a 62% increase in donations driven by Google Ads:

2017 2018 Difference
Impressions 947,812 151,955 -84%
Clicks 46,767 18,909 -60%
Click through rate 4.93% 12.44% +152%
Ad spend*  $ 57,224.65  $ 17,463.75 -69%
Donations 97 157 +62%

*All free under the Google Grant

How did this come about?

It’s down to quality over quantity.  By forcing us to be more specific and relevant in our keywords and targeting, Google has ensured that higher quality traffic is coming through our Ads account. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the decrease in numbers has helped rather than hindered our account. 

The new Maximise Conversions feature is a key factor in this too. Our average CPC (cost per click) in 2018 was $0.92, down from our average CPC of $1.20 in 2017 – but the Maximise Conversions options allowed our account to bid as high as $12.58 on some keywords. In 2017, that would have been capped at $2.  What I found with the higher CPC keywords generally, is that they drove a very small amount of traffic, but those visitors were extremely likely to convert.  One of the high value keywords had a conversion rate of 100%.

Another interesting insight: in 2018, 85% of the traffic driven by Google Ads in 2018 was new to our website. This shows that Google Ads are activating new supporters, highlighting further what a valuable channel it is. 

My plans for 2019

I’m blocking off time in Q1 of 2019 to further build on this.  I plan to do the following:

  • Investigate where more conversions can be set up. The power of Google Grant Ads is in driving conversions-focused traffic, and there may be opportunities to set up low-commitment conversions (such as signing up to a mailing list) for pages that currently don’t contain any call to action.
  • Review our site content for more opportunities for Ad campaigns.
  • Look at search terms that are currently triggering our ads to see if more specific campaigns can be set up.
  • Look at keyword research and trends data for other topics we could be advertising on.
  • Look for opportunities to create more landing pages on our website for popular searches.
  • As always, do regular checks to ensure the account is performing and remaining compliant.

Help for you

As the results above show, the tough love that Google is imposing on Grant Ad accounts is a really good thing, and your Google Grant Ads are really worth resourcing.

If you’d like to get your Google Grant Ad account delivering donations and other valuable conversions, Digital Charity Lab has lots of help. Observe!

1 Comment

  1. Todd Casey

    Thank you for sharing all this information on your website. It in incredibly helpful to me for making my way through the Google Ad Grants for Non-Profits program. I am studying your excellent Udemy course as well.


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