Today’s topic is Google Ad Grant Compliance: What do you need to do to stay compliant with the rules and how to make sure that you keep your Google Ad Grant active and running smoothly. We’ll also, at the end, talk about what to do if you’re suspended, and we’ll have a video focused just on that as well in the future. So stay tuned to the end if you happen to be suspended, and we’ll talk about what the solution there might be.

Quick background – before we begin – I want to explain the philosophy behind the compliance rules so that you understand what Google is trying to do, and therefore, construct your account in a way such that even if there are new compliance rules in the future, you’ll hopefully already be set up to be compliant with them.

The big objective that Google has in putting the compliance rules in place is what they call “moving from meaningless spend to meaningful conversions.” So for the first number of years in the Google Ad Grants program, people focused primarily on spending the full $10,000 to the extent that they could. This often led to the behavior that they would advertise on anything and everything, including some things that didn’t necessarily make sense. 

For example, if you had an organization which was an animal shelter and you were providing dogs that could be adopted into loving homes, you would maybe advertise on the word dogs. So anyone searching for anything related to dogs anywhere would potentially see your ad. You might say, well, that would be great! We want to reach everyone who is even thinking about dogs. The problem is that you start getting ads showing up in places where it doesn’t necessarily make sense. So if someone Googled “Who Let the Dogs Out lyrics,” your ad might show up saying “adopt a dog.” That doesn’t really make sense for the searcher. It’s not what they’re trying to find. They’re trying to find lyrics and seeing your ad there is a little bit jarring because everything else on the page is very relevant for what they’re looking for.

That started, actually, decreasing the value of the search experience slightly for people who were searching. So Google said, “Let’s put compliance rules in place so that people are only advertising on topics that really make a lot of sense. And therefore, we can continue offering this wonderful benefit to the nonprofits and also the searchers can see information that’s really relevant.”

So that led to the first of the Google compliance rules, which is “no single word keywords.” The keywords that you specify in your Google Ad Grants account are the words that, when people search for them, will trigger your ads to potentially show up in the search results. Google now says, as of the beginning of 2018, which is when these compliance rules rolled out, that each of those keywords must have at least two or more words in them. So you can’t just have “dogs” as a keyword or “dog” or “adopt.” You have to have, for example, “adopt dogs” or “adopt a dog,” “adopt puppies,” etc. That makes the search term much more relevant to what the person is actually looking for. That’s rule #1.

The second rule is in the same vein. It says that you have to pause keywords that have a quality score of 1 or 2. Quality score is the metric of how relevant this keyword is in your ads and your landing pages. If you have a score of 1 or 2, it’s very low. It’s out of 10 total. So Google asks that if you have a keyword where the quality score deems to be not particularly relevant, that you pause those keywords and that you don’t show your ads on them. This is another way to ensure that the results continue to be very relevant for the searchers. 

Another rule that’s in place is the click-through-rate. This is the third rule that’s designed to make sure that things are really relevant. If you have a click-through-rate, which is equal to the number of people who click on your ad divided by the number of people who view your ad, of less than 5%, you’re in danger of being suspended. Google requires that Ad Grants accounts maintain a click-through-rate of at least 5% to stay in the program.

This is another way to determine relevancy. If a lot of people are seeing your ad, but no one is clicking on it, it’s a sign to Google that the ad might not be as relevant as they had hoped. The problem there is that, again, it’s decreasing the value of the searcher’s experience.

A fourth method of ensuring that the ads are relevant to the searcher is based on Geo targeting. So you can specify for your ads what is the geographic area – maybe it’s a city, maybe it’s a state, maybe it’s a county, maybe it’s a whole country if you’re national – that your ads can be displayed in. Prior to the compliance rules being in place, there was no safeguard to prevent you from accidentally specifying the entire country as the location for your ads when your organization only worked in one county of one area. Now, that’s actually checked. If your organization doesn’t work in an area, then you shouldn’t be showing ads in that area because it’s not a good experience for the searcher.  

Another compliance rule that’s in place is the conversion tracking policy. Google encourages, as we said, people to track meaningful conversions, so these are things like people filling out forms, maybe to learn more about your organization or to sign up to volunteer, maybe to sign up for email newsletters, maybe donating, maybe watching key videos, signing petitions, taking some kind of meaningful action to learn more about you and your cause and the work that you do or in some tangible way supporting your mission.

You’re required to have Google Analytics installed on your website so that you can set up and track those conversions. We’ll have another video that talks specifically about conversion tracking and another tool that you can use called Google Tag Manager, which is an enormously helpful way to track conversions like form submissions, video views, link clicks, button click, and so forth. That’s off topic for now, so we’ll just leave that.

The requirement is that you have at least one meaningful conversion action happening each month. So you want to make sure that of all the people that your sending to your website through the Google Ad Grant, at least one of them is performing a conversion. You can get into trouble if you set your conversions as something that happens all the time. For example, if you set a conversion as “viewed the homepage,” nearly everyone who comes to your website would at some point or another view the homepage, which would lead to a very high conversion rate. Google will flag you for that. If your conversion rate is above 15%, you’ll start to get flagged, and Google will want to investigate if you are tracking goals that are appropriately meaningful or not particularly significant for your organization. Someone filling out a form to volunteer is very significant. Someone viewing the homepage is not particularly significant.  

You also want to be careful, potentially, about goals like number of pages viewed or just time on site. Ideally, the conversions you’d be tracking would be meaningful actions that people are taking to get involved and not just something they’re doing passively like viewing a commonly viewed page. So that’s the conversion tracking policy.

There are a few other sub requirements under that where you have to categorize your conversions accurately. If you have a donation conversion, for example, you’re required to categorize it as purchase/sale in the conversion tracking section of Google Ads so that Google knows this is a donation actually taking place. If it’s not someone actually donating, you shouldn’t categorize it as purchase/sale. That’s really important for the Google Ads team’s reporting so that they can understand the impact of the program.

An additional requirement is the annual survey. You will complete a survey after you begin the program or during the application process, and then you’ll be invited to complete a survey every year, sharing your experience with the program and how you’re using the Google Ad Grant. This is a requirement as well, so if you don’t do that, you’re at risk of being suspended, and it’s a really quick, easy, painless Google form they send you to fill out. 

With that, you’ll want to make sure that your customer ID is entered into the form exactly right because, otherwise, it can lead to your response not being associated with your account, which can create lots of problems down the road.

These are the main Google Ad Grant compliance rules to keep in mind. We would recommend, for a lot of these things, checking them at least weekly. There are other requirements that maybe don’t have to be dealt with as often, like the annual survey, but a lot of these different things should really be addressed on a weekly basis, like low quality score, keywords, or ads or keywords with a really low click-through-rate.

There are a few other rules in terms of making sure that you’re logging into your account at least once a month and that you’re making changes at least every few months just so that Google knows you’re still active with the account. If you don’t spend any money on the account for a certain period of time, you’ll eventually have your account deactivated and then it will be a laborious process to get it reactivated, so make sure you’re always continuing to use the Ad Grant. 

Another requirement is that the structure of your account has to follow Google’s best practices, so they ask that, for each campaign, you have at least two ad groups in it. An ad group is a collection of both keywords and ads, so if you had a campaign about adopting – maybe you have one ad group that says “adopt puppies,” and you have a lot of keywords there about adopting puppies, and then there’s another ad group about adopting older dogs, potentially, and then you have ads for those.  So each campaign must have at least two ad groups, and then similarly, each ad group must have at least two ads, which allows those two ads to be split tested against each other and optimized over time. That’s another really important component of the compliance rules.

There are other requirements around. You should be using sitelink extensions, which are little  links that can appear below your ads and allow people to view other pages on your website, so, for example, if someone Googled a topic related to your organization’s work, you could maybe have a main ad, which would send them to a blog post on your website, for example, about that topic. And then under it, there could be additional links, maybe giving more information, maybe giving a link to your contact form, maybe giving a link to your mission, maybe giving a link to your about page, etc., so that people can dig deeper, if they want to, right from within the ad.

These are most of the compliance rules. This is a constantly evolving landscape, so depending on when you watch this video versus when it was produced, there may be additional rules that are now in place. But this will at least get you started. There are great resources available on Google’s website that go through each of the compliance requirements in a little bit more detail. If you do have questions, please feel free to just ask in the comments below. We’d be happy to answer those for you. Thank you so much. I hope this has been helpful and best of luck with your Google Ad Grant compliance work. Thank you.


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