Big Changes Coming To AdWords Ad Grants

I recently got a fairly innocuous email from Google regarding a Google Ad Grant account that I work with. Here it is in it’s entirety:

It starts out by saying how 35,000 nonprofits have accounts. That’s great. They’re excited to tell us that the $2.00 bid limit will no longer apply to campaigns that use the “Maximize conversions” bidding. I can get behind that (and will be testing it). It then gives a list of policies that they’re updating, all going into effect on January 1st.

I honestly didn’t think anything of this email until I looked at some of the updated policies.

BIG Changes Coming

You can look through all the changes yourself by going here. However, to make your life a little easier, I’ve provided a tl;dr version below:

  • Not allowed:
    • Branded words that you don’t own.
    • Single-word keywords except for your own branded keywords, some medical conditions and this exception list.
    • Overly generic keywords like ‘“free videos”, “e-books”, “today’s news”, “easy yoga”, “download games”, “job alert”, names of places, names of historical events/people’.
    • Keywords with Quality Score lower than 2.
  • Account structure requirements:
    • Must have relevant geo-targeting.
    • Must have at least 2 ad groups per campaign, with at least 2 active ads each.
    • Must have at least 2 sitelink extensions in place.
  • Performance – Account must maintain 5% CTR. Miss for two months in a row and your account is suspended.

5% CTR???

This is the requirement that really blew me away.

They quintupled the requirement (which used to be 1%) and it’s buried in a paragraph in a policy that’s buried in a list of links in an email. So many nonprofits won’t realize this until their accounts are suspended on March 1st of 2018. Google needs to make a big deal about this.

First of all, it’s going to require a lot of improvement for many Google Ad Grantees. When you are bid capped at $2.00 and any paying advertiser outranks you, then you end up targeting a lot of informational queries. These are inherently more difficult to win a click.

Keyword Cleanup

The changes to keywords seem like a general cleanup strategy. Google doesn’t want to be funding competitor conquesting, least of all coming from nonprofits that might be bidding on the brand names/keywords of paying AdWords customers. Frankly, they probably didn’t even need the policy change on single-word keywords and overly generic terms because the 5% requirement will basically kill this anyway.

Banning keywords with QS of 2 or lower is going to be a big issue as well. For example, what do I tell this nonprofit as I pause these keywords?

These are two keywords that are doing great, but will get our account suspended if we keep them running. Come on Google!

Account Structure

Nonprofits should be doing all the account structure items they’re now requiring anyway, so this is a chance for them to up their games.

In conclusion, I think Google may be trying to slide this through without anyone noticing. That’s bad. But asking nonprofits to make such significant changes on such short notice (only 17 days from email send before these go into effect) is just bad customer service. And if they try to say that one email and a few notifications in the interface are enough, then they don’t understand how busy nonprofits are.

If Google wants to clean up some riffraff in the Grants system that’s their prerogative, but they need to do a much better job of communicating with legitimate nonprofits and ensuring they don’t catch a bunch of dolphins in their tuna nets.