How to Ensure Compliance with Google Ad Grants Program Policies

google ad grant requirements non profit signPreviously covered in our 101 post, Google Ad Grants is a terrific program that provides $10,000 of in-kind Google advertising via monthly PPC grants for a wide range of nonprofit organizations.

From growing an organization’s donor programs to increasing volunteer signups, the program has an endless amount of positive impacts on social and environmental efforts and initiatives.

Not surprisingly, the tech giant has refined and changed aspects of the program over time to improve the performance of nonprofit grant recipient ads. For example, the latest Google Ad Grants policy update occurred on January 1, 2018. It gave noncompliant accounts until March 1, 2018, to make changes, or they would risk suspension.

In an email to grant recipients, Google shared that it had changed its policies in the interest of adding clarity and raising standards of quality for their free advertising grants. Naturally, they also wanted to ensure that ads that appear to their users are relevant.

If you’re currently applying for a Google Ad Grant, you’ll want to make sure you understand the latest and most updated program policies. Or, if you’re currently a recipient, it’s always good to have a refresher on how your campaign should be structured for continued compliance.

It would be a shame to win a grant, only to lose it because you didn’t understand the program policies. That’s why, in this post, we’re diving in and covering requirements that Google Ad Grants recipients need to adhere to in order to avoid suspension and keep their grant.


Keywords are the foundation of Google search advertising. Whether they be “earthquake relief” or “homeless in los angeles,” keywords are words or phrases used to match your ads with the terms people are searching for.

However, with Google Ad Grants, you can’t use simply any keyword of your choosing. In the interest of encouraging recipients to select high-quality and relevant keywords, recipients are restricted from using…

Single keywords: Unless they’re your own branded words, recognized medical conditions, acronyms, or another exception, your keywords need to be more than one word.

Branded keywords: Unless they are associated with your own brand, you aren’t permitted to use branded terms on their own. For example, you could use “YouTube video to learn English” but not “YouTube” on its own.

Overly generic keywords: Overly generic keywords are a surefire pathway to a low CTR. Avoid using keywords such as “free e-book” or “things to do,” and opt for something more specific and relevant to your target audience.

Keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2: As Google explains, a quality score is an “estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.” Luckily, you can set an automated rule to pause low-quality keywords automatically, so your account won’t be at risk for disqualification.

Many of these stipulations regarding keywords were added in during the January 2018 update to policies. Prior to the update, there was more flexibility, but it meant that recipients were less likely to see an optimal performance with their ads.

Click-Through Rate

google ad grants requirements click through ratePre-2018, there was no minimum click-through rate (CTR) requirement for Google Grant recipients. However, recipients now need to maintain a minimum of 5% CTR every month. If an account doesn’t achieve a CTR of at least 5% for two consecutive months, the account will be canceled.

If you notice that your CTR is at risk for dipping below 5%, you need to analyze which keywords, campaigns, and ad groups are bringing it down. Unless they are important to your organization’s goals, you may want to remove them.

If you decide to keep them–it’s time to optimize and make changes to lift that CTR. From testing your ad copy to conducting keyword research, there are proven strategies known to improve ad performance and clicks.

Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking tools such as Google Analytics are extremely useful and helpful in tracking clicks and desired actions such as donations, ticket sales, membership feed, email signups, volunteer signups, and more.

For Google Ad Grants accounts created since January 2018 and grant recipients using Smart Bidding strategies, conversion tracking isn’t merely useful–it’s a requirement.

Account Structure

In the interest of improving overall ad performance as it relates to CTR and conversions–whether they be volunteer signups or online donations–all Google Ad Grants recipients need to have a well-structured account.

As Google states, “A well-structured account is imperative to show your audience the right ad at the right time.”

What does a well-structured account look like in practice? It all comes down to geotargeting, ads and ad groups, and sitelink ad extensions…

Geotargeting: Your ads need to be shown to users in locations that would find your information and services useful. For example, someone living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shouldn’t see ads asking for volunteers at a soup kitchen in Anchorage, Alaska. If your nonprofit primarily works locally, geotarget to your immediate surrounding area. Or, if you work abroad but primarily fundraise in the United States, keep the majority of your ads within the US.

Ads and Ad Groups: Ad groups contain one or more ads which target a shared set of keywords. You set a bid, or price, to be used when an ad group’s keywords trigger an ad to appear. This is called a cost-per-click (CPC) bid. In the past, the CPC bid was capped at $2 per bid for Google Ad Granta. However, that cap was removed during the policy update last year.

For a well-structured account compliant with Google Ad Grants policies, you must have:

  • At least 2 unique test ads per ad group
  • At least 2 ad groups per campaign, each containing a set of closely related keywords

Make sure the ads lead to relevant landing pages and set the ad rotation to “optimize,” meaning your ads will be optimized for each auction using factors such as keyword, search term, device, location, and more.

Sitelink Ad Extensions: Sitelinks are a way to provide more opportunity to click directly from your ad to your landing pages. Google Ad Grants policies require that you have at least two sitelink ad extensions. Take some time to think about which of your site pages are most relevant and useful to people searching, and add them as sitelinks.

Keep in mind that you have the option to use AdWords Express, which automatically structures your account for you.

Program Survey

All recipients must respond to the annual program survey, which is sent to the login email address associated with the grant recipient account. Or, you can find it here.

Make sure you submit your customer ID correctly, as ten digits. Otherwise, you may be notified that the application still needs to be completed.


The domains used in your ads need to have prior approval via the Ad Grants enrollment process or through the additional website domain(s) request form. This is to ensure that the sites used are owned by you, are high quality, have limited commercial activity, and more.  

General Google Ad Policies

Aside from compliance with Google Ad Grants policies, you’ll also need to adhere to general Google Ads policies.

From inappropriate content that promotes hatred or violence to obtaining credit card information over a nonsecure server, there is a wide range of policies Google has instituted to protect their users.

Learn more about general policies here.

Whether you’re a small nonprofit working on saving the rainforest, or a larger established organization raising funds for disaster relief, PPC grants via Google Ad Grants can contribute significantly to your nonprofit advertising strategy.

Taking the time to make sure you fully understand the most updated policies will ensure you’re more likely to qualify for and keep your grant, if awarded.

Contact one of our d3 specialists today to learn more about how we can assist your Google Ad Grants and ultimately increase your visibility, donations, and volunteers for your organization!