AdWords for Non-Profits 2018:
What You Need to Know Part I

Today’s blog post is written by Skye Hughes, Client Administrator, PatronManager. 

Did you know that Google offers an enormous benefit to non-profits in the form of AdWords Ad Grants? Through the program, Google donates a monthly budget of $10,000 to eligible non-profits in in-kind advertising on their AdWords platform; and any 501(c)(3) can apply to receive it. (Don’t really ‘get’ AdWords yet? Check out this video intro)

Given that the program provides $120,000 per year of free advertising on the biggest digital marketing platform out there (dominating almost 40% of the U.S. digital marketing economy in 2017), it kind of sounds too good to be true. But, it is true. Well, it was true… No, no. It still is true, but it’s a little more complicated now.

In January 2018, Google introduced some major changes to their AdWords Grant policies. The policies require non-profits to meet new standards, and non-profits are looking alive to adjust.

So let’s talk about what these changes mean for your organization overall, and what the landscape of digital marketing means for users. Stay tuned for Part II coming soon, in which we’ll get specific about what the new AdWords grant policies are, and what you and your organization can do to handle them.

As of last year, the only requirement for keeping a Google AdWords Grant was to log in to your account every so often and make some kind of change. That’s a pretty low bar considering how much it takes to effectively use AdWords. However, as of January 2018, Google’s policy changes require non-profits to put in considerably more work and have some real expertise to keep their grant.

So what was Google’s reason for the update?

“We revised our Ad Grants policies to help non-profits be more effective with AdWords and improve the quality of their ads, which will lead to targeted awareness of their projects and mission,” a Google statement to Reuters said.

More specifically, that means the changes will make the ads users see more relevant to them, encourage non-profits to use and improve their AdWords account to a greater extent (instead of setting it up and forgetting about it, or never learning enough to make it effective in the first place), and incentivise better strategy in terms of using specific keywords and targeting the right audience. This all makes sense in a certain way.

Essentially, Google is redirecting AdWords users to prioritize quality over quantity of clicks. After all, AdWords is built on an auction system that guides marketing practices away from broad approaches, and towards targeted ones. Broad marketing practices, largely a thing of the past, are like solicitors from Minnesota showing up at a house in Florida, selling window winterizing services in June. Their goal is to get ads in front of everyone — meaning anyone — regardless of the product’s relevance to the person. Remember all the cheesy ad banners on arbitrary web pages back in the 90’s? Throwback 1994:

Thank you, AT&T. It was a stroke of genius.

(And well… I’m pretty sure I did click on that)

Targeted marketing, on the other hand, is built on the principle of bringing together the consumer with what they’re looking for. Obviously, one marketing practice can be kind of (ranging to very) annoying, and the other could conceivably lead to some further interaction.

Targeted marketing is ultimately more successful for marketers, but there are implications that make people uneasy for sure. You have to know something about consumers in order to know how to target them. That requires collecting data (their geographic location, browsing history, demographics, etc.), with or without their knowledge. This has created an aggressive system in which collecting data about people is the norm across all advertising platforms, sometimes pushing to illegal degrees, violating privacy rights. There’s uproar for a good reason. Furthermore, critics say it reinforces preferences and prejudices that increasingly divide populations culturally. However, whatever your views on the landscape of the internet, this is the current state of the advertising-based internet age.

Philosophical issues aside, let’s bring it back to your organization and your AdWords account. It’s important to remember that well-executed, targeted marketing is going to further your mission. I’m sure you want to connect with the people who also want to connect with your organization. AdWords represents a way to do that with the potential for considerable success. The key word here is potential. If you really want to make use of a powerful opportunity, it will take some investment — learning how to use the tools and staying engaged with them. And now, Google’s new policies are going to require that.

Now you might be asking, what are these changes, and what do they mean for your workload? We’ll dive into all of that in Part II coming soon.

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What You Need to Know Part I

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