Google Grants is a program charitable organizations can take advantage of to serve ads via a limited version of AdWords, free of charge.
The Grants program is open to approved charitable organizations with 501(c)(3) status in the US, although charitable organizations based in other countries can also apply if the international requirements are met.
The program allows approved organizations to serve ads valued at up to about $10,000 per month (via a $330 USD daily budget cap), although there are some limitations to the program. Most notably, ads are limited to the Google Search Network, only text ads are eligible, and keyword bid amounts are limited. As a result, it can be difficult to actually reach the $10K monthly allotment for clicks on relevant terms; however, the Grants program can still be a big traffic driver for NPOs and charitable organizations.
Recently, Google announced changes to the program that impact the application and approval process, and could also impact how much traffic search managers can garner through the free program.
Program Changes: Structure & Integration with Google for Nonprofits
First, the Google Grants program will be rolled into the Google for Nonprofits suite. In order to be approved for a Google Grant, US based organizations must meet the Google for Nonprofits guidelines.
Program Changes: Keyword Bids and Ad Serving
The second set of changes around bids and ad serving include an increase in the maximum keyword bid, with a corresponding limit to ad serving.
The good news is that the limit for keyword bids has been increased from $1.00 to $2.00. The ability to bid higher in auctions should help in many cases where $1.00 is below the minimum bid threshold required to serve an ad for a particular search term.
However, the changes also involve a new limitation on ad serving and ad position. Google is now mandating that all Google Grant ads appear below ads from paying advertisers. This change will likely result in a decrease in average ad position, which can lead to lower average click-through rates, and ultimately less traffic for some targeted keywords.
At this point it is hard to gauge how the program changes will impact results. With a higher cap on bids, Grant accounts can likely serve ads against some keywords that were previously too expensive. However, the limitation on ad position relative to paid advertisements could result in less traffic for some targeted keywords.
Search mangers should certainly take advantage of the changes by increasing keyword bids, but it will also be important to monitor traffic levels to understand how the new limitation on position will impact traffic metrics. In addition, search mangers can try to offset the potential drop in traffic on competitive terms by reviewing search query reports, and adding new long-tail terms that paid advertisers might not be targeting.
Google for Nonprofits Resources:
Join Google for Nonprofits: http://www.google.com/nonprofits/
Google Grants Overview Video: http://www.google.com/grants/index.html
Google Grants Details and Requirements: http://www.google.com/grants/details.html
Google Grants on Twitter: https://twitter.com/googlegrants
Google for Nonprofits on Twitter: https://twitter.com/googlenonprofit
Google for Nonprofits on Google+: https://www.google.com/+GoogleforNonprofits
Google for Nonprofits Blog: http://googlefornonprofits.blogspot.com/