A Review of the Ad Grant Scheme’s Transformative Last 2 Years
2020 was not an easy year for anyone, but in the Google Ad Grant world, many accounts were reporting huge year on year increases in traffic. Our Paid Media Consultant, Dan, runs through the many changes Google made to the ad grant scheme over the last two years and what it could mean for the future.
The story starts in January 2018, when new requirements were placed upon Grants to remain active. Of these, both the limitation on single word keywords and the minimum of a 5% account-wide CTR reduced the total traffic available to some accounts, but the biggest change that affected traffic in accounts around this time was initially undocumented by Google.
The change involved the Ad Grant Quality filter, a rather minor part of the ad auction system. Google describes the Ad Quality feature as being “based, in part, on the general ad quality level of the standard ads in the country where you’re showing your ads”. This seems to be a system by which Google limits how much Ad Grant ads show in comparison to paid ads.
Around the same time as the new policies were implemented (in Nov 2018), Google significantly changed how many ads the Ad Quality filter was limiting in grants. This generally affected the lower priority informational content that makes up the bulk of traffic for many accounts. This caused a significant drop in traffic across the Ad Grant scheme as many accounts lost up to 50% of their daily traffic.
The community were unhappy about the changes, to say the least. The timing of the announcement (after many charity staff had left for Christmas) and the short amount of time given to adjust to the drastically different set of rules was not the best Christmas present Google could have given. The Google Ad Grant scheme realised they would have to start giving rather than taking after this change, and over the next year we would see a drastic turnaround in the prospects of Ad Grant accounts.
Most recently Google has offered extra budget in several periods for Grants during peak performance times such as Christmas. In addition to extra budget, the addition of the maximise conversion bidding strategy being allowed to exceed the $2 bid cap, and the introduction of responsive search ads (which seem to be preferred greatly by the Ad Quality Filter) have allowed us to improve traffic levels across many accounts.
In addition, Google have seemed to relax the initial change they made on Nov 2018 to the ad quality filter, causing traffic to climb back up even without any officially announced new changes. You can see the large increase in traffic between the implementation of the policies and the release of Responsive Search Ads as a result of this.
The Future of the Ad Grant Scheme
So, what does all of this tell us about the future of the Ad Grant scheme? In our opinion the message is quite clear from Google: adopting new features, such as automated bidding and Responsive Search Ads, will allow you to mitigate or bypass the restrictions being placed on accounts. It is now more important than ever to be quick to adapt to new features and changes being implemented in the Grant scheme, as they often seem to come paired with changes which limit accounts not using them. For example, the ad quality filter change has been mitigated by responsive search ads and being able to bid above the $2 limit allowed higher priority content to bring in more traffic during times of increased budget.
In recent times we have seen changes to search term reporting and keyword match types, reducing how specifically we can target user searches. However, we have been granted access to demographic targeting, which was up until now not allowed within Grant accounts. This will once again require a change in how you operate a Grant account, focussing less on what people are searching and more on who those people are. Moving into the future, it is important to remain up to date on what changes are happening in the Ad Grant scheme and coming up with ways to maximise the benefit these new changes can give to your accounts.
If you have any questions on future implications for your ad grant, or are interested in working with us to apply for your non-profit organisation’s own Google Ad Grant, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
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