Google Ad Grant Changes: Every New Requirement

You may have heard about the changes Google has initiated to the Ad Grants program that became effective on January 1, 2018. We have outlined a simple guide to the new changes along with some of the obstacles that could be in your path as you navigate these changes.

Nonprofit Qualifications

With the new requirements, Google has clarified two aspects regarding the nature of nonprofits that qualify for the grant.

To qualify for the Google Ad Grant, an organization must:

  • Be solely for charity, which simply reaffirms that Google Ad Grant recipients must be nonprofits.
  • Keep ads in line with Google ideals, meaning these ads cannot “promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination, or violence.” Any content linked from these ads must meet the same standard.

Hopefully, these clarifications should not affect your nonprofit’s ability to qualify for the Google Ad Grant. If you have further questions, see Google’s explanation of its terms and conditions.


Google has limited the keywords that your organization can use in an effort to emphasize “mission-based campaigns”. With the new update, Google prohibits the following:

  • Branded keywords, with the exception of your own. This means that words like “Facebook” can’t be used as keywords.
  • Single-word keywords, unless these words refer to your brand, a particular medical condition, or are listed as an exception by Google.
  • Generic keywords, like “free download,” since they could be in reference to any number of nonprofits.
  • Keywords with Quality Scores of 2 or lower. Quality Scores fall on a scale of 1 to 10, and measure aspects of the keyword like ad relevance.

Website Specifications

In addition to changes referencing the ads, Google has altered its requirements for the websites linked from the ads. Your nonprofit can only advertise the website with which you applied for the Google Grant. Additional websites can be added by submitting a request to Google. In our experience as Google Grant AdWords Managers, other domains that follow Google’s requirements can be added but there can be instances of disqualification which would require reapplying for that domain name or placing a call to Google Support for help.

Issues that could cause a website to be disqualified include:

  • A domain that is not owned by your organization.
  • Poor functionality, meaning links are broken and the website is not well-maintained.
  • A commercial focus. Activities such as selling products should not be the primary purpose of the website. If your nonprofit does have some commercial activity, it should be for the goal of furthering nonprofit work. For any profits obtained, the website must explain their use.
  • Too many ads. If your website does have ads, they should be tied to your nonprofit’s work and should not impede your users’ experience. Google’s own AdSense cannot be in place for an Ad Grant account.
  • Donation page requirements. Your website must list your 501(c)3 status and EIN number on any page where a visitor can make a donation.

Account Management

Beyond the keywords and website specifications, Google has also added particular requirements for account settings.

Google now requires that each account:

  • Enable geo-targeting
  • Maintain multiple active ad groups in each campaign
  • Maintain multiple active ads in each ad group
  • Participate in the Google Survey

Performance Standards

The most significant change in Google Ad Grants is the new standard for click-through rates (CTR), which will likely affect most nonprofits.

To continue qualifying for the Ad Grant, your organization’s account must:

  • Retain a 5% click-through rate. This requires your account to have ads which, on average, cause 5% of their viewers to click on the link.
  • Correct fluctuations within one month. The click-through rate for an Ad Grant AdWords account cannot fall below 5% for two successive months. Google’s new policy requires the account be shut down in those circumstances.

Google is looking to bring higher standards to the Ad Grants program. While these requirements have been added, it is also important to note that two previous standards have been rescinded:

  • For Grant’s Pro, the full budget does not need to be used each month, as the Legacy GrantsPro policies are no longer in place. $40,000 may have been overwhelming before, but Google has removed this requirement. Unfortunately, Google is still not accepting new applicants for GrantsPro.
  • The $2 bid cap no longer applies for nonprofits using Maximize Conversions. This bid strategy automatically adjusts your bids based on the likelihood of clicks converting, as tracked by Google Analytics. All Grant accounts are now required to use Maximize Conversions within one month of account opening, and must have a working Google Analytics account that is tracking conversions and linked to AdWords.

Completing this list of tasks consistently and in a timely manner adds to the administrative burden of operating a Google Ad Grant.


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