Ad Grants

How We Increased Election Turnout Using Google Ad Grants

It was July 2018, and the midterm elections were fast approaching. I had recently connected with the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, and they were anxious to begin their voter turnout efforts. The League’s 501c3 Education Fund primarily exists to increase voter turnout, and 2018 was an extremely critical year for this cause. Stories of voter disenfranchisement and un-counted votes abounded, and indeed only increased after election night.

So when I introduced the Google Ad Grants program to them, they were excited to say the least. A grant of $10,000 a month to advertise in Google search results was exactly what they needed! We would dedicate the entire campaign to promoting awareness of the voting process & voting rights, with the hope of enfranchising as many voters as possible.

Creating a Hyper-targeted Campaign

Later that month we set to work. We held an all-hands-on-deck video call to understand the audience, map their journey through the campaign, integrate it with other efforts and craft the right message.

An ad for each distinct question a user might have

An ad for each distinct question a user might have

Even with an audience as broad as “all adults 18+ eligible to vote in Miami-Dade County,” it was still necessary to understand more about who we were advertising to. We created several personas to exemplify different segments within the population. Most important to LWVMD were the voters in un-incorporated territories with historically low voter turnout, so we decided to give special attention to that segment.

As for the content of the campaign, LWVMD had just completed their “Voter’s Toolkit,” a collection of links, resources, and web pages designed to answer all the frequently asked questions around the election. It was a perfect launchpad. Each page spoke directly & specifically to a particular question, such as “where do I vote?” or “how do I register?” so engagement would be as maximized as possible.

Generic version of the dynamic landing pages

Generic version of the dynamic landing pages

Even so, we took the targeting one step further by creating dynamically-updated landing pages based off the user’s location. Voters in Naranja, for instance, would see ads about “How to Vote in Naranja” rather than the more generic “How to Vote in Maimi”.

That personalization carried through to the content on the landing page, too. By passing URL queries, we could update the page headline with the keyword. And if that wasn’t enough, we could even insert the location in URLs the users clicked on the page—so when someone clicked through to the Vote411 database to look up voting requirements, it would display the correct information customized to the user’s location.

The Results — Did it Work?

Performance of the Google ad grants campaign

The Ads ultimately ran from July 28th right up to the weekend before Election Day, a period of 92 days. In that short period of time we educated 7,441 people on their voting rights! That’s about .25% of the population of Miami-Dade County. It may not sound like much when described as a percentage, but considering that Florida’s Senatorial race was decided by less than 10,000 votes, it’s enough to change an election! (Note: LWV is non-partisan and does not endorse any candidates)

The impact of the campaign grows even further when one considers who those 7,441 people were, not simply how many of them there were. The majority of those educated were within our targeted areas, such as Naranja, Miami Gardens, and Gladeview—all areas of historically low voter turnout. Considering LWVMD’s goal was to increase voter participation, they were ecstatic over the results. Executive Director Marisol Zenteno said we “exceed their expectations,” which is exactly what we want to hear.

How You Can Share in this Success

As the country gears up for a presidential election in 2020, we’re making preparations to duplicate this campaign’s success, and partner with even more nonprofits across the country.

If you’re a 501c3 that’s increasing voter turnout, educating citizens, or bettering the US in some way, we’d love to work with you. Enter your email below to check your eligibility for the Google Ad Grants program, get updates on our work, and begin a conversation about your Ad Grants campaign.

2 Occasions When Ad Grants Just Won't Work

This week's growth tip is a little different because in contrast to the past few tips about successful growth, this tip is about times that growth didn't happen. We're going to briefly review 2 occasions where Ad Grants probably won't work.

These aren't hard and fast rules by any means. More like really odd Jeff Foxworthy quotes: "If you're a small, super-local nonprofit, you might not be a good fit for Ad Grants". So take them with a grain of salt.

If you want to know for certain whether your nonprofit would be a good fit for Ad Grants, request a free assessment using the contact form here.

#1 - Local Nonprofits in Rural Areas

Recently we've had assessment calls with a few local groups like VFW Posts, Guardian-ad-Litem organizations, and a kid's STEM program.

Their location relative to a large city has consistently been the biggest factor in determining if Ad Grants would be useful for their organization.

For those in a city, or who have a service area that covers a city, there's usually enough traffic to justify using Ad Grants.

But with nonprofits in the exburbs or rural areas, there simply aren't enough people searching for "VFW Post" or the like to make the numbers work out. And there's often another chapter of their org in the next county, so expanding the geographic limits of the campaign isn't an option.

I typically suggest traditional advertising methods to nonprofits with this dilemma. Things like sponsorships, signs in popular areas, or adverts in relevant publications will get your name out to as many people as possible, whether or not they were searching for you in the first place.

#2 - Straight Donation Campaigns

I often say that Ad Grants is a great tool to collect more donations—and it is! But it's usually a little trickier than just slapping together an ad directed to your donation page.

Again, we have to consider what people are searching, because that's what determines when our ads appear.

As much as we would love people to spontaneously say "I would like to donate to Such-and-Such Organization today!" It just doesn't happen. Even for huge nonprofits, there's only a couple hundred searches like that a month—branded searches are what we call them.

People searching to donate to World Vision are a very small proportion of the total amount of searches (210 vs 33,100 searches a month).

People searching to donate to World Vision are a very small proportion of the total amount of searches (210 vs 33,100 searches a month).

Instead, we need to build our campaigns around what people are already searching for. Then we can step alongside them, give them something, then ask something of them. Here's what I mean:

Let's say you're an environmental nonprofit. We can step alongside people searching for "global warming facts" or "how bad is global warming", and offer them the information they're looking for in the form of a webpage or some downloadable content. Then on the side of the page, or in a follow up email to their download, we can ask "Hey, if you appreciated that, why not support us so we can do the same for someone else?"

In that scenario, we reach far more people & gather far more donations by thinking of what they want, rather than what we want. It only took a few hours to build that webpage or download, but it will bring in traffic and donations for months to come.


In Conclusion

I hope these little tips are helpful to you as you strive to improve your nonprofit. Like I said, they're not hard and fast rules, but just things to keep in mind as you evaluate your options.

Best of luck to you, and as always, keep growing.

How to Revive a "Dead" Google Ad Grants Account

Last month, we started working with The Evolve Project, a group that conducts anti-bullying seminars for kids, their parents, and teachers. The account was left for dead by their previous consultant, and hadn’t brought in any traffic in months.

Through solid strategy and Ads management, we were ultimately able to resurrect the account. All it took was some patience and TLC. And the best part is, it’s still growing! Read on for the full story.

The Evolve Project’s Problem

TEP needed to attract more visitors through Ad Grants in order to promote an online auction & book more seminars. But the situation quickly got more complex once we looked at their account.

Their previous Ad Grants consultant had set-up the account, then disappeared and left TEP out to dry. Google Ads require constant management in order to be effective, so The Evolve Project’s account quickly devolved into nothing. Below you can see the initial, strong performance, but then a quick drop-off once maintenance was neglected.

Performance had ground to a halt

Performance had ground to a halt

By the time we got in touch with TEP, they had only gotten 14 Impressions, and not even one click in the past month.

So we took a big breath and got to work.

Step 1: Build a Solid Campaign with Manual Cost-Per-Click

The first thing we did was scrap all the existing campaigns to start from scratch. In hindsight, it may have been a good idea to export them for archiving purposes first, but it all worked out okay. Google uses historical performance as a factor for when & where they decide to show your ads, so we wanted to get as far away from the past as possible.

We then dove into Google’s Keyword Planner and TEP’s website to devise a keyword strategy that promised lots of relevant traffic. Ultimately we settled on campaigns targeting searches like “how to stop bullying” and “motivational speakers for schools”.

The most critical piece of this entire stage was to take TEP’s campaign off the “Maximize Conversions” bid strategy, and re-impose the $2 per click bid limit with Manual Cost-Per-Click.

Why would we want to restrict our bids to $2? Because Maximize Conversions uses past performance to analyze when the best time to show an ad might be. For high-performing campaigns, it’s an awesome way to extend your reach and bid limit. But in our case, it penalized us for the previous consultant’s poor job.

Manual CPC allowed us to further divorce ourselves from the past, and start appearing in relevant searches. For the first month, we allowed the account to proceed like this, just gaining some traction with Google’s algorithms:

Progress was slow, but steady with our initial strategy

Progress was slow, but steady with our initial strategy

Step 2: Flip the Maximize Conversions Switch

By the beginning of January, the account was performing well enough for us to consider flipping Maximize Conversions back on. But before we took that jump, we made sure to update what qualifies as a “Conversion” in TEP’s Ads account.

The updated Conversion Actions

The updated Conversion Actions

The whole point of Maximize Conversions is to well, maximize the amount of people performing an action on your website. If the actions you defined as conversions are broken, irrelevant, or really obscure—as was the case with The Evolve Project—Google won’t see anyone convert, and your ads won’t show as much.

By defining new conversions like “visit the contact page”, which we already know a lot of people do, we ensured Google’s algorithm will notice people engaging with TEP’s site. So when we finally went back to Maximize Conversions, the increase in traffic was dramatic!

You can see how much more traffic Maximize Conversions brought in on Jan 9th vs a whole month of Manual CPC.

You can see how much more traffic Maximize Conversions brought in on Jan 9th vs a whole month of Manual CPC.

Conclusion: Does this work?

Although The Evolve Project still has a ways to go, the initial data are telling us that this method of reviving an old Ad Grants account does indeed work.

By removing everything that would penalize us in Google’s algorithm, starting off slow in Manual CPC, and then finally moving to Maximize Conversions, we were able to build momentum towards better and better engagement.

If your nonprofit is suffering from a poorly managed Ad Grants account, contact us using the form at the bottom of the page, or leave a comment here. And as always, keep growing!

What is Google for Nonprofits? The complete run-down

What is Google for Nonprofits? The complete run-down

You may have heard rumors about a little-known program Google runs for non-profit organizations. Officially known as Google for Nonprofits, it’s great for cash-strapped organizations, but there’s plenty of confusion on what it includes and how to apply.

This post will tell you exactly what Google for Non-profits is, what the eligibility restrictions are, and help you decide if it’s right for your cause. So without further delay,