Last week, we looked at how changes to the Google Grants auction format and max bids affect account performance for nonprofit advertisers. As cost-per-click (CPC) is increasing and click volume and average ad position is decreasing the question becomes: what can be done to make the best of the situation?
Our case study found that Google Grants advertisers now receive about half the clicks they were prior to January 28th of this year, yet fees remain the same.
One of our clients saw a 41% drop in click volume with a 73% increase in average cost-per-click. Another saw a 37% drop in clicks coupled with a 105% increase in average CPC.
Google has, understandably, placed a number of limitations on its nonprofit accounts. Unfortunately, some of these limitations also hinder Google Grants advertisers in their ability to respond to declines in account performance. With a $2 cap on keyword bids and a set maximum daily spend, Google Grants advertisers can neither adjust campaign budgets nor raise keyword bids in order to compete more effectively. They also cannot truly compete against paying advertisers as paying ads always appear above Grants ads, regardless of bid.
All hope is not lost, though. There are a number of things that Google Grants advertisers can do to optimize their PPC accounts. Here are just a few of the ways nonprofit advertisers can make up for some of the declines seen over the past few months.
1. Get creative with account structure.
The key to a successful account structure is breaking campaigns and ad groups into tightly knit, thematically related groups of keywords and ads. More advanced advertisers sometimes take this a step further, creating different ad groups or campaigns for the same keywords with different match types.
One idea is to structure campaigns or ad groups by average CPCs, placing keywords with low CPCs in one campaign and those with high CPCs in another campaign. Grouping high cost keywords together would allow a Google Grants advertiser to limit campaign budget on expensive keywords, while giving more of the limited daily budget to lower cost terms, leading to more bang for the buck.
2. Get aggressive with keyword expansion.
The Google Keyword Tool and new Keyword Planner provide helpful insight when doing keyword research, especially when looking for low cost and low competition terms. Both tools allow for filtering suggestions by approximate CPC and competition.
Google Grants advertisers can use these tools to find keywords that are more cost-effective. Simply take existing successful keywords and plug them into the tool. Add keyword filters to limit the suggestions to terms by desired cost and competition levels.
While the estimated average CPC and competition level Google provides may not be 100% accurate, this information can help identify additional keywords where Google Grants advertisers are more likely to have success.
Like all advertisers, Google Grants participants should routinely examine search query reports and add relevant long tail terms that appear in searches to their account.
3. Test, test, test – and then do even more testing – of ads.
Like paid advertisers, those participating in Google Grants should routinely test ad messaging. Ads should always be highly relevant to the keywords in the ad group, but there is room to experiment too.
Use a free version of an online competitive tool and do some searches to look at ads competitors are running on your most important keywords. Look at the themes in messaging and think about how your ad might be able to stand out from the crowd.
Be sure to A/B test with only a small piece of the message at a time, so that results can be measured and incorporated for the next round of ad testing.
4. Don’t be afraid of advanced targeting options.
One of the benefits of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns is the ability to both positively and negatively modify keyword level bids based on a number of data points. Bids can be multiplied based on the searcher’s geography, day of the week, time of day and device type.
Google Grants accounts can reap some of the benefits of Enhanced Campaigns, though it will work a bit differently given the $2 keyword bid cap. For example, if all bids are set to the maximum of $2, rather than using positive bid modifiers, negative bid modifiers can be used to reduce the cost of clicks that are not as likely to convert into a lead or donation.
Look at your data – when do you have low conversion or click-through rates at a high cost? Are users in certain states less likely to convert than others? Do mobile users ever donate, or is it still too cumbersome for them to do so? Consider adding a bid modifier of -10% or -15% to reduce keyword bids during times, within geographies and on devices that are not providing a good return on investment. Perhaps even consider turning PPC off during certain hours, to preserve your daily budget for the times that are more successful based on your organization’s goals.
5. Integrate Google Grants with other channels.
Ideally, Google Grants should never be used alone. People often touch multiple channels before they convert into a donation, lead or other type of conversion. Think about how you can integrate Google Grants into your organization’s overall strategy, especially organic search, email and social.
Are there terms that are driving traffic to your website in organic searches that you might be able to give additional lift to through Google Grants? Studies have shown that PPC clicks are incremental, meaning that ad clicks are not replaced with organic clicks to the advertiser’s site when they stop running PPC. Even when an advertiser is in the number one organic search position on Google, having paid ads on the page doesn’t replace the organic clicks 50% of the time. Focus on top SEO terms and experiment with bidding on these terms and similar variations to see if there is additional lift. You can do the reverse as well by integrating high performing keywords into SEO strategy.
Think about how Google Grants can be coupled with your social and email strategy, as well. If there’s a message you are pushing on social channels or in an email blast, you can supplement it with related keywords and messaging.
6. Get out ahead of upcoming trends.
Google Trends can be your best friend. Looking at historical trends for important keywords can help you identify when search volume is likely to start to rise and competition is likely to increase. This works especially well for seasonal events or around major holidays.
Knowing when search volume rises and competitors start entering the market on your key terms can help you plan ahead and gain visibility early before costs rise above $2 per click and paid advertisers flood the market.
7. Ask for help from Google.
It never hurts to ask Google for a little extra help, especially when it comes to participating in beta offerings. If you notice something on a PPC ad that seems to set it apart from all the others, take a screen shot of it and do some research into what it is. Often, Google tests new PPC features on a select number of advertisers, and there is no reason Google Grants advertisers should limit themselves from being a part of beta tests. Betas can help set your ad apart from the crowd, giving it a chance to counteract search engine user “ad blindness,” especially when your ad falls in the middle of other listings.
These are just a few of the ways nonprofits can meet the challenges of the new Google Grants structure. Like with any paid search campaign, the key is to implement changes and measure results and continue to adjust your strategy in accordance with findings and market trends.
Don’t forget to read Nonprofits and Google Grants: Part I in case you missed it.