The biggest anti-Christmas gesture (since Santa drunk too much whisky and gave Rudolf that big red nose) has just been released by Google aimed squarely at Google Ad Grant accounts.
What has happened to Ad Grants?
In the early hours of this morning Google sent details of a revision to their policies. The new policies will be effective from the 1st January. With typical usual bravado Google have announced that they are removing the $2 cap for Campaigns using ‘Maximise Conversions’. The ability to choose is a good thing, but practically speaking, most campaigns for most charities won’t be able to benefit from this.
The real news is concealed within the third and forth of 5 bulleted links from their email, the ‘Mission-based campaigns policy’ and the ‘Account Management Policy’. And here there are details of big changes. Non-compliance will mean suspension of the account. If they get suspended, standard Google Ad Grant accounts can be re-applied for...
... Grantspro accounts will not likely be re-awarded.
What are the practical implications?
Google have been taking pot-shots at the Google Grant / Grantspro scheme for a while now. Stopping the ability to apply for the Grantspro and culling all accounts that achieved less than $10,000 being two recent blows. I’m already disappointed at the randomness of how this has affected some charities and prevented a level playing field across the sector.
But these latest changes, combined with what has gone before, are even more significant. Our main concerned is that CTR (click through rate) needs to be over 5% and that overly generic keywords (without explanation) must be stopped. This is a mighty right-hook, especially considering that Google themselves have previously said that a CTR of over 1% is "good". The accounts that we manage average about 6%, however, as we understand it the average charity Ad Grant account is operating at about 3%. The resulting changes, to ensure this level of 'relevancy', will likely mean a significant drop in the value that can be achieved from an Ad Grant account.
My biggest concern is for Grantspro accounts, who are now caught between a rock and a hard place. Activity achieving a low CTR will need to be stopped. Often this will be the same kind of activity that is achieving a big volume of traffic, and thus spend - or is focussed on highly relevant but competitive traffic; where grant bid limits prevent it from reaching a high position in Google.
However, if, spend falls beneath £10,000 in any month, the Grantspro status will be whipped away from the charity, with, (according to Google), little likelihood of ever being reinstated.
There are other policy changes that any Account Manager who hasn’t checked the small-print might fall foul of:
- Accounts must have relevant geo-targeting
- Every Campaign needs at least two ad groups (why – on – earth?!)
- Each ad groups needs at least two active ads
- Keywords with a quality score of less than 3 are not permitted
- Bidding on competitor's keywords are now forbidden
- Every account needs at least two sitelinks
- Single-word keywords, apart from seemingly random specific exceptions are being stopped.
- Also overly generic keywords (multiple keyword strings) are not allowed, although the Google Grants team have provided no means to quantify what is ‘overly generic’. We believe the exceptions detailed by Google are overly generic themselves. Depending on how far Google go with this, restriction in the use of Keywords could be another major blow to grant campaigns.
Anything else we need to know?
Probably, we think we have covered the main points here, but we are reviewing all the detail as we speak and will be adding other details to this blog as we go. If anyone reading this has any feedback or comments, then we’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
So what needs to be done?
By making the announcement now, just before the Christmas break, Google are giving charities very little time to get their houses in order. However, we have little option but to comply with these new rules. Accounts now need to be managed much more tightly – and monitored regularly. Especially Grantspro accounts.
That said, with Christmas coming, traffic is likely to dip for all accounts over the next couple of weeks. Be really careful with any changes being made to Grantspro accounts as the additional drop in traffic might mean removal from Grantspro if spend falls below $10,000.
Changes that need to be made (ideally at the very end of December to minimise traffic loss for the month) are:
- Make sure all ad groups have 2 sitelinks
- Check geo-targeting options
- Remove low quality score keywords
- Stop targeting competitor keywords
- Remove single-word keywords (apart from obviously brand related keywords and the exact variant of those listed by Google)
- Ensure there are 2 ad groups per campaign
- Ensure that there are at least to keywords per ad group
From the beginning of January, all low CTR keywords need to be removed so that the daily average is above 5% (we recommend aiming above 6%). At this point, in order to manage Google Grant and Grants effectively, a higher level of skill and experience is needed, as well as increased time and effort.
Charities receiving the Grantspro need to check that they are comfortably compliant. If not, from a point of concern rather than self-interest, we do implore charities receiving the Grantspro to seek external expertise. Once the $40,000 per month is lost, those charities will only be able to achieve $10,000 per month. It is potentially a huge loss and for many charities, not worth the risk.
What about upriseUP clients?
To any client of ours, we’ve got your backs. The changes that need to be made before the end of December will be done. The significant majority of our accounts are already achieving over 5%, any that are under will see an increase in CTR as we remove single-word keywords. We will keep you all well-informed as always 😊.
Google are publishing more information on the policy update and requirement of 5% CTR, in their Ad Grant forum. However, as yet we don't find the details from the Google Grants team to be too helpful. For updates on how this is realistically going to impact upon charities using the Google Grant, keep an eye on this blog!