It always seems Google Grants — giving $10,000 USD/month in Google ad credits to any non-profit, to use to support their cause — is a great way for Google to give back and help those non-profits who most need it.

And with such a photo on their featured page, how can your heart not go about and want to help?


Google Grants: Free Money or Absurd Requirements To Make It Merely Marketing For Google?

Recently, I decided to look into the details to see if it makes sense for some clients, and then I had a conversation about it with a great PPC who works with lots of non-profits and has used it.

The result: while great in theory, the specific requirements make campaigns so near-impossible to comply with that, in practice, it makes it impossible for any non-profit to comply and then, for the ones that can or do comply, it is very difficult to spend more than a tiny amount of the budget per month. You’ll have to spend dozens of hours of PPC time to spend at most a few hundred dollars per month. Is it really worth it?

Let’s look at some of the requirements as listed here and here. Accounts must:

  • A 5% click through rate on the account level. If this isn’t met for 2 consecutive months, your account is de-activated (and you can re-apply to see if you can be re-instated.)
  • Must be shown in the specific location of your group, so you can’t raise awareness outside your immediate vicinity.
  • Get at least one conversion per month, and the conversions can’t be things like time on site or page visits, but must be more actionable like form fill-outs.
  • No single-word keywords, so you can’t target people interested in your issue, generally.
  • No generic keywords, like category names, like “best videos” or “cool apps.”
  • No keywords with a quality score of below 2.
  • No–gasp–display campaigns. Search only. So you can’t raise awareness or brand yourselves via display ads.

Now, any experienced PPC would look at this and think these are near-impossible to achieve. Perhaps a few of these on their own would be manageable–but all of them taken together?

It reminds me of one too many people I know, of nameless genders, who are perennially single and then complain, when euphemisms removed, “Why is it so hard to find a [insert word for a person of the gender to whom this person is attracted]? My only requirements are that she/he have at least $100 million in the bank, has won at least two Nobel prizes, was featured as one of the Sexiest People In The World, is a nice and kind person, and of course, above all, is madly and deeply in love with me.” Umm, good luck with that!

What makes these standards even more difficult is the 2 consecutive months and then cancellation detail. Perhaps a truly awesome PPC could achieve all of this–but even he-or-she couldn’t do it without tweaking, trial and error, learning. And that is measured in months. So one month with a warning, to get it all in order? Unclear to me if that’s even possible, unless you have the most limited and tiny campaign imaginable.

All of this implies to me that these impossible standards are by design. They’re too clever for it to be accidental; not to mention that it’s unclear to me even if accidents even exist. Google, it feels like, is trying to do great marketing and show the world it’s helping people, while setting up near-impossible standards so that few, if any, can fully actually get the help that they need.