How the latest restrictions will affect your Google AdWords strategy

Earlier this year Google announced that it was adding some new restrictions to Google Grant Accounts to improve the experience for users. We outlined the new Google Grant restrictions in a previous blog post, however a brief summary of the most crucial changes are:

  • Grant Accounts must now keep the click-through-rate of their entire account at 5% or above
  • Grant Accounts cannot target keywords with a quality score lower than 3/10, or generic, single-word keywords.

While these two restrictions are simple enough to understand, it has severely limited the amount of keywords that grant recipients are eligible to target.

The impact of the new Google grant restrictions:

These new restrictions have changed the very nature of Google Grant Accounts, and it’s being felt across the globe. CEO of AZDS Interactive Group, Adam Delflorian stated in Forbes that meeting the 5% threshold is exceedingly difficult to maintain, even with great creatives, keyword targeting and a good product.

It’s not a question of the ads success or getting managers to implement better strategies, it’s a matter of what we are allowed to target. Previously, many grant accounts implemented a strategy of trying to use as much of the grant budget as possible, now they need to rethink those goals and set their sights on relevancy and performance – similar to how you would in a paid AdWords account.

The biggest impact will be seen in the following areas:

Lower traffic & less budget spend

Grant Accounts have up to $10,000USD per month to spend on AdWords. While some accounts may have been using the full amount, or just a significant proportion of it, if the previous click-through-rate was lower than 5%, that traffic is now going to drop. This has been seen in the majority of grant accounts as attested to by Search Engine Journal. Keywords contributing to lowering the account’s CTR below 5% either need to be paused or the ad copy can be improved to be more appealing. The latter is the preferred, but more unrealistic solution. The reason being is that ad copy improvements can increase your CTR – but only to a certain extent. Due to the nature of AdWords, ad copy changes alone is unlikely to get you over the 5% hurdle. It’s the relevancy of the keyword that has the biggest impact.

For example, if you were promoting services for a plumber, you might find you had good conversion rates for the keyword “gas leakage”. However this keyword is unlikely to have a CTR higher than 5% because a significant proportion of people searching for gas leakages may simply want to find out information about them to help them with a DIY job. Therefore the nature of the users intention affects the click-through-rate.

Furthermore, According to Wordstream, the average click-through-rates for search campaigns as a whole is 3.17%. We have included an infographic of the typical industry benchmarks below. It can be seen that asking for 5% across all keywords is undoubtedly a challenge.

Google AdWords Grant

Lower conversion numbers

Before these new restrictions came into play, you may have been getting some conversions from keywords with CTR’s lower than 5%, but these will now need to be paused. In normal paid accounts, it is actually possible to get really good conversion results with CTR’s of 3% on average, but now Grant Accounts are asking for 5%. What they are really asking for, is to ensure Grant Accounts are only using keywords that are really relevant to the organisation. After all, that’s essentially what we are measuring when we talk about click through rate.

The definition of a click-through-rate is:

  • CTR: is the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times that your ad is shown: clicks ÷ impressions = CTR.

For example, if you had 5 clicks and 100 impressions, then your CTR would be 5%.

While this is the statistical definition, the significance of this metric is that it indicates how likely Google users are to click on your ad. Paid accounts have shown us that even if only 3% of people click on your ad, you can still get good conversion rates. Therefore although it is possible to achieve great conversion results for a keyword with a low CTR, we are unable to target it in a grant account and these high converting keywords may have to be paused.

What we can do to minimise the damage:

There are a few things we can do to minimise the damage, however we will have to come to terms with the fact that the nature of our beloved Google Grant Accounts has changed and we need to accept and adapt to this.

  1. Ad copy improvements:
    While above we mentioned that keyword relevancy has a significant impact on the CTR’s, ad copy does play an important part. This strategy is especially useful If your CTR’s are only just shy of the 5% threshold, or if there is a lot of room for improvement in your ad copy.
    Elements of high performing ad copy include:

    • A compelling call to action
    • Making sure the ad is relevant to the keywords in the ad group
    • Using numbers (statistics or price)
    • Include a great offer or promotion
    • Mention the benefits

While these strategies may seem over-used and cliché, there is a reason for that! All of the above helps to improve the CTR.

  1. Keyword improvements:
    • Adding negative keywords to prevent the ad being triggered for irrelevant search terms
    • Prioritise long tailed keywords
    • Remove broad match keywords and change them to broad match modifier or phrase match
  2. Create a paid ad account to support the brand

You are really limited to what you can do in the grant account. They are only applicable to search campaigns and even those have significant restrictions on them. Creating a paid ad account – even with a limited budget – can help you leverage both your accounts. You can build the brand by creating display network campaigns to generate traffic, and then remarketing to that same audience with a remarketing campaign. Furthermore, you can use a paid account to trial keywords that have a low click-through-rate without the risk of losing the grant.

The takeaway from all this, is that 5% is not a realistic target for many NFP’s,  nor a true measure of an ad’s success. Ads that receive a CTR of 2% are generally considered effective, yet Google now requires a bare minimum of more than double that. The best thing we can do is shift our mindset as to what is possible with grant accounts. Rather than centring our KPI’s around traffic and budget spend, they should be centred around the quality of the traffic and conversions.

Google’s Grant Program is still altruistic in nature – perhaps even more so now, as their ultimate goal is to ensure they are connecting users to the right resources. We completely agree with PPC Hero that while organisations will feel the initial impact of these changes and won’t be able to create the robust campaigns they had imagined, having a grant is better than not having it at all, and we should be thankful for this J

Need help managing your Google Grant Account?

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