Paid online advertising with Google Ads is often a crucial pillar of marketing success for many businesses. Indeed, the benefits are quite obvious – advertising with Google Ads provides businesses with an opportunity for scalable and rapid growth, ensuring a strong competitive advantage. This is because, as Google says, your ads are shown “to the right people, in the right place, and at the right time”.

But what about not-for-profit organisations? Well, if you run a not-for-profit yourself or if you work for one, you will be happy to learn that you may be eligible for something called a ‘Google Ads Grant’. And, while most arts organisations in the UK – such as theatres – are not publicly talking about their charity status, the majority of them are in fact registered as not-for-profits. This is why in this article we would like to introduce you to Google Ad Grants and explain what this programme means for the culture sector.

Google Grants Guide

The Google Ad Grants Program gives not-for-profit organisations the chance to advertise on Google Ads at no cost, provided that they are eligible. This program gives qualified organisations $10,000 per month (around £7,500) in Google Ads spend to be used to promote their initiatives in Google search, and get a big boost in website traffic as a result. To qualify, companies must go through the application process, and to keep the grant they must follow the program details. Here are Google’s requirements:

The Google Ad Grants works just like regular Google Ads online advertising, by displaying your text messages (video and image-based ads are not allowed) alongside organic results to people who are searching for charities like yours. You usually select and “bid” on relevant keywords with high search volume to help target your ads to people searching for related terms. Google also offers you the option to use user demographic and location data to better target your ads.

google grants guide


What are the benefits of having a Google Grant account if you are a theatre?

The more frequently your ads appear next to Google search results, the more people will be aware of your cause. From driving more qualified traffic to your website to promoting online activity sign-ups, Google Ads can be an incredibly useful tool in the hands of charities in the arts & culture industry:

  • You could support full-funnel engagement by attracting audiences at different stages of the customer journey. For instance, those who want to see a play – but do not yet know about your venue – may search in Google for ‘plays in Manchester’; as opposed to someone searching for ‘Palace Theatre plays’. With Google Ads, a theatre could target their paid campaigns at three different audiences: people who search for relevant non-branded terms, people who search for branded terms and those who search for specific services such as shows, classes or camps.
  • Increase visitor numbers by attracting the right audience with geotagging. Location targeting, for example, can be a very effective method for boosting event attendance. To illustrate, The Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) implemented a geotagging strategy through Google Ads, where the organisation showed its exhibition ads internationally but art classes ads only locally; within a region people would be willing to travel. By doing this, FCA’s ad received 70,000 clicks, online sign-ups for activities increased by 23% and regular donor registrations increased by 7%.
  • Gain deeper insights for more effective ads. Once your ads are live, you can use A/B testing and conversion tracking to understand how your ads are performing and which keywords are driving the desired outcomes. In other words, you will receive access to invaluable insights into your organisation, which will be used to inform your future campaigns.

Tips for creating your first ad campaign

  • Mind your account structure: Google Ads is organised into three layers: account, campaigns and ad groups. The account layer can contain multiple campaigns and within each campaign you should have at least two ad groups that contain similar ads and keywords. You should avoid overlap between different ad groups, and shouldn’t duplicate keywords across ad groups.
  • Choose your keywords wisely: with Google Grants, you are able to bid only up to $2 per click – which means that some popular keywords will be out of your reach, and you will need to focus on more niche phrases. Having this in mind, you need to be very strategic when choosing your keywords which should be relevant to your organisation’s mission and services. This is why most beginner Ad Grant holders seem to use a conversion-based bidding strategy (Maximise Conversions) that automatically lets you bid way higher, however, you must set up something called conversion tracking first.
  • Write a compelling copy: when restricted to only three short headlines of 30 characters plus two descriptions of 90 characters in a standard ad, you need to become very skilled at writing concise, persuasive short sentences. However, to avoid this you may choose an ad format called Responsive Search Ad, which lets you write up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google then shows these in random combinations, optimising your ads depending on what works best.
  • Include extensions: Ad Extensions are additional pieces of information that expand your advertisement to make it more useful to users. Extension formats typically include call buttons, location information, links to specific parts of your website, additional text, and more. To maximise the performance of your text ads, it’s a good idea to use ad extensions to support your business goals. For example, if the best way to book tickets for an arts class is by calling, then you should include a phone number that people can click on – if viewing your ad on mobile – and dial it straight away.

To sum up, you can use the Google Grant account to create free-of-charge ad campaigns in order to drive more qualified traffic to your website, boost donations and membership sign-ups, or increase event attendance. And, while we cannot recommend enough securing a Google Grant account if you are a charity in the culture sector, we realise that it takes skill and creativity, as well as a substantial time commitment to run well-performing ad campaigns.

So, whether you’re an organisation that already has a Google Grant account or not, our experienced team of marketing professionals here at After Digital, are always ready to assist you in meeting your goals. Do not hesitate to get in touch through the form below.

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