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Free Advertising for Museums with Google Ad Grants

This chapter is focused on MAJOR pro-tip: Google Ad Grants. This programme is terrific for qualifying nonprofit organisations that want to increase their online presence and network at no additional cost. Does that sound like you? Great – read on! 

Even if your charity doesn’t quality for Google Ad Grants (which chances are it will, we’ll explain more below…), then it’s worth setting aside money for this stream of advertising. Why are Google Ads so much better than Facebook ads? Well, let’s put this way.

Facebook – Facebook prompts you to create an ad prompting visitors to visit your museum that goes out to a designated audience that is chosen with research based on demographics in the hopes that they will see and be attracted to the ad that you’ve created and circulated. 

Google – Someone already has the idea to visit a museum in your area on your subject. They click the button to make this search and up pops your museum at the top of the search results. They can’t help but see your ad. 

This kind of visibility can’t be overlooked – especially when Google is offering the opportunity to have it for free! 

Google grants operates in more than 50 countries around the work. Click here to see if you’re in a qualifying country

Formerly known as Google AdWords, Google Ad Grants helps boost website visibility and spread messaging for qualifying nonprofits. $10,000 USD in Google Ads are given to qualifying organisations on a monthly basis in this programme. To qualify for Google Ad Grants, it’s necessary to complete the following steps:

  1. Apply to Google for Nonprofits. Google has comprehensive offerings to nonprofit organisations such as G-Suite for Nonprofts which gives organisational access to business applications like Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Drive and Hangouts Meet. This is all at NO cost if you are a qualifying organisation – pretty rad. 
  2. Make your you have valid charity status. If you’re in England and Wales you can check on that here. If you’re in Scotland you can check here and Northern Ireland here
  3. Make sure your website meets the Google Ad Grants website policy. Basically, they’ve got to see that your website is functioning and clearly represents your organisation. 
  4. Get approved and signed off by Google Ad Grants with their pre-qualification process. 
  5. You’re good to go! Although you must remain in good standing with the Google Ad Grant programme policies

To break it down a bit further, Google basically asks users to respect the three core components of Google Ad Grants:

  1. Mission-Based Campaigns – This means that your campaigns must reflect your values and mission or else they won’t be approved. You’ve got to stick to the script with brand fonts, colours and language that is consistent with your organisational messaging. 
  2. High Quality Website – Having a high-quality website is something that we all want in life. However, it’s essential when applying for and running Google Ads. You must tick all the boxes we mentioned above. 
  3. Active Account Management – Google must be confident that your website is managed and updated on a regular basis. They won’t want to direct traffic to a website that is outdated. 

This programme is competitive and with all of these steps you have to take – you must be thinking…

Is it really worth it?

Aka – what are the benefits to going jumping through these hoops? If you haven’t noticed Google Ads before, do a search on Google right now for anything, hairbrush, chocolate chip cookie recipe, and you’ll see the top hits have the word “Ad” underneath them. They are the organisations that pay a premium to move their sites to the top of the page and pop up for relevant searches. 

If you are part of the Google Ad Grants programme, then users who search for non-profits like yours will see YOUR ad at the top of their page. This kind of free advertising is helpful in reaching new audiences, soliciting donations and recruiting new volunteers. The global reach of Google makes it the perfect advertising platform and this opportunity is too sweet for non-profits to pass up. 

Google’s powerful Analytics Programme (Google Analytics) also offers users the ability to track conversion to understand how certain ads are performing and the percentage of people that are redirected to the website etc… Which keywords draw people in and make them take that next step of going to the page and exploring the website? We broke down Web Analytics last week and Google Analytics was a big part of that! Refer back to that chapter if you are confused or feeling a little lost on the subject.

If your organisation meets all of the eligibility criteria, then read on! There are a few restrictions to note. 

With Google Ad Grants, you need to use it, or you’ll lose it. In other words, your daily budget needs to be set at $329 ($10,000 per month) in order to maintain your status as an Ad Grants user. Spending that amount of money may seem impossible, but read on and we’ll break it down further with tips on creating a variety of ads for different audiences. It’s essential that you view the practice of creating and analysing ads with Google Ad Grants as different to normal advertising/marketing practices. While the brand consistency and messaging should absolutely be the same, the way that you work out how to spend $10,000 per month in in-kind advertising seems like a different ballgame entirely. 

Another restriction to note is that your ads can only appear on Google. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning that your ads won’t appear on any other search engine sites, only Google. 

Your account, not every ad, must maintain a 5% CTR which stands for click-through-rate. Basically, this means that there has to be a genuine interest in your content and it needs to be proven by having a base-level CTR which proves engagement. 

Your ads will also need to be text-based, so no images or videos. A bit of a bummer there – but that means that your call to action will need to be extra punchy. The big chapter on that is coming up soon, but this is a subject that we’ve touched upon all throughout the course. “Join us”, “Come along” “Book now”… you get the gist. The text in your ad will be mega-important. The keywords that you choose to use are crucial. Because Google Ads is run by a bidding system (which we will go over in-depth shortly), it’s important to choose keywords that are related to your organisation but also impactful and will get you the most value for your time and money. nThey are the means by which Google knows which searches are relevant to your organisation. When you’re creating your Google Ad Grants account, you’ll be asked to select keywords as well as negative keywords. 

Keywords are terms that you want to be associated with your organisation’s website. For example, if you are a small zoology museum in Devon, you’d want to add terms like “Devon”, “Museum”, “Animals” “Zoology”. It’s also important to tailor your ads to certain audiences/goals. Are you looking to recruit more volunteers? Then consider using terms like “volunteer”, “recruit” and “opportunity.”

Negative Keywords are terms that you don’t want to be associated with your museum. For example, if you had an ad about “sponges” (sea), you would want to set ‘dish’ as a negative keyword. It’s important not to go overboard at first when setting these negative keywords, you need to hit the $10,000 spend, but it’s important to have an informed approach when setting these negative keywords. It’s more advisable to set a few, see how your ads do with Google Analytics, and then add in more negative keywords to filter out content that is completely irrelevant to your organisation. 

An easy way to think about all of this and work through finding the perfect text for your ad is to do the following… 

  1. Keyword research – this is a concept that we covered in week 3 in the chapter of SEO. Do a Google search that you think pertains to your organisation and then see what they associated terms are that appear at the bottom. Those are REALLY good keywords to explore and possibly incorporate into your copy. Do a lot of digging here and think about all of the Google searches that people could make that are related to your organisation. 
  2. Filter down & pair up – Now that you’ve got a collection of possible keywords. Think about connectors within all of those words and phrases. For example, some keywords for a contemporary art gallery in Glasgow might be…”contemporary art, Glasgow art, Glasgow artists, art, Glasgow culture, gallery, local, local artists, community”… Now, think of some connecting phrases like “Glasgow gallery displays contemporary art by local artists”… That keyword phrase ticks a lot of boxes and is a great place to start when developing text for successful Google Ads. 

It’s important not just to focus on the words, but also to focus on what they words are SAYING. You want to mirror the visitor’s end goal when creating test for Google Ads. Because many accounts are bidding for similar dynamic keywords, many ads sound the same. It’s imperative not to get lost in the mix.

Put yourself in the visitor’s head… If they are art-lovers and are searching for something to do with their friends on a Friday night in Nottingham, they might create the following search: “Art event Friday night Nottingham”… To which, an ad that reads, “Nottingham Contemporary Art Museum Lates” would look highly suitable. 

Another example would be if someone is searching for unique maritime-inspired gifts, something that your gift shop sells, you may want to create an ad that reads, “Looking for a unique maritime inspired gift? Think about what your visitor wants to see and is most likely to click on to make sure your ad is successful. 

Now we get to a slightly trickier bit. Stay with us, we promise we will make all of this Google Ads jargon as easy to understand as well possibly can!

In order to drive performance, Google requires that all accounts created on or after 22 April 2019 use conversion-based smart bidding for all campaigns, unless using smart campaigns. As we spoke about in the chapter on web analytics – conversion is the act of someone clicking through an ad and being taken to another destination being that your website, Eventbrite link, Facebook page etc… You have “converted” the user into someone who is now engaging with your brand. Smart bidding utilises machine learning to optimise your ads and money for conversions in auctions. This feature is also known as “auction-time bidding”. 

Okay, so it’s necessary to use smart bidding, but what benefits does it have? Well, we can outline 4 key benefits of using smart bidding that will get you the most value for your money. 

  1. Advanced machine learning – The powerful algorithms that Google employs are able to make extremely detailed and accurate predictions as to how varying bid amounts on certain keywords will optimise performance. 
  2. Broad range of contextual signals – Signals are clearly identifiable attributes of people that you are hoping to target with your ads. Smart bidding allows you to use an extremely varied range of signals like date/time, location intent, physical location, site behaviour, device and many more. 
  3. Flexible performance controls – YOU set the goals, targets, deadlines. It may seem like the Google machine is taking over with those first two steps, but you still have the flexibility and control to manipulate your campaign as you see fit – although Google will still make suggestions. 
  4. Transparent performance reports – Detailed reports are available during and after your campaign runs so that you are able to see what worked, what didn’t and where there is room for improvement. 

This new rule that Google set forth is a good one as it’s another great tool to help organisations that may be new to this process succeed. 

Sustainability

Google is very strict about Google Ad Grant accounts being properly maintained and used. If an account isn’t using the money it’s been granted, or ads aren’t performing well and hitting the 5% CTR rate – then Google will shut down the campaign and suspend the account. In order to succeed with Google Ad Grants, it’s essential to make Google Ads a regular item on your digital marketing to-do list. 

Once you’ve managed to create an account and set up a few campaigns, make a note to check your Google Ads account every two weeks. See what works, what hasn’t, and what could be improved. Do some tweaks every time you check the account and monitor your progress. Google Ads isn’t something that you can “set and forget”. It is a programme that requires maintenance, especially if you are a qualifying non-profit and taking advantage of the Google Ad Grants programme! 

One of the benefits to using a service run by a massive conglomerate like Google is that they have excellent customer help and resources available for service users.  Take advantage of the help and guidelines that Google offers. They want to see nonprofits succeed with their admirable Google Ad Grants programme. The help and advice that they offer is genuine and should be taken seriously. We highly recommend experimenting, seeing what works for your organisation, and then, we guarantee that the fantastic Google Ad Grants programme will become a regular part of your digital marketing strategy. 

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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