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Should You Have a Google Grants Or Google Ads Commercial Account, Or Both

Should You Have a Google Grants Or Google Ads Commercial Account, Or Both

Hands Giving & Receiving Money

Here’s a case study of a Not for Profit Organization benefiting from a Google Ads Grants account and Google Ads Commercial account.

Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) can receive up to $10,000 per month of in kind advertising through the Google Grants program. Used wisely, this generous program can help NPOs promote their cause and encourage donations. But in some cases, the limitations that come with the program stop you from reaching the full market.

This was the case for one of my NPO clients. This client was using the program to advocate their safety message and their online learning courses. While they had great success reaching new users through the Grants program, the online learning campaign was struggling just to stay on the first page of the Google listings.

 

The Sluggish Campaign on Google Grants

Online learning is a competitive market with many advertisers vying for ad spots on Google’s listing. So much competition sometimes pushes the Grants accounts to the bottom of the search pages, sometimes even off the page altogether. This is why, despite my client’s automated bidding and optimization efforts, their online learning campaign performed very poorly. That is, until six weeks before their fiscal year end, when they were able to use some extra funds to set up a new commercial Google Ads account.

Our belief was the Grants Program was not fully reaching our market, so we duplicated the online learning campaign in the Grants account to the new commercial account.  To prevent the accounts from competing against each other, Ontario was removed from the Grants campaign.

We expected the commercial account to outperform the Grants account, theorizing that because Google gets paid through a commercial account, it would want that account to do well.

We were wrong. The Grants account outperformed the commercial account, as seen in the screenshot below:

Google Analytics graph Grants Account outperforming commercial account

Both accounts had the same bids, about $2 per click. Both account’s ads were typically showing at the bottom of the first page, and occasionally in one of the top three positions.

Removing the Grants account Constraints

After three weeks of ‘equivalent’ bidding, we removed the Google Grants bidding constraints and let the commercial account bid the same as other advertisers. The results were practically instantaneous. The bids increased from $2.00 per click to $3.05 per click. Within a couple of days, the commercial account was consistently showing in the first three positions, getting twice as many clicks and had a higher conversion rate. After only one week, we were experiencing much better performance than the Google Grants account, as seen in the screenshot below:

Google Ads commercial account outperforming Grants account

Why the dramatically different results? By removing the restrictions, we were able to bid to the market price—what other advertisers were prepared to pay. The bidding limits that come with the Grants program were holding back performance.

My client took this test data to the Board of Directors and obtained funding to have a commercial Google Ads account to promote the online learning, while the Grants Account continues to promote the cause. So far, both accounts are performing well.

How to Optimize Your Google Ads Account: Follow the Money

How to Optimize Your Google Ads Account: Follow the Money

Follow the money to optimize Google Ads AccountThere’s a famous line in the movie ‘All the President’s Men’ where Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) tells the reporter (Robert Redford) ‘to follow the money’ to find the answer. I use this same line anytime a Google Ads tutoring customer asks me how to optimize their Google Ads account without getting overwhelmed by the data.

Of course, my customers aren’t trying to uncover a government conspiracy, but sifting through the mountains of data Google Ads gives you to try to figure what’s working and what isn’t can be daunting. By advising them to follow the money, I’m telling them to follow their costs, starting with the highest ones.

Follow the money: Costs and conversions

To identify your highest cost Google Ads’ campaigns, sort your campaigns by the cost column, then double click the top of the cost column to have Google Ads sort from highest to lowest cost.

Next, look at the number of conversions in each campaign. If you have high costs with few to no conversions, you have a problem worth investigating. To give more context, I’ll often look at the cost per conversion (total cost / number of conversions) column as well. If that dollar value is within an acceptable range, there might not be an issue at all.

When there are no conversions or the cost per conversion is too high

This is where you need to begin troubleshooting to determine the root cause of the high cost versus low/no conversions.

It’s time to go into the campaign’s ad groups. To do this, click into the ad groups and do the same thing we just did in the Google Ads’ campaigns. Sort ad groups from highest to lowest cost, and look at the number of conversions and cost per conversion.

Click on the high cost and low conversion (or unacceptably high cost per conversion) ad group and look at the keywords. Find the high cost, low (or no) conversion keywords. Try to determine why this keyword isn’t converting. Is it too general? Is it a single keyword instead o a group or phrase? Single keywords draw poor quality traffic. Check the search terms report to see what precise terms are triggering your ads to show. If you see terms you don’t want your ads showing for, move those to ‘negative keywords.’

While cost and conversions are a good start for Google Ads novices, there are other metrics mixes you can use to investigate optimization, including impressions and impression shares, clicks and CPC, and many more.

For beginners, Google Ads optimization is easier when we pair down the data to a couple of metrics and then follow those through. The problems start to show, especially when you follow the money.

Google Ads Conversion Showdown

Google Ads Conversion Showdown

When it comes to tracking Google Ads conversions from your website there are two options:

  1. Website: Insert code on a conversion page on your website, or
  2. Import: Set and import your goal from Google Analytics.

Let’s take a close look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Insert Code on Website Conversion Page

Google most likely names this conversion tracking option ‘Website’ because it requires you to post code on one of your website pages.

Copy and Paste Your Website Code

This conversion tracking methods requires you to place Google Ads code on your website conversion page. The ‘conversion page’ is the page where your conversion action is confirmed. On an e-commerce website for example, the conversion page would be the order confirmation page; on a lead generation website, the conversion page would be the thank you page.

This option of website tracking is very simple if you know and understand HTML. Without that HTML knowledge, this tracking method has several trap doors:

  • Code does not work because it’s in the wrong place on the page
  • The code is placed on too pages, so conversions are irrelevant
  • Limited to only tracking Google Ads conversions – no social media, SEO, or other conversion sources.

Only tracks Google Ads

This is a nice choice if you are generating website traffic solely from Google Ads. But let’s face it, you have more traffic sources than Google Ads: SEO, email, social media, etc. Tracking information from these traffic sources comes from Google Analytics. That means your Google Ads tracking is an island, not tracked in Google Analytics.

When to use Website Conversion Tracking

In my opinion… never.

This conversion tracking is restricted only to Google Ads, making it difficult to compare with other website traffic sources like social media, SEO, email blasts, etc. Furthermore, unless a knowledgeable technical person is loading the code, there’s a risk of it being improperly implemented, which results in meaningless conversion information.

While this Conversion Tracking option looks easy, there is a minefield of possible mistakes if you do not know HTML and exactly where the code should be placed on the specific page.

Table 1 Summary Google Ads Website Conversion Tracking

Pros Cons
Looks easy Tracks only Google Ads
Need to know HTML so code inserted properly
Code must be inserted in correct place on page
Doesn’t track other conversions made on your website (ex: email clicks, phone number clicks)

Import Goal from Google Analytics

Google Analytics is free website tracking software that tells you about your website audience—the pages they visit, the buttons they clicked and a lot more. Most significantly, Google Analytics will tell you if people did what you wanted them to do on your website—made a purchase, became a sales lead, signed up for your newsletter, etc.

Anything you want people to do on your website is called a goal in Google Analytics. So, whatever you want people to do should be set up as a goal.

The biggest advantage of using ‘Import goal from Google Analytics’ is you can compare Google Ads’ performance to your other traffic sources: SEO, direct, email, social media, etc. Just look at the screenshot below taken directly from Google Analytics. You can see the number of sessions and the number of times website users became sales leads by requesting contact with the company.

This is an instant website traffic source comparison, valuable to any business.

Even better, notice the drop-down arrows on ‘Sessions’ and ‘Request contact Goal 3 Completions’. Those dropdown arrows enable comparison by any metric!

The ability to compare traffic sources against each other is invaluable. So is the ability to compare many different metrics. This is the kind of data that provides significant insights into marketing campaigns.

The biggest challenge of ‘Importing’ conversions to Google Ads is that you need to set up ‘Goals’ in Google Analytics, but that only takes a few minutes and generally is a non-technical procedure.

Table 2 Summary Google Ads ‘Import’ Conversion Tracking

Pros Cons
Tracks all traffic sources (social media, SEO, email, etc.) in a single place Must setup goals in Google Analytics (which you should do anyway)
Google Ads easily imports goals from Analytics
Do not have to know HTML
Enables multiple conversions to be grouped together (‘contact’ via form completion, phone or email can be grouped together)

When to use the ‘Import Goals from Google Analytics’ for Google Ads Conversions

In my opinion… always.

Hopefully the reasons for importing goals from Google Analytics makes this your choice for conversion tracking. It will make your life a lot easier! Setting it up can be done in three easy steps:

  1. Set your goals in Google Analytics.
  2. Link your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts.
  3. Import your goal(s) to Google Ads.

This is a much more comprehensive way to track your Google Ads conversions. You will be glad you did it!

Look Before You Leap: Google Ads Automated Bidding Recommendations

Look Before You Leap: Google Ads Automated Bidding Recommendations


Google Ads automated bidding can be a good strategy, but only if you’re already meeting the minimum conversion threshold. Here’s how to check.


Google is a brand we love and trust. We ‘Google’ our questions or problems and count on it to offer the best solutions.

When you use Google Ads, Google will offer recommendations to help improve your advertising performance. These suggestions can range from new keywords to Google Ads automated bidding, such as Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), or Maximize Conversions. For campaigns boasting a high conversion, automated bidding can be an effective strategy. But if your conversions are below minimum thresholds, applying these suggestions can do more harm than good.

How Google Ads Automated Bidding Works

Automated bidding relies on campaign history—particularly conversion history—to make bids that will attract more conversions. To do this, there needs to be a significant amount of historical data in your campaign before automated bidding can be effective.

Just how much historical data is enough for automated bidding to be effective? The answer is pretty vague. Google Ads’ documentation says 15 conversions in 30 days is the minimum, but others indicate it should be way higher.

‘But Google Recommended It!’

A couple of months ago, I audited a small business’ Google Ads account after they had implemented Target CPA bidding. The business owner told me he did this because “Google recommended it.” They had 12 conversions in 30 days (3 less than Google’s recommended minimum) when Target CPA was implemented.

For this client, Target CPA was an unmitigated disaster. Here’s why:

  • Impressions declined more than 50%
  • Clicks declined
  • Conversions became non-existent

Why did this happen? Because Google’s automated algorithms had not accumulated enough conversion history to know when to bid. To be effective, automated bidding needs to learn the characteristics of a conversion for your business. In other words, there needs to be enough successful bids in the historical data for the algorithms to know when to bid. The fewer conversions you have, the longer it takes to build sufficient historical data.

After four weeks of poor performance, my client reverted back to manual bidding, with some bid adjustments for mobile devices and days of the week. After several weeks, the customer’s account returned to normal, and eventually conversions rose above 25 in 30 days. They never returned to Target CPA bidding.

Just Because Google Recommends Automated Bidding Doesn’t Mean You Should do It

Google Ads frequently recommends automated bidding, despite insufficient conversion history. The answer to why it does this is anyone’s guess. A cynical approach might suggest that Google is trying to dupe us into automated bidding. I doubt that, because for those with a low conversion rate, impressions and clicks decline when automated bidding is implemented, and Google only gets paid when there’s a click.

What To Do When You See Automated Bidding Recommendations

So, what if you’re managing your own Google Ads account, and Google recommends ‘Use Maximize Conversions Bidding’ or ‘Enable Target CPA Bidding’? There are a couple of things you can do to make sure these recommendations will work in your favour:

  1. Read the documentation about the suggested bidding and decide if it’s right for you.
  2. Check your campaign history. Specifically, see if you have at least 15 conversions in 30 days. Ideally, you should have way more than that!

Many of Google’s recommendations are useful. But when it comes to automated bidding, it’s best to check first. Make sure you have more than 15 (ideally 30 or more) conversions over 30 days before clicking that ‘apply’ button.