As of January 1st, 2018, Google Grant Ad accounts that do not meet updated requirements could end up being suspended or cancelled!
Assuming they are strictly enforcing the new AdWords Grant policies, you have until the end of February to get things straightened out.
There are a lot of conversations online about the purpose of these changes. Regardless of why Google put these into place, it is worth taking the time to make adjustments to save your $10,000 per month grant.
If you are already actively managing your nonprofit AdWords account, there might not be much you need to do.
But, if you are like many nonprofits that have not looked at their account in a long time, there may be significant work to be done.
This blog post will break down the new policies so you can understand them better, and provide you with some ideas on how to protect your account from being suspended.
AdWords Account Structure
Google’s main concerns have always been that their search engine users have a good experience and that ads are actually relevant to their search. The updated account structure policies make their best practices mandatory.
Ad Grants accounts must have specific geo-targeting that is specific to your nonprofit. No advertising in New York, if you’re an nonprofit serving Los Angeles, CA.
Ad Grants AdWords accounts must have at least 2 active ad groups per campaign, each containing a set of closely related keywords and 2 active text ads. This is actually a standard best practice. You should have 10-15 keywords per ad group, and we recommend 3 ads per group.
In the past, bidding strategies were restricted to Manual CPC and Google forced nonprofits to have a max cost-per-click (CPC) of $2. Now, they have removed the max CPC requirement. Instead your bidding strategy must be set to Maximize Conversions. In order to achieve this, you must setup goals in your AdWords account.
Ad Grants AdWords accounts must have at least 2 sitelink ad extensions. Again, this is just best practice. Sitelink extensions, and other extensions, are a great way to have your ads take up more of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). We recommend our clients use all of the available AdWords extensions that are pertinent to their organization, and many of them are.
The skinny: Nothing here is really hard to achieve, and you should be following these best practices already. If you are able to meet these requirements, it will help with the following requirements that are based on account performance.
How can we meet these criteria? Follow the links above to the Google documentation, and they will demonstrate the process of setting these things up. If you need help, our team is happy to walk you through it.
Stick to Mission Based AdWords Campaigns
New Policies About Keywords You CANNOT Use:
Branded words that you don’t own, like “YouTube” or “Google” or names of newspapers or other organizations
The skinny: Using brand terms that are not yours, or using overly general single keywords, like “tree,” are now being removed from acceptable advertising. Not only do these practices go against the spirit of the grant, they’re also ineffective. They weren’t doing your organization’s acquisition and engagement strategies any favors anyway. So, just pause them. No major loss!
The new quality score policy is a very important change, but it can be dealt with using best practices we will talk about below.
How to make adjustments:
First, remove any single keywords or generic keywords you are advertising on. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but as I mentioned above, you are not going to lose a ton of valuable traffic to these terms.
Second, quality score is really important. If you had a successful AdWords account before, you likely had quality score in the 6-8 range, or perhaps higher.
If that is not the case, then there is some work to be done. A few hints:
a) Make sure you have very targeted Ad Groups that include ad copy with the keywords in title of the ads. Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is one of the main contributing factors to Quality Score, so if you have ad copy that closely reflects the search queries, you ads are going to have better CTR.
b) Make sure your ads are linking to relevant landing pages. Do not just link to your homepage. For example, if you have an ad about volunteering, link to your Get Involved page. The landing page copy should focus on a similar topic to your ad copy. For the best outcome, I would recommend building adgroup-specific landing pages to be really efficient with this.
Click-Through-Rate & AdWords Account Performance
Accounts must maintain a 5% Click-Through Rate (CTR).
Your account will be cancelled if your CTR is below 5% for 2 consecutive months.
You may request your account to be reinstated after you’ve adjusted your keywords to bring your account into compliance.
If you can't meet the requirements above, you may pause your AdWords campaigns and use AdWords Express, which automatically structures your account.
The skinny: This policy may be the most difficult new policy to meet.
If you follow best practices and stick to advertising smartly, then you can do it—just note that the average CTR throughout all of AdWords is 1.90%, so you need to make sure that you or someone else is being an active manager of the account.
How to make adjustments:
First, check your keyword quality scores. This is a good indication on the health of your account. Keyword quality scores are based on a formula that Google won’t share. However, most experts say it is composed mostly of keyword CTR and the relevance of your landing page content to the keyword.
If you have a high quality score on keywords and your ad groups are setup to be very targeted, that’s going to get you a long way towards this 5% account CTR requirement.
If your account has grown a little wild and is advertising in too many areas, your CTR may have dropped a little. Prune it back for now by pausing some of the less successful campaigns, and then make a strategy on how to move forward after you meet this policy.
Second, one trick to help with this is to make sure you have a “brand” campaign. This is where you advertise on your organization’s name or derivatives of it. These types of campaigns get really high CTRs and can help bring up your account average.
Some Rootid clients reach 75%+ CTR on brand-based ad groups
Third, always be testing.
As we mentioned before, each ad group should have at least 3 ads running at all times. After about 100 impressions, see how these ads compare. Pause the ones that are not performing less well and copy/edit the best performing ads to test more.
Do the same with keywords. If you have 10-15 keywords in an ad group, keep the winners activated and remove the keywords that are not performing well.
Lastly, follow the best practice of organizing your ad groups and using common keywords in your ad copy headlines. This will make sure that your ads are performing well.
Ad Grants Website Policy
Your organization must own the domain that users land on when they click your ad.
Your site must have a robust and clear description of your organization and mission. Each web page must have sufficient information for visitors to understand your organization’s purpose.
Your website must function well and not contain broken links.
Your ads, keywords, and website may not make claims that promise results after a consultation, service, or purchase. Claims on your website must cite verifiable references to provide transparency to users.
Commercial activity must not be the main purpose of your website. This includes sales of products and services, consultations, lead generation, and providing referrals.
Any limited commercial activities must support your non-monetary mission.
Advertising on your organization’s website must be relevant to your mission and not be obtrusive to users.
Your website may not host Google AdSense
The skinny: In other words, do not sell stuff that does not go to help your mission, and make sure that your website is being managed reasonably well.
Note that Google really hates broken links (404 Errors) on your website. It makes for a bad user experience, and if you have a lot of broken links, your website is probably not performing well in organic search. So, it is in your own interest to get those fixed.
Both Drupal and Wordpress have plugins that can monitor these 404 Errors and help you fix them. If you are on a different platform, use Google Search Console to monitor broken links.
How to make adjustments: There are a lot of automated tools that will give your site a technical review. If you do not feel confident, then hire a technical expert to review your site for you.
I Don't Have Time to Manage My Google Ad Grants Account!
Nonprofits are constantly strapped for staff resources. Fortunately, there are two options if you do not have the time to manage your grant in house:
Hire an agency, like Rootid, to help you. It may sound like an added expense, but a good agency can increase online traffic by 5,000 visits a month, and raise over $10,000 a year from their services. An agency with expertise in this area can provide more return on your investment than most in-house staff can.
If you just want to automate the account, Google will allow you to use an AdWords Express account. This type of account requires fewer man hours because Google controls your account structure and the ad campaigns. The only thing that you need to do is write the ad copy, and indicate the landing page. Google's smart machines do the rest!
Need help getting a strategy together? Contact Rootid. We'll review your account for free.
Happy New Year From Rootid & Exciting Announcements!
Though it began with a sense of confusion and uncertainty, we can’t help but feel inspired by how our clients, friends, and partners have joined together to make a difference around the world.
In 2018, we continue forward with the momentum of our collective beliefs toward more equitable and healthy communities that celebrate diversity.
Growing Beyond Just Websites & Print Materials
Last year, Rootid continued to grow our rockstar team as we expanded our service offerings to nonprofits.
Our team now spans 3 time zones and offers more than just print, web design and custom development services.
Our continued expansion provides a more holistic approach to nonprofit marketing and communications that helps our clients engage their communities through authentic and strategic brand development, more thoughtful and effective messaging, and multi-channel marketing management.
We also formed a major strategic partnership with Full Circle Fund, where we helped launch the Nimble Nonprofit Series, capacity building workshops that serve Bay Area nonprofits and community members. Valerie Neumark Mickela, Rootid Co-Founder, also joined their Board of Directors this past fall.
We Love Our Clients!
We're still fueled by our inspiring clients.
Their impact around the world is literally changing lives inc communities, influencing policies that shape our future, and building a more equitable society where everyone can thrive.
In 2017, we refreshed some inspiring brands, including:
We’re determined to serve more nonprofits, both established organizations and 'nimble' newcomers.
In addition to continuing to grow our 360-degree approach to customized marketing services, Rootid is excited about a new product to be released in 2018 that will help smaller nonprofits get started with a powerful online marketing tool set at an affordable price. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements!
Our team is also committed to giving back to the nonprofit community through in-kind services. Last year, we completed the 3rd Annual brandUP campaign, by providing $10,000 in marketing services to Root & Rebound. Our team is determined to continue to be a catalyst for big ideas and great nonprofits.
This year, we will expand the scope of brandUP to impact even more nonprofits. Stay tuned for our 2018 announcement!
Even nonprofits with established identities need to reevaluate from time to time in order to stay relevant. In many cases, a brand refresh may be necessary.
What is a Brand Refresh?
Simply put, a brand refresh is a makeover. The goal is to enhance your organization’s image, while staying recognizable—but how do we go about that?
Steps for a Brand Refresh:
Review your core values. Go back to the beginning. Remember all of those questions you sat down and asked yourself the first time around? It’s time to revisit them to see where your answers now differ.
Conduct stakeholder interviews. As a general rule, it’s good to do these once a year, as a tool to gauge the effectiveness of your mission, outreach, and short/long-term goals. Getting feedback from stakeholders (internal staff, your board of directors, community members, etc.) will help you determine which aspects of your brand need addressed.
Example question: Using a few keywords, how do you want people to see your brand?
Redefine your target audiences and personas. Determining your target audience was tough the first time around. Thankfully, you should have a better idea of who is most receptive to your message now. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start grouping common characteristics to create personas—or profiles of imaginary people.
Consider what they want from you and what you want from them in return. How can you guide them from being unaware of your organization to a loyal brand advocate? Keep fleshing them out.
Develop content that will interest them at various stages in their journeys.
Update your visual language. Mood boards are an effective way to discuss ideas, share insights, and clarify communication. They help visually explain a feeling and, in turn, develop a more authentic and successful brand. They’re where your brand refresh will be most evident, especially if your organization adopts a new logo.
Tweak your messaging. Great content is critical to achieving higher conversion rates and engaging user experiences. Based on your profiles’ points of view, consider what tone of organizational “voice” would best reach, engage, and compel community members and donors.
Audit your marketing materials. You’re almost there! It’s time to look at your print materials, event collateral, social media channels, newsletter templates, website, etc. Are they achieving measurable results? Do they need to be updated to reflect any of the aforementioned steps?
Update your assets. Your assets are your brand messengers. As such, it’s important to maintain cohesive marketing materials in print and online. Doing so will lead to more donations and more volunteer signups, so be sure to keep them up-to-date.
For a successful brand refresh, you’ll need a look at where you came from, where you are now, and where you want to go from here. The adjustments will take work, but the end results should be well worth it!
Digital marketing has stolen the spotlight in recent years, thanks to its accessibility and reach, but does that mean print is obsolete? Not according to a Two Sides survey:
“88% of respondents indicated that they understood, retained or used information better when they read print on paper compared to lower percentages (64% and less) when reading on electronic devices.”
The key is understanding when and how to leverage that preference. Print collateral is best used in strategic settings, where you’re in a position to provide something tangible—something that either lends credibility (banners, signs, swag, etc.) or encourages engagement (programs, forms, business cards, etc.) Take Full Circle Fund’s yearly UNITE event, for example.
By utilizing print, we were able to set a festive and informative tone at SF Jazz. Everything was branded and strategically placed—from the stickers on the mini-wine bottles to the programs highlighting Full Circle Fund’s grant cycle.
Even our new foldout business cards had to pull their weight, that night. In addition to providing basic contact information, they also listed our services, featured a client testimonial, and encouraged follow-up with a tear-off ticket (redeemable for a drink with a Rootid founder).
That’s not to say digital didn’t play a role, of course. No one can dispute social media’s role in creating awareness.
The point is, by recognizing print and digital’s individual advantages, we were able to help Bay Area guests discover and celebrate social change in their community. That, in and of itself, is a huge success!
If you're still putting out annual reports the old fashioned way—pulling stacks of statistics, rounding up designers, blowing your budget on print copies, etc.—this post might be an eye-opener for you. Not only are annual report websites generally less expensive, they're also easy to fill with impactful media, easy to deliver, and easy to track. Plus, they're much more conscientious of the planet.
Letting your web team produce a professional site for this year's accomplishments could be a great step into the future for your non-profit—but don't take our word for it. Check out these reports from businesses and organizations who've already adopted the process to impressive results:
gridalternatives.org/annual-report-15 GRID Alternatives' adopted an online annual report format a few years ago and now simply updates the stats, graphics and stories each year with new information...saving time and money. Their annual report is styled in a familiar, almost print-like layout.
echoinggreen.org/2014 Echoing Green's 2014 report used floating side navigation to make it easy for visitors to jump to the information they were most interested in.
shopify.com/2013 Shopify's 2013 report summarized their news with an interactive timeline.
mailchimp.com/2012/ MailChimp's 2012 report featured an interactive element that allowed visitors to browse user statistics by demographic.
lemonly.com/2016report Lemonly encouraged visitors to interact with their 2016 report, using a circular beam of "light" to reveal facts.
2016.flama.is/ Flama laid out their 2016 report as a click-through slideshow.
one.org/annualreport/ One's bold use of color and typography combined with compelling photography and language really makes their annual report shine.
Styles may vary, but all successful annual report websites have two things in common: professional presentation and convenience. Sounds like a win, win! Need help with your next Annual Report? Drop us a line!
You may be getting a lot of new site visitors, but are they signing up for your newsletter, an upcoming event or even donating to your latest campaign?
Creating an effective and directive call-to-action is the key to converting site visitors to more engaged community members.
Lead visitors to take the next step with your organization through a high-value offer. Think about each of your target audiences and what would really spur them to action. Appeal to what brought them to your website in the first place.
As a nonprofit, you're offering to help people make a difference alongside you. That's a big deal! Whether you want to direct visitors toward a donation page or a volunteer form, toward a newsletter signup or an event RSVP, you're going to leverage the same key elements each time:
An attention-grabbing header (sometimes accompanied by a brief, straightforward explanation)
A visually striking call-to-action (CTA)
Take Habitat for Humanity, for example. Their homepage leads with an emotional appeal, asking visitors to donate to hurricane recovery. The use of imagery reinforces the need, and its offset by a bold, contrasting box. The verbiage is action-oriented and straightforward.
Another great example is the ACLU. Midway through their "DACA Is Ending. But the Movement Is Not." blog post, a bright red box links the content (legislation affecting immigrants) with the offer (fighting for immigrants' rights). This tailored approach is seen throughout their site and is an effective means of targeting.
Did you notice something else these two had in common? An implied urgency. They don't ask you to consider making a donation; they urge you to donate now! The need is real, the world is turning. If you don't help, who will?
A few more examples of effective, verb-laden CTAs:
Join the fight!
Make a difference in 2017!
Remember, the most important thing is that you cater to your audience and what will help them take the next step—whatever that may be. If you know a page will attract people at two different stages in the decision-making process, it's okay to tier your offers.
Look at Contra Costa College:
Some prospective students may be ready to apply, but others may just be starting their research. By incorporating two CTAs, the college accommodates both audiences at once.
Donor retention is a critical part of growing your nonprofit’s mission. Using a drip email welcome series is a great way to start a relationship with new constituents that hopefully lead to a long-term relationship.
According to research, donor retention is declining across the nonprofit sector. So, starting off on the right foot with new donors is critical to building that long-term engagement.
New donor welcome series have also become easier with the advent of drip email marketing, also known as marketing automation. Email providers like MailChimp, ConstantContact, ActiveCampaign, Pardot and more are readily available to nonprofits, and make setting up a welcome series quick and easy.
What is a Drip Email Campaign?
Drip email campaigns are an automated way to send out emails to a user based on around a schedule and a behavior that triggers the series.
For the purpose of this post, the example is a new donor to your organization. When they first give a gift it would trigger the email welcome series.
An email welcome series is typically 3 to 4 emails sent about a week apart. The goal is to reinforce the decision that the donor made to support your mission. Then lead them down a pathway towards further engagement.
Do NOT ask them for more money. This will give the impression that’s all you care about.
Why is Marketing Automation Critical to Your Drip Email Campaign?
As we all know, nonprofit staff are constantly wearing a million different hats. Because marketing automation is automated, it reduces the staff time needed to manually engage constituents.
Simply put, it builds capacity at your organization, while also building relationships.
Sounds good, right?
Example Welcome Series
Your email drip campaign should always be personalized. So, make sure that you are using merged data to address the new donor personally.
As we mentioned above, the campaign should be 3 to 4 emails long, and you can send each email about a week a part.
Email #1: Thank You There’s no better way to start a relationship than thanking someone. Immediately after a donation is made, send a thank you note to the donor.
The note should reinforce their decision to donate to your organization. Talk about the values or your organization, and how you are making an impact.
This is also a good time to talk about your organizational goals. Demonstrate that you have a big vision and a plan to get there.
Think about more than just a written email. Try a video message from your executive director, or a video that captures your organization’s mission and vision.
Email #2: Impact Story Storytelling is a great way to show organizational impact.
This email could include a compelling image from the impact story, a teaser about the story, and a quote.
Use video to tell a story
Use infographics to illustrate the problem your mission solves and the impact your work has on it
Email #3: Small Engagement Ask
At this point, the new donor should feel connected to your mission and values.
It’s time to make the first ask. Not money, but offer them a way to engage with you further. For example:
Sign-up for your newsletter
Follow you on social
Listen to a podcast or recorded webinar
Read a publication or resource
Don’t forget to be specific about the value this step will bring to them. Why is the newsletter valuable to them. For example, first to receive volunteer opportunities, or access to publications/resources.
Email #4: Add Value Relationships should be a two-way street. This is no different with constituents.
Send an email about resources or publications that could be helpful to the donor. Perhaps offer special access to a volunteer opportunity.
The bottom line is, help the donor realize that your organization can add value to their lives and experience. Do something nice for them.
Email #5: Larger Engagement Ask (Not Money!)
Take the next step and ask the donor to enage in a larger capacity. Some ideas:
Site tour - give them a guided tour
Volunteer opportunity - ask them to volunteer at a certain date
Join an event
Take Your Drip Campaign Further
Here are some tips to help to improve your drip campaigns:
A/B test your email content - testing your emails will allow you to tweak the content to get better and better over time. Compare email subject lines, deliver dates/times, actual email content, imagery, etc.
Use Landing Pages - landing pages help increase conversion rates when you are asking users to take an action. Services like Unbounce, LeadPages and Instapage make this process extremely easy.
Segment Users by Action/Interest - many marketing automation systems will allow you to track user interests by the types of links they click on. Use this information to further engage the donor based on their interests.
Link Drip Campaigns - when a donor finishes one drip campaign, start them through another automation sequence based on the behaviors that the donor has taken during the welcome series.
Generating a marketing plan for a nonprofit is a daunting task, to say the least. Content strategy is an easy process that will help you figure out who you are marketing to, and how to talk with them in a way that motivates them to take action.
Our 2016/17 brandUP Awardee is Root & Rebound, an amazing organization that helps guide reentry for formerly incarcerated people and their families. They recently launched an online training hub, which needed an effective marketing strategy to build awareness for this incredible new tool.
Since Root & Rebound already has exceptional branding, we focused this project on helping them create a build a strong and holistic content strategy that would serve as a foundation for the marketing communications going forward.
We’ll break the process into simple steps below.
What is content strategy?
Put simply, content strategy is a way that you organize content and messaging across your marketing channels to appeal to specific audiences, supporters or potential supporters. By analyzing your audiences, you can create compelling content that will motivate them to take some kind of action.
I began my career as a teacher and school administrator, so that informs the way we approach content strategy to a large degree.
As a whole, Rootid’s approach to Communications is more about helping our clients authentically educate their stakeholders and constituents, rather than advertise to them.
“ ... a tendency to optimize for reactions, leading to a world of content candy stores, rather than informational organic produce.” - Jon Crowley
Effective content strategy is not just defining your audiences and how you are going to ‘tell them stuff,’ it is thinking more holistically—taking into consideration who they are, what they like to do, what they want from you and then, finally, what you want from them.
A strong content strategy puts the core values of your organization at the center and then pairs them with the needs of your stakeholders and constituents.
So what is the process for developing content strategy? We break it down into steps below.
Identify Your Audiences
When starting a content strategy project with clients, we begin by asking them to identify all of the types of people their organization interacts with. By defining those people and considering their worldviews, personalities and lives (what they like to do in their free time, what they value, etc.) we are then able to group them by similarities.
Build Your Personas
Persona is just a fancy way to say you are grouping your audience members by what motivates them and then creating a ‘faux’ person/profile to represent those wants and needs. Once you know who your personas are, you can start building scenarios of how best to introduce, educate and inspire.
For Root & Rebound, we found the audiences who would be using, talking and supporting their online training hub fell into three categories/personas, which we named: ‘Motivated Second Chancers & Their Loved Ones,’ ‘Community Connectors,’ and ‘Inspired Contributors.’ Each of these groups would approach their Reentry Training Hub in a unique way, so they would need to be addressed accordingly.
Remember, a good content strategy is about connecting the needs of your audience with your core values. Just like establishing a new friendship, it can not be about an agenda, but rather a relationship.
Defining a User Journey
Once you know who your personas are, give them names and personalities so you can interact with them as real people—individuals with hopes, dreams, motivations and needs of their own. The journey is how you guide one such person from unaware of your organization to a loyal brand advocate.
For example, we named Root & Rebound’s ‘Community Connector’ persona Marco and laid out an example journey that a person like him might experience:
Marco is a social worker in Los Angeles at a large anti-poverty nonprofit. His low-income clients (many of whom have records) are looking for access to basic needs, including housing, healthcare, and employment. He is 4 years into his career and is both passionate and excited to help his clients in any way he can. Marco is frustrated/limited by the traditional approach of his work—he sees patterns and cycles in reentry and reincarceration, so he’s is looking for creative ways to support and energize his clients.
Marco is a member of Los Angeles Reentry Regional Partnership and one day through the listserv, he heard that a group called R&R was coming down to deliver a day training on reentry legal barriers to support practitioners and personally impacted people. Marco attends the training, learns about the reentry training hub and begins using it to quickly find specific information for his clients every day. He orders wallet cards and postcards to have in his office so he can easily share them with clients and colleagues. He also follows R&R on social media, sharing posts about various topics to help educate his friends and family.
Write Your Stories
Now that we know who our personas are, what motivates them and how they learn about our organization, we develop content that would interest them at the various stages of their journeys. For example, an article that Marco might want to read when he first learns about Root & Rebound will often be different than what he will share with friends, family and colleagues once he knows R&R is a thought-leader and trusted resource.
Build Your Assets
As mentioned above, Marcos requested wallet cards and postcards from R&R. He also started sharing articles on social media with friends and family. (These assets need to be created, but now we know they are grounded in a thoughtful and authentic strategy rather than a ‘build it and they will come’ approach.)
Building out personas for your donors? Make sure your website is optimized to generate the most donations possible. Download our guide!