5 Copywriting Hacks to Improve Nonprofit Google AdWords Campaigns

No one will ever confuse me with Don Draper of Mad Men (for more than one reason), but while working for nonprofit organizations as a communications manager and consultant, I have learned some key insights about crafting effective Google AdWords campaigns to take advantage of Ad Grants funds.

If you're not familiar with Google's Ad Grants program, the company awards approved nonprofits with $10,000 in monthly credit to be used on AdWords advertising. There are, however, a few key restrictions, perhaps the most critical being that nonprofits can bid only a maximum of $2 per keyword.

Other advertisers competing for the same keywords often bid far more, making it difficult for nonprofit organizations to generate impressions and clicks from their Ad Grants ads.

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This limit imposed by Google makes technique and word choice all the more critical for organizations hoping to unlock Google's generous monthly allowance.

One of my clients, Housing Initiative Partnership, was recently awarded a Google Ad Grant, and I have been developing a robust set of AdWords campaigns focused on promoting the organization's programs.

Here are examples of two high-performing ads that have risen to the top during the first months of the campaign:

Example 1: After a few tweaks, ads like this one helped one campaign grow from 19 clicks per month to 185 clicks per month, and counting.

Example 1: After a few tweaks, ads like this one helped one campaign grow from 19 clicks per month to 185 clicks per month, and counting.

Example 2: This ad has an impressive clickthrough rate (CTR) of 3.36%.

Example 2: This ad has an impressive clickthrough rate (CTR) of 3.36%.

"What's so great about these rather ordinary-looking ads?" you ask.

I don't claim that they're great ads, but they both do reflect key insights I've learned over the last few years:

1. Work the name of the organization into the ad copy.

Both of these ads mention Housing Initiative Partnership. As a bonus, one also mentions HIP's program partner, eHome America. When I started adding the organization name more regularly throughout all the campaigns I managed for HIP, I noticed improved performance vs. related ads that did not name the organization.

2. Include relevant keywords in the ad's visible URL.

Google requires advertisers to fill in two URL fields on a basic ad. The first URL appears in green in an ad and is purely for show. The second is not visible to the user; it is the destination URL for the promoted content. When I first started learning the AdWords system, I simply made the visible URL the homepage of the organization. But when I began adding "/keywords" to the end of the visible URL, I noticed improved performance across the board. Notice that the above ads have appended "/eHome" and "/foreclosure" to HIP's primary domain.

3. Short, snappy headlines stand out.

Just as shorter tweets often have a higher interaction rate, there is good reason to believe the same applies to Google Ads. In fact, Google says as much in their copywriting video tutorial series. While shorter isn't always better, I have found numerous examples of ads with short, snappy headlines performing extremely well, such as with Example 2.

4. Focus your attention on one campaign at a time.

When you are managing multiple AdWords campaigns and scores (if not more) of ad groups, it doesn't take long to begin feeling overwhelmed. The AdWords system is extremely difficult to learn. Watching video tutorials and reading blog posts like this one cannot completely save you from that sinking feeling that you will never "get it." Because each organization campaign typically promotes a different content page, each campaign will need to have a customized approach. It is very difficult to tend to multiple campaigns when you are still trying to wrap your head around the system. For example, all this month I have been focusing on one underperforming HIP AdWords campaign. In less than 30 days, my adjustments have contributed to significant growth in impressions and clicks -- simply because I've focused my energy on solving the challenges unique to that campaign.

5. Create an extended headline by writing the first two lines as a complete statement or question.

When the first two lines of an ad join together to form a complete statement or question (see Example 2), Google will sometimes turn the sentence into a double-length headline. This is a relatively new feature within AdWords that can impact the appearance and rhythm of your ad copy when it is read. Experiment with this format in your campaigns to see if you get the same positive results that I have.

Do you have any AdWords wisdom to share? Post your comments below; I would love to hear about your experience with Google AdWords!