Interview with Simon Choy of ConnectAd.ca
Allow me to introduce Simon Choy. We met through a mutual friend and I thought it would worth passing along the introduction. Simon is the founder of a business called ConnectAd that specializes in working with non-profits to use Google Ad Grants. I think it’s worth paying attention to what he has to say for two reasons. First, many non-profits don’t know that they can get $120,00 in free advertising each year from Google and, those that do, don’t know how to make good use of those ad dollars. Second, Connect Ad has worked with almost 200 non-profits generate over $50 million in ads, and 1.8 million ad impressions through their work. So, if you are thinking of boosting your presence online, this article/recorded interview is worth your time.
Let’s start with a bit about you. How did you get involved with Google Ad Grants?
In 2009, I found a summer job in the digital marketing industry where I learned about managing Google AdWords. My work with for-profit companies gave me an appreciation for how complicated campaigns could get.
Later that summer, I discovered the Google Grants program, but was surprised to find out that nobody was out there helping nonprofits. Agencies serving for-profit companies were everywhere, but why wasn’t anyone assisting nonprofits in taking advantage of $10,000 per month in free ads?
Always having had a passion for social enterprise, I decided to be that person and opened ConnectAd in 2010 with the mission of helping nonprofits. Since then, we have remained committed to only working with nonprofits, managing their Google Grants.
In a nutshell, what we do is focus entirely on helping nonprofits grow their impact using effective digital marketing tools like the Google Ad Grant.
So, what are Google Grant Ads?
If you ever have gone on Google and searched for something, usually you will get a list of results, but at the very top, you may see some sponsored ads. Those are Google Ads and they come about when, as an advertiser, you purchase an ad for a keyword, or a search term such as “low-income housing Atlanta”.
When someone’s search matches a keyword on your list, your ad may appear. When that person clicks on the ad, they get taken to a landing page that you specified, and usually, you would want to make it related to the search term that you've purchased.
Now, Google Ads can be very expensive for any organization. What's amazing is that the grant program is that Google is trying to make it accessible for non-profits, and so they offer up to $10,000 per month or $120,000 per year in free Google Ads. And, this figure gets mistaken all the time. It is $10k per month, because sometimes people think that's like a one-time grant, or they think it's a per-year grant.
The application process is simple and not what most people think of as a competitive grant application. You simply fill out form and if you qualify you get the ad credit.
Why is Google doing this? What’s the incentive for them to provide this?
I’ve talked with the people at the Google Ads Program and I think in large part they genuinely want to help nonprofits achieve meaningful impact. It could also serve as a natural transition into running parallel paid ad campaigns outside of the free grant credits.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Who is eligible for a Google Ads Grant?
Google Ad Grants are for any eligible nonprofit organization. Eligibility has three main requirements 1) You’re a registered nonprofit in any one of the 50+ countries listed 2) You have an active website 3) You’re not a hospital or healthcare organization, educational institution, or government entity – although University/Hospital Foundations are eligible.
What type of non-profit is this best suited for?
To some extent, you have to answer that question on an individualized basis but there are some broad principles.
- Population Size: Typically speaking, the smaller the population of your audience, the harder it will be to use the grant. And, this is in simple virtue of there being less people searching for what you're offering. For example, a non-profit that serves a population of only 10,000 people might not be a good candidate. It can be tougher for very localized groups to use an effective amount of the free ad credits since there’s inherently less people to promote to.
- Type of Non-Profit: There are just some areas that will inherently have more people searching for it than others such as Pet Adoption versus awareness of a rare disease. But that can also be an intricate point, because we work with certain non-profits who may be very niched, in terms of what they do, but they could also be running certain marketing initiatives that have broader appeal. For example, let's say you a niche non-profit, but you ran a clothing, or goods donation program. Well, that actually tends to do quite well with the grant, because the first place that people go to when they want to donate some clothing, they Google it and search it up.
- Time & In-house: Another limitation is whether a nonprofit has the time to actually run Google ad campaigns and the know-how to do it properly. If they don’t, the grant may end up being severely under-utilized and not make any tangible difference.
Is there a certain threshold that you must use? If you only use $1,000/per month are Google fine with that or do they close your award for underuse?