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How to Maximize Your Google Ad Grants to Get More Pets Adopted

If you’re anything like me, the first time you heard about Google Ad Grants, you probably thought it was a bit too good to be true. “Ten thousand dollars a month in free online advertising? How is that possible?” But, you decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth, you signed yourself up, set up a few quality ads, and sat back to wait for the website traffic to start pouring in.

And you waited.

And you waited.

At the end of 30 days, instead of spending $10,000 a month, you might have spent only $3-5,000 (at most). Your site traffic has only gone up a little, but you noticed that they’re mostly unintentional, or worse — click fraud!

What gives? How can you possibly make the most of the $10,000 in free money just waiting to be spent?

Why you’re not spending your $10,000

Now, don’t beat yourself up too hard just yet. While there are many fantastic things about Google Adwords (you only pay when the ad gets clicked, for instance), there are some aspects of the Google Ad Grants program that make it intrinsically difficult to spend your allocation. For one, unlike traditional Adwords campaigns, Google Ad Grants limits you to Search Network Only advertisements, with keyword targeting. This means you’re limited to text-only ads on Google’s search results pages only (not those fancy animated ads you see on websites), based on what a person typed into Google’s “Search” bar.

As if that weren’t bad enough, you’re limited to a $2.00 cost-per-click bid. This is especially inconvenient because popular keywords like “rescue dog” cost more for first-page display ($2.94 in this example). If you use “rescue dog” as a campaign keyword, your ads probably will only show up on the second page of a Google search. But as you’ve probably heard, hardly anyone goes past page one.

So, chances are your ads aren’t getting seen, which means they won’t get clicked. While it’s great that Google doesn’t charge you for ads that don’t get clicks — you still want clicks!

How can you get them?

Keywords: It’s about quality and quantity

Before we even get into specifics, take a deep breath! Keep reminding yourself you’re not spending your own money here, and nothing you do is going to break the Internet. Not everything needs to be perfect, and this is the perfect time to experiment with ads and keywords.

With that in mind, when you create an ad campaign, I highly recommend trying a wide variety of keywords. There are only so many phrases that describe “cat adoptions,” so you have to get creative. Keep in mind — people who use Google are in a rush. They type incomplete sentences and often have typos. Try a “brain dump” and use Google’s Keyword Planner tools for help. For example:

  • Cats for adoption
  • Kitten adoption
  • Cute cat rescue
  • Rescue cat
  • Persian rescue
  • Maine coon rescue
  • Russian blue cat adoption
  • Kitty cat adoption
  • Rescue cats
  • Adopt cat near me

Keyword Planner
See what works over time, as well as what doesn’t — then fix and refine.

Be warned: If you use a Google Keyword Planner, chances are you’ll see the phrase “for sale” come up quite a bit. The sad truth is, many people still search “for sale” when looking to add a pet to their family — even if they’re open to adoption. Using this phrase (or not) is up to you, but you should discuss with your marketing team.

Think of ads like keywords — quality and quantity

Just like keywords, I recommend creating a few different versions of your ads as well. People adopt pets for different reasons: some want to save lives while others just want a furry companion. Experiment with different language.

Keyword Example


Get local

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you work for a rescue/shelter that serves one or a few specific communities. Your efforts, for the most part, are concentrated to a specific geographic area, and so should your Google Ad Grants efforts. Not only should you create campaigns that display to users living in specific geographic areas, but your keywords should reflect your location as well.

Why? It helps you get around that tricky $2.00 cost-per-bid limit I mentioned.

For instance, at the time of this writing, the keyword phrase “rescue dog” would bump me off the first page with a bid estimate price of $2.94. By changing my phrase to “rescue dog fort lauderdale” (where my shelter is located), I now am on the first page of Google! Try adding your city, county or state to your keyword searches (I recommend doing all three) and see what happens! 

Think beyond adoptions

Finally, if you take only one piece of advice from this article it’s this: Create different campaigns for each of your service offerings and events.

Do you have a large, annual fundraiser? Great! Create a campaign for that. Spay/neuter clinic? Create a campaign for that. Do you have a blog post you want to circulate? Create a campaign for that.

Each new program opens you up to a world of new ad and keyword opportunities to expand your organization’s digital footprint. What’s more, it helps keep your campaigns from getting stale (and Google punishes you for that). As I have said quite a bit already, you’re not going to lose money by experimenting — so if you want to get more web traffic to something, try it out!

I hope you find success with your Google Ad Grants campaigns. If this is a particular passion of yours, I recommend you complete your Google AdWords certification. Otherwise, the Google Help Pages are a great resource for all of your questions.

Brittany Mazzurco Muscato

Brittany Mazzurco Muscato is the Digital Marketing Specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County, located in Southern Florida. At her core Brittany a digital media artist whose passion whose work spans across the non-profit sector. Multi-passionate and always evolving, Brittany is skilled in a variety of disciplines, including graphic and web design, SEO, social media marketing, audio and video editing and photography. Brittany received her BA in Music Business and Marketing from Millersville University in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she graduated summa cum laude. She currently resides in Miami with her husband and rescue dog.

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