One of my first accounts as an account manager was a grant account. It felt like a low-pressure way to get my feet wet in account management. However, as soon as I got the account, Google change their grant account policies. In early January, AdWords released policy updates for grant account management. Policy updates included:

  • Maintain a 5% account CTR
  • Keyword Quality Scores cannot be below a 2
  • At least 2 active ad groups per campaign
  • At least 2 sitelink ad extensions
  • Account must have specific geo-targeting

For more information about the policy updates, visit Google’s Ad Grants Help webpage.

These updates seem relatively easy to maintain, except for maintaining a 5% account CTR. This requirement was one that caused me to worry about staying within AdWords grant requirements. For grant accounts, only keywords that support the mission of the nonprofit can be bided on (i.e. no competitor terms, no broad-topic terms) and ad copy must stay mission-focused. Additionally, keywords cannot have a bid over $2, unless the account is able to use maximize for conversions. It was, and continues to be, a challenge to stay within grant guidelines, however I have a few a few account optimizations that have helped me reached 5% CTR as well as raising account keyword quality score.

Within the first week of management, an account audit is crucial. Get familiar with the account structure and make any necessary, quick changes to get the account moving. In my first week, I updated all keyword bids to the max $2, implemented embedded negatives, added multiple match type ad groups of existing keywords, and added radius targeting to store location campaigns. These were quick wins that were able to move the account forward.

After those easy optimizations, I ran multiple search term reports. This helped me to find additional negatives (which helped to improve account quality score) as well as keywords that were related to the nonprofit’s mission. It was a keyword-idea-generator. Next, I paused any existing keyword that had a quality score of 2 or below.

A month of management in and CTR was still not above 4%. I was running under the assumption that the more keywords, the more coverage, the more clicks, the better. However, I found this not to be true. I looked at the last week of stats and went to all enabled keywords; from there, I paused any keyword that was being served and had below a 4% CTR. I paused keywords until I noticed that looking at the column, total all enabled keywords was above a 5% CTR. Doing this check on a regular basis will ensure that your CTR is not falling consistently. It also helps to see what keywords are resonating with your audience.

I continued to make regular account optimizations like writing ad copy to have 4 ads in each ad group, search term reports, tightening up ad groups with closely themed keywords, and adding campaigns as necessary to help push spend and conversions. When I had enough data, I moved campaigns over to maximize for conversions, was a new policy Google also updated in early January. Additionally, I set up a dynamic search ads campaign which immensely helped improved CTR once it ran for a decent amount of time.

After focusing on low-performing keywords, I looked at low-performing ads. I had 5 ads running in each ad group, one being a dynamic keyword insertion ad. I looked at the percent served and paused the ad that was being served often but had no clicks. This still left me with 4 ads per ad group. I continued to update ad copy and tie it as closely as possible with terms from the landing page and terms that were in the ad group. It is never more important to have a tightly themed account structure than in a grant account because of the necessary CTR and quality score requirements.


In summary, grant accounts take more management and optimizations than an average small account may. Daily management is required for grant accounts because of the limited options for keyword bids and what keywords can be used. It is important to check on the CTR of your enabled keywords, to check on the percentage served of the ads, and it is important to have good account structure for a grant account. CTR does fluctuate from time to time but doing these optimizations on a regular and ongoing basis, you will see your CTR improve and hopefully rise as time goes on.