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Google Ad Grants Vs. Paid Google Ads: Can I Use Both?

So you’ve got a Google Ad Grants account and it’s successfully driving traffic to your site. Can you use a Google Ad Grant and Paid Google Ads at the same time? What is the difference between a Grant Account and Paid Account, anyway?

In this post, you’ll learn about the different opportunities that lie within Paid Google Ads, the limitations of the Google Ad Grant, and how to strategically run Paid Ads alongside your Grant Ads to get the most out of your Google Ads efforts. Whether you want to generate awareness for your organization, drive engagement, or generate more high value conversions, strategically running Paid Ads can help drive results.


What Is The Difference Between Google Ad Grants and Paid Google Ads?

Google Ad Grants and Paid Google Ads are very different mediums with their own sets of rules and functions.

Here are the key differences between a Grant Account and Paid Account:

1. Budget

Google Ad Grants gives you up to $10,000/month in free Google Ads credits. You’ll never be asked to enter credit card information so there’s no risk of overspending and getting billed. This gives you a lot of room to get creative and experiment without worrying about real dollars in your marketing budget.

Your Paid Google Ads budget is completely up to you and there’s no limit to how much an advertiser can choose to spend. You have to add your credit card information to a Paid Google Ads account before your ads can start running, so it’s important to make sure your Paid campaigns are air-tight before activating them.

2. Types Of Ads

Google Ad Grants and Paid Google Ads both allow you to run text-based Search Ads that can appear when on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (when a user searches for something on Google).

A Paid Account also allows you to run:

  • Display Ads: Image/GIF ads that can appear directly on websites that a user is browsing
  • YouTube Ads: Short videos that run before or during YouTube content

While the Search Ads can be extremely powerful, adding Display and Video campaigns to your strategy can help boost awareness and conversions.

3. Audience Targeting

In Paid Accounts, you can choose to show your ads to specific subsets of users through:

  • Interest-based targeting (like hobbies, professions, and purchase intent)
  • Demographics (like age, income, and location)
  • Website targeting (like showing ads only to users who have previously visited your site)

Audience targeting helps make sure your ads are reaching the right users.

In Google Ad Grant Accounts, you can only target by location.

4. Google Search Competition

Any time a user searches for something on Google, Google will always show a Paid Search Ad above a Grant Ad.* Grant Ads get the leftover ad spots, which can often cause your ads to be outranked.

With Paid Search Ads, you’ll have a much easier time getting your ads in front of more users, especially with very competitive keywords.

*Note: Even though Paid Ads will always show above Grant Ads in search results, they don’t technically compete with each other, so you can run them at the same time without consequences.

5. Policies & Restrictions

While Paid Google Ads accounts have to adhere to Google’s basic advertising policies, Google Ad Grant accounts come with a much stricter set of rules. These include:

  • Keyword limitations
  • Topic restrictions
  • Minimum monthly performance metrics

Google Ad Grant recipients have to comply with these strict policies, otherwise your account could be suspended. Learn more about these policies in our Google Ad Grants Dashboard guide.


Are Google Paid Ads Better Than The Google Ad Grant?

The short answer is no. Grant Ads and Paid Ads have different purposes and one is not necessarily better to use than the other. In fact, using them at the same time can be a powerful marketing strategy.

Despite the restrictions, the Google Ad Grant is an incredibly valuable resource. If you decide to run Paid Ads, it’s essential that you keep using  your Grant account. Here’s why:

  • Grant Ads can still pick up high quality traffic
  • They can step in when your Paid budget runs out
  • You can use the keyword data in your Grant account to inform your Paid Search keyword list


How To Effectively Use Grant Ads and Paid Ads Together 


1. Think About The User Journey

When running Paid Google Ads, you have lots of choices to make about which platforms and targeting methods to use. Think about your marketing goals and the audience that you want to reach.

We like to think about this in terms of the “user journey,” or the journey from when a user first learns about your organization, to when they complete a meaningful action on your website (like filling out a lead form or signing up for an event).

Once you identify where in the journey your target audience is, you can use that to inform the channel, targeting methods, and messaging you use.

Here are the 3 stages and channels you might want to consider for each:

Stage 1: Awareness

Users in this stage of the journey have probably never heard of your organization before. You want to spread general awareness about your cause and make an impression on these new audiences.

Channels

  • Display/YouTube Ads: Visual ads are great to reach new audiences and generate awareness through graphics and messaging.
  • Google Ad Grant Search Ads: Awareness ads are the bread and butter of Grant Accounts. These can effectively reach users at the moment they are searching for causes or issues they are passionate about.

Calls To Action

  • Learn More
  • Find Out More


Stage 2: Engagement

Users in the Engagement stage are now aware of your organization, so it’s time to start building the relationship. You want to capture their attention and provide them with engaging content.

Channels

  • Display Ads: These are a simple way to engage users through a variety of targeting options (like a user’s browsing behavior, interests, demographics, and more).
  • Google Ad Grant Search Ads: Using Grant Ads can help you reach people who have seen your Display Ads and are searching because they want to know more.

Calls To Action

  • Learn More About…
  • Get Facts & Information
  • Find Out Why…


Stage 3: Conversion

In this stage, the user is ready to engage meaningfully with your organization or website content, whether it’s through a donation, purchase, sign-up, or signature. You want to put high-impact statements and strong calls to action in front of people who are ready to take action.

Channels

  • Paid Search Ads: Use Paid Search to reach people at the exact moment they are searching for an event, charity, cause to donate to, product, or service.
  • Google Ad Grant Search Ads: Duplicate your Paid Search campaign into your Grant campaign so that when your Paid Search budget runs out, the Google Ad Grant can step in and pick up more traffic.
  • Display/Video Remarketing: Remarketing allows you to target only users who have visited or taken action on your site before. For example, you might want to ask for donations from users who donated during last year’s giving season.

Calls To Action

  • Sign Up
  • Contact Us Today
  • Donate Now
  • Take Action
The 3 stages of the user journey: awareness, engagement, and conversion.


2. Use The Data You Already Have

If you’ve been running campaigns in your Grant Account, you have access a ton of rich data about how your keywords, ads, and landing pages perform.

This gives you a serious advantage when running Paid Search Ads because you can start using your budget towards a data-driven strategy. Running tests in your Grant Account is a great way to make sure you have your best foot forward when it comes to spending your actual dollars.

Identify keywords with strong conversion rates in your Grant Account, but aren’t delivering as much as they could be due to Paid competition. You can look at the Search Impression Share metrics to find out what percentage of eligible ad slots your ads are appearing in. If conversion rate is high and search impression share is low for certain keywords, they show solid potential for your Paid Search Ads. By running Paid Search Ads for those keywords, you’ll have a competitive advantage and be eligible to show ads more often against competitors.

3. Make Sure You Set Up Proper Conversion Tracking

With Paid campaigns, it’s really important to make sure you can measure your success accurately. This data is necessary to optimize your campaigns and continue to improve results over time.

In addition, if you’re testing out new advertising strategies, it’s important to be able to justify the amount spent to understand how you should use the platform going forward.

Your conversion actions should always align with your objectives. Here are a few examples:

  • If you’re trying to pull in donations, ensure that you can accurately attribute donations to their source, as well as the dollar values of donations.
  • If you use a third party for processing donations, you should look into enabling Cross-Domain Tracking.
  • If you’re looking to generate leads, ensure that form fills are being tracked. 

3. Start With A Test Budget

Testing and learning is the best way to improve your marketing campaigns.

If you’re interested in seeking out new digital marketing initiatives, set aside a test budget that you can use to investigate whether it would be worth investing in long term. Once the test budget is used up, you can review the results, identify the ROI, and make an informed decision.

How much budget should you set aside for Paid Ads? It really depends on your objective. If you’re trying to generate conversions, we suggest generating at least 100 clicks to get insight on whether those clicks are valuable. You can translate this into a minimum budget by using-cost per-click benchmarks.

Campaign TypeAvg. Cost Per ClickMinimum Testing Budget
Paid Search Ads~$5/click$500
Display ~$0.50/click$50
Display Remarketing~1.50/click$150
Sample budget calculation. These numbers are estimates and will vary based on competition.

So, should you run Paid Ads with your Grant Ads?

If there’s room in the budget, we recommend doing so.

The Google Ad Grant alone is a powerful tool. But Paid Google Ads can unlock the ability to run highly targeted campaigns that can be tailored towards a range of campaign objectives. Running them together allows you to make the most of all that Google Ads has to offer and strengthen your digital marketing presence.

Check out this nonprofit case study on Paid Google Ads to see how it works in a real world setting. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use Paid Ads alongside your Google Ad Grant, our team would be happy to help!

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