We recently ran a piece around Google killing right hand side ads in SERPs, and the impact that might have on PPC activity. 

But the discussion so far has predominantly been around companies and agencies that are likely to have some level of flexibility within their display budgets. 

One group that will be impacted in a very different way is the charity sector, particularly those who rely on Google’s Ad Grants programme, which limits bids to just $2.

With pretty much everyone agreeing that the new setup will likely push up cost-per-click (CPC), many charities operating in an already competitive market will see their ads pushed out of the picture. 

I caught up with Matt Lewis, a freelance ecommerce consultant working with adult education charity The City Literature Institute (City Lit), to find out how the loss of right-hand ads will impact charities and what he thinks Google could do to ease the damage. 

Matt Lewis The City Literature Institute

Q. How do Google Ad Grants work?

A. It’s a scheme that runs in parallel to the standard Adwords process. It allows charities and non-profits to apply to Google to get a free paid search budget (between $10,000 – $40,000 per month). 

There are a number of restrictions Ad Grants users face compared to their paid counterparts: search partners and display networks are unavailable, and bids are capped at a $2 maximum.

Q. How do you think the recent changes to Google’s right hand side ads will affect your PPC activity?

A. With bids capped at $2 within an already competitive auction, the pressure to appear in the top listings will become more intense. 

Over time we expect the required first page bids to increase (as indeed they already have) and the amount of visibility we can realistically get from the scheme will reduce. 

Q. To what extent will this impact the charity sector? 

A. The impact this change will have on charities is potentially quite a large one. Recent data shared on the impact of the change suggests that all results below the new position four are losers in terms of volume, organic search included. 

If charities are restricted because of bid caps and face lower volumes from organic search as a result of the changes, then potentially these organisations will be some of the hardest hit by the changes.

The new view

google right hand side ads gone

Q. What could Google do to try and limit the damage? 

A. My opinion would be for Google to remove the bid cap from the ad grants program or increase it substantially.

This would then allow the organisations who use it to approach their PPC activity with a lot more flexibility and get the full use of their budgets.

Q. What steps can charities take to avoid being impacted too harshly by these changes?

A. Being overly reliant on any one channel or source of traffic is always a risk, and diversification of an organisation’s media mix should always be something to consider when things like this arise. 

Developing business through communities and supporters offline is a tried and tested method for charities, and doing the same online should be an obvious port of call if it’s not something already being investigated.

Sign up if you haven’t already…

Despite its limitations, Lewis was quick to add that Google Ad Grants have given City Lit the means to get its cause in front of thousands of people it may not otherwise have been able to, so if you work for a charity it’s well worth signing up if you haven’t already.

Here’s hoping Google listens to what the charity sector is saying and takes steps to mitigate any potential damage caused by these recent changes.