Our Work


Adding with AdWords

By Chris Alfano on September 09, 2015

Hi everyone, Sara here. I just had my one year anniversary at Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO), and I’m celebrating with my first blog post.

Other than crashing a few scrum meetings, I’m typically not on the product development team. My role at ILAO is to write our grants, manage our Young Professionals Board, manage our events, and, along with Samantha, bring in the money ILAO needs to fulfill our mission.

However, a recent grant threw me more onto the product side of things than I’ve ever been before. We decided to apply for Google AdGrants--a program Google runs for nonprofits that gives $10,000 a month in free ads (like the one below).

tenants ad.png

We’ve wanted to get into the AdWords game for quite awhile, but recent changes to Google’s search algorithm kicked our efforts into high gear.

In April 2015 Google began downgrading non mobile-friendly search results on mobile devices. Since our current sites aren’t mobile friendly, this presented a potential problem for us--what if mobile users could no longer find our self-help resources on their devices?

Since most of ILAO's users come from Google, it's important that our content appears high in search results. People are more likely to click search results at the top of the page, so the higher our content appears on the page the more likely it is that our users will be able to find the legal help they need.

Will mobile users now be forced to face their legal issues alone? What could we do to mitigate the effects of “Google geddon”?

Answer: Google AdGrants. AdGrants can help us promote our content to mobile users and drive them to our site. The application and approval process was very quick, especially since we already owned a Google NonProfits account. The set-up, however, was much more involved.

We wanted to be strategic in the use of our ads, so we prioritized 1) interactive content that can’t be indexed by Google’s search engine and 2) the top pieces of content the program team will be transforming over the next year. Divorce is also our most popular piece of content, so I added it in just to see what would happen. As a pilot run with AdWords, this created a fairly representative sample that could give us a better understanding of how AdWords best fits ILAO's needs.

Getting your AdWords online involves selecting your keywords, grouping them into an “AdGroup”, and then using the groups for targeted campaigns. You also need to determine how much money per click you’re willing to spend. Money in Google AdWords is tied to keywords, not ads. Each time someone clicks your ad, you’ll be charged the amount of money you bid on that keyword. Google caps Nonprofit bids at $2.00, and as a result some pricier keywords will just be out of your reach.

Each month you have $10,000 worth of money to spend, but in order to spend it you have to make good ads that are both appealing to the users and relevant to the content it’s promoting. If you can consistently hit your mark of $10,000, you may even be able to qualify for Grantspro - Google’s AdGrants program that lets you spend up to $40,000 per month. We’ll have a long way to go before we start spending that much, but it’s a great benchmark to keep reaching for.

What we've been learning: Mobile users are by far the most common visitors clicking our ads. 75% of those who clicked our interactive content ads came from mobile devices. This tells us that our ads are more critical for mobile than desktop and reinforces our initial belief that Google AdWords would help us lessen the effects of “Mobilegeddon” by promoting our content on mobile devices.

In the year ahead we hope to greatly expand our AdWords program by increasing the number of ads, fine-tuning their keywords, and keeping their click-through rate at 1%. Once we launch our new site in spring 2016 however, we’ll have to investigate ways to incorporate AdWords with our new content.

Till then, Sara out.