Is the express lane right for your Google AdWords experience? Image: Creative Commons, pin add.

Struggling to keep your AdWords Grant? You have options.

Though it varies by situation, I think that in most cases, sticking with AdWords Classic is the better bet. Here’s why.

Too much automation can lead you off track

The Classic version of AdWords can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many choices. However, those choices exist for a reason: they let you home in on reaching people who are important to you. And hiring a vendor or in-house staff person who understands Google Grants is worth the cost as their knowledge will help you deliver your ads to the right people. This is particularly true when it comes to keyword selection.

If you managed a Classic account prior to 2018, you may have gotten a taste of how the machine determines your appropriate keywords. For those who are unfamiliar, Classic accounts used to include keyword suggestions in their opportunities tab. They would often come in batches of as many as 25 suggestions for an Ad Group on a daily basis, for which you could pick and choose your favorites or add all of them in the batch.

These keywords that were decided by the machine weren’t very relevant to what was in the advertisement and landing page, but it was very convenient to be able to add so many in so few clicks. They may not add much per keyword, but they weren’t doing any harm.

Then Google radically changed their compliance rules, and those keywords started doing a lot of harm. All these keywords that were added due to the machine’s recommendation now made it harder to stay compliant because they had extremely low quality scores and click-through rates.

Given the lack of relevance for machine-generated keywords in the opportunities tab as recently as 2017, you should not expect the machine for AdWords Express would be more relevant in selecting keywords. For those who suspect that I’m making a big logical leap in comparing the opportunities tab in Classic with the automatic keyword selection in Express, I’m doing this as a comparison for those who only have exposure to the Classic version as it is something you’d be familiar with and remember from less than a year ago. But this same argument can be made when looking at the actual keyword selections of the machine in AdWords Express.

A few of my clients have come to me with Express accounts, asking that I change it to Classic and use my own judgments in selecting keywords that are right for them. I saw in their accounts that the keywords that the machine selected didn’t capture the nuance of what someone would type when looking for my clients’ programs.

One thing to keep in mind when you use AdWords Express is that you can turn off certain keywords, but you cannot add new ones. Those are added by the machine based on your business product or service. Further, you can’t decide how many keywords the machine will add. Because you cannot import the keywords you had in the Classic account to Express, switching to Express to bypass the new rules won’t let you perfectly replicate your 2017 pre-rule success.

When to make the switch to Express

However, I must recommend AdWords Express for one situation and one situation only: as a stopgap. For all its limitations, it has three very valuable features:

  1. It lets you bypass many compliance rules.
  2. It sends traffic to your website for free.
  3. It doesn’t preclude you from using a Classic account at a later date.

So if you are really struggling to stay compliant and you know that you can’t commit the time or money to it in the immediate, make the switch to AdWords Express as a stopgap. Having an Express account is far better than having a Classic account that has been suspended for several months with no end in sight.

I must emphasize that this should be a temporary measure. To make sure it is temporary, you should add reassessment tasks in your schedule. For a fiscal year that matches your calendar year, you should meet with stakeholders in July to discuss how to handle this problem, build a plan in August, and incorporate funding for the plan in the organization’s budget in September.

Without these deadlines, you likely won’t do it. And I’m not trying to be critical in saying that, just honest about what I’ve noticed in how people work. I have a set of unopened headphones that I could sell for $200 but they’re depreciating in my closet right now because this task has no deadline and I can always do it later. This is why many people who heard about Google Grants years ago have yet to do the work in looking into how to apply. However, this opportunity is too valuable to postpone indefinitely. I recommend you be better than me.

Michael Rasko
Michael Rasko is a nonprofit marketing consultant who specializes in Google Grants, an online advertising program for nonprofits. He has been a volunteer, board member, and employee at nonprofits. He has been a guest speaker at NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference.