A lot of updates happened over the past month that will directly impact the Google Grants accounts that I know a lot of nonprofits use. Since some of these updates were sent to users via email instead of via an official announcement, I thought I'd write up a summary, in case you missed it:
New Higher Max CPC Bids
Big changes here! The long-held limitation of only allowing grant max CPC bids of $1 has been raised to $2. This has finished rolling out to everyone, so you can log into your Grants (or Grantspro) account now and raise your bids up to $2 for any keywords you think might need some extra help.
Separation of Paid & Grants
While the max CPC increase was good news, when the Google Gods give a little, they take a little back. What's got a lot of people in an uproar (most recently) is the fact that grants "ads will now appear below the ads of traditional AdWords advertisers" on the search engine results page (SERP). Basically, grants ads will now be shown separately, below paid ads. (although I haven't seen any designation in the SERP with test searches I've done, so I'm betting this separation of grants and paid is all being done in the backend and the user won't notice a change). So in theory, if you're bidding $2 on a keyword in a grants account and a competitor is bidding $1.50 on that same keyword in a paid account, your ad will still be relegated below the paid account.
You might wonder how that would really affect you, since many of your current ads are likely showing against other nonprofits. There are two possible scenarios that I can think of:
1. Your ads are actually often competing with for-profit company ads. If this is you, you're probably already used to your ads showing lower on the page due to the previous $1 bid limit (at least somewhat, unless you've got phenomenal quality scores). This new change could make things even worse, since you'll no longer be able to compete with those ads on the same level (or in the same field, rather).
2. If your ads are really only competing with other nonprofits, you may still have an issue. Many nonprofits have campaigns in paid accounts in addition to grants accounts, especially in high seasons like year-end. This could prove an issue if you're currently only using a grants account, particularly if your competitors have paid accounts and are bidding against your brand name keywords. If you start to see this type of problem, this may be the time to request funding for an AdWords paid account. As long as you can keep the paid account net positive (including Google fees, any management fees if you have an agency, and any premium postage and fulfillment fees if your nonprofit works with premiums) you should be able to get the funding and stay competitive. If you're just starting out managing both grants and paid accounts, remember to make sure you don't have the same keywords in both accounts, so you don't compete with yourself.
Earlier this month, you may have noticed a little notice pop up at the top of your campaigns tab: "This campaign will be upgraded to an enhanced campaign in a few months. Or you can upgrade right now."
Enhanced campaigns basically give you some (mostly) upgraded features. For example, you can now set many ad extensions at the ad group level, such as sitelinks and call extensions. Plus, once you upgrade your campaigns, your call extensions will be free! This is particularly great news for nonprofits that take a lot of donations over the phone. Add phone numbers for donations right on your ad with no extra cost and without taking up precious character space in your ad copy.
Enhanced campaigns will change some other features, like mobile device and location targeting. For more on "the good, the bad, and the clunky" of the new enhanced campaigns, check out Search Engine Watch's hands-on post.
These updates are all still unfolding, so we may see more changes in the future. Have you had any experience, good or bad, with any of the updates? Let us know in the comments.