This might sound familiar: You hop on to your Google Ad Grants Adwords account one morning and all of a sudden you notice that for the past few days there have been 0 clicks, 0 impressions, and $0 spent on your ads. Then you notice a nice little red header on the top of your screen that says, “your account is canceled” or “your account is suspended, fix your issues”.

Google Adwords Suspension

You might see your interface look like this.

Chances are that your account has been suspended due to the latest updates and maintenance requirements for the Google Ad Grants. It’s also likely that you were unaware that this was an issue. The reason for this is that these changes came into effect on Jan. 1 2018 while Google gave the announcement of these changes about two weeks prior, so not many organizations have had enough time to adjust.

Realistically speaking: Most account owners rarely check or optimize their accounts and now there is a real penalty by not focusing time on their AdWords accounts.

I wanted to create a thorough guide that explains the changes and to provide you the tools you need to get your account running as soon as possible.

If you happened to stumble upon this page and are a non-profit that currently isn’t on Adwords. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Google Ad Grants for more info.

Select the appropriate section to get started:


2018 Updated Google Ad Grant Maintainance Changes

For those who aren’t familiar with these new requirements, they are as follows:

  1. You must maintain a 5% click-through-rate (CTR) on your account every month. Failure to have this over a 2-month span will put you at risk of losing your eligibility. This used to be a 1% minimum until it was changed on January 1, 2018.
  2. You cannot buy branded keywords you don’t own (this mainly is to prevent bidding on competitors).
  3. Active keywords must have quality scores of 3 or higher.
  4. Campaigns must have at least two ad groups with at least two ads running in each ad group.
  5. Your account must have at least two site link extensions active.
  6. Your campaigns must have geotargeting enabled.
  7. You cannot bid on single keywords.

It’s a very high likelihood that if your account was suspended, that you ran into one or more of these issues. If you haven’t been dinged, I strongly recommend you make sure you clean up your campaigns before it happens to you. I’ll walk-through the steps and hopefully, you’ll be able to get your account back up and running.

Step 1: Call Google Support & Begin Communication

Go to the Google Adwords contact support page and call the number. DO NOT try to use the phone number on Google’s AdWords interface. When you try to call from the interface, you’ll be asked to include your Adwords ID. Since your account is suspended (or canceled), you will not be able to talk to a Google representative. Go to the link previously mentioned and you can talk to a representative.

The main reason why you want to talk to Google support is that they can look into your account and tell you more specifically what is wrong (although they won’t be that thorough). The biggest benefit of speaking to a rep is that they are able to communicate tot he Google Ad Grants team on your behalf as you fix your account.

The sooner you do this, the faster the process will go. You can skip this step and follow the other steps, but that will only delay the reactivation of your Google Ad Grant account.

Step 2: Remove All Campaigns You Don’t Plan on Using

The reason why I recommend removing over pausing campaigns you do not use is that if you remove the campaigns, then those campaigns won’t be under review when you optimize your campaigns/account.

For whatever reason, the Google Ad Grant’s team is very anal about all aspects of your account, including campaigns you no longer use. If you insist on keeping your old campaigns up (note: Your data is still saved if you remove the campaign), then make sure to do the following updates on those campaigns as well.

Step 3: Improve Your Click-Through-Rate (CTR)

Prior to the recent changes, I’ve seen some non-profits get approved for the Google Ad Grants program and then immediately add 10 single word keywords to generate the most traffic, even though the traffic is non-relevant. Because of this, click-through-rates and quality scores have plummeted.

Before the change, the average non-grant account’s CTR was between 1-4%. The new CTR minimum requirement is 5%. So you can probably imagine a number of organizations will struggle with this and it’s going to be the most likely cause of a suspended account.

Here are the CTR specifics

  • You must have a 5% CTR in the previous month (example: It’s May so the month of April you need to reach the minimum).
  • The current month is not counted until it’s completed: Meaning you can still make adjustments until the end of the month if you are below 5%.
  • If you are below 5% two months in a row, then your account will be suspended. One month shouldn’t immediately trigger the suspension, but that could change.
  • CTR is based on the whole account. So if a keyword is below 5%, it won’t cause an issue. As long as all of your active keywords as a collective is above 5%, you should be kosher.
  • Google uses the “Total: filtered keywords” CTR metric that will be reviewed if your account is deactivated for not meeting 5% CTR and must be >=5% when you request reactivation to be approved (This is according to Google, but it’s not ironclad in my experience).

From what I’ve been told, the Google Ad Grants team has been swamped with the number of requests to lift the suspension. It seems that Google is no longer providing a grace period to make adjustments after the new rules have been implemented for several months.

Here are some of the tips to help get above 5% CTR

Pause High Volume, Low CTR Keywords

This will have the biggest impact on improving your CTR. I recommend doing the following:

  • Click an active campaign -> press the “keywords” tab
  • Set the timeframe to be at least the last 30 days prior to suspension
  • Sort by impressions (most to least)
  • Set a filter to include CTR <5%
  • Look at each keyword -> if you notice any keyword that has a high number of impressions and a less than 3.5% CTR (this could vary), pause it.
  • NOTE: Make sure to set your view as “all enabled keywords”. As you continue to pause keywords, your ‘all enabled keywords’ filter should be updated with your new CTR.

Repeat the same steps for each non-removed campaign. You might end up noticing that some keywords take up 10-30% of traffic and are the primary reason for a low CTR.

Pause Generic Keywords

Not only are generic keywords likely to be a high volume, low CTR keyword, but most single word keywords are now prohibited. So by doing this, you are killing two birds with one stone. You want to pause these keywords because often single and generic keywords do not bring have intent or context.

Example: Assuming you are a non-profit that helps out at-risk youth with reading materials. One of your keywords is “reading”, this means that your ad will be showing up for search queries such as “books”, “reading materials”, “reading rainbow”, “learn how to read”, “reading eggs”, “reading music”, etc. Very few queries will be relevant to your program and your ad. You would be better off focusing on keywords “reading assistance”, “reading programs”, “reading help”.

Update your negative keywords

You can view the exact search queries that trigger an ad for your keywords in the “search terms report”.

  1. Click the keywords tab in your interface.
  2. Select the checkboxes next to the keywords that you’d like to run a search terms report for, then click the search terms button above the table.
  3. Click the “Show all” link.
  4. Sort by impressions as they will have the most impact.
  5. Go through the list of search queries that don’t make sense.

This is very useful for long-term improvement of your campaigns and keeping your account from being suspended. This also needs to be updated frequently and not a one-time thing.

Friendly reminder: If all of this seems like a massive headache, we are more than happy to fix your suspension and to manage your account to prevent that from happening again. If this sounds pretty sweet, then contact us today.

Update Your Geo-Targeting on All Campaigns

By default, your campaigns are automatically set to run on all locations across the globe. Meaning that you are bound to get traffic from states and countries that aren’t relevant. Not to mention your quality score will take a dive. If you are advertising something catered to a local or regional area, separate it out to its own campaign and target that specific area.

Note: This is a new requirement for Google Ad Grants. At a bare minimum, you would need to do the following.

  • Go to your campaign -> Select “settings”
  • Find “Locations” -> Click Edit
  • Enter your location areas that are relevant to your ads and organization
  • Bonus: Have ads & your landing page reference the same targeted location

There are some targeting do’s & do not’s to keep in mind.

  • You can set targeting to “United States” without getting dinged. But you run the risk of having a lower CTR and quality score.
  • You can select multiple states without any issue.
  • You cannot target internationally outside of your organization’s location

Make sure you update your geo-targeting on all active and paused campaigns or else your request might get denied.

Bid On Your Brand Terms

Adding keywords related to your organization’s brand and its programs will allow your ads to show to audiences that already have an interest in your company. This is a great way to have keywords that have double-digit CTR’s and can boost your overall account CTR. I recommend creating a new campaign that is focused on branded terms.

Update Your Campaign Ad Rotations

In your campaign settings, click the ‘ad rotation section’. Make sure that the ad rotation option ‘optimize’ is selected. Google will then start optimizing your ads for clicks and will only show the best performing ads using signals like keyword, search term, location, etc. This setting will give your campaigns and ads the best chance for improved CTRs.

Step 4: Make Sure You Follow The Remaining Guidelines

By following the steps above, you should be in good shape to get a >5% CTR. However, if you are already suspended, you most likely need to make sure you follow all guidelines before requesting reactivation to your Google representative. Some of these guidelines can also help boost CTR as well.

The three remaining guidelines we haven’t addressed yet are the following:

  1. Active keywords must have quality scores of 3 or higher.
  2. Campaigns must have at least two ad groups with at least two ads running in each ad group.
  3. Your account must have at least two site link extensions active.

Keywords With a Quality Score of 3 or Higher

Make sure you are in your AdWords interface and select the keywords tab and do the following:

  • Filter -> Status -> Matches any
  • Dropdown -> Eligible: limited
  • Make sure ” Low quality score” is selected
  • Press apply

Select Low Quality Score Google Adwords

Once you apply the filter, press the ‘select all’ box and all of the filtered keywords with a low-quality score will be selected. Then remove the keywords. You might be fine by pausing them, but in my experience, you run the risk of not getting your reactivation approved.

Campaigns With Two Ad Groups & Two Active Ads In Those Ad Groups

If you have several keywords that are active, bundle similar keywords together. Those keywords can be their own separate ad groups. Once you create the ad groups, make sure you have at least two ads running within each ad group. Ideally, these ads are relevant to the keywords and are different so you can run A/B testing on best performing ads.

Have at Least Two Site Link Extensions Active

At the bare minimum, you want to have your Site links point to the most important pages of your website. You can add your site links by clicking the “Ad Extensions” tab on your Adwords interface. More importantly: I recommend including other extensions as well “callouts”, “structured snippets” are useful in providing more information about your organization and can improve CTRs.

Sitelink Extension Example

Sitelink Extension Example

According to Google: “Every type of ad extension that we offer is intended to benefit our users, which translates to a higher CTR for you. On average we have found that there is a 10-15% CTR uplift* from implementing a new ad extension.”

Step 5: Request Reactivation To Google

Hopefully, you did step 1 and have been in contact with a Google representative. When you first call Google and bring to their attention to your Ad Grant issue, you will be assigned a support ticket that will let you keep in contact with your representative. Assuming you completed all of the steps above, reach out to your representative and ask reactivation approval.

The approval process will be something like this.

  • Your Google representative will look at your account to see if there are any major items that could be neglected.
  • Once everything looks good, they will send a reactivation request to the Google Grants Team.
  • It will take 12-72+ hours for them to go over your account (I am assuming this is done by a human). They go over everything within your account.
  • If the team notices anything off, they immediately decline reactivation and will relay the reason to your rep.
  • Your rep will then tell you why it wasn’t approved and you will then need to make the appropriate changes.
  • Upon making the changes, you reach out to your representative again and the process is repeated.

The Google Grants Team might find an issue the first time, then find a completely different issue on the second go. So there really isn’t any consistency from what I’m seeing. This process can take days and even weeks.

Step 6 (Last Resort): Clone Campaigns & Then Request Reactivation

ONLY DO THIS STEP IF YOU HAVE DONE ALL STEPS AND GRANTS TEAM HAS DENIED YOU FOR X TIME. 

I wish I can get you the details on their thought process regarding the review, but unfortunately, I’m not omnipotent. In some cases, the grants team might say, “You have done everything right, but we don’t like [insert reason] from your current campaigns so try again”. Nothing is more frustrating then to optimize your campaign and follow the steps, only to be denied.

If the grants team doesn’t think that your optimizations are good enough on your current campaigns, they will keep requesting you to minute changes make changes. In other words: They don’t really give your ads a chance to see if they meet the 5% CTR threshold.

It quite annoying and a waste of time. When you get to this point, you are better off ‘starting fresh’ and do the following:

  1. Select the active campaigns you plan to use (after you’ve optimized them).
  2. Clone them and remove all unused ad groups/ads/keywords.
  3. Remove the old/active campaigns that were optimized.
  4. Activate your cloned campaigns.
  5. Request for reactivation.

This is just a hypothesis, but I think the Google Ad Grants team takes into account your campaign historical data and does machine learning to simulate your expected ad performance instead of looking at the changes made that are fit into the guidelines. By ‘starting fresh’ with cloned campaigns, you won’t run into that pitfall.

Step 7: Celebrate!

You should be approved for activation at this point. Once you do, pat yourself on the back! This is a long process, but worth it.

Remember, you need to keep a close eye on your campaigns as the changes you have made aren’t guaranteed to have a CTR above 5%. 

I get that it can be hard to monitor and keep track of your AdWords campaigns, especially as a non-profit, especially if this is something that isn’t a priority on your organization’s task list.

If your organization would rather have someone assist in setting up, maintaining, managing, or reactivating your Google Ad Grants account, reach out to Jomonjo. I’ve been in this space for well over a decade and my goal is to solve problems. Having a suspended Google Ad Grant account is a fairly big problem to have, especially since Google gives away $10,000/month in ad spend for non-profits.