Grantee Best Practices, Rock the Vote

Thursday, April 23, 2009 | 9:19 AM

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Last year's elections represented a big moment in American history, and for one of our grantees, Rock the Vote, it also represented an opportunity to reach a new segment of young tech-savvy voters. By making the most of seasonality, educating themselves on the tools at hand and setting strategic goals, Rock the Vote was able to engage an important target audience and leverage their Google Grant to successfully incite young people to vote. We're excited to share some of their best practices with you here.   


Know your audience and keep messaging timely

Focus your budget to reach engaged users 

Keep indirect keywords on pause unless your highly targeted keywords aren't maxing out your budget

  • Rock the Vote only advertised on "voter registration"-related search keywords because those were more relevant to their strategy, even though keywords like "barack obama" or "john mccain" would have generated a lot of traffic. They kept these indirect keywords on pause in case their highly targeted keywords stopped maxing out. 

 Use your most action-oriented ad text toward the end of season

  •  In the final months before the election, Rock the Vote only used their “register before the deadline” ad and paused everything else. 



Leveraging Google Analytics and AdWords

Own the success of your program and do some analysis of its performance to develop your online strategy

  • Rock the Vote appointed a volunteer to manage the campaign who then spent a few weeks analyzing results from the previous months in order to plan their program.

Educate yourself with existing resources

  • They then reviewed the training materials provided in the AdWords Learning Center to understand the fundamentals of search engine advertising. The Google Grants Beginner's Guide can also be a helpful resource for getting started with your account.

Set specific goals

  • Based on the analysis they did at the outset of the project, they set a campaign goal for youth downloads and then proceeded to meet that target almost exactly. Because they also equated each download to Grant dollars, they were able to track their results to find that, in the course of the campaign, they reduced their dollar per download (or cost per conversion) by 80%. Some examples of the goals resulting from their new plan were: train staff, track downloads, increase funding, optimize website, target ads and evaluate progress.
Track keyword searches to know what terms are most common and strategic to your account
  • Three searches alone accounted for 81% of their total search campaign, with about 150 other keyword combinations contributing to the remaining 19% of searches. Knowing what keywords your visitors use to find your site helps you optimize your campaigns. Add irrelevant terms (example: "American Idol") as negatives in your campaigns or give more budget to highly relevant and popular terms (example: "register to vote online"). You can use either Google Trends for this information or the Keywords report in Google Analytics.  

Link your AdWords and Analytics accounts 
  • Linking analytics directly to your AdWords account provides more accurate business intelligence and allows you to correlate your Grant dollars to your org's strategic goals.


Rock the Vote uses music, popular culture and new technologies to engage and incite young people to register and vote in every election. Rock the Vote has been a participant in the Google Grants program since 2007 and uses Google Analytics as part of its online marketing program. 


If you have your own best practices or experiences that you'd like to share with other grantees and nonprofits, we encourage you to strike up a conversation with other members in the discussion forum and possibly submit your testimonial to our team.