AdWords in the Curriculum

Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 10:38 AM

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What are the ingredients for a successful AdWords campaign? What specific, foundational learnings have proven useful for non-profits who are either starting from scratch or trying to improve current performance?

Students at Eastern Michigan University and Michigan State University recently paired with Google Grantees all asking these kinds of questions at the start of the semester.

In July 2008, we announced a recently launched program called AdWords in the Curriculum, driven from Google Ann Arbor. Most recently, AdWords in the Curriculum assigned undergraduate and MBA students at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and Michigan State University (MSU) to local Google Grant recipients in Michigan.


AdWords in the Curriculum poises students to gain hands-on experience with building AdWords campaigns for Google Grants recipients. MSU student presentations revealed that each group's non-profit's AdWords campaigns had clickthrough rates of at least 5%, along with positive feedback from students on the value of the skills acquired through the AdWords-focused class.


At EMU, roughly 60% of non-profits have invited AdWords in the Curriculum students to join as interns since the end of the semester.

We'll describe two key learnings (relevant to all past, present, and future Grantees) that emerged from the students' fruitful semester of AdWords for Google Grants related to two areas of campaign management: refining keyword lists and selecting landing pages for ads.


Finding the Words Key to AdWords Campaign Success


Looking For My Sister, an anti-domestic violence non-profit in Wayne County, Michigan, had astronomical success with a solid 5% clickthrough rate, and a dramatic increase in online donations after the campaigns launched.


How did the students achieve such stellar statistics? A major part of their strategy was to continually revise and recenter keyword lists in order to avoid irrelevant traffic, which went hand-in-hand with overhauling campaign structure after assessing initial performance of ad groups.

For instance, the MSU students who worked with Looking For My Sister observed that the name of the organization (though memorable) is not immediately associated with the anti-domestic violence mission of the non-profit. The broader lesson? Keyword lists that rely on the assumption that people are Googling a non-profit's name may result in campaigns not performing to their full potential. Applying the lens and logic of marketing to non-profit exposure led to the students to compiling a more successful keyword list than originally drafted. To come up with revised keyword lists, the students ran reports like the Search Query Performance Report and Keyword Performance Report. These reports also made it easier to identify low-performing keywords to remove. 


Land on the Right Page: Fun and Games


EMU students who worked on Heritage Works’ AdWords campaign saw particular success with an ad group that promoted Heritage Works’ ‘Youth Zone’ page, with links to games for cultural education. The broader mission of Heritage Works is to promote cross-generational cultural understanding between youths of African descent and their families. While it may initially seem intuitive to have AdWords ads lead straight to a homepage, having the ads land on the unique games page effectively illustrated the mission of the organization: to serve as an appealing venue for children to learn about their backgrounds. Ultimately, the ad group with the 'Youth Zone' landing page had impressive performance. 

Here's the key takeaway: as you refine your AdWords ads, try linking to a page that shines a spotlight on a unique aspect of your organization--your homepage will still only be a click away after the user gets to your site. The more enticing the landing page content, the more likely the user will be to explore.

These two highlights are just a snippet of the tips of the trade that students of AdWords in the Curriculum develop through the course of a semester. We’re happy to share these best practices, brought to life by real non-profits like yours who can reap tangible benefits from using students’ hands-on strategies. Stay tuned to the Google Grants blog for future features on AdWords in the Curriculum!