Google has made changes to its advertising policy that mean charities using its free advertising service could have their accounts closed if they don’t generate enough clicks. Charities signed up to Google Ad Grants get $10,000 (£7,450) worth of free AdWords advertising per month and more than 35,000 organisations around the world are currently using the scheme.

However, some of these charities risk having their account closed if they fail to maintain a five percent CTR each month after January 1, 2018. Which means non-profit organisations will need to keep a closer eye on their click through rates as of the new year.


AdWords policy changes affect charities

The new CTR limit isn’t the only policy change that affects charities after January 1. Google is also lifting the bid cap when using Maximise conversions bidding and placing additional restrictions on single-word and generic keywords – among other changes. If you’re on the Google Ad Grants scheme, make sure you read the policy changes carefully because you haven’t got long to take action.

We think it’s pretty harsh for Google to set a January 1 deadline when a lot of organisations are going to be closed over the Christmas period, especially for charities that have a lot of ads to change in order to meet compliance.

Either way, charities that aren’t compliant risk having their accounts closed.


Minimum CTR limit placed on charity accounts

In terms of the minimum CTR limit, this is going to affect some charities more than others. If you’re comfortably over the 5% mark each month, then you haven’t got much to worry about. On the other hand, if your CTRs are erratic or regularly dropping below 5% across monthly periods, then you’ve got some work to do.

The new policy is pretty strict, too. If your account drops below the 5% CTR threshold for two consecutive months, you’ll be looking at account closure. Google says it will send out notifications to account holders warning them if their account is at risk of dropping below the 5% mark. It also says you might be able to get your account reactivated after making changes to your keywords and ensuring your account is otherwise compliant.

Here’s the full policy update regarding the minimum CTR limit:


“All Ad Grants AdWords accounts must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month. We recognize there are reasons why CTR may fluctuate, so you’ll be alerted through in-product notifications if your account is at risk of falling below 5% CTR with educational resources offered to improve. If the CTR requirement isn’t met for 2 consecutive months, your account will be cancelled. You may request your account to be reinstated after you’ve adjusted your keywords to bring your account into compliance.

If you can’t meet the requirements above, you may pause your AdWords campaigns and use AdWords Express, which automatically structures your account.”Ad Grants Help


As you can see, there isn’t much room for negotiation here and all charity accounts will need to hit that minimum 5% monthly target to keep their accounts open and receiving that significant free ad budget.


What if we’re not hitting 5% CTR every month?

Well, the straight answer is you’ll need to improve your click through rates – that’s all there is to it. As Google suggests in the policy update, targeting different keywords is one approach to improving performance but there’s a lot more you can do to increase your CTRs:


  • Target higher intent keywords
  • Assign more budget to more valuable keywords
  • Refine your negative keywords list
  • Use dynamic keyword insertion
  • Pause campaigns that aren’t generating clicks
  • Use ad extensions to increase visibility
  • Refine your targeting options to pinpoint users more likely to click
  • Use ad scheduling to make sure your ads show at the most effective times
  • Improve your ad copy and test variations



There are plenty of other steps you can take as well, depending on what your account looks like. Get in touch with us if you’re not sure where to start with improving your click through rates but understand that drastic improvements might take time without upping your budget and paying for better-performing keywords.

For some charities, opening their pockets might be the only short-term fix if their CTRs are significantly lower than 5%.


So that’s all we know at this stage regarding the minimum CTR limit for charity accounts using Google Ad Grants. As we say, there are other changes in the policy update, including restrictions on AdSense advertising and the use of competitor keywords – so make sure you read the policy update thoroughly.

As always, you can get in touch with us if you have any questions and you’ll want to move quickly if you need to make account changes ahead of the January 1 deadline.