So you got all excited that you got approved for Google Grants— $10,000 a month of free ads! But then you find, if you’re like most non-profits, that you’re spending only $1,000 a month, even if you’re bidding the maximum $2 price per click. That’s $9,000 of traffic you’re leaving on the table.

Why is this the case and how do you fix it?

For starters, your keyword portfolio is too narrow. I don’t mean the number of keywords, but the “topics” that you cover. Odds are that you are targeting only search terms that directly describe your topic. If you deal with finances for charities, maybe you buy “microfinance”. If you provide shoes to the needy, you target “donate shoes”. Sounds reasonable, right?

Problem is that only a few people a month are typing “donate shoes” into Google. How do you think “donate shoes” compares in query volume to “Brad Pitt” or even “Brad Pitt photos”? You’re going after a terms that have no volume, so no amount of optimization on the same narrow, literal themes will yield a multiple of your existing traffic.

So how can you get more traffic while still being relevant? Let’s sat you have celebrity shoe drives where famous people of all sorts donate their shoes. Now consider the richness of the themes you can go after. Not everyone who searches “Paula Abdul” is interested in holding a shoe drive at their school or church. But a good number of them might share your interesting content or be more likely to notice the donations box next time they’re at Kenneth Cole.

Not many folks search “microfinance”, but maybe folks who like rap music will watch a rap video done by an intern promoting your cause. Broader themes means more traffic often at the expense of “quality”. Most non-profits say, “So what, it’s free money anyway and you might as well spend it.” We agree, but also want to point out you should still filter out irrelevant traffic.

If you waste Google’s inventory by not including negative keywords, they penalize you by raising your cost per click. If you have keywords with a quality score less than 6, poor keyword choice is usually the culprit. Sometimes it’s the ad or landing page, but usually it’s the keyword.mitigate this by using negative keywords. So back to Soles4Soles, you would create negatives on “sale”, “coupon code”, “release date” and other e-commerce terms. So if someone searches your keyword (“Nike Air Jordan” for example), but also says “sale” in their search, we don’t show our ad.

Takeaway #2: How many keywords do you have that are Quality Score 5 or less? Delete them or improve them by creating negative keywords and tighter ad groups.

Perhaps the most common failure we see in campaigns we audit is non-profits that drive all their traffic to either their home page or their donations page. It’s unlikely that either of these two locations is the most relevant page to show people who were searching on a particular keyword.

But if you don’t have a lot of content on your site, then you don’t have much choice of where to send them. Solve this by regularly blogging and allowing the variety of topics in blog posts dictate keyword choices.

As you look at each new piece of content you post, consider what search terms would we want to show up in. you might even change your content strategy because of your keyword research.

Takeaway #3: Prevent stale landing pages by driving people deep within the site to the most relevant content.

Not everyone who comes to your site for the first time is going to donate on the spot. Allow them to browse around and get to know you before you ask for money—in the same way you don’t want to be accosted when you shop at your favorite
store in the mall.

Most accounts we see have only one campaign with just a couple ad groups. This is a recipe for disaster because it doesn’t allow us to fine-tune our messages with individual audiences. Most non-profits don’t have the time to properly build out a few dozen ad groups with messaging specifically tied to each ad group.

You can get around this time constraint by sorting on just your most popular 5 to 6 terms, then splitting them into a couple groups. Don’t create 30 ad groups at once, but do split out high volume terms that have different intent, so you can put the right message to the right audience. Better to add a couple ad groups each week in 15 minutes per session than try to jam in a ton of ad groups at once. The latter will result in your wasting time creating garbage you have to delete later.

Takeaway #4: Save time in optimizing your campaign by splitting just your top keywords into their own logical groupings.

Tighter themes mean a higher assigned Quality Score and a lower cost per click for you as a reward.

Here’s a simple fix that should yield you another 10-15% more traffic right off the bat. Look at all your top 50 keywords—odds are they are all broad match. Now just duplicate them inside their own ad groups to be on phrase and exact match, too. Match types perform differently in Google’s auction place. But rather than going into a technical discussion on this, just know that any head term (meaning your highest traffic terms) should always be exact and phrase, too. Two minute fix, tops.

At the same time, look at your top 5 ad groups based on clicks. How many of them have only one ad in them or only one ad that is getting any traffic? You need to go into each of these ad groups and create a challenger ad to see if you can beat the current champion. Maybe you can modify the headline to have Dynamic Keyword Insertion, slightly different ad copy, and so forth.

Takeaway #5: Look for obvious holes in your campaigns with match types and single ad adgroups.

Use AdWord Editor if you want to get all these changes done in under 5 minutes.

Let’s say that you’re in great shape on all 5 areas above. You ought to be able to spend your $10k each month, unless the target audience you have is limited to a particular town (maybe a small town) or you cover a micro-niche.

And once you are spending the $10k a month, it’s now time to drive ROI on that budget—meaning collecting donations and emails. If you’re not already using goal tracking of some sort—perhaps Google Analytics or an integration with a paid system like Convio, you should . Driving $10k of free traffic each month is impressive, but even better is if you can show measurable results.

Takeaway #6: Do this by tying your AdWords and Google Analytics together.

It’s one checkbox to tie these two together in your Google Analytics.

Bonus: tie in your Google Webmaster Tools and you can see your SEO results at the same time. Plus, you can use your AdWords to fill in where you are weak organically.

And by the way, yes, you should be bidding on keywords that you rank #1 on already if you aren’t spending your whole budget. Google has conducted studies to prove that when you show ads against organic results, the net effective is primarily incremental traffic. In other words, the ads steal little of the organic traffic. So ad traffic is truly incremental. Think of this as being in the strip mall, but now you took over the space of the store next door to make your store twice as big.