Google Ads for Nonprofits, Part Two

Key Terms To Understand When Using Paid Ads

The biggest hurdle in getting started with Google Ads, whether you’re a nonprofit or for-profit organization, is the terminology. It can feel like you’re discovering a whole new language and the learning curve is steep.

The team at Firefly Partners is fluent in Google Ad Speech. This article is our gift to you: an easy-to-use dictionary of the most important words with definitions that also include why the terms matter to nonprofits.

Definitions plus context equals the best nonprofit-specific Google Ads dictionary you’ll ever need. We suggest bookmarking this article so it’s easier for you to reference.

Jump to the term you need:

This is part two of a three-part series.

  1. Part One: Why Paid Ads Are An Essential Outreach Tool
  2. Part Two: Key Terms To Understand When Using Paid Ads
  3. Part Three: A Real-Life Example of a Nonprofit’s Google Ad Campaign

Common Google Paid Ad Terms and Definitions

Ad Group

This is an important organizational tool within your paid ads campaigns. Think of it like a sub-folder. Ad Groups are used to structure your ads, keywords (for search campaigns), and targeting (for display campaigns) inside a campaign. Each campaign can contain one or more ad groups. For a search campaign, it is best practice to create small groupings of related keywords inside each ad group

Why this matters: You can write compelling ads customized to specific keywords, decreasing your cost-per-conversion.


These determine who your ads are targeting. You can remarket and target people who have previously been to your website (website visitors), provided their email addresses (customer emails), engaged with your mobile application, visited a specific web page (visitors of a page who did not visit another page), or people who share similar interests. You can also connect with brand-new demographics based on Google’s understanding of user behavior using affinity and in-market audiences.

Why this matters: Instead of sending physical mailers to everyone within a specific zip code, you can digitally target not only zip codes but the people within those zip codes more likely to engage with your nonprofit, saving you printing costs and marketing costs.

Bid Strategy

Choose exactly the type of conversion that means the most to your overall goal—and only pay for those conversions. There are multiple types of bid strategies, which we define below for you.

Why this matters: Instead of spreading the word en masse and hoping people click and then donate to your campaign page, you can optimize your bid strategy so Google only shows your ad to people most likely to convert in the type of your choosing.

Types of Bid Strategies

  • Target Search Page Location: Be more likely to get your ad at the top of the search page with this bid strategy. Choosing this will automatically set bids to help increase the chance that your ads appear on the first page of a Google search or in one of the top ad positions.
  • Target CPA (Cost-Per-Action): This is a great strategy for nonprofits with a strict budget as you can have more control over your automated bidding. With this strategy, Google automatically sets Search or Display bids to help you receive as many conversions as possible at your set target CPA. Some conversions may cost more or less than your target.
  • Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend): This is also a great strategy for nonprofits who need to maximize impact with a smaller budget. ROAS is the average value you receive in return for every dollar you spend on ads. Target ROAS automatically sets your bids to help you receive as much conversion value as possible at your set ROAS. Some conversions may have a higher or lower return than your target.
  • Target Outranking Share: Is there another nonprofit working toward the same mission or a national nonprofit that takes away attention from your local organization? Choose the domain that you want to outrank in ad position and how often you’d like to outrank it. Google will then automatically set your search bids to help meet that objective.
  • Maximize Clicks: If you want to get as many visitors to your landing page as possible to generate more awareness, this is the strategy for you. The strategy automatically sets bids to help you maximize clicks within your set budget.
  • Maximize Conversions: If you want more leads, donations, or signups for a program, choose Maximize Conversions. With this strategy, Google optimizes for a higher volume of conversions and automatically sets bids to help you receive the most conversions for your campaigns while spending your entire budget.
  • Enhanced CPC (Cost-Per-Click): Think of Enhanced CPC as a strategic upgrade from “Maximize Clicks.” This works by automatically adjusting your manual bids for clicks that seem more or less likely to lead to a sale or conversion on your website.
  • Manual CPC: Another great strategy for nonprofits working with tight budgets, manual CPC bidding gives you discreet control in setting the maximum amount that you could pay for clicks on your ads.

Broad Match

Use your keywords and their related terms in your bids. Keywords using broad match will provide the greatest coverage but will likely include some less relevant search queries. For example, if someone searches “adopt a pet” a broad match to that keyword could be “rescue shelter adoption.”

Why this matters: If you’re wanting to generate more awareness or discover new audiences, Broad Match is a great way to gather important data to find new opportunities.


Think of campaigns as the main folders within your account, all organized based on your advertising objectives. There are multiple ways to structure your campaigns. For example, you can use campaigns for different targeting (search vs. display), structuring keywords, allocating budget, and more. Each campaign contains one or more ad groups to create a more granular structure inside your account.

Why this matters: Stay organized and focused in Google Ads. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the dashboard, but well-thought-out campaign structures not only make it easier but ensure your campaigns stay profitable.

Campaign Goals

When you create a campaign, you can select a goal (sales, website traffic, etc.). The goal you select should align with the main thing you want to get from your campaign. After selecting a goal, you will see relevant, recommended features and settings to help you achieve the results that matter most to your business.

Why this matters: Goals help you build campaigns smarter and faster. Think of it like guided onboarding—Google will take you through the process step by step.

Campaign Groups

Monitor performance by setting a target for the amount you want to spend on clicks or conversions for one or more campaigns.

Why this matters: This gives you a birds-eye view of multiple campaigns with similar goals so you can know when and where to adjust parameters, budgets, and keywords.


Cost-Per-Click is the amount you are willing to spend (or are charged) for each click. If you set a manual CPC bid, then you will never pay more than this amount since Google Ads uses an auction to display ads. You are only charged the amount necessary for the click.

Why this matters: Setting too high of a CPC can diminish the overall impact for your nonprofit. CPC allows you to more easily control how much you pay for a lead so when you do make the conversion, it’s a net win and not a loss for your organization.


Click-Through-Rate is the percentage of impressions that result in a click on your ad.

Why this matters: Quickly see how effective your ad is with CTR. How many are taking action once they see your ad? This helps you more easily determine where to optimize.

Exact Match

This is a keyword match type that only shows your ads when the keyword you are bidding on is the same as the search query someone is using. Exact match keywords also include close variants and word order. For example, your ad will only show if your exact match keyword is “adopt from a local shelter” and the person types exactly that in their search engine box.

Why this matters: If you are closely targeting a specific phrase that you know most people search, this can help dial in on your bidding so you can decrease CPC and increase the impact of your ad spend.


This is the count of how many people saw your ad. An impression is counted when an ad is displayed (with or without a click).

Why this matters: If your goal is to generate overall awareness, this is a great number to track. Be careful though as impressions are only ‘views.’ If you want people to click through and take an action, impressions can easily become a vanity metric.


A keyword is the main targeting method for search campaigns. They are text and match types based on what people are searching in Google. Keywords tell Google when to show ads for the keyword’s ad group.

Why this matters: Understanding what keywords to target is a critical step in creating an impactful ads strategy. Target the wrong keywords and you’ll see low conversions, but the right ones could be your organization’s ticket toward expansion and growth.

Negative Match

This is a keyword match type that prevents your ads from displaying. For example, if you are exclusively a dog rescue shelter, you don’t want to show up in any searches that include the word “cat.”

Why this matters: This can greatly increase your ad’s relevancy to the person searching, which can then increase your ad’s Quality Score. The higher your Quality Score, the more likely Google will be to show your ad.

Phrase Match

This is a keyword match type that shows your ads when the keyword you are bidding on is included in the search query someone is using. For example, if your phrase is “adopting dogs from a shelter” and someone searches “dog adoption shelters” your ad could be shown. However, your ad wouldn’t show if the person searches “adopting dogs from a breeder” because the intent of that search is different than your keyword phrase match.

Why this matters: You’ll never be able to include every single exact phrase people use to search on Google. Phrase Match helps you capture more of the nuance of how people search.

Extensions provide more opportunities for people to click through to your website by allowing you to display additional links with your ad. Two to six sitelinks can be displayed with your ad. Each sitelink needs to link to a separate page on your website.

Why this matters: If you’re running an awareness campaign, this helps people understand more of what you do and gives them an opportunity to explore more about your organization.

Additional Resources

We couldn’t end this article without a few of our favorite Google Ads resources.

If you have questions or want a fluent Google Ad speaker to set up your next campaign, fill out our Start Your Project form today.

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