The 2018 Google Grants Changes (Part III): Strategies for Maximizing Benefit

In my last post (Part II of this series), I talked about how to minimize risks from Google’s Maximum Conversions change. This week, I want to shift gears and talk about how to get as much benefit from the change as possible.

Communicating with Google is crucial

Maximize Conversions is an automated bidding strategy, which means that if you use it, you relinquish control of your bids to Google. Google will automatically adjust bids to try to get you the most conversions as possible within your budget. Which means, it’s crucial to communicate to Google which conversions are important to you.

The first step is setting up conversion tracking on your website, either by using the Google AdWords pixel, by using Google Analytics, or a combination. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to carefully think about which actions on your website are valuable to you and track those. Some examples would be donations, email sign-ups, resource downloads, event sign-ups, contact form submissions, and more. All of this takes some technical know-how, so if you don’t feel comfortable setting up conversion tracking and goals on your own, you may want to turn to your developer or a Certified AdWords Partner for help.

Take advantage of Google’s Smart Goals

If you use Google Analytics, there is a shortcut you can use while you’re working on getting more robust conversion tracking set up. If your AdWords account brings in enough traffic, you can set up Google’s Smart Goals. Smart Goals are conversions algorithmically generated by Google based on actions that it believes are valuable to you. You can then import those conversions into AdWords. Since it’s all done algorithmically it’s not always clear which actions triggered a Smart Goal completion, but it’s a quick and easy way to take advantage of Maximize Conversions immediately, and to encourage AdWords to bid higher on traffic that is more engaged on your website.

The more intentional and targeted you are, the better

In theory, the lift of the $2 bid limit for Grant accounts utilizing Maximize Conversions is wonderful. If a Grant account has done their due diligence in setting up conversions, then Google will allow that account to bid competitively on keywords that bring in those conversions. It incentivizes Grant managers to focus more time on really defining their goals and investing in the campaigns that actually bring them results, without the distraction of having to generate a lot of low quality campaigns to hit that $10,000/month budget. Grant managers can be a lot more intentional and targeted, and effectively compete for audiences that bring them the most value.

In practice though, giving up control of the bids is risky and places a lot of trust in Google’s algorithms to make the right decisions. Since the change was made on January 1, there has been a lot of volatility as Google has tried to figure out how to make this program work. When the limit was first lifted on January 1, many accounts’ keyword bids skyrocketed. People complained that they were spending their full budget, but their clicks were going way down because the system was sometimes bidding $20, $50, or even $100 or more for keywords.

On February 9, Google tried to course correct, but the change had a dramatic effect in the opposite direction. Many people saw their keyword bids drop really low, well below $2, and their clicks and spend tanked as a result, meaning they would have been better off using manual bidding.

Set up conversion tracking

The moral of the story here is that the program is still volatile and working out kinks. Your best shot of benefiting from the change is to set up conversion tracking, and to do so as soon as possible so you can start feeding Google that data. Start with manual bidding for a couple weeks, and then give Maximize Conversions a try and see what it does for you. Depending on the quality of your conversion tracking and what’s happening internally at Google, it may work out really well for you. Or, it may not. But even if you aren’t able to get Maximize Conversions to work for you, having the discipline to set up conversion tracking is extremely valuable. It gives you much more insight into the true value of your AdWords account and allows you to be much more strategic when you build and optimize your campaigns.

Still need help?

Do you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of the roller coaster that is the Google Grants program? Do you need help setting up conversion tracking? If so, feel free to contact me at and I’ll connect you with one of our certified Google Partners!