Google Online Marketing Challenge – My Journey
Google Ads for Non-Profits
Recently, my team and I completed a 4-week Online Marketing Challenge conducted by Google. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience which I would be sharing here with you. To begin with, for all those who are not aware of what it is - Online Marketing Challenge is a unique opportunity for students to get real-world experience creating and executing online marketing campaigns for real nonprofits using a USD 10,000 monthly budget of in-kind Google Ads advertising credit through the Google Ad Grants program.
I worked in a group of 5 people, along with Jayam Shah (Team Lead), Kshitij Soni, Sai Rishik, and Aayush Chitransh. Starting up, we registered for this challenge on 9th January 2021. Within a few days, we received a confirmation mail from Google Ad Grants that we are eligible for the challenge. We’d be assigned a Non-profit for which we’d have to run Google Search Ad campaigns with a campaign budget of $10,000 spread over four weeks.
On-Boarding Introduction to the Non-Profit
We were introduced to Reaching Sky Foundation and the women empowerment initiative, Limitless Stree. We had a kick start meeting with Rishi Banshiwal, Shivangi Mehra and Udeshna Sarma. We discussed the agenda of the Limitless Stree. It is a women empowerment initiative focused on building capacities, spreading awareness and creating a cohort of empowered women for the 21st century. The goal for our team was to generate volunteer registrations for their project and increase the reach. We read the program booklet to get in tune with the vision and mission of the program. It was essential to think like the audience before we moved ahead with brainstorming strategies.
Launching the Campaigns Thinking like the Non-Profit
My team and I prepared a Pre-campaign strategy report which we submitted to Ad grants. You can click here to check out our Pre-campaign Report. The Pre-campaign report consisted of the strategies which we formulated by looking into the non-profit’s project domain. After a review of our report by the non-profit, we submitted it to Google Ad Grants.
During the first week, we created two campaigns:
one campaign was related to the generic volunteering and women empowerment keywords since that was the main highlight of the “Limitless Stree” program.
The second campaign consisted of competitive keywords based on other non-profits related to the project’s similar domain.
By the end of the first week, the two campaigns were working well, and even though the campaigns were in the learning stage, we were getting a decent CTR (Click Through Rate) of 13-14%.
Mayday When things went downhill
The second week began. This week our target was to generate traffic for blogs and the whole website. We divided the work among the five of us and started working. We researched, created ad copies, and closely monitored the previous campaigns.
While monitoring the previous campaigns and optimising them, we configured the Geo-Location and Audience Targeting setting for our last campaigns. We needed to optimise the previous campaigns to target our audience better. Little did we know that configuring would send it back to the learning stage again. And, thus, we landed up where we began. It was a massive drop for us because we lost the whole build-up of the campaigns in the following days of the week. Our CTR (Click Through Rate) dropped to 7-8%, almost half of what we had in the previous week. This drop in CTR also led to a decrease in our keywords’ quality score. We weren’t able to acquire the main keywords for our Ad groups to display our Ads on SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The week ended with disappointing numbers on our Google Ads dashboard.
Rising from the Ashes Campaign comeback and reaping fruits
After a downhearted second week, we started the third week with our routine of brainstorming strategies for a new campaign. To avoid messing with our campaigns, we designed them properly before launching them. We also got some help from Shivangi, Udeshna, and the Google Ad Grants forum. The previous campaign again started to show some results, but at the same time, the results weren’t that great. During the initial stages of the campaign, we could not set up conversion tracking for our campaigns. It impacted our Ad optimisation score. We thought that setting up conversion tracking as soon as possible would benefit us even a little bit. I, Jayam and Kshitij was constantly trying to set up the conversion tracking. But we repeatedly stuck at a step. The code which we set up was not working. This again halted our progress in the campaign. Usually, the conversion tracking is set up using Google Tag Manager, but it wasn’t working in our case. We tried hard to figure it out by watching tutorial videos and trying again and again.
Where there is a will, there lies a way:
To get the code working by any means, we used an unconventional way. We added the conversion codes to the back-end of the website. Since we all are novice web developers, we weren’t that sound in editing the website’s code. We had a constant fear that we would mess up something on the website. When we decided to go ahead with this approach, we got help from Udeshna for adding the conversion code snippets to the website. And within a few hours of adding the code, the conversion tracking started to work. It was a big relief to the team since it was one of the most important tasks in our campaign period. As gradually days passed, the Ad optimisation score increased to 100%, and registrations started raining. It was a significant achievement for us. This experience taught us that persistence always yields good results.
Coming to an end A memorable experience
The fourth week began, and our campaigns were running without any hassle. We gained a good CTR of 14-15% with our budget getting utilised effectively. We created an overall of 5 campaigns for the non-profit. We also performed small on-page Search Engine Optimisation tasks for the non-profit’s website.
We achieved 14.53% CTR, 2.98K clicks, 20.5K Impressions, and 337 form click via Google Search Ads during the overall campaign. Do check out our Post-campaign report to Google Ad grants. The Post-campaign report consists of the strategies used and the experience gained by us during the campaign period. It was an excellent opportunity for us to work on large scale campaigns and contribute to a meaningful cause while learning from the non-profit.
We also gained valuable business, marketing, analytical and consulting skills through practical experience. Even though we all were novices in this field, working on the “Limitless Stree” project for 4-weeks has given us enough confidence to take on other real-world projects. I would highly recommend everyone to try the Google Ads Online Marketing Challenge. You can get complete hands-on experience on Google Ads and utilise your skills for a good cause.
The sheer scale of the project was so huge and giving it to a bunch of freshers, the trust reaching sky foundation has put in us was the reason we were successful in completing the program.
Overall, it was a great experience to work at RSF, where I didn't only acquire marketing skills but also learned how to encounter day-to-day challenges in an organization. It was a great opportunity to work with an efficient team in an online work space and achieve commendable results.
This experience was a first for me and a welcome one. It was great that we worked as a team on a real project for the organization, and an interesting challenge too as we were simultaneously learning and experimenting with the platform for the first time.
Kshitij R. Soni
It has been a privilege working with a youthful organization and also being a part of a promising team. Had a glorious experience the entire duration of the program. Thank you Reaching Sky Foundation for this prosperous opportunity.
Being part of something really valuable and professional gave me self-confidence: it was challenging, required my time, and I did it. I had a great learning experience with Reaching Sky Foundation. The Limitless Stree project gave me a hands-on experience where I got the opportunity to learn, ideate, and execute my digital marketing skills. Thanks to the Reaching Sky Foundation team.