Going Beyond Google Adword Grants: How Local Paid Search Can Support National Content & Marketing Initiatives

Many stations have leveraged a Google Adwords account with $10,000 in Google grant funds. However, due to policy changes in December 2017, restrictions were added to how grant accounts are managed. This change impacted an organization’s ability to prospect for new donors.

Since search has a relatively low barrier to entry for advertisers, over time there is an increasing competition for keywords as more organizations participate in paid search. As competition grows, Adword impression shares can decline when operating solely in a Google grant account because of the inability to bid more than $2.00 per click (a limitation of the Google grant program). The result leaves many organizations to explore how to best to expand their marketing reach by combining a grant with paid search.

Since launch of PBS Passport, stations have reported more than 75% of all donors are new to the station. And driving the growth of new members have been “bingeable” programs. Due to the changes to the Google Adword grant program, and increasing challenges associated with impression share, PBS Development Services partnered with Next Generation Fundraising and five member stations to pilot a Google Adword campaign to demonstrate the added benefit of paid advertising.

Pilot Details

The pilot was split into two phases. The first phase had five station participants and was anchored around the much-anticipated Little Women broadcast premiere on Sunday, May 13th. All three episodes of the program were also available for immediate streaming in PBS Passport. The Little Women Adword keyword campaign ran from May 13th through May 18th and focused on acquisition of new donors with the benefit of “binging” all three episodes of the miniseries.

The five stations that participated in the test were KCPT, Nine Network, Twin Cities PBS, WHYY, and WMHT. The Geo-targeted Adword campaign for Little Women and station branded keywords were limited to the Google Search Network. Participating stations also excluded suppression files that consisted of current donors, major donors, lapsed donors, and some house file prospects.

Additionally, the multivariate test was designed for greater insight into how a premium might impact response rates. The first offer was $5 per month membership while the second was $10 per month plus a Google Chromecast premium.

Pilot Performance

The overall conversion rate was lower than anticipated at 0.4%. But in in comparison to other channels, it may be considered within an acceptable range for net-new prospects. However, the overall data set was generally small with 39k impressions, 1.7k clicks and a 4.5% CTR.

Though the test data was not statistically significant, it provided directional insight on the potential for ongoing investment with search. For instance, the volume of impressions and the healthy CTR show that there is demand for programming and further testing of message, offer, and landing page. Also key, the response showed that viewers were not necessarily motivated by the premium.

Summary & Key Takeaways

Although the campaign was short, Little Women had strong promotion which made it a good vehicle for this test. This included national, system-wide PBS promotion to capture the timing of Mother’s Day as well as an award-winning cast that included Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke.

Pilot Ad w/o Chromecast offer

However, it may not have been the perfect choice for new donor acquisition for primarily two reasons. First, the 3-part mini-series was available for a limited time. And secondly, it did not benefit from the demand other programs experienced by having prior seasons.

The relatively short window of availability may have also impacted results as the series ended on the Sunday following the May 13th premiere. Furthermore, search volume for Little Women may have been skewed by the Little Women reality program being broadcasted on Lifetime channel (Little Women: LA, Little Women: Atlanta).

During campaign setup, the team also discovered that the term “Little Women” had been trademarked by Lifetime Entertainment Services. As such, the test was unable to use the words “Little Women” in ad copy for most markets. It’s possible that this impacted click-through rates.

Similarly, the test did not compete using PBS brand keywords. And failure to do so, the marketing reach of key brand words was curtailed. The pilot results point to further testing needed for multi-season program. Expanding the test would result in more data as well as show whether concurrent modification of some of the test parameters might produce a large enough data set for results to be more than directional.

Pilot Ad with Chromecast Offer

Building on the lessons learned, PBS Development Services and Next Generation Fundraising launched the second phase of the Google Adword pilot. This leveraged the program, The Great British Baking Show, to see if the well-recognized, multi-season program could produce additional net-new sustainer conversions.

Stay tuned as final results for the Great British Baking Show Test will be published on the PBS Development Services blog.

For more information, please contact Sabina Zabell or Jonathan Sills at Next Generation Fundraising.