Build Your Audience with Google AdWords

by David Glisczinski, Wisconsin Public Television

Did you know...there’s an easy way to funnel traffic to your site, and it’s totally free? You won’t even have to hire a graphic designer or IT guru to get up and running.

I’m talking about Google’s online advertising tool AdWords, which powers the search ads you see on The nonprofit version — called Google Grants — offers $10,000 worth of AdWords advertising per month at no charge. That’s $120,000 of FREE advertising each year to promote your public television station!

In March 2012, I launched Wisconsin Public Television’s first AdWords campaign. A year later, I couldn’t be happier with the results. We’ve generated 50,000 site visits from users. January alone topped 11,000 clicks, or $6,000 worth of AdWords advertising. 10 percent of search engine traffic to WPT’s website now comes from AdWords campaigns.

It gets better.

If you’re familiar with AdWords, it takes less than an hour to get up and running. Even if you’ve never used AdWords before, it will take less than a day to learn the system. After that, you get to choose how much time goes into maintaining your account and ad campaigns (about 2–4 hours a month for me).

Meanwhile, Google does most of the work by analyzing click-through rates (CTR) and displaying those ads that outperform others.

Which Ads Work Best?

A lot of Web users are searching for full episodes of their favorite PBS programs, and with AdWords, I’ve been able to lead these web users right where I want them.

I’ve had success building an audience for WPT’s COVE Video Player, for Masterpiece and Sewing With Nancy in particular. Below are sample ads for both series and corresponding January stats.
Clicks=2,671   CTR=10.27%   Pages/Visit=2.02   Bounce Rate=40%   Value=$1,600
Clicks=4,864   CTR=1.73%   Pages/Visit=5.01   Bounce Rate=0.63%   Value=$2,424

Strictly looking at total clicks, these ads have outperformed all others. But the goal isn’t simply to tally thousands of site visits. My goal is to connect with web users who will value and engage with the content on

I also try to learn from what doesn’t work. For example, an ad designed to increase email subscriptions generated hundreds of clicks, but also a high bounce rate of 85 percent. The ad could have been misleading, or maybe the landing page wasn’t clear enough. Either way, visitors were getting the wrong first impression of WPT, so I suspended the ad.

Managing an AdWords campaigns is a cinch. When a campaign succeeds, like the Masterpiece campaign, simply clone it. Replace “Masterpiece” with “NOVA,” “The Wisconsin Gardener” and so on in the ad copy, and watch your web traffic increase.

Getting Started with Google AdWords and Google Grants

Apply for a Google Grant- First, spend a few moments reading the Google Grants Account Creation Guide. You’ll learn some helpful tips for account creation and will start thinking about how to structure your AdWords campaign.

Then, apply to Google for Nonprofits. All you need is a Google account, 501(c)(3) status and your Employer ID (nonprofit verification number). Enter this info, and wait. (I waited 19 days).

Set aside some time- In a few weeks, you’ll be approved for Google for Nonprofits. Google advises you reserve 4–12 hours to create your account and 1–2 hours per month to monitor it.

Set your goals- What is it you hope to accomplish with your free AdWords account? Do you want more email subscribers? Do you want to increase sales in your online store? Solicit major donors? Each goal will be its own AdWords campaign with its own unique ads and keywords. (My goal is to position as a destination for engaging video content.)

Choose keywords and write ads- Getting Started with Google AdWords will guide you through all the necessary steps to creating and managing your campaign. The most important step after setting your goals is to choose keywords and write ads.

I find it helpful to imagine the ad as an extension of the landing page that it points to. The ad should concisely describe what exists on the landing page. Keywords, in turn, describe the content of the ad. If the three (landing page, ad, and keywords) are not in sync, the web user will bounce.

Here’s an example. A web user searches for “NOVA on PBS.” The search returns an ad to watch NOVA on WPT. The user clicks the ad and lands on the NOVA COVE page.

It’s important to note that we geotarget ads so they only appear to a Wisconsin audience. This way stations in Nevada, Alabama, Oregon, etc. can all run their own ads to watch NOVA.

When you’re ready to write ads and create keyword lists, here are some helpful campaign optimization tips.

Optimization Tips From Google

To make the most of your Google Grants spend, find our top tips below:

1. Create Successful Ads

  • Use call-to-actions, include keywords in your ad text, direct users to the most relevant page of your website, and highlight what makes your organization unique. Don’t forget to geotarget out of consideration for other public media stations. Learn more here.

2. Improve Your Keywords-

  • First, read our tips on how to build the best keyword list.
  • Second, improve your keyword Quality Score, modify your keyword match type, or remove low-performing keywords from your campaign entirely.
  • Third, if your keywords are highly competitive, think outside-the-box. For example, if your ad isn’t showing on the first page for a competitive keyword like ‘breast cancer,’ experiment with variations such as ‘breast cancer website’ or ‘breast cancer San Francisco’.

3. Organize Your Account for Success

  • A well-organized account can help you easily see which ads and keywords are performing well, monitor changes, and edit campaigns quickly.