Grow with Google; Advertise with Google

Guest blog post from Kathy Dempsey, Libraries Are Essential:

You may have already heard the buzz over Grow with Google, the new initiative in which corporate trainers from Google will be hosting in-person workshops for job seekers, small businesses, librarians and nonprofit leaders. In late January, Google began delivering this workforce-development and job-search training to public libraries, one state at a time. As NJSL covered in a recent post, it’s not clear when it will happen in New Jersey, but the State Library is gearing up so the NJ library community will be ready when the time comes.

In the meantime, Google has a different project that public libraries can take advantage of immediately; it’s called Google Ad Grants. As the name suggests, Google is giving out free money—well, actually, in-kind advertising—that public librarians can use to buy ads that will appear at the top of Google search results.

While Grow with Google is new this year, the Google Ad Grants program has been running, somewhat quietly and very successfully, since 2004. While the idea of Google offering free ads to libraries may sound too good to be true, it is real. The company explains it this way:

“You’ll receive $10,000 USD of in-kind advertising from Google each month to create text-based ads, and get access to tools to help you build effective campaigns that can display on Google Search when people look for information related to your nonprofit.”

This program is only for nonprofits, which in our world usually means public libraries, or sometimes special libraries of nonprofit organizations. Here’s how the program works:

  1. Submit info to make sure your library qualifies. (TechSoup partners with Google to validate nonprofit status.) This is a long-term program, with no end in sight, so there is no deadline.
  2. After you’ve sent your info and set up your Google for Nonprofits account, you can apply for the Google Ad Grants program. The application takes just 3 to 4 hours to complete. You’ll get a response within 2 weeks.
  3. Once you’ve qualified, you’ll have access to tools to help you plan your Google Ad campaigns. You can use your grant to advertise anything — your library’s collections, services, special events, classes, Summer Reading Program — whatever you want your service population to know about. And there’s no cost to you!


Here are some sample ads that show what appears in search results:








What’s the catch? There is no real catch, but there are a few caveats:

  • As with most grants, you need to follow the application protocols very carefully (but you can resubmit if you’re initially denied).
  • The grant will continue indefinitely, and you must stay in compliance with its changing regulations.
  • You’ll need someone to continuously plan, run, and assess your ad campaigns. It will help if you have a staff member with marketing / promotion / advertising knowledge.

In the same way that social media is “free,” using Google Ad Grants is “free.” While there’s no cost to have social accounts or to post to them, you do need to devote some staff time and expertise to look after the accounts. So it is with this program (or with any advertising campaign); you need someone to administer it.

If your library doesn’t have staff members with that expertise or time, there are various companies that can handle that work for you. Your best bet is to find a marketing firm that knows the ins and outs of Google Ad Grants. One company that I am working with, Koios, believes in helping libraries, so they’ve become experts on the Ad Grants program. Even before you apply for the grant, Koios staffers are willing to explain the process in more detail, show you a quick demo, and help with your application — all free of charge and free of obligation. Once you’ve secured the grant, Koios offers a free, one-month trial of its service, Koios Ads. The service gives you expert help with creating ads and bidding on their placement, along with full data analysis.

You do not have to use the Koios Ads service to take advantage of Google Ad Grants; you can administer the grant yourself. If you want help, however, you can seek out a firm that can offer guidance and support.

No matter which way you go, it makes a lot of sense to use this grant support. Who doesn’t want free advertising, right? We know that most people begin their searches on Google, not on a library website. Using Google Ad Grants to get your library’s message and link to appear on top of people’s search results can help move people from the open web into your own website, where the more trustworthy, vetted information is.


About the Guest Blogger:

Kathy Dempsey is an internationally recognized library marketing consultant who calls New Jersey home. She’s happy to help librarians spend Google’s money. You can reach her at



About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.