Driving User Engagement With Google Ad Grants

Global Witness

3 mins read


Many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system. Global Witness is campaigning to end this. They carry out hard-hitting investigations, expose these abuses, and campaign for change. They began using Google Grants in March 2015, and worked with Torchbox to maximise the opportunities presented by the programme.

Google Grant goals

The main goal for Global Witness is getting their voice heard amongst an audience who are engaged in the issues they investigate.

They wanted to use their initial monthly Google Grants budget of USD $10,000 to:

  • Boost campaign reach
  • Increase traffic to key content and publications, whilst raising awareness
  • Feature prominently in Google’s search results

Global Witness also wanted to be visible in Google’s search results for debates which otherwise would be more difficult to have their voice heard on. Ranking highly for particular keywords enables Global Witness to keep a light shining on the issues they care about. Google Grants allows Global Witness to appear at the top of Google’s search results extremely quickly, often for keywords that they’d never be able to rank for organically.


In the first nine months of using Google Grants, there were over 148,000 clicks through to the website from their ads, with just under 20% of this traffic completing an engagement action — these included downloading a PDF, signing up to the Global Witness newsletter, and spending more than 3 minutes on site. Within six months of signing up to the scheme, their account qualified for Grantspro, giving them an increased AdWords budget of USD $40,000 per month. This resulted in a significant boost to their traffic — at one point, traffic from Google Grants accounted for over 50% of total monthly sessions on the site, making it their primary source of traffic.

Global Witness

Google Analytics data showing increase in performance

High-volume keywords such as “money laundering”, “corruption” and “global issues” have been really strong for bringing quality traffic to the site. However, the biggest impact has come from being opportunistic with keywords. Using Google Grants to respond to time-specific global events such as the Myanmar election has been a big success.

In October 2015, Global Witness launched a report on corruption in the Jade Trade and tied in the report’s release with the upcoming elections in Myanmar. To promote the report’s launch, we built an ad group containing keywords that focused on specific queries around the elections. Through a combination of well-chosen keywords and highly relevant ad copy with a strong call to action encouraging downloads of the report, Global Witness’s ads ranked number one on Google for high-volume keywords such as “myanmar elections”. This enabled them to put their priority content in front of a global audience at exactly the right moment, maximising the exposure of the report. As a result, over 380 downloads of the report came from users who clicked on an ad.

Having a Google Grant has had a huge impact on Global Witness’s online presence: increasing engaged, high-quality traffic to the website; exposing Global Witness’s work to audiences who are already interested in the issues they work on; and capturing audiences who might not have known about them. It’s been a massive success.

It’s been a pleasure working with Torchbox, who’ve been really proactive and helpful. We’ve appreciated the advice and expertise of our account manager and are delighted to have got to Grantspro status so quickly. We set ourselves a target of achieving Grantspro in six months so we were really chuffed when we achieved it.

Adrian Emanuel, Communications Assistant, Global Witness