Google's got $5 on it ... er, make that $240,000. This is according to last week's announcement from a medical cannabis nonprofit.
According to Michigan Compassion, Google awarded the group $240,000 annually in AdWords advertising through Google Grants as well as the use of other Google products for nonprofits.
If you're unfamiliar with Google Grants, it's the nonprofit version of AdWords launched in 2003, which allows participating nonprofits to spend up to $10,000 per month in grants on AdWords.
The grant for Michigan Compassion advertising doesn't seem to fit neatly within any of Google's AdWords policies. According to its guidelines, there are certain restrictions on prescription drugs and even tobacco, but since Michigan Compassion is not a direct retailer for prescription marijuana, rather an organization dedicated to the awareness of the benefits of medical cannabis, the guidelines could be different.
It looks as though an organization like this could be given the same allowances that say, vaporizers are in AdWords. While Google does not allow the direct sale of drug paraphernalia, it does allow the sale of vaporizers "when promoted as a humidifier or as an aromatherapy device to relieve respiratory symptoms."
We reached out to Google for some clarification on the grant and any restrictions that ads from Michigan Compassion might have; we were curious about a few things:
- Will ads from Michigan Compassion be assigned a family status or non-family status?
- Will ads be targeted only to Michigan or also to other states allowing medical marijuana?
- How does Google distinguish between the promotion of tobacco versus promotion of cannabis in AdWords?
A Google spokesperson had this to say about the Michigan Compassion AdWords grant:
"Our regular Grants program was approved for this organization as a certified 501(3)(c) non-profit to run ads that comply with our policies. Specifically, their ads are designated as non-family safe, are approved in states where medical marijuana is legal in the U.S., and they are not permitted to sell the product or paraphernalia on their site."
We do know that advertisers participating in Google Grants will be given a lower priority in the results. In a January post on Search Engine Watch, Amman Badlani talked about recent changes to the Google Grants program, which would place all ads from grants below the ads of traditional AdWords advertisers.
If you're thinking about applying for the program, Badlani gives several tips in that article on how to maximize the value of grants your organization receives.