As a touring company Theatre Centre is less visible than, say, a building-based theatre or museum. They are London-based but have a national remit with the ability to tour to anywhere in the country. As such, they sought to use the Google AdWords grant to raise their profile and increase their reach.


Theatre Centre is a touring theatre company who have been commissioning and producing new plays for young audiences all over the country since 1953.

For some time now, Google has run its Google Ad Grants scheme for registered charities. After completing a relatively simple online application process organisations can benefit from up to $10,000 of free Google AdWords advertising per month (the equivalent of about £72,000 per year). Theatre Centre applied for and began utilising its grant in early 2013.

Initial aims

  • Introducing the company to relevant audiences (teachers, writers, influencers) with no prior knowledge of Theatre Centre
  • Directing new potential bookers to information about Theatre Centre productions
  • Encouraging target audiences to join Theatre Centre’s mailing list, make enquiries, comment and book productions

Like most organisations, they wouldn’t spend ‘real’ money on this form of advertising as it simply wouldn’t generate a tangible return on investment. When they’re free however, Google ads are a great way of increasing exposure.

The only budget implication for Theatre Centre has been staff time. This shouldn’t be underestimated, as an effective AdWords campaign requires careful management, but their investment has paid off.


  • As a result of the grant, website visitors soared by over 200%
  • The number of people subscribing to Theatre Centre’s newsletter via the form on their website also increased
  • Teachers who would not otherwise have known that Theatre Centre existed have made enquiries and bookings off the back of the adverts

Top tips

Managing the account takes some getting used to – some ads are more effective than others - and there is room for experimentation, e.g. spending time developing lists of keywords through which you target your ads. The trick is not just to get the adverts out there, but to make sure they are attracting the right people to your website.

Google ranks ads based on how closely related their wording is to the landing page they point to. With this in mind Theatre Centre invested in developing bespoke landing pages for their work in particular regions so that adverts for particular productions would have a higher chance of being shown. That way, once the user clicked on the advert, they had instant access to the information they were looking for.

Some key advice for organisations who might look to benefit from the Google Grants scheme in the future:

  • Get your Google accounts in order before you begin. Do you have Google accounts associated with YouTube, Google+ or Google Analytics? Make sure these are all registered to the same email address, and apply for the Google grant for this address too. This is difficult to change later, so will save you having to constantly switch between Google accounts and means you can integrate your Google analytics tracking with your AdWords account.
  • Bear in mind that the AdWords Grant Accounts for Charities has some key restrictions – there is a maximum bid for ads and restrictions on where adverts are shown. If you already use a Google AdWords account, think carefully about whether these restrictions will prevent you from achieving your goals.
  • The application process can take some time. Google approved the Theatre Centre application in a couple of weeks, but it might take longer.
  • When your application has been successful and you’re ready to get started, take time to view Google’s AdWords tutorial videos. They give a sense of how to manage an account and what makes a good advert.
  • Put aside time to set up your account, and then to manage it going forwards. It won’t be a success if you neglect it, and Google requires you to login at least once a month. Some organisations use external companies to develop keyword lists and get the account up and running - this might be worth considering if budget permits.
  • Remember that Google ads aren’t a replacement for good SEO, but they can complement it.

With thanks to Alan Ward, Marketing Manager at Theatre Centre.

For further advice, see the introduction toolkit on paid search advertising.