Case Study: Cuyahoga County Public Library

Location: Northeast Ohio

System Info: 27 branches that serve 47 communities, plus a service point in the county hospital

Service Area: Northeast Ohio is home to more than 117 different ethnicities, making it a melting pot of people from all backgrounds. Approximately 616,000 people live in our service district, which includes a diverse mix of urban and suburban communities. We serve some of the wealthiest and some of the poorest communities in Northeast Ohio. Overall, our service population is older than the U.S. median.

Library URL: www.cuyahogalibrary.org

Library Situation

Cuyahoga County Public Library’s two primary sources of funding are a 2.5 mill property tax levy and Ohio’s Public Library Fund, which is currently set at 1.68% of the General Revenue Fund for the FY 18–19 biennium.

Like many other libraries throughout the country, we are experiencing decreasing circulation and customer visits. At the same time, we have seen tremendous growth in the use of our e-resources, particularly our OverDrive collection, which eclipsed 2 million in circulation for the first time in 2018.

We have used Google Ads for years to help customers find the many materials, programs, and services we have to offer. (For the past several years we have worked with an outside firm to run our paid search campaigns for us.) When I heard about the Google Ad Grant, I saw it as an opportunity to reallocate the dollars we were spending on paid search to other marketing efforts. What I quickly learned was that, to maximize the grant, we would need to run a large number of campaigns—something we simply don’t have the capacity to do. Our team is small but mighty. We’re constantly juggling dozens of projects, email marketing, website content, and social media. As a result, we just don’t have the capacity or expertise to make the most of paid search.

Enter Koios. Their team is currently helping us manage more than a dozen campaigns (with more to come), and doing it better and more effectively than we could on our own.

What type of product / service have you promoted with your Google Ad Grant?

Currently we are using our grant dollars to promote the incredible breadth of our materials, services, programs, e-resources, databases, and our Beyond the Book Jacket Author Series, which has grown in recent years to more than 100 author events per year. The grant dollars have also allowed us to run an effective search campaign around our passport processing and photo services, which is a revenue generator for our library system.

What challenges was your library addressing? What goals was it trying to meet?

Koios is helping us address a key challenge—meeting our customers at their point of intention. We are very good at broadcasting our messages to our customers, but we are still learning how to best deliver our messages and content to them on their terms. Koios has helped us take a step in the right direction by more efficiently and effectively getting our messages in front of customers who are searching the web for solutions to their problems, answers to their questions, and fulfillment of their needs.

Our goals for the work we are doing in partnership with Koios are to increase awareness of the broad scope of our services and collections, drive more traffic to our website and, ultimately, connect with customers who either do not currently utilize our resources or haven’t used them in a long time.

Koios is helping us address a key challenge—meeting our customers at their point of intention.

Why did you decide to try Google Ads?

Libraries have to think beyond posters and flyers if they want to stay relevant. It’s no revelation that online is where the action is happening. The fact is, online advertising is a must to get your message in front of people, but it’s complicated to execute well and time-consuming to manage. It can also be expensive. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you may end up throwing your advertising dollars into a black hole. What library can afford to do that?

We decided to apply for the Google Ad Grant because we saw it as an opportunity to get our messages into a space where we knew we needed to be, and because we knew the budget (up to $10,000 per month) was more than adequate to be competitive in the market. We see the advertising we’re doing through Google Ads as an important piece of our overall marketing strategy and a powerful tool for reaching customers at their point of intention.

What did the start-up process look like at your library?

After receiving the grant, we had a difficult time getting our first campaign approved by Google. Koios stepped in, figured out what we had been doing wrong, and had us up and running in a day or two. After that, we sent them ideas for additional campaigns and in a very short time we had multiple campaigns running.

The introduction of Koios Ads in September 2018 led to greater awareness of the passport service ('impressions' in blue) and a near-doubling of passports processed (red) starting in January 2019.

The introduction of Koios Ads in September 2018 led to greater awareness of the passport service ('impressions' in blue) and a near-doubling of passports processed (red) starting in January 2019.

What sorts of results have you seen from using Google Ads? Have you resolved the challenges and / or met the goals that you started with?

Since we started our Google Ads search campaign for our passport processing and photo services, we’ve seen record-breaking months for revenue. It has definitely increased our visibility and driven customers to our branches who had no idea we offer such a convenient service.

Any words of wisdom you want to share with your peers?

I would tell any library interested in taking advantage of the Google Ad Grant program to consider Koios. They’ll have you up and running multiple campaigns in no time.

Once you have secured the Google Ad Grant, you may be tempted to try and manage the campaigns yourself. Don’t. Koios understands how to maximize the value of your Google Ad Grant dollars and can save you and your already overburdened marketing team lots of time, energy, and money.


Robert J. Rua is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications at Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), the nation’s top-rated library system among its peers for 9 consecutive years in Library Journal’s Index of Public Library Service. Robert has been with CCPL for more than 11 years and is currently studying data analytics at Case Western Reserve University.