As usual, Google has been busy. They launched a new type of paid ad campaign, called Performance Max, in November 2021, with the promise that it would crank up the conversions on cross-platform ads.
Our nerd squad immediately got excited about the potential for hitting multiple conversion goals in one campaign, which is huge for B2B marketers who are looking to do more than just drive online sales. So, we got to work, testing and tweaking the format to see what it could do — first using Vital as a guinea pig, and then rolling it out to some of our B2B clients once we started seeing results.
Spoiler: The results are pretty outstanding. But, first, some background. Check out this video for the inside scoop from Google.
What are Performance Max Campaigns and Why Should B2B Marketers Care?
Performance Max Campaigns are a new type of Google ad campaign that helps marketers maximize conversions by:
- Using your customer data and other audience signals along with your conversion goals and priorities
- Dynamically creating multiple versions of ads from your creative assets
- Applying “Smart Bidding” (a type of machine learning) to optimize bids and placements across all Google platforms
It’s a B2B marketer’s dream, because it lets you reach new audiences that are similar to your existing customer database, as well as people who are actively searching for your products and services. That means you get the reach of a display ad campaign with the performance of a search campaign.
And, because you can set multiple goals within one campaign, Performance Max will learn where and how to get you the most of whatever type of conversion you’re after. This is a huge deal for lead-hungry B2B marketers, because now you can benefit from Google’s machine learning to boost your conversion rates on your lead generation campaigns.
How is Performance Max Different from Other Types of Google Ad Campaigns?
If you have a B2B eCommerce store, you’re likely already familiar with Google’s Smart Shopping Campaigns, which use a similar combination of dynamic ad creation and machine learning to maximize online sales conversions across platforms. Performance Max is the new, improved Smart Shopping, with some B2B-friendly features. With Performance Max, you can set multiple conversion goals and prioritize them based on the value of each action to your business.
The difference between Performance Max and Smart Shopping is (or was) largely academic. At the time of writing, Google was in the process of sunsetting Smart Shopping. Between June and September 2022, Smart Shopping Campaigns was gradually converted into Performance Max. (Unless you were ahead of the game and made the switch yourself.)
Keyword-based search campaigns remain the same — you assemble ads, choose keywords and phrases and set your budget and bidding strategy to maximize the conversions you want. The big difference here is that traditional search ads are single-platform, and, while you can use automated bidding to help you maximize your return on investment (ROI), it’s up to you to create an effective ad and on-point CTAs with the help of time-consuming A/B tests.
The same is true for remarketing PPC ads, which display your ads to people who have already visited your website.
Pro tip: Performance Max Campaigns aren’t a replacement for your core keyword-based search campaigns or your remarketing campaigns. Keep those running! They’re still the best way to capture searches that directly relate to your products or services, plus Performance Max uses data from search campaigns to find more high-conversion hotspots for you.
How Does Performance Max PPC Work?
Basically, Performance Max takes everything you give it — data from keyword campaigns and uploaded customer lists, goals, and creative assets — and, over a period of a few weeks, figures out which ad configurations perform best for which conversion goals with which audiences on which platforms at what times.
You set conversion goals and priorities, and Google matches your customer lists and other data to existing Google profiles, which catalog millions of data points and organize users into different categories and archetypes based on the content they view and the actions they take across the web — such as searches, video views, blog hits, form fills, purchases, and so on. All this data lets Google serve ads that are likely to convert at a much higher rate than average.
Who Should Be Using Performance Max Campaigns?
Performance Max isn’t for everyone. If you’re brand new to Google ads, you won’t have enough data for this type of campaign to pay off. And, if you lack the time, budget, and/or appetite for experimentation to allow a Performance Max Campaign to learn what works and what doesn’t, it’s probably not for you.
If you meet any of the following criteria, you should definitely consider giving Performance Max a try:
- You’ve already run successful Smart Shopping campaigns.
- Your paid search ads are successfully driving traffic to your landing pages and/or website.
- You have conversion points that get your business close to an actual sale (for example, a Contact Sales or Request a Demo CTA).
You probably don’t want to use Performance Max for conversions that are more top of the funnel, or worth less monetarily to your business. After all, the last thing your B2B business needs is a flood of worthless leads that you paid good money to acquire.
3 Quick Tips to Make Performance Max Campaigns Work for Your B2B Business
If you’re game to give it a try, here are a few pointers to help make sure you’re successful:
1. Don’t pull the plug on your search or remarketing campaigns.
Performance Max is not the be-all, end-all of paid ad campaigns. It needs data (lots and lots of data), so keep those core, keyword-based search campaigns running. That’s one way Google learns about your business and which keywords are working for you on which platforms.
2. More is more.
Because Performance Max creates ads dynamically by mixing and matching your creative assets, the more you give it to work with, the more types of ads it will display, in more places. Load up your campaigns with alternative ad copy and multiple images and/or video.
The same goes for audience data. Give it your remarketing lists, your customer match lists, and any other data you’ve got. Your Performance Max Campaign will find people with similar online behavior, and boom! You’ve just reached new potential customers who are more likely to convert.
3. Be goal-oriented.
This may be obvious, but Performance Max Campaigns don’t work without conversion goals. One of the best things about this type of campaign is that it allows you to prioritize multiple goals. This is especially great for B2B businesses who may be less focused on direct online sales conversions, but hungry for marketing- or sales-qualified leads (MQLs and SQLs).
Show Me the Money: Performance Max Success Stories
Here’s what we’ve seen using Performance Max at Vital, starting with our own sandbox.
Over the years, Vital has had a ton of success with digital marketing for higher education. It was a no-brainer to create a vertical-specific page on our site to help higher ed marketers understand how our unique approach can help them build their brand, get more qualified applicants, and ultimately boost enrollment numbers. To promote the page, we ran a Performance Max campaign that delivered a higher-than-average click-through rate (CTR) of 5.17% .The best part? Those clicks were highly valuable, leading to double-digit SQLs.
For more on this subject, learn about using PPC for higher education enrollment marketing.
A B2B Software Company with a Long Sales Cycle
In one of our biggest client success stories, a software company that typically nurtures leads for months closed two deals in the first 25 days of running a Performance Max Campaign. This win validates Google’s claim of delivering more valuable conversions from potential customers that may not even be aware of your brand yet.
How Vital Can Help Your Business Grow With Performance Max Campaigns
We’ve been helping our B2B clients succeed with PPC for a long time, and over the years we’ve managed millions of dollars in ad spends while delivering greater and greater ROI. Learn more about our approach to PPC strategy here.
Or contact us to talk about whether Performance Max is the way to go for your company.