Google’s Performance Max Campaigns: How Tuff Clients Are Using It

As a growth agency, we continually test the new automated campaign types that Google rolls out each year, while making constant updates and improvements along the way. The newest addition to this catalog is Performance Max Campaigns. 

Performance Max was first introduced as a new way to buy Google ads across multiple channels in the ad platform, utilizing conversion data and machine learning to run almost entirely autonomously. 

Since its launch, Google has announced that Smart Shopping campaigns along with Local Service Ads, will soon be replaced entirely by this new Performance Max campaign type. This is just one of many reasons why making a switch over to the latest form of automation is worth the time and effort. 

Let’s dive head first into everything we know about Performance Max campaigns and how Tuff successfully utilizes them across a variety of industries for our partners.

A Deep Dive On Google’s Performance Max Campaigns

One of the first questions surrounding this new campaign type that comes to mind for many of our partners, is “Where do these ads serve?” The short answer is, everywhere. 

When we create a new Performance Max campaign, Google will combine our assets to serve relevant ads across Youtube, Display, Shopping, Discovery, Gmail, and other Search Partners. With such a large mix of available channels, these campaigns can check off multiple business goals all at once. Display and Gmail placements, for example, can help satisfy Brand Awareness goals, focusing on impressions and reach. Shopping, on the other hand, is focused more on direct sales, executing on your conversion KPIs. 

Example of Asset Group Performance Max

No matter the industry you serve, Performance Max campaigns are a great way for you to easily diversify your marketing mix while taking advantage of Google’s best algorithms. 

Understanding what these ads are exactly, and how we target users, is the next step in successfully utilizing this new campaign type. 

Asset Groups & Targeting Options

Where other automated campaign types, both in and outside of Google, utilize ad groups to break up the contents of a campaign, Google Performance Max campaigns use Asset Groups.  These asset groups include a variety of different forms of creative: headlines, descriptions, images, logos, shopping feeds, and videos. All of these different assets are used in different ways depending on the network Google serves the ad on. Discovery ads will rely heavily on Images. Gmail, for example, will focus much more on Ad Copy. 

Targeting With Audience Signals

Google’s Performance Max campaigns don’t have the usual keyword targeting techniques that advertisers are used to for PPC efforts. Targeting is mostly done automatically based on your website, unless you use the new feature called Audience Signals. You do not need to upload an Audience Signal, but it is a best practice and we have found it useful for creating a successful campaign. Here’s how it works.

Along with your assets, you can upload different audiences to your campaigns. This can include a remarketing list or any custom segment you create. These audiences will act as a starting point for Google to start optimizing towards. Ads will not serve only to these users, instead, the campaign will use data from these audiences to determine broadly those who will most likely convert, using that information to look for new people with similar or stronger intent.

Google will use this library of assets that you upload to match the advertiser with a target audience at multiple touch points in multiple mediums, with every conversion adding more data for Google’s computers to parse through.  

Supplementing Smart Shopping Ads With Cleary Bikes

One big area that Performance Max excels with is through the Shopping Network. Cleary Bikes is a high quality kid’s bicycle brand that is focusing on scaling sales while decreasing their CPA. With an abundance of creative assets to utilize, Performance Max was a perfect opportunity to showcase Cleary’s highly visual eCommerce brand. 

Since starting a Performance Max campaign earlier this year, we were able to out pace our Shopping campaign while improving across all relevant KPIs. Compared with our previous Smart Shopping campaign:

  • Spend increased 280%
  • Conversions increased 407%
  • Cost/Conv decreased 24%
  • CTR increased 125%
  • Clicks increased 242%

These kinds of results speak for themselves. Not only were we able to find this success to take over what our Shopping campaign was giving us, but we were able to branch off into new channels that boosted our overall performance. 

Using Performance Max for Lead Generation

For our partner Findex, an Australian company that specializes in financial services, Google’s Performance Max campaigns have been a powerful tool to bring in qualified leads with incredible efficiency. After 30 days, the results are astounding. 

While incorporating this new campaign, we were able to spend an additional 62% month over month. This not only brought in a large increase of overall traffic, 245% increase to be exact, but the traffic was high quality, spending more time on the site than ever before. This isn’t the only time on site metric that saw drastic improvement either. Bounce Rate decreased by 70% while Pages/Session increased another 25%.

These metrics on their own would be enough to determine a successful campaign, but the wins don’t stop there. Month over month, comparing a period without a Performance Max campaign versus a period with one, leads jumped up a staggering 125%. More users were coming to the site, staying longer, leaving less often, and converting exceptionally. The cherry on top? CPCs were down 50% on average. What more could we ask for?

Using Performance Max to Drive Signups

Another one of Tuff’s fintech partners developed a platform that allows investors to follow and communicate with other like minded investors with the goal of scaling their user base.

Because search volume for such a niche offering is low, we had to explore other ways to reach the target audience outside of search. In this highly competitive industry, bidding on stock, investment, and trading keywords will find you competing with direct investment platforms, banks, and other financial-adjacent organizations. 

With this increased competition we were able to drive account creations via paid search, but the cost/signup was far higher than anticipated and was not sustainable. In comes a Performance Max test, leveraging an audience signal of Google’s affinity audience “Avid Investors” along with some demographic restrictions to hone in on our audience. 

In the first month, this Performance Max campaign drove signup costs down 80% compared to our Search campaigns. As time went on and machine learning had more data at its disposal, the next month, cost per signup dipped in half. Performance Max allowed us to leverage broad targeting options to drive more engaged users to the platform at a fraction of the price.

Bar chart of Performance Max results.

Leaning Into Automation

Automation isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’ll just get more and more powerful as the years go by which makes embracing it early on, testing and learning from performance, a vital part of a marketing strategy. Tuff’s results are proof that utilizing these new forms of technology in an overall marketing mix can yield great successes. 

Looking for a strategic partner to test new campaign types for your organization? Let’s talk!


startup team working on growth marketing tactics

Using Google Ads Automation to Scale Revenue for B2B, eCommerce, and DTC Brands

startup team working on growth marketing tactics

A challenging, but endlessly exciting, part of being a growth marketing agency is the fact that you have to constantly adapt to the ever-changing landscape of marketing in the digital age. 

Best practices can change quickly. Industries ebb and flow based on minor details. Technology rapidly revolutionizes the ways we think about growth as a whole. 

We are always on our toes, ready to dive into the newest industry tactics. Armed with the tools to test, learn, and retest. In recent years, this is perhaps most present in the way we think of automation.

Automation, especially on Google Ads, has grown exponentially over the last few years, pushing more manual and intensive growth strategies to the curb. It used to be an option for marketers. Something you can use to supplement your overall marketing efforts. Automation is now becoming the norm and default. Here at Tuff, we have made a pointed effort to test, learn, and embrace the new changes Google throws our way. 

Our PPC strategies have adapted and we have been able to find immense success. Here’s a look behind the curtain of our work with automation for our partners in the B2B, eCommerce, and DTC space. 

Scaling Leads In The Mental Health Space With MyWellbeing

It’s not every day that you can look at reporting month over month, and see positive results on every single KPI across your Google Ads account, but this is exactly what we saw for our partner, MyWellbeing, a Mental Health Startup with a mission of connecting people to a therapist that’s right for them. 

While capitalizing on Google’s state of the art automation techniques, we were able to: 

  • Scale spend over 75%
  • Drop our Cost Per Lead 40%
  • Bring in 190% more conversions.

Here’s how we went about tackling this kind of growth from November to January: 

Our early focus in the account came in two parts for MyWellbeing. The first was to improve our existing Responsive Search Ad copy. A big thing to keep in mind is the coordination between Keywords you target, Headlines you have in your Ad Copy, and the specific copy you include in your landing page. When you are able to match all three of these together, they work perfectly in harmony to attract not only more clicks, but the right clicks. More relevant ads = more relevant audience. 

This strategy allowed us to raise all current Ad Ranks that received a Poor or Average score, to Good and Excellent. In turn, we: 

  • Increased our CTR and Impression share by over 10% while also taking substantial steps forward with Time On Site metrics. Increased pages per session by 58% while the Average Session Duration jumped another 30%.

When you can focus on more relevant ads, and it resulted in a more engaging audience. 

Our second step in utilizing automation to the fullest was to transition our bidding strategies from Enhanced CPC, to a Max Conversions strategy with a target CPA. By this time, our account had an abundance of conversion history bringing in over 500 leads a month. This makes the transition a no-brainer; when Google is equipped with this amount of data in an account, the algorithm does it’s best work. 

Not including all of the big wins mentioned above, this is the KPI performance we were able to achieve comparing November to January:

  • Cost increased 77%
  • CVR increased 100%
  • Leads increased 187%
  • Cost Per Lead decreased 40%

The short of it? We scaled and we scaled efficiently. 

Our biggest success was in our largest campaign that focused specifically on a New York audience. This is where a vast majority of qualified leads come from. In this short span of time, using automation to the fullest, this campaign saw a Conversion Rate increase of over 300% with 11% less spend across Google. We have built a really good foundation to build off and it is only up from here. 

Achieving a 14 ROAS with QuietKat

We had the opportunity to test one of Google’s newest automation techniques, Performance Max Campaigns, with our partner QuietKat, an electric bike retailer based out of Colorado looking to scale spend and revenues aggressively over the course of December, 

With QuietKat having plenty of data, creatives, and budget, we built out a Performance Max Campaign that went live in December 2021. On the same day, the campaign recorded a last-click conversion for a ROAS of 5.19. At the end of the first week, our campaign had a ROAS of 4.56.  We usually like to allow new campaigns (especially new campaign types) at least a week or 2 to gather data and insights to inform our next steps.  The following week, the Performance Max campaigns’ ROAS skyrocketed to 13.93.  The week of Christmas.

With the holiday season behind us, we scaled down – reducing this campaigns’ budget by ~50% WoW; ROAS continued to climb, to 14.95.  Based on our early performance with the Performance Max campaign type and QuietKat’s 2022 budgets finalized, we strived to hit the ground running in January by increasing the Performance Max budget by more than 400%.  ROAS fell, but was still healthy at 3.60, which set QuietKat up to have a strong January in what is typically a slow month due to weather and the preceding holiday sales numbers.  

Performance Max, and automation as a whole, will remain a significant part of our paid media growth strategy for the foreseeable future.

Decreasing Cost Per Sale for DTC 

For our partner, an early stage DTC brand, increasing our scale while maintaining efficiencies in cost per sale metrics has always been at the forefront of our partnership. This company is the world’s first plant-based ‘farmacy’, offering 100+ adaptogen and herb blends to treat modern day ailments.  Toward the end of Q4 2021 and the beginning of Q1 2022, we’ve begun to more aggressively test Google’s automated bidding strategies and campaign types to help us achieve this overarching goal.

With the rollout of Performance Max across all Google Ads accounts, we quickly realized this campaign type may work wonders for an eCommerce brand that has historically performed very well with Smart Shopping campaigns. 

In December, our initial shift away from Smart Shopping to Performance Max took place and produced excellent results for our most important metric, Cost Per Sale, dropping 11.72% vs. November. With initial results looking strong, we continued to lean heavily into Performance Max, scaling more aggressively to begin the new year. 

In January 2022, we experienced our largest increase in traffic from Google Ads MoM at 47.41%, with only a 2.6% increase in spend. This was due in large part to a full shift away from Smart Shopping into Performance Max. With traffic increasing and CPCs decreasing, we were also very happy to report that CPS also dropped 16.67% – an even larger decrease than we experienced in December – while overall purchases from Google Ads increased 23.14%. The shift to automation was paying off.

Outside of Shopping-first campaigns, we began to leverage Dynamic Search Ads campaigns more effectively by segmenting out our DSA campaigns by non-branded, in which we used the brand terms as a negative keyword, and a branded products focus campaign, in which we used the product landing pages as our DSA campaign targets. The results so far have been excellent, with our non-branded DSA campaign driving by far the lowest CPS we’ve seen across all of our non-branded search campaign attempts while helping us identify non-branded terms that are high-converting at low average CPS. Additionally, our branded product focused DSA campaign has driven the lowest CPS we’ve seen outside of a pure brand-name target search campaign. 

Embracing Automation

Automation is constantly improving, allowing us to continually test new strategies for all of our partners here at Tuff. No matter the industry, we are seeing results that speak for themselves. Whether you are working in ecommerce, fintech, or health & wellness, there are aspects of automation that, when used correctly, can have a drastic impact on your growth. This kind of continued testing and learning, using all of the tools at our disposal, is key to our success.

watching youtube on a computer

How Much Do YouTube Ads Cost? We Spent $500,000 In 2022 To Find Out

watching youtube on a computer

Author Note: This post was updated in October 2022 with new stats, information, and resources. 

Utilizing video in your marketing efforts is by no means a new concept. Advertisers have been able to take advantage of the benefits of video advertising for years. It is, however, becoming more and more important, by the day, to engage with the ever-expanding marketplace that is available through video content. For brands that need self-serve video advertising opportunities, the main player in this space is, of course, YouTube Ads. YouTube just so happens to also be the 3rd most visited site on the web behind only Google and Facebook, making it an easy and efficient way to get your message out to the world with video ads!

If you’re onboard for using video in your advertising strategy, but not quite sure where to start, that’s okay! Whether you’re a large eCommerce platform, small business, or growth marketing agency, you can capitalize on the unique audience (two billion monthly users by the way), YouTube has to offer. Taking advantage of YouTube’s incredible video ads inventory really only involves two things. First, you need a strong YouTube strategy (we have you covered). Second, you’re going to need to determine your video ads budget. This begs the question though; how much do YouTube Ads Cost?

Your YouTube Ads cost will depend on a few main factors. In short, these factors are: bidding, targeting, ad placement, and ad formats. With these key factors in mind, there are countless different ways to structure YouTube advertising campaigns to reach your marketing goals. This makes it really difficult to pin down an exact cost and makes budgeting for success difficult. You may even read online that an average CPV can be between $0.02 and $0.20. You might also read that you can expect an average CPM to be between $2 and $10. These may seem like relatively small numbers, but the difference between a $2 and $10 CPM is actually massive, especially for larger budgets, and will certainly add up over time, so this makes it hard to know which sources to believe. To get the full picture of what YouTube Ads cost may look like for you, we have to dive a little deeper. 

YouTube Ads Bidding Strategies

Deciding on your YouTube Ads bidding strategy is the first step in creating a successful YouTube Ads campaign and the first step to determining your potential YouTube advertising cost. Unlike Google Ads, where you can leverage a more traditional and familiar Cost per Click model to predict your budgets, the three types of bidding strategies on YouTube Ads are Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM), Cost per View (CPV), and Maximize Conversions. As you can expect, actual costs for your YouTube ads campaign will vary based on which of these three options you choose.

CPV (Cost Per View)

Cost per View bidding allows you to optimize for how much you want to pay for each singular view. A view counts when a user watches 30 seconds of your video, the full video if it’s less than 30 seconds, or interacts with the ad itself. With this bidding strategy, you’ll set a daily budget or campaign budget, then a maximum amount you’re willing to pay per view, and YouTube Ads will work to keep your costs under or even to this bid cap. 

You want to make sure this amount is competitive in your industry so your ads will serve successfully, but ultimately, this will be discovered within the first few days of launching your campaign. If your ad isn’t serving but is marked as eligible to serve, chances are you need to raise your CPV bid to become competitive in the auction. 

CPM (Cost Per Mille/Thousand Impressions)

In contrast to CPV, the CPM bidding strategy allows you to bid based on the cost per thousand impressions. YouTube Ads will optimize your bids to maximize your unique reach. This strategy makes more sense when you want to increase your brand awareness and visibility and aren’t so concerned about direct click-thru conversions (more on those later). 

For this bidding strategy, your total YouTube Ads cost will still be capped to your set daily budget or campaign budget, as well as your target CPM.

Maximize Conversions & Target CPA

If you are not as concerned with brand awareness and are instead looking to leverage YouTube Ads to drive efficient conversions, then the Maximize Conversions bidding strategy is the best strategy for you. First, we should note that this bidding strategy requires setting up conversion tracking first and ensuring that it is firing correctly. Without having relevant and correctly tracked conversion data funneling into your Google Ads account, the campaign utilizing a Maximize Conversions bidding strategy will not know how to optimize correctly. 

When going through the campaign setup, you will set a daily budget to allow YouTube Ads to spend in order to maximize the number of conversions you will receive within your set daily budget. CPA can vary with this bidding strategy but you do have the option to set a Target CPA if you have a specific number you’d like to achieve as part of your YouTube Ads strategy. For brand new campaigns, a best practice is to begin without a target CPA, gather the relevant conversion data, and then set a target CPA based on the conversions you’ve been able to receive so far.

Audience Targeting on YouTube Ads

Once you’ve decided on the correct YouTube Ads bidding strategy to achieve your marketing goals, selecting the right audiences will help your video ads campaign move closer to life. Of course, without exposure to the right people, your advertising efforts will almost certainly go to waste.

In addition to the aforementioned bidding strategies, audience targeting is one of the biggest factors determining how much your YouTube advertising costs. YouTube allows you to choose a target audience in 3 main ways; affinity, in-market or life events, and custom audiences, which includes retargeting. Your total YouTube advertising costs will vary depending on which route you choose for your target audience, but it’s beneficial to test multiple audiences at the same time to see what works best for you! Chances are, the first audience you run with may not give you the best results. Continuous testing and optimizations will increase your chances of YouTube Ads success. Now, let’s dive a little deeper into each of the audience segment types available for YouTube ad campaigns.

Target Interests With Affinity Audiences

Affinity audiences are a popular audience segment devoted to users’ interests and habits. You can define exactly who you want to reach. By including relevant customer interests, you can feel certain that your message will reach the people who are interested in what you are offering. 

youtube audience targeting

High Intent Targeting With In-Market & Life Events

Another effective way to find the perfect audience for your YouTube video ads is by targeting in-market and life event segments. With this kind of targeting, you can not only find the right people to serve your YouTube video ads to, but you can make sure to find them at the right time. In-market and life events targeting is a powerful tool to be able to target customers while they are actively searching for products or actively experiencing life events that may coincide with your business. 

youtube targeting

Get Specific With Custom Segments & Retargeting Audiences

Our final, but incredibly effective YouTube Ads audience targeting method, is Custom Segment targeting. Custom Segments allow you to build custom audiences based on a variety of factors, including retargeting to your past website visitors or YouTube video ads watchers, as well as creating an audience based on relevant search terms that users have recently searched into Google Ads.

Whether you’re a startup looking to advertise on YouTube for the first time, or a company that has been in business for 15 years, you can utilize the full potential of retargeting. This method relies on reaching users you have data on already. You can target customers who have been to your site but exclude anybody who has converted. Retargeting tends to bring in lower CPC’s and higher conversion rates since your user base is more familiar with your brand. No successful PPC strategy is complete without retargeting efforts. 

In our experience of testing each of these YouTube Ads audience types, Custom Segments and retargeting audiences are generally more expensive than their Affinity & In-Market counterparts, but typically provide awesome results that make the extra YouTube Ads cost worth it, especially when looking to drive conversions and maintain a target CPA.

Choose The Right Ad Placement With Content Targeting

This aspect of your YouTube Ads strategy acts as an extension of your audience targeting. You can layer on multiple dimensions to your audiences to specify the specific content your ad is going to show up on. This can be done using relevant keywords to your business, topics that your product may be a part of, or even placements on specific videos or channels within YouTube. Adding additional placement layers like those we’re about to discuss will help hone in your audience to efficiently spend your budget by reaching those most likely to resonate with your YouTube Ads and keep your goals top of mind. 


If you are running Google Search ads, this is a perfect time to incorporate some of your most successful keywords into your campaign. 


Utilizing topics as a placement is similar to Affinity audiences, but instead of targeting users no matter what content they’re watching, Topics will add the extra layer of targeting your audience only when they are watching content related to the topic you’ve chosen. Topics allow your YouTube ads to serve the right people at the right time with interest based topics. 


The last form of content targeting for a YouTube Ads campaign is Placements. Although similar to Topics in the sense that you can layer in Placements to only show your ads on related content, if you want to go one step further and have your YouTube ads appear only on selected specific channels or even videos, you can add those dimensions here. Be careful to keep the volume in mind so your campaign has enough users to attract. Oftentimes a YouTube Ads campaign heavy in Placements targeting won’t reach it’s full daily budget due to the volume throttling that naturally comes with selecting specific Placements.

Ad Formats

Last but certainly not least is your YouTube ad formats. Different ad formats will require different creatives along with different budgets. The more engaging your creative is, the more of a positive effect it will have on your overall YouTube Ads cost. 

The most popular ad formats offered by YouTube include:

Skippable In-Stream Ads

Skippable video ads are one of the most popular and familiar YouTube Ad formats. Skippable video ads can be shown at the beginning, middle, or end of a video. A viewer can skip these YouTube Ads after 5 seconds, so be sure to incorporate an engaging intro to hook the viewer early and tap into your ad’s full potential. 

Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads

Similar to skippable video ads, the non-skippable ads format can show YouTube video ads in the beginning, middle, or end of a video, but the key difference is that the non-skippable ads cannot be skipped. This ad format can be cost-effective since you will only be charged if a user watches the YouTube video ad for at least 30 seconds. 

Bumper Ads

One of the most efficient ways to advertise on YouTube is by using Bumper Ads. This ad format is 6 seconds or shorter and will be placed before, in the middle, or at the end of a video. You can keep your creative costs low by utilizing this short format. 

Video Discovery Ads

With Video Discovery Ads, your video ad will show up next to related videos, as a result from a YouTube search, or on YouTube’s mobile homepage. Your cost will look different with this format since you will be charged when a user clicks on your thumbnail as opposed to a cost per view or cost per impression metric. 

It’s important to remember that there is no magic number for how much YouTube Ads cost. It’s an ongoing process that benefits from constantly testing to find what works best for your business. There are many core aspects that make up a successful YouTube Ads campaign, but continuous testing of the various bidding, audience, placement, and ad format types will get you closer to your goal. 

There is no one size fits all approach, but if you utilize all of the optimizations at your disposal, you can find sustainable long-term success with YouTube advertising.