A person budget planning for digital ad spend

How We Decreased Pathstream’s CAC by 59% YoY


When we first started working with Pathstream – a Series A startup that offers online certification programs that help people level up their careers, they were spending nearly $1m each quarter in ad spend to hit their lead volume goals, but with a ROAS right around 1.10. They were hitting their application targets, but they were breaking even doing it. 

By restructuring ad accounts, testing creative, audience targeting, and different conversion events, we were able to help decrease Pathstream’s CAC by 59%, leading to their most efficient quarter ever and hitting their ideal LTV to CAC ratio for the first time. 

For 80% of our partners, we take a blended approach to reducing CAC – we focus on decreasing costs on ad channels to send more traffic to the site with the same amount of money, and we create a CRO strategy to improve website conversion rates. 

The exception? When development capabilities are limited or a partner has a custom CMS. That was the case for Pathstream. We weren’t able to implement robust CRO tests in order to improve CAC – we had to get creative when it came to optimizing Facebook and paid search campaigns on Google to hit those CAC targets.


When we first partnered with Pathstream, a majority of their ad spend was dedicated to Facebook ads, but the cost per lead, cost per application and cost per enrollment were extremely high and they knew they needed to drive these costs down in order to keep investing a large majority of their paid spend into Facebook. 

With this goal in mind, our social ads team immediately started diving into the Pathstream ad accounts and analyzing the existing data to identify opportunities or “quick wins” as we call them, while also simultaneously working on a longer term strategy for driving down Facebook costs. 

Here’s a sneak peak of how we drove down their Facebook CPL by 63% year over year. 

Testing new audiences 

We tested a handful of new audiences over the past year for Pathstream from job titles, to interests, demographics and lookalikes. We found that our most successful audiences were based on interests for specific Pathstream programs (Asana, Salesforce, Digital Marketing, Data Analytics) and a lookalike of 5% based off of previous Pathstream students who have enrolled in one of their certification programs. 

Since some of the program interests we were targeting could possibly have overlap (Example: Digital Marketing and Data Analytics), we used the audience overlap tool to ensure that the overlap wasn’t greater than 40% so that our program specific audiences wouldn’t be bidding against each other.

testing audiences on Facebook

After we discovered that these were our top performing audiences, we tested a combination audience that targeted both the interest audience and the lookalike in one ad set. This ultimately did not perform as well as the two audiences segmented out into their own ad set. Based on this learning, we segmented each audience back into its own ad set and set the budget at the campaign level which allowed Facebook to allocate the daily budget to the audience with the lower cost. 

Optimizing for Higher Funnel Conversion Events

When we first launched campaigns, we were extremely focused on driving down the cost per enrollment, so all of our campaigns were optimized toward the “purchase” conversion event. We soon realized that most Pathstream students don’t immediately enroll in a program when they first find out about Pathstream. In fact, it could take weeks or even a month for someone to enroll in a Pathstream program after first expressing interest. 

This led us to switch up our optimization strategy and test out a higher funnel conversion event (submit application), which fires once someone enters their information, becomes a lead and also completes a quick application. 

By switching to a higher funnel conversion event, we were not only able to increase the total number of applicants, but we were able to drive down the cost per impression, cost per click, cost per lead and cost per enrollment by bidding on a higher funnel action –– which is less expensive and in return gives the Facebook algorithm more data to target users likely to submit an application. 

Developing new conversion-driven creative

A large part of our Facebook strategy we put together in our initial research for Pathstream included new create asset ideas based on a creative analysis we pulled together with what’s working well and what’s not resonating as well with the Pathsream audience. 

💡We create data-driven ad creative at Tuff, and have an entire blog post about how we approach that for our partners. Check it out here!

We wanted to test a mix of image and video assets that showcased Pathstream’s value props in an engaging way that would get our audience to click on the ad. We tested a combination of school-branded assets and pathstream branded assets and found that all of the assets that mentioned “100% online” and “get a project management/digital marketing/salesforce certificate” in 6 months were our top performing static ads. 

We also tested UGC style videos (like this one) and saw a 56% increase in CTR and decreased the cost per lead by 37% once we rotated those into our campaigns. 

testing creative on Facebook

Paid Search

With an ad account this large, we ended up restructuring campaigns twice since we started partnering with Pathstream.

Phase 1 Account Restructure

Initially, Pathstream had over 30 different Google Ad accounts they were running campaigns from. Pathstream partners with different universities to offer their certification programs covering curriculum on Facebook Digital Marketing, Salesforce, Tableau Data Analytics, and Asana Project Management. They had a separate ad account for almost every university + certification program combination. 

Our first step was combining the campaigns across 30 ad accounts into one to increase the amount of lead data in one ad account to make the Google algorithm work smarter for us.

Even though we culled down campaign structure significantly in phase 1 of our account restructure, we still had over 40 different search campaigns, each with minor differences. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. Many partners have similar account structures and are certainly successful, and Pathstream was finding success early on with this approach as well. With the goal of getting CAC even lower though, we set out to restructure things again after a few months. 

Phase 2 Account Restructure

At this point, we were utilizing many automated, conversion focused aspects of Google Ads. Max Conversions bidding strategy, Data Driven Attribution, Dynamic Search Ads. With these campaign features, Google works best when there is an abundance of data, specifically conversion data flowing into each campaign. 

If campaigns are too spread out, only receiving a few conversions per month, you may be underutilizing the true power of automation. This was partially the case for Pathstream.

By condensing campaigns from 40+ to 15, we allowed more conversion data to feed into fewer campaigns, in turn making our ads more efficient. We did not limit targeting. This was not designed to decrease our volume or impression share at all. We were not looking to lighten our workload either. Instead, limiting the number of campaigns gave Google more conversion signals, gave Tuff more opportunity to experiment and learn quickly,  and also allowed for better informed expansion across channels in the future.

For starters we left our highest performing campaigns alone. The ones bringing in the most conversion volume and most search volume remained mainly untouched. The big changes were with the campaigns that had the least amount of monthly search volume. Many of them we grouped together into a catch all campaign. What was 10 separate campaigns all converting only a few times a month became one larger structure that converted much more often as a whole. 

Only 3 weeks after our account restructure we saw these results:

  • Conversion Rate increased 26%
  • Cost Per Lead decreased 38%
  • CPC dropped 21%
  • CTR increased 8%

This was only the beginning. Performance continues to improve week over week while we gather more data in a much less congested structure. From here, we can start to expand our reach by efficiently pivoting what is working best for us in the short term and beyond. 

Have a complicated Google ad account structure you could use a second set of eyes on? Or need help reducing your costs on Facebook? We’d love to help!

A person budget planning for digital ad spend

5 Channels to Diversify Your Digital Ad Spend

A person budget planning for digital ad spend

The great thing about the internet and how we consume content is that it’s constantly changing. This gives us growth marketers a perfect chance to test new channels and tactics regularly and make sure that we’re exploring new ways to use our digital ad spend. If you’re already running paid ads and are looking for ways to improve your channel diversification, you’ve come to the right place. 

It can be daunting to start fresh on a brand new platform, especially if you’ve had success on traditional digital channels such as Google and Meta (Facebook and Instagram). Different platforms and tactics are constantly emerging, and provide great options for your advertising efforts, depending on your goals, budget, and target audience. 


At Tuff, we’ve been able to drive incredible results for our partners on TikTok.  While B2C opportunities on the platform are well known, we’ve also explored the ever-expanding B2B targeting options when applicable.

Since TikTok is a video platform, it provides a great space to break out the creative chops and showcase your brand in a native storytelling format. Plus, since the majority of videos on TikTok are relatively low-fi, it’s easy to create new assets to test on the reg. If you’re wanting to take some of your Facebook digital ad spend and put it to a new channel, Tik Tok is perfect for you. 

Plus, did you know that TikTok is the most popular website in the world as of 2021? If you’ve been putting off testing it for your advertising efforts – you should give it a spin.


Pros: Huge audience of daily users, lots of targeting options, fun way to engage users

Cons: Clunky ad manager, ad disapprovals

Perfect For: Businesses trying to generate demand via storytelling



Programmatic” has been a buzzword for a while and we’ve certainly been hearing more and more partners who are interested in testing it out as of late.

In essence, programmatic advertising allows advertisers to reach very specific audiences outside of Google and Facebook/Instagram.  Notable programmatic platforms include StackAdapt, The Trade Desk, and Criteo, though there are many others.

Ad types include standard display, video, CTV, audio, and native display, making it easy to repurpose assets used on other channels before investing into platform-specific creatives.  Using benchmark data from legacy platforms will help inform early optimizations and the overall effectiveness of the strategy. If you’re looking to tap into a platform that can massively scale your digital ad spend, programmatic may be just the thing for you. 


Pros: Variety of ad formats, lots of creative options, massive reach of users, effective targeting options.

Cons: Easy to get lost in the weeds, easy to overspend on ineffective placements and channels.

Perfect For: A business in scaleup mode trying to diversify from the “major” players. 



Nextdoor advertising has become an attractive option for many advertisers, with 1-in–3 of US households being present on the platform.  Data indicates that these users make 90% of their purchases within 15 miles of their work or home, and predominantly from local businesses.  

When Tuff works with partners that have more of a local target audience, Nextdoor is one of the first non-traditional PPC tactics we explore. 

While Nextdoor is a great emerging channel for diversifying your digital ad spend, we do run the disclaimer that it likely won’t be a major part of your media budget. With limited placements and a growing userbase, it’s hard to spend a large amount of money on Nextdoor in any given month – although this could change in the near future as they continue to grow. 

Pros: Hyperlocal targeting, affordable CPMs, engaged local audiences

Cons: Smaller userbase, limited placements

Perfect For: Businesses with local presences



Pinterest can be a great option for advertisers, especially for ones that already possess a strong paid search strategy.  This is because the Pinterest platform allows you to use keyword targeting.  Since Pinterest is used as a search engine, this makes sense and can allow for incredibly targeted advertising.

The platform also has other traditional targeting methods that mirror Facebook, Instagram, and Google audience targeting, such as interest-based targeting.

Pinterest is a largely untapped platform, especially for ecommerce brands and service businesses. Since Pinterest users are planners, we recommend using their larger attribution windows (30 / 30 / 30) and using it as a mid-funnel tactic to increase consideration for your brand, and having it be a smaller part of your digital ad spend. 

An example of Pinterest ads

Pros: Visually appealing ad formats, very active userbase, lots of targeting options (intent + demographic)

Cons: Low last-click activity, longer attribution windows

Perfect For: Businesses trying to reach users in the consideration stage of the funnel



Spotify should definitely be considered when attempting to diversify ad spend and reach new audiences.  As one of the largest podcast and music streaming services in the world, the reach is massive and the audio ad-format adds another method of communicating with your target audience.

However, the targeting on Spotify can seem somewhat limited when compared to other platforms. Though reduced targeting options may cause an advertiser to shy away from the platform, it is still worth testing as a top-of-funnel awareness play due to its tremendous reach. 


Pros: Good ad formats, affordable CPMs

Cons: Limited targeting options, secondary platform

Perfect For: Businesses trying to scale top of funnel reach

Things to Avoid While Diversifying Digital Ad Spend

While testing new channels and tactics for your digital ad spend, it’s important to remember that channel diversification can take many forms and isn’t a one-size fits all. It’s also not a panacea – testing a new channel and finding a strategy that works for you will take time. You shouldn’t expect to see immediate results on a new channel by copying the strategy you have on one of your primary channels – it will take testing, learning, and refining to find the right tactic for you.

Here are some common mistakes we see in digital ad spend diversification that you should try to mitigate: 

It takes time to optimize

Most tests and experiments on new channels don’t work in the sense that they are a completely new tactic, and take time to master. Don’t try to diversify ad spend and expect to get the same results you’re seeing on other channels in week, or even month one. 

Don’t forget to account for extra management

Adding new channels can increase the complexity of reporting, optimization, and overall management. Instead of checking Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Google Analytics, for example, now you’ve got to learn how to incorporate new channels’ data and reporting dashboards into your existing systems and processes. 

Don’t over-diversify

While diversification of spend and strategy is a great idea, over-diversification is a thing and can present issues of its own.  If spend is spread too thinly across multiple new channels or platforms (or even multiple campaigns or ad creatives in one platform), it will take longer to gather actionable data and will be much more difficult to gauge the effectiveness of.

Want to Diversify Your Digital Ad Spend?

Tuff has managed ads on just about every platform imaginable, with budgets from partners ranging from a few thousand dollars, to one million-plus a month. Whether you’re in scale-up mode and wanting to try some new tactics or channels, or you want to optimize your advertising efforts on your existing channels, we can help. Let’s talk!

team working on google ads

How Much Do Google Ads Cost?

team working on google ads

Author’s note: This post was originally published in 2020, it has since been updated!

Whether you work in eCommerce or simply market your business online, you’ve likely heard of cost-per-click (CPC) advertising in which the advertiser is charged each time their ad has been clicked and the user is redirected to the advertiser’s website. CPC is the primary way that advertisers are charged when running Google Ads along with other first tier search engines, but what advertisers don’t always know, however, is how much Google Ads cost.

With CPC advertising, advertisers will typically place bids on keyword phrases relevant to their target audience. When a potential customer searches for this keyword phrase, search results will display the advertisement. Among the first-tier search engines that offer CPC advertising, Google reigns supreme. This makes sense, as the search giant controls nearly 90% of its market share and has around four billion users.

This degree of market reach is both astounding and unequaled across other online advertising venues like Facebook or Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Advertising). Google Ads’ dominance is such that, for many small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs), it represents the only online forum in which they advertise. In fact, of the 65 percent of SMBs that invest in CPC advertising, the vast majority utilize Google Ads. Since it can make up a majority of your online advertising, how much Google Ads cost becomes an important consideration.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. You may read online that Google Ads average between $1 and $2 per click. For SMBs, this can come out to $9,000 to $10,000 a month. That’s not chump change for anyone, much less a small business. 

If you wonder why so many businesses fork over that kind of cash, consider this: Google Ads offers an average return of $8 to every $1 spent on advertising. That’s a lot of “averages,” however, and it doesn’t tell the whole story. To learn the truth of Google Ads’ cost, and how this investment works, requires a little more digging.

Google Ads Cost By Campaign Type

As stated above, how much Google Ads cost depends on your targeted keywords. If you want to target a keyword like “insurance,” for example, get ready to lay out some cash. As the most expensive keyword, “insurance” has cost as much as $54.91 per click. Keyword bidding aside, the type of campaign you choose determines the way in which your charges accrue. 

Your Google ads cost will accrue differently based on which of the six types of campaigns you pursue. These campaigns include:

  • Search ads
  • Display ads
  • Discovery ads
  • Shopping ads
  • YouTube ads
  • Performance Max

The type of cost associated with each appears in the table below.

Campaign Type Cost Options
Search CPC
Display CPC, Viewable CPM (cost per mille or cost per 1,000 viewable impressions)
Discovery CPC
Shopping CPC
YouTube CPV for video discovery ads and instream ads, CPM for bumper ads and instream ads
Performance Max CPC

Google Search Ads

The most basic of Google Ads, search ads display within Google search results. If you perform a search, you will typically see at the top of the page sponsored links marked as ads. Search ads are CPC and have the benefit of display in the same spot searchers look for information. The shared format of these ads and standard search results helps ensure users see them. The familiar look also encourages more clicks.

Example of Google Search Ads

Google Display Ads

Google has a network across various industries that appeal to a wide range of audiences. These websites have opted into Google Ads to display advertising across the Google Display Network. Website owners receive payment per click or impression. 

For advertisers, Google display ads put content directly in front of audiences while they visit a website of interest. Display ads typically take the form of images that draw the eye away from a site’s written content. Display ads determine price through CPC or viewable cost per mille (CPM). CPM measures cost through viewable impressions. Viewable impressions occur simply as the ad appears, and do not require a click. For CPM advertising, Google Ads cost a set amount per 1,000 impressions.

Discovery Ads

CPC determines the cost of one of Google’s newest types of advertising, Discovery ads. These are native ads that appear across multiple Google-owned properties, including the YouTube homepage, Google Discover feed, and Gmail feeds. Visually compelling and designed for mobile devices, these ads rely on the “power of intent.” This means that Google uses information derived from a customer’s site visits, video viewing, map searches, and more to determine the content of the advertising. Learn more about why we love Google Discovery Ads at Tuff.

Highly targeted marketing like this has an obvious benefit in that it should automatically appeal to customers’ tastes. At the time of its launch, Google announced that Discovery ads would reach a global audience of 800 million users.

Shopping Ads

These types of ads allow you to promote individual products or lines, rather than a brand as a whole. Like other types of Google Ads, these appear on search engine results when a customer searches for a product or service. 

For example, if you were to search for “running shoes,” you might see a detailed ad on the right side of your screen for Nikes. Shopping ads can include prices, photos, and customer ratings. As with other types of search ads, these Google Ads run a set CPC.

Shopping Ad Feed Apothékary

YouTube Ads

YouTube video ads open up a vast marketplace for advertisers engaged with Google Ads. In fact, YouTube represents the third-most visited website in the world, behind only Facebook and Google. There exist many types of YouTube ads, most of which appear either before or during viewable content. 

The cost of YouTube ads depends on which type of ad you run. Video discovery ads are cost-per-view (CPV), while bumper ads are CPM. Instream ads that run while the viewer engages with a video can be either CPV or CPM.

However you can also choose to use a Maximize Conversions bidding strategy when utilizing conversion optimized YouTube campaigns known as Video Action campaigns. In the case of Video Action campaigns, advertisers are charged by CPC.

Performance Max

Performance Max is the newest campaign type revealed by Google Ads in early 2022, and it relies heavily on algorithmic bidding. It also requires advertisers to input a wide variety of assets including video, display graphics, shopping feeds, and even search copy. With all of the assets given to the campaign in an ‘asset group,’ Google uses its algorithm to determine when and where to show ads created with combinations of the assets provided.

Performance Max campaigns are currently charged by CPC, but advertisers are not allowed to set their own CPC. Instead, advertisers can choose between Max Conversions and Max Conversions Value bidding strategies with or without a target CPA. Learn more about how Tuff clients are leveraging Google’s Performance Max campaigns.

Here’s how Performance Max can use similar assets in different formats – both on the Discover and Youtube placements.

Example of Performance Max Assets

Google Ads Cost By Industry

You might assume that since you know the average CPC of Google Ads, along with the method for measuring cost, you’re ready to build a budget. In reality, this is not the case. As illustrated in the example of “insurance” mentioned above, Google Ads cost vastly more or less across different industries.

Below, you can see a table that compares the CPC of Google Ads from search campaigns across various industries. The data for this table was taken from actual Tuff-managed search campaigns from January 2021 – May 2022.

Industry Average Search CPC based on internal data
Business Services $16.38
Career & Employment $2.91
eCommerce $1.81
Financial Services $3.35
Legal Services $6.31
Online Education $4.62
Online Health Providers $2.65

This table is not meant to be exhaustive and only includes a handful of the countless number of industries in which companies are utilizing Google Ads to market their businesses. However, this snapshot could give you an idea of what to expect if you are in one of these industries looking to begin advertising with Google Ads.

You can also expect that Google Ads costs will differ widely within the same industry. For example, in the fashion industry, “activewear” and other exercise-related terms appear near the top in terms of cost. In this case, you can tie the difference to societal factors. In the wake of Covid-19, personal fitness saw a boom, as it gave consumers an excuse to leave their homes for a walk or run. 

This provides an important lesson: when the time comes to estimate the cost of your Google Ad campaign, you’ll need to consider a wide array of factors.

How to Estimate the Cost of Your Google Ads Campaign

To better understand how much a campaign or specific keyword will cost, you can employ Google Ads’ Keyword Planner. It’s important to understand that Google Ads’ cost is determined through ad auctions. As the advertiser, you set the maximum CPC you will pay. This bid then gets compared to the bids of other advertisers who targeted the same keyword. The higher your bid, the better your ads’ placement in the campaign type of your choosing.

Before you start bidding on keywords, you will want to use the Keyword Planner tool to help outline your Google Ads cost. This tool allows you to search for specific keywords and see their historical cost, along with cost forecasts.

Google’s Keyword Planner essentially reveals the industry benchmarks for your targeted keywords. Remember, if you want better placement in search results, you will need to bid higher than the benchmark provided in the average CPC. Keyword Planner also estimates the number of clicks and impressions your ad will receive on a daily basis. Between this and your CPC bid, you can easily derive an estimate for the cost of your campaign.

Once you define your targeted keywords and get an idea of their cost, you can create a daily or monthly budget for your Google Ads campaign. These budgets represent the maximum amount of money you will pay for a campaign across the chosen time period. This ability to control your ad spend makes advertising on Google a safe bet for your budget. Once you set your maximum bid and budget for Google Ads, you’ll suffer no surprises from unexpectedly high bills.

Quality Matters

Quality represents one final factor of Google Ads’ cost. In fact, the quality score ranks alongside your maximum bid as one of the most important factors that influence your AdRank, or the placement of your ads.

Google determines your quality score based on the relevance and quality of your advertising. More clicks on an ad will give you a higher overall Quality Score. Curious about how to raise this all-important score? 

There’s really no secret to it. If you create compelling ads with relevant keywords that deliver what the searcher expects, you’ll do just fine. The quality of your landing page will also affect your Quality Score, so make sure your website offers a compelling experience for its visitors. 

The Cost of Google Ads: It’s All Up to You

As you can see, many factors can influence Google Ads’ cost. Some of these come from clear-cut choices, such as the type of campaign you run and your maximum bid at an ad auction. Other things, such as industry competition, are outside of your control. 

Though you can’t control the cost of popular keywords, you can absolutely plan a campaign around creative phrases that precisely target your market. All it takes is a little research, some time on Keyword Planner, and a daily or monthly budget that reflects your means and goals. Put work into these, and you’ll start seeing those 8-to-1 returns before you know it.

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.

working on a google ads account on mobile

Capitalizing On Google Ads Automation Techniques To Scale Growth

working on a google ads account on mobile

Ever heard the word “automation” or phrase “machine learning” used in the context of advertising? Chances are that you have – especially in the last 5 – 10 years. But what exactly is it and how does it impact those trying to advertise online?

A good place to start answering these questions is through Google Ads. The platform, almost synonymous with PPC, is a multi-campaign advertising platform that contains a vast assortment of campaign types advertisers can use to run intent-based, awareness, and demand generation campaigns.

It’s no secret that Google Ads leverages its automation capabilities and an unfathomable amount of first-party data to roll out new campaign and ad types (Smart Shopping, Responsive Text/Display Ads, Dynamic Search Ads, Performance Max, etc.) while aiming to reduce friction for both newer and more experienced advertisers alike.

On paper, this should only lead to positive results and for less set-up and hands-on labor and, many times, it does.  But how do businesses and brands looking to grow capitalize on the ever-expanding catalog of automation options available to scale leads or sales with their PPC efforts?

Unless you have a specified percentage of your budget set aside strictly for testing new tactics, campaign types, and strategies, it may be difficult to decide if it is indeed worth trying something new out. This is all before you even consider what kind of budget makes sense and where that budget goes. 

Let’s take a more detailed look at some ways Google has introduced automation in the past as well as some of the newer ways advertisers can leverage these campaigns and ad types as a core tactic within their growth marketing strategy. 

Google Ads Automation – An Intro

Though Google Ads is inherently “automated” foundationally and this article will focus on some of the ways Google has introduced automation to their platform in recent months, it’s important to provide a little bit of background on Google Ads’ use of automation.

Every time a Google search triggers an ad, whether a traditional search ad or a shopping ad, basic automation is being used to instantly determine:

  1. the pool of advertisers that wish to be present in the auction based on their targeting
  2. which advertiser(s) are most relevant to the searcher
  3. whose bid and ad rank is deserving of the placement and opportunity to be clicked.  

The same could be said for YouTube ads – how does Google/YouTube know which ad to show you, when to show it, and how do the specific advertisers know who they’re reaching and how much they’re willing to pay to reach a certain user?  To keep it simple, automation.

Initially, advertisers would select a manual max bid to determine how much they would be willing to pay for a click (CPC), impression (CPM), or view (CPV).  Automated bidding strategies came next, which use different goals to optimize campaigns automatically; some automated bidding strategies include Target ROAS, Maximize Conversions, Maximize Clicks, Target Impression Share.  If set up and deployed correctly, these could save advertisers hours upon hours a week.

Ad Type Automation RSA + DSAs

In Summer 2021, Google announced that it would be sunsetting Expanded Text Ads in favor of the newer, more automated responsive search ads.  They cite the fact that 15% of search queries every day are new searches that have never before been searched on the platform and that automation is the key to keeping pace with the ever changing landscape of how users interact with search engines.

So how exactly do Expanded Text Ads and Responsive Search Ads differ?  

Expanded Text Ads used to be the new and shiny toy, allowing advertisers to include a 3rd headline, a 2nd description, while increasing the description text length to 90 characters, effectively giving advertisers approximately 50% more ad copy space.

With Responsive Search Ads, marketers are tasked with adding up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google utilizes their algorithm and machine learning to decide which combinations work the best, serving the most successful ones more often than others. These will show up to the user as the same as an expanded text ad, while constantly improving and offering the marketer insights into which combinations perform better.

While Responsive Search Ads utilize the same type of targeting that Expanded Search ads use, Dynamic Search Ads take the automation to another level, leaning on it heavily for both creative and targeting purposes.

With these ad types, advertisers don’t target keywords but rather Categories and URLs from your website. Categories will pull from current web pages that an advertiser is sending users to via paid search. Google is also capable of categorizing your websites pages into themes which can be selected from a drop down menu. For example, if you advertise for a brand that sells athletic clothes, categories may include Mens, Womens, Tops, Bottoms, Shoes, etc.

Using URL targeting would allow you to target specific pages. Google will crawl these pages to automatically serve ads to search terms it deems relevant to the landing page copy. Additionally, you can exclude specific URLs from being targeted.

Smart Shopping

Similar to how Dynamic Search Ads can leverage existing data and assets to improve performance, Smart Shopping uses a similar approach in order to display a variety of ecommerce shopping ads across multiple google networks, mainly Google Shopping network. This campaign type takes the place of Google’s standard shopping, allowing machine learning to capitalize on the most successful products in your shopping feed. 

One of the key differences between Smart Shopping and Standard Shopping is the overall structure. Keyword and ad group structure is no more when it comes to Smart Shopping. You have all of your products in one place, with easy set up and viewing. The downside is that you don’t have control over negative keywords, so be sure that your shopping feed is optimized and set up properly. 

Another big change when it comes to Smart Shopping is the automatic inclusion of Display Network. Your new Smart Shopping ads will also show up across other Google properties as display ads. This is a great supplement for your products that will help you build brand awareness in the long term. 

Performance Max – Advanced Automation

In late 2021, Google published this Blog, introducing the masses to Performance Max campaigns. In short, these campaigns are “a new way to buy Google ads across YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps from a single campaign,” pointing out that “automation is the solution businesses and agencies are using to stay ahead of ongoing shifts in consumer demand.”

Instead of traditional ad groups or ads, the Performance Max campaign type is built out into asset groups, which contains assets that could potentially serve on all of the Google platforms outlined above. These assets include videos, photos, logos, final URL, Headlines, and Descriptions. Similarly to RSA ads, you upload your assets to these specifications, and Google algorithmically pairs them together to find the best serving option. 

Targeting is automated completely except for the addition of audience signals. You can add audiences using custom segments, your own data, and demographics to help steer Google in the right direction when serving your ad. 

With most forms of automation, insights on performance are more limited than their predecessors, though marketers can still report on top-level campaign performance, location metrics, and time-of-day or day-of-week performance. Unfortunately as it stands today, it is not currently possible to compare how asset groups perform against one-another or even how those assets within an asset group are performing.

Like everything we do here at Tuff, we test, learn, and retest, always looking for ways to help our partners grow to the next level.  Whenever a new, automated campaign or ad type is introduced, we immediately test it against it’s less automated predecessors.

When Smart Shopping was introduced, we measured it up against the Standard Shopping campaigns that predated before making any long term decisions in regards to potential shifts in budget or strategy. The same with Responsive Search ads and Dynamic Search Ads: we tested them vs their predecessors to gauge performance and efficiency before making any long term decisions.  

Automation has been a key aspect in our growth process and there is no slowing down anytime soon.

Running ads on a computer.

Using Programmatic to Assist Your Growth Marketing Channel Mix

Running ads on a computer.

At Tuff, our team is well-versed at a variety of growth marketing tactics. On a daily basis, we partner with clients to set the roadmap and then get to work experimenting with a variety of different tactics based on their goals. 

More recently, when we identify our channel mix and consider how we’re going to diversify across the entire user journey, programmatic has continued to make its way into the conversation. 

In this post, I’m going to break down what this means and how it could impact your acquisition channel mix. 

What are programmatic ads?

Programmatic advertising is the leveraging of automation tech for media buying. It leans on data insights and algorithms to deliver ads to users at the optimal time to drive them to a specific action (buying a product, filling out a lead form, etc.)

Programmatic offerings take control of where and when your ad gets placed on the web. Some campaigns even go as far as generating ad creative for you as well. These campaigns use automation to help you hit your marketing goals. Chances are, if you’ve done any sort of digital advertising in the last few years, you’ve used programmatic ads in one form or another.

What are some examples?

Almost all modern digital ad platforms have some aspect of programmatic ad buying baked in. There’s automated app ads on PPC platforms, dynamic product ads on paid social platforms, and countless other examples within the channels most digital markets are familiar with. 

A great example of the shift towards programmatic is Google’s newest campaign type, performance max. This offer allows users to upload a number of images, videos, logos and headlines to a campaign. From there, the Google algorithm combines these and places them across the web. This campaign can show up as a youtube ad, display ad, or an ad in someone’s gmail inbox. 

On the paid social ads side of things, Facebook’s dynamic product ads have some programmatic elements to them. They still allow the user to dictate the audience, but ad creative is pulled from a product catalog uploaded to Facebook. The Facebook algorithm will then select product images based on the users interests or their activity on your website, and deliver ads across Facebook, Instagram and their audience network.

How did we use programmatic channels at Tuff?

As a growth marketing agency, we are always looking for new avenues and channels to help our partners grow their businesses. This typically manifests itself through a variety of paid and organic acquisition, with conversion rate optimization and creative strategy layered in.

Programmatic solutions offer us a great way to complement these strategies and bring in new customers that wouldn’t be found through more traditional methods. That being said, we’ve learned that these more automated strategies can’t really carry the full weight of growth marketing strategy. While they are great at finding users to convert who you wouldn’t find with more traditional methods, they often struggle to achieve results at scale. This makes programmatic campaigns the perfect tools to complement strategies that can achieve results at a higher spend.

Where does programmatic fit into a paid acquisition strategy?

Let’s look at this through a real breakdown of one of our partners. They are an ecommerce brand that brought us in to use paid acquisition to drive new customers to purchase online through their site. 

We were having a unique problem here that was tough to solve with our existing channel mix. Cold traffic was converting at a great rate with really strong results, but the price of getting users who have already interacted with the site was too high to be sustainable. This led us to explore alternate channels to re-engage these users, ultimately ending with us launching programmatic ads on Mountain.

Mountain has a few different campaign types, but we take advantage of their display network in the context of this partnership. Our strategy with this channel is very focused, using their display network and dynamic, programmatic ads to target users who have added items to their cart, but not completed a purchase. 

Like I mentioned earlier, these strategies can struggle to work at scale, so it made sense for us to use it on a smaller, highly interested audience. We also leaned on Mountain’s programmatic tools to help build ad creative for this campaign. Mountain allows us to build a template where they’ll pull in relevant product images through an uploaded Shopify catalog. This means that the user is seeing ads with images of products they added to their cart on the website.

After extensive testing on this channel, we found that spending any more than $5k/month here would result in a higher than acceptable cost per purchase. Keeping the budget on Mountain at $5k/mo (which is about 5% of our total ad spend across channels) resulted in CPAs that were half of what we were seeing on our next top performing paid social channel, Facebook. 

This campaign was a huge success for us in an area where other channels struggled. After introducing this as a technique to target users who have added to cart, we’ve kept it running as an incredibly efficient tool for bottom of funnel spending.

There are definitely programmatic channels out there that can handle a larger spend (Google performance max comes to mind) but for our needs bringing in Mountain to pick up high intent users did the job incredibly well at a low budget. 


For this partner, programmatic is only a piece of the puzzle. Without support from our social ads channels (Facebook, Pinterest, Tik Tok) as well as PPC channels (Google search and Youtube,) it would fall flat. This is a specific example of how to work programmatic ads into your channel mix, but it’s representative of how we treat this advertising technique here at Tuff. It can be a very effective tool, but it’s not a silver bullet. Mixing programmatic ads into your larger acquisition strategy is the best way to achieve results. 

The partners we work with often require a complex channel mix to achieve their goals. The digital advertising landscape is always changing, and the growth marketers and channel experts here at Tuff love testing new campaign types and channels. 

If you’re looking for a team to put together an acquisition plan and execute on it, drop us a note!

running ads on spotify

Spotify Ads: How Our Clients Are Using This (And You Can Too!)

running ads on spotify

Testing new ad platforms to diversify the channel mix for your business is never a bad idea. The age-old adage of ‘don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’ is certainly true for growth marketing. 

The truth is, there are frequent changes to ad platforms, such as Facebook’s iOS 14 update in 2021, that can throw a wrench into a business’s advertising plans and have an impact on its revenue and growth. If you haven’t been spending your time diversifying your channel mix, or at the very least testing new ad platforms, chances are a major update to your primary advertising channel would have a negative impact on your business. 

At Tuff, we’re constantly looking for new channels to test for our partners, especially when the ad platform has specific features that could provide synergical benefits with the brand itself. One of these ad platforms we’ve been testing is Spotify Ads. 

Why Spotify Ads? Well, Spotify is by far the world’s most popular audio streaming service, holding 31% of the global streaming music subscription market, more than double their largest competitor, Apple Music, who holds just 15%. An opportunity to get a message out on a self-service ad platform with 381 million users? Yes, please! 

And we’re hardly the only ones – in fact, Spotify’s ad revenues increased 75% YoY in Q3 of 2021. Startups and businesses everywhere are leaning into Spotify Ads as a new channel to reach an engaged and targeted audience. 

Let’s take a look at a few ways you can do this too!

Compelling Targeting Options

As a growth marketer, is there anything better than a self-service ad platform? I mean, being able to set up an account and hit the ground running with ads is a thing of beauty. Spotify makes this easy, but it also makes targeting your ideal audience easy. In fact, Spotify has some downright cool targeting options that stand out, in addition to the classic demographic options like location, age, and gender. 

Some of the more interesting targeting options are on the Podcasts side of the house. It’s no secret Spotify is home to some of the most popular podcasts in the world, and getting the chance to advertise on them is huge. But what really stands out is the ability to prevent your ads from playing next to similar ads, also known as ‘Competitive Separation’, as well as the ability to exclude topics that don’t align with your brand, or even targeting relevant episode topics, known as ‘Content Controls.’ 

For example, an online education platform targeting adult learners may wish to ensure that they’re ads are not playing next to a competitor with similar offerings:

spotify ads targeting options

So, with Spotify Ads, you can not only target your ideal audience by demographic, but you can also narrow in on the the topics that most closely match your brand and offering, while ensuring that you’re not being played alongside your competitor. Pretty cool, right?

On the Music side of things, Spotify provides the ability to target audiences based on interests, real-time context (as indicated by the playlist they’re currently listening to), or genre. 

Audio or Video Ad Types

Another surprising attribute of Spotify Ads is the actual quality of the ads themselves, and the various ad types that are available. 

When targeting Music placements, brands can leverage Audio ads, as well as Video ads (either horizontal or vertical). For Podcast placements, ads are limited to Audio ads. But, even still, the Audio ads look and sound great. When running a Spotify Ads test for Tuff partner and device insurance provider, AKKO, we tested both Audio & Video ads. An example of how an Audio ad looks on a mobile device is below:

spotify ad example

Don’t have a professional voiceover artist to make a high quality Audio ad? Don’t worry – we didn’t either! Instead, we wrote a script (up to 90 words) and submitted it to Spotify to be read by a professional voice actor, and we were even able to select from a library of royalty-free music to use as a backing track. When the ad was returned within 48 hours, it was surprisingly and refreshingly professional. The cost for this audio creation? Nothing. 

Performance & Cost

You’ve made it this far and are convinced that Spotify Ads are at least worth a try. But how much do Spotify Ads cost? And, are there any downsides?

So far in this blog, I’ve had all good things to say about Spotify Ads. But I promise, this isn’t a sales pitch, and there are some cons that we’ve experienced in our campaign testing. Primarily, during our testing we learned that Spotify Ads are probably best used by businesses with a large ad budget – think 5 figures plus. 

Why? Because even though we’ve spent thousands of dollars on campaigns testing Spotify Ads, both Audio & Video ad types, we haven’t seen frequency get over 1.1, even when we geo-target, which means that the vast majority of users hearing the ads only heard them once per campaign. To increase this frequency and therefore your ads’ stickiness with the user, you’ll have to spend much more.

Additionally, we’ve experienced higher than average CPCs and CPMs when compared to similar ad platforms such as YouTube, at $5 and $23 respectively across all campaigns tested. But, we’ve also seen stellar play-thru metrics, surpassing what you can expect to find on other platforms like YouTube Ads, with most campaigns averaging an 89% or higher ‘Completion Rate’, ensuring the full message is being heard the vast majority of the time. 

In short, our testing has revealed that Spotify Ads are a great way to get your message heard all the way through by a targeted audience, but you can expect to pay a bit more for the privilege, especially if you want the user to hear your ad more than once.

Tracking Your Campaign Performance

Tracking the success of a campaign run on an audio-first platform is tricky, but there are ways that it can be accomplished. 

First, setting proper UTM tracking links on all of your ad creative will ensure that you’re tracking the clicks on your ads into Google Analytics. A simple source/medium combination of spotify/cpc works, with additional parameters like utm_campaign and utm_content for your campaign and ad specificity. 

You can take this further, and direct this UTM tagged traffic to a specific landing page optimized for Spotify listeners. For our partner AKKO, we developed and directed traffic to getakko.com/spotify and provided a special ‘first month free’ offer to entice sign ups. This offer matched the message delivered in our audio and video ads to tie the journey together for the user. 

With UTMs and a dedicated campaign landing page, we were able to ensure that any user that clicked through from our Spotify campaigns would be tracked effectively and efficiently in Google Analytics, siloed away from other traffic efforts.

However, being an audio-first platform means many users that hear ads won’t necessarily engage via a click to the website. In fact, the vast majority of users who your ad won’t click-thru. So how can you track sign ups more effectively? You can leverage the power of ‘Zero-party Data’.

What’s Zero-party data? Forrester Research first defined the term as follows:

“Zero-party data is that which a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. It can include preference center data, purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize [them].”

For example, you can include a very simple question during your sign up or checkout flow – “How did you hear about us?” 

This method is incredibly effective at filling in the gaps that online tracking and attribution so often miss. 

Spotify Ads: Great at the Assist 

If you’re a business currently spending on channels like Facebook, Google, YouTube, and TikTok and you’re looking to explore a new advertising platform in 2022 to diversify your channel mix, consider Spotify Ads. 

With a self-service platform of audio and video ad capabilities, some nifty targeting options, and engaged audiences, Spotify Ads could provide you with a fresh, new channel to expand on your messaging efforts. Spotify ads might not rival what you can do on some of the other more established ad platforms like Google and Facebook, but this channel can play a strong role in increasing your brand’s awareness, favorability, and overall conversions and revenue.

pulling a report from google analytics

How to Drive Better Strategic Decisions Using Google Analytics’ Attribution Models

pulling a report from google analytics

The way the majority of marketers use Google Analytics’ attribution models to make strategic decisions is broken. I’m talking, “holy cow, this has major implications on our bottom line”, broken.

If you’re making major decisions regarding the allocation of ad spend, or trying to measure the success of a campaign and are using Google Analytics’ default reporting, you’re going to want to read this. 

What is Google Analytics’ Default Attribution Model? 

Google Analytics defaults to a Last Click attribution model for most of its reports (and the key word here is most). Last click attribution gives 100% of the credit to the last source, or campaign a user came from prior to converting. 

Some reports, such as Google Ads breakdown under the “Acquisition” report defaults to a Last Non-Direct Click attribution model. What this means is that Google Analytics will ignore all direct traffic and give 100% of the credit to the last channel a customer clicked through prior to returning via direct traffic. Last Non-Direct click is a preferred attribution model over Last Click for many marketers because most direct traffic has had some sort of interaction with your brand prior to coming to your site. 

What are the problems with using Last Click attribution modeling? Don’t I want to know what made my target audience convert?

It’s true, Last Click, or Last Non-Direct Click can be insightful for measuring the final tactic that caused a user to convert. However, this is an incomplete measurement of the full aspect of the marketing funnel. Chances are, your target audience didn’t convert out of the blue. 

Here are some of the limitations of using Last Click or Last-Non Direct Click attribution modelling: 

  • Can give a distorted view of what is actually driving your target audience to your brand in the first place
  • Doesn’t account for multiple touchpoints in an advertising funnel
  • Silos data and gives 100% of credit to one channel or tactic
  • Doesn’t show how multiple channels and tactics interact with one another
  • Shows an incomplete customer journey

Take this real-client example: if you see that email marketing is accounting for 30% of your e-commerce purchases, and paid social is driving very few last-click purchases (but a lot of email signups!), you wouldn’t want to stop running the social ads that are leading to email signups. In doing so, you’d be shutting down two acquisition channels at once. 

The last-click attribution model is flawed, and doesn’t take into consideration that a customer today has to nurtured to make a conversion. 

Alternatives to Last Click Attribution Modelling

Luckily, Google Analytics offers several attribution models that marketers can use to get a more complete picture of their conversion efforts. There are several ways to do this. 

Want to watch, instead of read? Check out this video! 👇

First, under the Multi-Channel Funnels report, you can select “Assisted Conversions” report and view how many of your conversions were multi-touch. Selecting the “Source / Medium” breakdown allows you to view how different channels function: either as more of an assisted tactic, or a direct tactic. 

assisted conversions in google analytics

A value closer to 0 in the final column means it’s a primarily final conversion tactic. If the value is close to 1, the channel operated equally as a direct and assist tactic.  If the value is over 1, it means the platform assisted in more of an “assist” role. 

Another favorite tool to compare Google Analytics’ Attribution Models is the Model Comparison Tool. At Tuff, we often use the “Last Interaction” vs, “First Interaction” report to identify demand generating campaigns and platforms. 

Google Analytics’ Attribution Models

In this report, we see that Facebook and Google ads have a 20% and 47% increase in attributed conversions when using the first-click attribution model. Google Analytics’ first interaction attribution model gives 100% of the credit to the first source a user interacts with before converting. 

A savvy marketer can also apply a secondary dimension to view campaign filters applied to dig into which ad campaigns on specific platforms are driving the majority of the initial interest in their brand and product. 

Using Google Analytics’ Attribution Models to Make Strategic Decisions

As you’ve probably guessed by now: the answer for how to use Google Analytics’ many different Attribution Models (we haven’t even touched on Time Decay, Linear, or Position Based models, or how to measure via Zero Party data) is not a “one size fits all” solution. 

Instead, we recommend comparing the different models, identifying what campaigns and channels are generating demand and interest for your products, and leveraging different optimization tactics to drive revenue for your brand. It takes more time to compare models, but the savings can be immense. Ready to see how Google Analytics’ first-click attribution modeling can unlock major demand generation wins at the top of funnel for your brand? Drop us a note.

online tool for tracking growth marketing metrics

Our Favorite Free PPC Budgeting Spreadsheet

online tool for tracking growth marketing metrics

With the PPC department expanding (Hi Chris, Adli, and Jesse!) and the need to keep an eye on ever-changing budgets, we built a PPC budget sheet that could keep up with both the growth of our partners and the growth of our team. 

In this post, we’ll explain why we created this for our PPC services, how we use it internally to drive better results as a growth marketing agency on Google Ads, YouTube Ads, Bing Ads, and across various programmatic platforms, as well as give you access to the spreadsheet that you can use.

Why we created one in-house (vs using an expensive tool)

In early 2020, when we were a much smaller team here at Tuff, we noted the importance of owning a Budget Tracker for PPC Campaigns. Whilst experiencing some of the growing pains that come with doubling the size of the Paid Search department, we needed a sheet that could better help us stay on top of campaigns internally and automate budget pacing – this would help us to save time on reporting. Ultimately, a sheet that would allow us to spend more time on our partner’s accounts and to allow us to be ahead of any overspending or understanding anomalies.

After browsing around online, we were faced with steep prices of over $100/month – all to provide the level of automation, number of reports, and user access necessary to tackle the challenges faced by our, now, much larger team. The truth is that our agency needs, lay somewhere between a basic spreadsheet and a pro plan with too many unnecessary bells and whistles. All we knew is that we desperately needed an upgrade.

In order to do this, within the constraints of our own time and budget, we had to answer some basic questions:

  • How do we create a more personalized budget sheet without losing the functionality we loved?
  • How can we collaborate more internally to keep up-to-date with team progress?
  • What kind of campaigns work in differing budget sizes, how can we find out quickly?
  • Can we all work in the same sheet, or do we require individual budget sheets?
  • Will this be used for other departments? 
  • Can we do all of this in a single streamlined document?

We also listed the features we’d want in our ideal version of a budget sheet:

  • Date tracking
  • Partner Name
  • Associated Budget
    • Monthly Budgeted Spend
    • Expected Spend
    • Month-To-Date Spend
    • Budget Pacing Percentage
  • Assigned Team Member
  • Notes

Date Tracking

ppc spreadsheet

First, we tackled the date tracking. We used the following formula to allow us to automate how many days there will be in that month – this helps us to calculate additional metrics, like “Expected Budgeted Spend”:


Partner Name

In order to pull in the PPC accounts associated with our Google Ad partners, we used the Google Sheets official Google Ads add-on. This allowed us to select all the partners under our manager account. Doing this in a single Google Ads report helped us by minimizing the number of sheets used to run multiple reports.

Associated Budget

One of the features of the Google Ads add-on is the ability to pull in several metrics in a single report. Obviously, we’d be pulling in spend data, but we’d also like a way to match the data back to the account name, campaign type, and some basic performance metrics. This is so that when there are any pacing issues due to misfiring campaigns, we are able to easily scan the performance data and identify the issue without opening up Google Ads.

Once this data is pulled into the report, we then created a query formula in a new spreadsheet so that we can match the relevant Ad Account with the Partner Name (should it be different to the given internal name), which leads us to our biggest challenge.

Assigned Team Member

Our previous budget sheet lacked the ability to show which account was associated with which strategist. On top of that, we were shifting accounts around a lot to balance out workloads, and work within our own onboarding process. We needed a sheet that could keep up with our own growing pains without.

Internally, we have a way of matching partners to our team members – this sheet is also coincidentally the perfect way of matching the naming conventions of our Google Ad accounts with the associated channel expert. After importing the necessary data via a Query formula to our spreadsheet, running a Vlookup of the partner name, and creating a simple Data Validation Dropdown, we were now able to make a more personalized, and organized, budget sheet for our team.

This dropdown feature includes every Tuff employee, meaning that should we want to create a universal budget sheet that could be used in other teams, they would be able to directly use a copy of this spreadsheet coupled with the add-on they wanted to use (i.e. a Growth Marketer could use Analytics, a Social Strategist, Facebook etc.)


ppc budget spreadsheet

A small, but important feature – the ability to keep notes. We left a cell open at the end of our data to jot down notes about the account. This leaves us the ability to make brief comments about potential budget changes, campaign pivots, or strategy changes. It also helps our team-lead to keep an eye on any important budget developments.

Get access to the spreadsheet here! 

How does the PPC team at Tuff utilize this new sheet?

As a team, we use this multiple times a week, making sure our monthly spend is aligned with our partner’s goals, and our notes are up-to-date. We meet weekly to go over changes, anomalies, or in-month adjustments, add it to our sheet, and use it as a platform for discussing test budgets.

We’ve also found use for the notes section to talk about campaign strategy shifts or pivots based on the data (e.g. if there are any campaigns struggling to spend, we will discuss changing campaign bidding strategy, CPA/ROAS targets, etc.)

Why it’s important and helps us drive value

As PPC Strategists at an expanding growth marketing agency, a small part of our role is managing budgets, with the bigger role being to meet our partners PPC KPIs.

This requires daily automation management on platforms like Google Ads – being able to see where we’re at financially, how we’ve progressed during the month, and how much left we have to spend, allows us to make more informed decisions for our partners. 

A budget sheet that is malleable enough to keep up with the growth of our existing partners, the growth of new partners, and growth of our own team is invaluable. Ultimately, we knew we needed an upgraded sheet that did all of this whilst still allowing us to work together as a team on staying on top of all budget fluctuations. Not only does this meet our needs, but we also save a couple bucks for ourselves!