Case Study: Smart Funnels Revealed within Google

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Courtesy: Unsplash

YRV Dynamics has been experimenting with various levels of Google placements vs. conversion success— both with and without PMAX. Right away, we noticed manual smart funnels work exceptionally well. Under the right conditions, manual funnels were the better choice than PMAX. This led YRV Dynamics founder-owner Yousaf Yunes to “…recommend using a traditional smart funnel approach when dealing with roughly 60-day or shorter time frames.” This case study will show how a manual smart funnel performed much better than PMAX. For those new to the conversation, let’s discuss PMAX.

Performance Max (PMAX) is a campaign type designed to work across various Google platforms, such as YouTube, Display, Search, Discovery, Gmail, and Maps. It facilitates conversions across the entire ecosystem of Google. Its secret is optimizing performance in real-time using smart bidding. Traditionally, there was a 30-day lead time for PMAX to machine learn before providing a steady flow of results. This has been shortened considerably to one to two weeks. Google’s official feedback is machine learning takes 28 days before a campaign is fully learned.

PMAX’s Reach Source: https://agencyanalytics.com/blog/

There are a few drawbacks to PMAX:

  • Limited control: Buyers cannot control the data or channel mix. This is due to the level of smart bidding and nuanced machine learning between placements and ads.
  • We highly recommend you use exact match on your paid search buys to limit double bidding. Exact Match signals PMAX to stay clear of those terms in its search bidding. Broad/phrase matches are too open-ended and can lead to bidding on those keywords.
  • Unable to include negative keywords: Therefore, terms such as negatively targeting “cheap” or “bargain” cannot be excluded manually.
  • Long-term: While seasonal copy and creative may work, PMAX should be used for ever-green campaigns such as shopping or long-term lead-gen.
  • In many cases, PMAX has been overusing RET audiences. While RET audiences are low risk and high reward, they can burn out. This is why having other ACQ campaigns in place is essential to bring users into the funnel. These can be on other platforms or with Google, but too much reliance on PMAX can lead to audience fatigue.

Advantages of PMAX:

  • Data-driven performance: Smart and real-time bidding to make adjustments for peak efficiency
  • PMAX’s smart funnel approach drives awareness, engagement, and conversion. Unlike building 3+ campaigns, buyers only need to build one — -an all-in-one build.
  • Can be lead-based: does not be conversion only

YRV Dynamics is not recommending clients should cease all PMAX usage. Every client, account, and campaign is different. In the long term, including campaigns outside of PMAX is worth the investment. However, manual smart funnels work best for short-term sales and goals. The following is a breakdown of how they work:

This leads to a case study of how YRV Dynamics, led by Yousaf Yunes, charted a new course with a client for an improved approach to their digital mix. This smart funnel approach exceeded a 150 enrollment goal for the client’s new retirement preparation course:

Course: $400 average order value per course.

  • Length: Seven weeks with weekly 1:1 and group meetings. Weekly homework is watching content and homework.

Demo & audience: 55+, following early retirement or retirement-centered individuals.

Media Tactics:

Top of Funnel: Bringing unexposed audiences into the funnel. The secret to the Top of the Funnel is being as targeted as possible. This keeps the ACQ audiences 1:1 with the audiences the client is seeking.

  • Key YouTube Channels: 50+ targeted fashion and retirement content. Note: It's important to pick key content. We hand-picked all videos the client's ads would be targeting. We wanted content matching our messaging and the key audiences we sought. This content was then targeted with YouTube Instream:30 content. Spending here was minimal, however, this brought 4.9K users into our retirement course retargeting pool and slowly scaled frequency.
  • Stats: 10.4K Video Starts, 4.9K Views to 30 sec
  • Performance: $19 CPM, 47% View Rate (meaning 50% of all users viewed to 30 seconds, which is well above benchmark)
Google Ads Manager

Middle of Funnel: Building frequency with key audiences and generating frequency for conversion

  • Targeting: Initial video viewers from YouTube ACQ, previous landing page visitors, and ACQ users for retargeting retirement content on Discovery. Middle of funnel already receiving initial conversions. Inclusion of LAL based on mid-level engagement such as Meta Live Events and email opt-ins.
  • Stats: 614 clicks
  • Performance: $1.16 CPC, 2.5% CTR
Google Ads -Discovery
Meta Traffic — Landing Page View

Bottom of Funnel: Targeting key users via retargeting, key [retargeting] search terms, and LAL based on previous purchasers. Retirement keywords were a bargain, as the quality scores and landing page experience rankings were a key match. Also, we had conversion optimizations based on instant checkout due to the compelling volume of initiated checkout.

  • Targeting: Initial video viewers from YouTube, clickers from mid-funnel landing page visitors, and ACQ users for retirement content.
  • Stats: 672 clicks and 158 initiated checkouts
  • Performance: $1.94 CPC, 2.6% CTR
Google Ads
Meta — Conversion to Checkouts Initiated

Results:

The client praised our efforts as the best course launch ever. The previous agency used PMAX exclusively, but we were not pleased with the results. YRV Dynamic’s agency leadership completely revamped its strategy to a smart funnel to manually control ACQ, RET, and conversion tactics.

  • Goal: 150 courses at $400 each. Overall strategies (organic, PR, email + paid) were 170 overdelivering by 13% for buy volume. This led to a MER of 15+, the average MER is 3 to 4.
  • Client green-lit a new retirement course immediately in November due to the optimizations and build-up in ACQ audiences.
  • One item to note is the compelling use of the user journey from other marketing channels. Various lead magnets, such as free ebooks, email campaigns, and multiple live events for new user questions, prevented users from bouncing from the page, leading to a compelling ROI for paid media.
Click here to view: https://youtu.be/Nifv2KnRC4w

Click here to watch our YouTube companion video to this article, “Google Ads: Tips and Tricks to Boost Performance.” We also have a weekly podcast you can stream by clicking here or the below episode player.

Click here to view all our episodes: https://ppcwithyrvdynamics.podbean.com/

Let us know how YRV Dynamics can help your company stay ahead and guide the uncharted waters of PMAX and Google Ads. Discover other industry tips by visiting our agency’s LinkedIn: YRV Dynamics.

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Yousaf Yunes is the CEO/ Lead Founder / Principal at YRV Dynamics, with more than 15 years of expertise in the advertising industry. He’s garnered a Top Rated Plus status on Upwork, earning a perfect job satisfaction score of 100% with twenty-one 5-star reviews from his Upwork clients. Yousaf earned certifications in Google Search and YouTube/Video and holds dual Blueprint certifications in Meta’s planning and buying. Yousaf has also won the Monty McKinney Award for the Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies (IAAS).

During his downtime, Yousaf is the lead moderator for the largest Meta group focused on Blueprint, known as “Facebook Blueprint Certification Prep,” which boasts a membership of over 30,000 individuals.

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Yousaf Yunes: CEO and Founder of YRV Dynamics

Sharing paid search and social knowledge to improve the PPC industry. Click my linktree for links to my podcast & socials: 🚀 https://linktr.ee/yrvdynamics 🚀