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Episode 86

Part 1: Is Performance Max Ready For Lead Generation Companies?

Matz Lukmani
EMEA Product Lead, Google Performance Max at Google

Join us as we welcome back Matz Lukmani to discuss optimizing your ad campaigns with Google’s extensive media inventory for improved lead quality and conversion rates.

“Today’s lead generation landscape is really elaborate. It has multiple touchpoints, and our aim is that PMax will become this game-changer for lead generation websites to unlock quality leads across all of Google’s inventory.”

Matz, a product lead for Google Performance Max, shares compelling success stories from companies who’ve seen notable enhancements in lead qualification and ROI after upgrading their campaigns. He stresses the need for robust measurement and patience to fully leverage PMax.

Listen in to learn how to refine your lead generation tactics and achieve remarkable results with Google Performance Max.

Topics In This Episode:

  • Advantages of Google Performance Max
  • Client success stories
  • Technical advancements
  • Measurement and upgrades
  • Digital transformation
  • Value-based bidding
  • Campaign optimization
  • Quality control and security

Full Episode Transcripts

Tessa Burg: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Leader Generation, brought to you by Mod Op. I’m your host, Tessa Burg, and today I’m joined by Matz Lukmani from Google Performance Max. We’ll be exploring if PMax is ready for lead generation. Matz, thanks so much for being on our podcast again. 

Matz Lukmani: Thank you, Tessa, for having me back here. It’s been a year, hasn’t it?

Tessa Burg: I can’t believe it. I mean, this past year just flew. What’s been up in your world in your role at Google? 

Matz Lukmani: Well, some things are the same, some have changed, so it’s still raining outside in London, unfortunately, but I’m waiting for it to get a bit better for the weekend.

At Google, my role has evolved a little bit since the last time we spoke. I work specifically on Performance Max as a product, working with all our clients across the board. I still do that, but I spend a lot of my time focusing with lead-generation clients. I really feel that’s the next big opportunity for us to unlock. And these are clients that are your regular banking clients, financial clients, education clients, clients who have a website where they just generate a lead online and potentially find business for themselves. 

Tessa Burg: Yeah, I think that is music to our clients’ ears. We are always looking at how to generate more leads. So for people listening to the podcast, what is the best way to jumpstart on PMax to start realizing that lead generation dream?

Matz Lukmani: Great. I love the idea of jumpstarting, but I’ll probably disappoint you a little bit. I’ve been an analytics professional for 15 years now, and as a web analyst, if I got a dollar for every time I was asked to report on a performance metric of a campaign, I was pushed live last minute without tagging, I would be a very, very rich man. So the same principle essentially applies here. First, and the most important element for Performance Max campaign success is getting your measurement foundations right. That’s the first thing before you go and hit live on these campaigns.

Tracking appropriate conversions and then using privacy-preserving technologies to measure appropriately, that would be the key. Once you’re done with proper measurement foundations, and don’t worry, it sounds like a loaded word, but we’ll get to what that is shortly in our podcast, then you’re ready for something called upgrades to PMax, which is taking some of your old campaigns that were active in your account, in your Google Ads account and upgrading them to Performance Max. And I’m just wondering, would you want to hear a real client success story about it? 

Tessa Burg: Yeah, yeah. I’m not familiar with upgrades, so I’d love to unpack that a little bit and hear about one of your clients. 

Matz Lukmani: Okay, so once upon a time, there was this client called Itau, who’s by the way, one of the largest banks in Brazil. So they found a brilliant way to improve lead quality by just upgrading their existing campaign to PMax. The challenge they had, which was in this case, Itaú Unibanco. They needed to increase their approval rates and return on investment on ad campaigns that were to acquire new credit card customers. Sounds pretty cool, which bank would not want that perfectly valid reason or objective to improve? The bank knew Performance Max because they had historically used it. They knew it generated high approval rates, but in terms of volume, they weren’t really sure. A campaign like display campaign or a classic Google display ads campaign was better in driving significant business volume of conversions. However, over time, display began to show signs of performance fluctuations. And I’m just curious if there are listeners of this podcast who’ve heard and seen similar things if you have. 

Tessa Burg: Absolutely.

Matz Lukmani: Yeah. So here’s the approach. They set up their first and foremost proper measurement foundation. That’s really the magic behind the scene. They use something called customer match on audience list, which is a specific technology along with enhanced conversion for leads, which another setup with Google Ads. We can cover that later in our podcast. In a nutshell though, these are Google Ads measurement setups that allow you to upload your first-party data that then improves matching and attribution of your ad engagements down to the conversions you track using a Google tag. Once they did that, then most importantly, they gradually integrated that display creative assets, the assets they use for their Google display campaigns and investments into a single PMax campaign.

Finally, they started comparing their bit strategies of PMax versus their old GDA campaigns to determine which campaign drove the highest amount of qualifications as well as profitability. Any guesses what the results are?

Tessa Burg: I would say it works because we are talking about client success, but I was also taking some notes. These are some awesome new features as well, and I’m sure the client was happy to get more value out of their first-party data, but more on that. Tell us about the results.

Matz Lukmani: I’ll tell you the results. So you’re on the right direction. The results were positive, hence we are talking about it, but in general, and specifically for this client, they’ve seen better results by moving their display campaigns into Performance Max. On an average, based on their analysis, they saw over 367% higher lead qualification, 5X higher average approval rates, and all of that happened at 113% higher return on their ad spend with lower cost up to 9% lower cost per approved card. If you remember, that was their whole objective to go after a better card redemptions online. As a result, they were very happy, they were more profitable and one would say they did well, just as you said. 

Tessa Burg: Yes. No, that is impressive. Those are, I mean, triple-digit numbers. 

Matz Lukmani: Yes, massive improvements and we feel that’s the case for most our advertisers who are going through this journey. So if you haven’t tried this, this is an easy way to jumpstart into a PMax journey. Start with one of our upgrade recommendations, but always, always, always before doing that, ensure you have foundational measurement frameworks in place like you’re tracking conversions correctly, you’re tracking values for these conversions, enhanced conversions, et cetera. Then once you’re ready for these upgrades, go for it. Upgrade your legacy. Google will display campaigns or your dynamic search ads campaigns into a Performance Max campaign.

Based on our analysis, advertisers that moved their Google display campaigns into Performance Max drove up to 20% better conversions. So just like in the case of Itau on an average, advertisers saw up to 20% better conversions. Similarly, for advertisers that upgraded their dynamic search ads campaign, which is a format of our search ads campaign type, they saw up to 15% better conversions. So that’s a lot. 

Tessa Burg: That is a lot. And I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to drive better performance, especially when we’re talking about 20% better conversions and you’re saving time, you don’t have to manually manage it, but I think that also can cause some discomfort for people that are really used to being in there in the weeds. And so it’s important that they understand the upgrade recommendations, the customer match. But from your perspective, have you heard any of that feedback? Are there any gotchas that people should be aware of when they’re going through this process of upgrading? 

Matz Lukmani: I can fully acknowledge it’s an uncomfortable place to be because you’re using a campaign that’s active right now, it’s doing well, but it can do better. And you go through this upgrade process where initially you are just targeting display inventory. You are basically using all of Google Media, Performance Maxes, everything. It’s not just Google Display, but it’s got search for retailers, it’s got shopping, it has display, YouTube, et cetera. So I can give a quick pro trip, something that generally trips up advertisers while upgrading, and it’s very critical to ensure this that you factor for a learning period. You are comparing and trying to kickstart a new brand new campaign, and it might take some time before it gets to full blow efficiency. So just like all good things take time for the story with PMax upgrades and testing, one of the top reasons that I’ve seen advertisers failing in their test is when marketers don’t give it enough time to ramp up or factor for something called conversion lookback window, that’s on an average, how long does it take for an ad click to become a conversion in your system?

Patience is a key here. So let the chicken marinate in peace. Apologies if my friends out there who are vegan, but that can really be a difference between a successful versus someone who shut it down too quickly. And finally, to make things a little bit easier because your setups might define whether you’re ready for an upgrade or not, we are launching something called optimization recommendations, which is essentially a one-click upgrade and testing path in Google Ads for clients who are ready to upgrade their DSA and GDA campaigns into PMax. It’s like these little toggles and Google Ads can really make your life easier by giving you prompts when your campaign is ready for this upgrade. 

Tessa Burg: I really like setting that expectation early that people need to be patient and that there is that learning period because it’s not something we’re used to and especially marketers. We’re not patient, we want it, we want it now, and a lot of things are done very last minute. So it’s good to go in, have those foundational metrics establish, make sure you’re taking the right steps, given yourself some learning time, but also the tool itself. Do you have any other advice or what would be your number one piece of advice for leader generation listeners who are wanting to try PMax? 

Matz Lukmani: Yes. So today’s lead generation landscape, if I have to say, is really elaborate. For example, based on a research done by Google and Ipsos in 2023, so not that far off, we saw average consumers take up to 5.5 touch points before committing to filling out a lead form online, and this is just a lead form. It can result to much more interactions with your business. So the process is long, it has multiple touch points, and our aim is that PMax will become this game-changer for lead generation websites to unlock quality leads across all of Google’s inventory, not just one channel in one touch point, but across them all. It is our flagship offering when it comes to Google AI, but AI and models are only as good as the data it can learn from. Your inputs control the outputs of these campaigns.

Hence, it’s super, super critical to feed it the right conversion value data, whether it is your downstream CRM customer scoring or it’s something more fancy like a predictive lifetime value from your analytics team. This to me is the number one advice I can give to any lead generation business trying to use PMax. For example, imagine you’re a university looking for prospective students and we all love accounting majors. They’re awesome because I used to be one, but an MBA prospect is worth a lot more monetarily for a university than a prospect looking for a six-month accounting diploma. They’ll fill out the same form online likely, but they reflect very differing value for the business. And if you reflect that value back in the bidding system and the algorithms can learn from them, they can get you more MBA prospects versus accounting diploma applicants, and that’s how the business matures.

So we frame this term called value-based bidding, which is essentially measure the value of the that are coming from your ads and evolve your ad campaigns to optimize towards those values. So bid to a target ROAS, which is return on ad spend rather than just bid on target cost per acquisition, which is kind of a bit more static view of life, the best input is the best success point for a PMax campaign. So the better, more qualified the values, the more accurate our algorithms can optimize and get you the right users if that makes sense. 

Tessa Burg: It totally makes sense. And it’s something we’re constantly talking about inside our business as well with our clients is one of the best ways to get new leads, new customers is to start with the data you already have and really understand it and really understand your different customer segments and the value of those different segments. So I love that approach. So if we revisit value-based bidding, how do you go about setting up value-based bidding once you’ve done that analysis and are there any steps to follow? 

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Matz Lukmani: Yeah, I think you covered the first step right there, Tessa. So the most important element is the discovery of the user journey To me, there are two steps. You’ve kind of highlighted the first one, which is mapping out your lead-to-sale journey. For some businesses, calculating that lead to sale value is almost instant. For example, let’s say you are selling online subscription services, which has three tiers: are silver, bronze, and gold tier. As soon as a conversion happens online, you’re able to evaluate if the value of conversion sent is silver, bronze, or gold, and you add that value in the tag and your campaigns can optimize to it.

For other businesses, let’s say an insurance provider or an aggregation website, it can take some time before you can evaluate and come up to a specific value for a conversion and that might happen or a few days after the signup that takes place online. In those cases, it’s better to track a conversion online with a tag and then pass a more qualified value for these conversions downstream after your CRM has processed it. We say ideally within 14 days to make it most relevant for our systems to learn and act from, but sooner, the better. That’s the first step, mapping out what’s your lead to sale journey and then feeding that value back for bidding.

The second step is where it gets a little bit more advanced is when you start building a rigor and a maturity around these values that you’re tracking and scoring for the user. So start with something as basic as maybe using conversion values set on a form submission page or a proxy of an actual value within the first 14 days of submissions itself. And you can use something as simple as conversion value rules. It’s a setting in Google Ads that automatically allows you to set a variable of a conversion value based on the user’s geolocation or Google audience category that they fall into.

If you have a clear set of view on certain users from certain locations are worth more than the others, you can just set that as a value as a rule on the page, on the tag. But when you’re ready to go pro and that’s when you’re building an in-house lead-scoring model, that’s when you can give a higher value based on a form submission or build out something like a customer propensity model that gives higher scores for users who demonstrate signals that then correlate with high value of conversions or higher likelihood to convert big for your business. 

Simply said, somehow suggest you have users converting on your site. Some have high income brackets, they live in London versus it’s someone out there who suggests on their form that they live in a secondary borough. Or maybe you look at their business titles and say, okay, in the form submission field, one person is a CIO of a startup, the other is an accounting intern. Even though we all love accounting interns, I was an intern myself, so please be kind to them, but you get my point. Try to envision your value maturity curve and find that advanced value to predict for your customer and then feed that either through just simple form fields or something more advanced through your CRM or third party, and that’s when the big difference happens. 

Tessa Burg: Yeah. And this feels like a lot of work within three steps or we’ve only gone through two. So I would also say if you need help with this, partnering with your agency or partnering with someone who really understands how to extract that value out of your customer database, CDP or CRM is really important. 

Matz Lukmani: Yes, I think that is definitely the third step that I didn’t think of, but that is the third step. Find the agency and partner that can help you unlock this complex ecosystem because you’ve done the basic, you bid to value, but your values can mature and that could be third party or first party integrations that can be complex to set up and have, again, a fun success case story. If you want to hear from one of our clients this time, it’s a French client, so all cool. It’s MACIF. They’re essentially a French insurance service provider who partnered with an agency called [inaudible 00:17:37], and the agency and the client, they worked together to develop a strategy of combining their existing campaigns, so stuff they were running with Performance Max campaigns into MACIF’s media mix models. 

They also use some of the insights from their brand’s historic performance. So campaign data that they had access to, CRM data they had access to, and I had helped MACIF reach additional conversions and drive better value with the combination of PMax and their existing campaigns to the tune off up to 43% increased health insurance conversions online at a reduced cost of 53% cost reduction in cost per conversion on their healthcare insurance conversions. So the key point is we as in Google Ads need signals from you as an advertiser that blocks the success of your campaigns. And that value need to be shared with us either using some kind of a value bidding solution or something more specific for lead gen advertisers called enhanced conversion for leads. It could be a lead scoring model that’s coming in through your online lead submissions or something more qualified, but that additional quality data is the best signal for lead generation businesses to go after and optimize PMax campaigns.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, you make a really good point that even though PMax is allowing for automated optimization, it also requires human and more strategic thinking to really get down to these quality metrics that make it successful. And a lot of clients, a lot of our clients have been really happy with the volume of conversions that are coming in, but have noticed issues with that lead validity in general. What are some tips that you have on the best ways to improve that? 

Matz Lukmani: Really good question and pretty loaded topic. I’ll maybe start by saying we have made considerable backend product and algorithmic improvements to first detect then deter bad actors and also improve quality of leads driven from PMax over the past year. Our goal is always to protect you as advertisers from invalid activity and advertising fraud. You can actually check a lot of details in our ad traffic quality report that was recently published on google.com/ads and learn a lot more about it.

Just in summary, based on the last published Ads Safety Report, in 2023, we have removed ads from over 2.1 billion publisher pages and over 395,000 publisher sites. This is the figure that went up from 1.5 billion publisher pages and 143,000 publisher sites in 2022, so year over year trying to make this a more rigorous process and improve on the quality of traffic you’re getting. 

If you’ve tried in the past and have noticed issues in quality with our latest product improvements and some best practices, which I will get to very shortly, you will surely notice a significant improvement now. Having said that, I would love to also give you a little bit of a detail on how this process works on our end, if that’s okay. So on a Google end, Google applies a fairly comprehensive approach to defending its own ad systems against invalid traffic as part of this comprehensive process, there are numerous ways in which invalid traffic is first analyzed and detected and classified and then filtered.

Google relies on a combination of pre-bid and after the fact post-bid or post-serve automated filters and a bunch of manual analysis to protect our advertisers. Google’s automated real-time filters are often able to prevent buyers from being charged for invalid traffic. However, when invalid traffic is detected after the fact through automation or manual analysis, Google tries to mark that traffic as invalid, and we may issue credits to the affected buyers when appropriate and when possible.

A tip I would probably suggest here is issued credits are processed and they may appear in the next month’s billing cycle. So you can also report this data and check it as invalid clicks, which is marked in our system, and it’s available in your reporting as a separate column in Google Ads. So if you follow this, you’ll be able to track this better and in general, we try to improve our quality and make sure we reduce any fraud activity out there in the ecosystem. 

Tessa Burg: Yeah, I think it’s really reassuring to know that Google is taking so many steps to protect advertisers. Is there anything that advertisers themselves can do to help Google in this journey? 

Matz Lukmani: Okay. Yeah, so the pro tip, I would say if you are a customer having challenges with invalid leads or invalid traffic, make sure first your conversion goals are correctly categorized as leads, which is essentially a label in Google Ads. So this could be a contact, a submission lead form or submit lead form, booking appointment, a signup form or a request for a quote or an imported qualified or converted lead.

This categorization enables better lead generation specific invalid lead protection methods on our backend to protect your ads. Start with this setting, which is really the right setting for conversion types that are, let’s say, qualified leads or signups. And this extra protection offered in the backend will protect your ads from any invalid traffic out there. It’s essentially our indicator of conversion types that need extra protection.

There are some advanced steps also that you can do, so if you’re an advanced advertiser, you can leverage some of our best practices that can help try even better quality leads for you. Some of these methods are out there, and I’ll try and just classify them under two buckets. The first one is just qualifying your form submission requirements. So use things like reCAPTCHA or a double opt-in or a one-time password on your unique landing pages for PMax or your form submissions that you have. So your form submit pages or registration pages. This will reduce spam or any bot submissions that you might be getting from traffic out there.

The second form of protection that you can deploy on your site is input validation on your form submissions. This could be a server-side validation or a client-side validation. And these do sound a bit complicated. Again, if you work with your agency and partners, Mod Op, for example, they can easily walk you through what they are, and they can help you protect against any additional spam.

So to end, most advertisers, in my opinion, are essentially beyond this basic lead qualification gating for their lead and PMax campaigns this year. Instead, they’re looking at ways to improve lead value, and I know it’s a bit loaded term and we’ll get to it, but I’m seeing this evolution happen where some of these basic setups can easily protect you against invalid traffic, and we are doing a lot on the backend to protect you. Period. The time now is to go towards better quality of leads and going after that lead value optimization.

So how do you stay in touch and stay up to date on all these exciting new developments? Firstly, thank you all the listeners for listening to this podcast because I know it was a lot to digest. The best place to start your journey is maybe reach out to your Google Ads account rep. They’re really your best friend when it comes to these updates, trainings, academies, courses that we have to offer. They’ll make sure you get your hands on them so you can stay up to speed. If you’re working with slightly complicated or complex business models, best to work with your agencies combined with Google Ads reps, so in this case, Mod Op is not too bad, reach out to them, they’ll be able to help you out.

I’m personally there on LinkedIn, so you can find us or find me on LinkedIn and generally, I’m very friendly so you can reach out and I’ll try and answer your questions. And finally, maybe end because it’s May and we are getting close to our biggest marketing event called Google Marketing Live. That happens on the 21st of May. And if you are interested to know the latest developments on Google Ads, some of the features that we want to preview, sneak-preview, and launch or announce, that’s a great venue to register online and get your virtual seats if you can’t be there in person and know all the latest and greatest with Google Ads this year.

Tessa Burg: That’s awesome. Yeah, we are definitely checking that event out. And so that’s Google Marketing Live happening May 21st, and are we going to see you there, Matz?

Matz Lukmani: I will not be in Mountain View where this is happening, but I will be in Dublin in case you can see some rain and can’t see the same updates, but in Europe. So if you’re in Dublin, please hit me up on LinkedIn, and it’d be lovely to meet up.

Tessa Burg: Awesome. We had so much to talk about with Matz. We broke this conversation into two parts. So thanks so much for joining us for the first half of this conversation and stay tuned. In a couple of weeks, we’ll release the second half: exploring data security and more of the features within Google Performance Max that help you reach more of your converting audience across all of Google’s properties.

If you have questions or want to learn more about Google Performance Max, definitely just Google it. Awesome help guides and trainings online. But you can also check out Google Marketing Live. It’s on May 21st in Mountain View, California. Until next episode, thanks for listening.

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Matz Lukmani

EMEA Product Lead, Google Performance Max at Google
Matz Lukmani from Google

Matz Lukmani (EMEA Product Lead, Google Performance Max), based in London (UK), has been with Google for more than nine years, working on products like Google Analytics 360, Google Ads, Search Ads 360 and Firebase Analytics. He currently leads Performance Max Campaigns and Attribution offerings within Google Ads, Search Ads 360 and Google Analytics in EMEA. He has worked over 15 years in the USA in various leadership roles at SAP, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Toys R Us, MediaCom, Triad Retail Media and PwC, to name a few. He offers analytics consulting services in web analytics, predictive analytics and advanced marketing AI across a wide range of industries. Be sure to follow Matz on LinkedIn.

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