Why Performance Max for lead generation often fails and how to make it work

Many ecommerce advertisers are starting to better understand how to set up and optimize Performance Max, but it’s still a very difficult campaign type for lead gen accounts.

The funnel-driven nature of leads and the variance in quality are two of the biggest impediments.

Unlike ecommerce where a purchase signifies the “end” of the transaction, lead creation is the beginning of the sales process – and just because someone fills out a form doesn’t make them a quality lead.

With so much more left to play, it’s dangerous to allow Google to judge its contributions based on data from that limited window.

Few lead generation advertisers use Performance Max so there’s considerably less to say than there is for ecommerce.

These observations and recommendations come from my experience, and I’ve answered some common questions about optimizing Performance Max for lead gen.

So what makes this such a tough thing to get right?

Performance Max for lead gen needs offline conversion data

Getting Performance Max to work for lead generation programs without offline conversion data is very hard. Without it, Google’s systems are prone to bringing in a lot of spam.

So traffic bots fill out the form and Google thinks it got you a quality lead. It pats itself on the back – and even worse, starts to go after more of the same low-quality traffic.

I recall someone on Twitter calling this the feedback loop of doom, and it’s incredibly difficult to get out of it.

Restrict spam and bot form submissions with reCAPTCHA

That data piece of the puzzle is very hard to acquire and implement, but there are ways around it.

One example is installing a reCAPTCHA or honeypot that blocks the form from being submitted by spam bots so that it never gets triggered as a conversion in Google’s eyes.

Even if you do that and preempt the unwanted, you can still wind up with a pipeline full of irrelevant or unqualified leads. Let’s say you’re selling a commercial product – you might start getting residential leads that you can’t sell to.

In this example, Google’s systems won’t know that last bit of information unless you have offline conversion tracking that marks those leads as low-quality.

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Teach Google what works for your business

Offline conversion imports – and any extra data over and above what Google already has – will help you teach Google what decisions are right for your account and business.

For most of our ecommerce clients, all they need is the revenue data that comes in and a clear understanding of who their most profitable customers are.

For lead gen, data is one place we lean in further and heavier.

For example, Performance Max can only measure how many phone calls or form submissions you get, but it doesn’t know how many led to good, great, or bad conversations.

Along with revenue data, customer email lists, audience signals, and data feeds, this is really what we need to make Performance Max work for ecommerce.

Because lead gen clients are usually split into marketing and sales functions, it’s a bit tougher to make this happen.

How to share data between your CRM and Performance Max

What helps most in our experience is implementing an integration with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, such as Salesforce or HubSpot.

With this, we can see offline conversion data for leads generated through Google Ads.

Say we’re measuring form submissions, chats, phone calls – any type of contact – and the client gets 10 leads but only two were good. We want the system to know which two out of the 10.

And over time, Google starts to see that the good ones come from certain geos or share certain audience signals.

If you can upload offline conversions in the time it takes to go from lead to actual revenue, you want to feed that data into the system. But if you have a long sales cycle, we recommend scoring the lead (this is data you have right away).

You might set things up so that if a sales rep tags a lead as irrelevant, it sends that back to Google with a lower lead score/value. And if it’s a good lead, they assign it a higher category or value.

How to use HubSpot, Salesforce and Zapier with Google Ads

Salesforce and HubSpot have default integrations with Google Ads, as do certain other popular CRM tools.

If yours doesn’t have a pre-built integration, you can use a tool like Zapier to automate the transfer of data between products.

Zapier Offline Conversions In Google Ads 800x340

Screenshot from Track offline conversions in Google Ads by Zapier

You might set up an automated workflow that looks like this:

  • Google generates a lead via Performance Max.
  • A sales rep marks it as a qualified lead (score of 10).
  • Information is fed back to Google Ads.
  • The qualified lead progresses to the proposal stage (score of 20).
  • Information is fed back to Google Ads again.

By ensuring an automated step is triggered each time the lead score is updated, you’ll keep Google aware of which leads are good for business and which aren’t. The system sees the value increasing the further it gets in your sales cycle, and then it can go after more of those.

Google (and Performance Max) is smart enough to figure it out over time, but you have to provide regular and accurate inputs – and you’ve got to be willing to eat some of the upfront costs to help the system learn.

Bottom line: Connect the dots or walk away

PPC marketers can do every part of their job right, and a Performance Max campaign can still fail. Maybe the brand’s website isn’t set up the right way or the sales team isn’t actively feeding data back to Google on lead quality.

Lead gen for Performance Max cannot work without buy-in from other teams.

Yes, Performance Max is capable of acquiring leads at a greater scale than regular search campaigns, but I highly recommend connecting the dots of your system – or abandoning it entirely.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ): Performance Max for lead generation

How do I improve lead quality and relevance?

We like to start with a Search campaign using a manual bidding strategy and Phrase Match keywords.

Once we’ve negated irrelevant search terms, we then migrate to Smart Bidding and Broad Match while staying on Search.

As traffic volume increases, we’ll add remarketing on YouTube and Discovery.

But unless we have conversion values, we won’t migrate to Performance Max for lead gen because it generates too many spam leads.

However, if you can prevent the conversion tag from being fired on spam form submissions, you can and should test Performance Max.

You can accomplish this by using an invisible reCAPTCHA to block bots from submitting the form.

Many businesses that run lead gen campaigns have some type of buyer journey or funnel. If you have a multi-step form or registration process, assign incrementally greater values at each stage:

  • Step 1 = 10
  • Step 2 = 20
  • Step 3 = 30
  • Complete = 100

How do I use audience signals and asset groups?

Performance Max uses audience signals for targeting. These are different from audience lists, which are cohorts of specific users.

Even if you upload a customer list, Performance Max will only consider their audience signals – their shared behaviors or traits – when deciding who to show your assets to.

We structure Performance Max asset groups around product or service categories, not by audience signals. Since there is no true or uniform audience targeting, there will likely be overlap. Ad creative should match the specific service offering.

How do I send traffic to the right landing pages?

You may also want to disable URL Expansion in campaign settings or exclude specific URLs that don’t convert well, such as blog posts or resource pages.

Landing page reports are a great way to see which pages on your website are converting and which are wasting opportunities.

How do I track the right types of leads?

There are three ways to generate leads: chat, form submissions, and phone calls. Make sure you’re monitoring all of them.

Connect your CRM so that the lead-to-close pipeline and revenue data are captured. Use the HubSpot or Salesforce integration, or a tool like Zapier if you use a different CRM.

If form submissions aren’t of great quality, focus on calls that are only counted as a conversion if longer than 60 seconds.

Can I run Performance Max for a local business?

Local campaigns were deprecated and rolled into Performance Max, so if you want to advertise on Google Maps, you’ll need Performance Max.

Make sure to turn off Location Expansion in campaign settings. I typically recommend increasing target areas to within a 30- or 45-minute drive for local businesses.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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About the author

Menachem Ani

Menachem Ani, Founder of JXT Group, is a digital advertising expert with over a decade of success developing high-impact marketing strategies for online retailers and lead-generation clients.

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