Google’s Performance Max Expands Advertising for Nonprofits and Long Tail Decision Journeys

One of the most consistent challenges we see across clients, and one we have experienced directly while working in the nonprofit industry is inefficient digital audience segmentation compounded by insufficient technical resources to fully leverage (digital) paid media in an integrated cross-channel strategy. 

Which is why we are compiling our best practices on – 

How nonprofits can accomplish sophisticated performance marketing systems with less technical bandwidth: 

  1. Create surround sound touchpoints for specific donor events (e.g., Giving Tuesday) and/or co-targeting audience within direct mail campaigns  
  2. Activate audience cohorts to combat email churn rates and/or lapsed donors 
  3. Leverage machine learning to execute sophisticated and scalable A/B testing for meaningful and actionable insights 

The Complexity of Nonprofit Digital Marketing:
Google Takes Advantage of Meta’s Decline with New Performance Max Campaign Type 

Apple’s ATT (app tracking transparency) policies in Spring 2022 have diminished nonprofits’ ability to drive measurable and sophisticated campaigns across the Meta platform.

This is reflected acutely by Meta recently reporting its first-ever annual decline in revenue (July 2022)1due to billion-dollar declines in ad revenue.

Small businesses and nonprofit organizations who have smaller budgets and depended on Meta’s relatively inexpensive, yet precise ability to get in front of the right audiences have been impacted in rising CPMs and declining performance.

Furthermore, in January 2021 Facebook removed “advanced targeting options” in four major categories: 

  • Health causes (e.g., diabetes awareness)
  • Sexual orientation (e.g., LGBT)
  • Religious practices and groups (e.g., Christian humanitarian efforts)
  • Political beliefs, social issues, causes, organizations, or figures (e.g., voter reform)

But there is reason to be optimistic about the digital marketing landscape for nonprofits with Google’s new Performance Max (PMX) campaign launch).

This new campaign type uses visual and top-of-funnel scale aspects of Meta advertising and integrates it with an expansive audience reach (Meta has an impressive user base (1.73 billion daily active users),2Google dwarfs Meta’s capacity for unique reach with 5.8 billion searches a day (and YouTube shorts alone receiving 30 billion views a day),3 accurate conversion path reporting, and multichannel reach. PMX also automizes remarketing for more efficient cross-channel performance. 34 

In PMX, five critical features work to ensure a more synchronized full-funnel approach to digital media: 

  1. Search and website behavior are Google’s 1st party data (via Google Analytics tags) making campaign reporting insulated from ATT restrictions 
  2. PMX rolls up seven multi-channel and multi-device placements within the entire Google eco-system (Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Chrome App, Android apps).  
  3. It allows for audience targeting, (supported by robust 1st party data signals,) around a singular goal as opposed to keyword bidding for text placements (e.g., new pet owners vs. “puppy food”) 
  4. Strong donor file match rates for remarketing and the ability to exclude existing donor files for new donor acquisition 
  5. New insights and reporting focused heavily on actionable recommendations based on performance of creative and text combinations (e.g., best performing CTAs, headlines, and service/mission descriptions) 

Keywords Along Are Not Enough 

It is common for nonprofits to not even spend their entire Google Grant due to a lack of search volume. And, even if a nonprofit had a healthy volume of organic inbound search traffic, intent-fracture makes it difficult to understand who is behind specific keywords or key searches for optimization efforts.

Unlike e-commerce companies, which are usually focused solely on driving revenue, the diversity of informational searches and intent (e.g., is someone searching for Easter Seals because they need services, a potential job, or are they looking to donate to a local chapter?) makes even brand queries difficult to segment in an intelligent way. 

PMX campaigns are built on audience signals, not keyword auctions. So, not only does PMX track users across their blended engagement paths (devices, channels, metros) and funnel position (top, middle, and bottom), but PMX also provides data-driven insights on creative combinations for specific audience types.

PMX insights can be used as high-level business intelligence in terms of best performing creative and copy in other platforms such as Meta, LinkedIn, and Tik Tok 

Google Overrides ATT Restrictions and Targeting Softness 

PMX allows advertisers to be ultra-specific in audience strategy with responsive (machine learning), immersive (video), and automatically optimized (remarketing) ad placements throughout the decision-journey.  

While remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA’s) are fantastic for e-commerce targeting, many nonprofits are challenged with restrictions around leveraging user-level data for RLSAs.

Here are some great examples of effective audience segmentation regardless of restrictions on using RLSAs. 

  1. In-market audiences (specific audiences who are actively considering your service) 
  2. Affinity Audiences (audiences who have high cross-over to your conversion action (same concept as co-op indexing) 
  3. Custom Search Intent Segments (people searching specific topics or words) 
  4. URL targeting (think competitors or similar organizations) 
  5. Demographic targeting (age, gender, life events) 

PMX, Giving Tuesday, and Integrated Execution 

Currently, organizations are gearing up for Giving Tuesday and should be testing, validating and planning for PMX campaigns.

Whether relying on PMX to capture search intent that it is has generated through YouTube, or using display to co-target direct mail audiences, or even generating new leads for email campaigns; PMX will automatically learn and spend budget based on the audiences who have demonstrated clear interest around your campaign goal.

But – it does require at least 4-6 weeks to ramp, new creative assets, effective campaign segmentation and audience targets. You will not be able to turn on PMX two days before Giving Tuesday and see success.  

Top Three Tips for Successful PMX: 

  1. Segment your campaigns around audience type, prospecting, acquisition, lead generation for nuanced insights, and optimization clarity 
  2. Be patient. PMX takes 4-6 weeks to fully ramp since it’s testing so many placements.  
  3. Make major campaign adjustments every 4-6 weeks and group optimizations so that PMX has time to run and optimize based on creative, copy, or audience changes 
  4. Provide PMX with a range of assets such as videos, images, and product feeds (if applicable) 

Happy marketing! I look forward to people’s feedback or direct experience leveraging PMX for all industry types.

If you have any questions about how to drive results for your specific goals/campaigns, please reach out to me at



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