Why You Really Need to be Using PMAX Campaigns for Your Tour Company

Ben Page

Move over Google Things to Do, you aren’t the only new Google product in the tours and attractions segment that’s making a big impact! Performance Max Campaigns or PMAX campaigns, are available for the tour industry, and we believe they are a game changer to Google advertising as we know it.

Our team at Blend has been testing several PMAX campaigns for clients over the last few months. Here’s the lowdown on what we’ve learned, and why these campaigns could become a powerful tool in your marketing. 

In this article,  you’ll find out everything you need to know about Google Performance Max Campaigns for Tours:

PMAX Explained

Performance Max is a type of Google campaign designed to bring all the Google ads channels into one. In the past, an advertiser would develop separate campaigns for Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail Local ads, Discover, Shopping or Maps based on the type of placement your brand was seeking. Now, with PMAX, the ad inventory is unified into one, so you can run one ad across multiple channels simultaneously.

How it Works

The significant difference between Google Performance Max campaigns from other Google Ads campaigns is its automation and machine learning. Meaning you provide the information such as campaign goals, budget, audience signals, and target metrics. Google will take care of the targeting and delivery of the ads and use Smart Bidding strategies to achieve your Return on Ad Spend goals.

PMAX is the evolution of Google’s Smart Campaigns (i.e. Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns), which transforms the audience targeting capability into something resembling “lookalike audiences” on other platforms. Using your suggestions as a starting point, the tool will expand your audience if it deems that your campaign will be more successful. It builds lookalike audiences and finds people and retargets your seed audience, similar to how Facebook Lookalike Audiences work.

It starts with great customer data

To build campaigns with PMAX, it must start with good data such as high intent audiences —like customer purchases from reservation software from the past 180 days, (note, this data is privacy protected). Other data can be used as well, such as custom intent audiences, which are based on previous Google Search campaigns, and active in market data like customer subscribers.

PMAX will look for characteristics in common with the people on the list, and find thousands of other people with the same characteristics.

The Benefits of PMAX Campaigns

More Reach, More Strategy, Better Results

PMAX might sound like its biggest benefit is the time savings in making fewer ads and spending less time pulling levers, but in fact, the advertiser’s role becomes much more strategic. It helps make better decisions overall and it puts a much higher emphasis on creating effective ads.

PMAX Campaigns opens the opportunity for your brand to:

Expand your reach and get better-targeted customers 

PMAX helps find the people that couldn’t be reached with current targeting or keyword strategies. It reaches target audiences on many different platforms, and it fills the gap beyond an obvious group of keywords that may not have been considered before.

Better Audiences = More Direct Bookings

If you can reach more people and ones that best fit your brand, your chances for direct bookings improve immensely. (However, this isn’t the only variable – see the next point).

Create better ad creative and copy = Better Performance = More Conversions

If ads don’t connect with your audience, you won’t bring in new customers. PMAX allows you to feed the campaigns with lots of different headlines, ad descriptions, videos, images, in various ad formats, so you can find the winning combinations.

Better reach customers at their stage in the customer journey

 Let’s face it, the customer funnel is a model and it has limitations. What if you could better reach potential customers at different stages in their customer journey more effectively?

Eg. A couple is at home in Colorado and researching tours to do in Charleston, SC. Through PMAX ad testing, we find out that an ad combination works really well with people out of state for this particular tour, because of the different images, headlines, and landing pages that were never on our radar before. Now that’s the golden ticket.

Use PMAX as a testing ground to create effective ads

PMAX allows testing of different tour activities, creative, and even landing pages in front of customers.

a. Some activities perform better than others

Eg. Your tour company runs 5 different activities. The platform allows testing all kinds of combinations and you find out customers better connect with one activity that you never thought they would be most interested in.

b. Other landing pages work better than others

Eg. You find out that you sell more tours when you link to a relevant blog page instead of your tour page for certain customers because of where they are in their decision process. These are powerful learnings to create better ads!

c. Finding keywords that weren’t previously considered 

Eg. PMAX shows results that your ads are performing well in search categories that you never considered, for example, “adventure park” was your lead key term but Google finds people searching for “outdoor adventures”, or “outdoor activities” because previous ads didn’t reach these people in the right platform or right stage of their customer journey.

Real-Time Results: PMAX Campaign vs. Current Google Ad Campaign

Here’s an example of a current PMAX campaign we’re testing against a current Google ad for a tour business in the U.S. With similar investment levels, the cost per conversion for the PMAX campaign is less than half of the Google ad, while the return on ad spend is 3.4X better for PMAX even though each campaign has the same conversion rate.

The increased reach and improved ad targeting algorithm in PMAX is able to scale further than the traditional non-brand search campaign and reach the right users who are most likely to convert at a higher average order value. This is why the cost per acquisition is ultimately half and the return on ad spend is over 3X better with PMAX.

Tour Company Ad performance  L30DROAS
(Return on Ad Spend)
CTR (click-
through rate)
Conversion rate
Google Ad Campaign1.9 X37%2.2%
PMAX Campaign5.3X11%2.2%

What’s happening with this PMAX campaign above?

It’s finding the right audiences to serve the ad, so you get better ad performance overall. 🎉

When PMAX performance will be limited or may not work at all

There are a lot of good things going on with PMAX, but it’s not right for every tour, activity, or attraction business. These are a few things we are discovering as we work on these new campaigns.

Limited budgets

Although you can start a PMAX campaign for as little as a dollar a day, limited budgets can severely constrain the performance and value of PMAX’s testing capabilities. A budget for any Google Ad should be 3-5X your daily cost of acquisition to get the best delivery of ads and feed the platform with lots of creative options to find the winning combinations of better converting ads.  PMAX is ideal for businesses that have the ability to scale.

The audience is too small

Going after super-niche seed audiences or providing insufficient audience or asset data doesn’t work here. PMAX works better with more data and more signals to learn from.

No good historical audience data or previous keyword success

Without good customer match lists or a lack of proven ability to convert clicks into customers in other campaign types historically, PMAX performance will have limited success, or at best, it will take more budget and time to learn who the right audience is for your product among the broader pool of users it attempts to reach.

No pool of high-quality images, creative, and copy to test

Without access to good images, ad creative, or good copy, it will result in a lower ad strength score and the click-through rate will suffer. You won’t get the value out of PMAX which is a great testing ground to create better-performing ads.

Not understanding how Google Ads “work

Even though a product with more automation can seem “easier,” it is not intuitive. It’s easy to start a campaign, but without a solid understanding of how targeting, bidding, and budgeting work, any business can lose money fast. The continuous testing process allows you to scale winners, identify new insights and minimize risk by eliminating lower-performing audiences, creatives, and landing pages from being served.

Should my tour company replace all ads with PMAX Campaigns?

Many aspects of your Google Ad campaigns will work for your tour, activity, or attraction brand, and with PMAX campaigns, there is a loss of control over some crucial aspects.

We don’t recommend replacing all ads with PMAX because there isn’t full control of every element of the ad process. At Blend, we continue to run search ads and other campaign types because we don’t have control over keyword targeting in PMAX (non-branded in destination keywords that are critical to the brand).

Eg. An adventure park that generates great traffic and conversions and is ranking in the top 5 on Google for an important keyword such as “Chicago Ziplines,” we want to maintain. We run a separate Search campaign, so it consistently achieves maximum impression share and is visible on the top of the search results page for this term. With PMAX, it’s harder to funnel budget into specific keywords and maintain (or even report on) impression share by keyword topic or audience segment.

How does PMAX work with Google Things To Do?

We don’t yet know how Performance Max will interact with Google Things To Do ads in the long term. According to our conversations with Google representatives, the Things to Do ad inventory is exclusive, and there has been no official announcement that this inventory will be made available to other campaign types.

Therefore, we recommend running Google Things To Do and Performance Max together when possible because they serve in different ad inventory and appear differently in the search results.

Google Things to Do Ads deliver a standard “shopping style” carousel ad unit for a tour – with an image, description, and price, while PMAX can serve in a variety of other formats including standard text-based ads, maps ads, native ad formats, and more.

We’ll know more as we continue to use both ad platforms simultaneously with tour, activity, and attraction clients, and we’re looking forward to sharing many more tour-specific learnings using PMAX and sharing what we learn, consider this post part 1 of PMAX!

Are you Interested in hearing more about how PMAX campaigns can support your marketing efforts for your tours, activities, or attraction business?  Send us a message to find out more.

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About The Author

Ben Page

As Blend's Director of Search Marketing, Ben leads strategy and execution of paid search marketing, including advertising on platforms such as YouTube, Google, and Microsoft Ads. Additionally, Ben’s depth in SEO supports tourism clients on organic search.

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About The Author

Ben Page

As Blend's Director of Search Marketing, Ben leads strategy and execution of paid search marketing, including advertising on platforms such as YouTube, Google, and Microsoft Ads. Additionally, Ben’s depth in SEO supports tourism clients on organic search.