Performance Max: The Automation Advantage to Google Ads
Change has been a consistent element in an uncertain year.

This is especially evident in online customer behavior. Luckily, we as advertisers don’t have to foretell the future to be prepared for it. To overcome the obstacle that is change, organizations and agencies are turning to automation to keep ahead. With Performance Max, purchasing Google ads just got easier

What is Performance Max?

Search Engine Journal describes the Performance Max feature as “a new way to buy Google ads across YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps from a single campaign.” These campaigns strengthen your keyword-based Search campaigns by maximizing your performance across Google’s whole suite of advertising channels and inventory. This not only saves time, but it also helps advertisers achieve more conversions for every marketing objective. Following positive beta results, Performance Max campaigns will be made available to all advertisers, ushering in the next generation of Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns.

Benefits of Performance Max:

Increase Conversions and Value: Helps acquire new conversion opportunities in real time by optimizing budgets and bids across channels via automation.

Find New Customers: Introduces new audience segments by leveraging Google’s real-time understanding of user intent, behavior, and context to deliver more relevant advertising at the appropriate time.

Gain Richer Insights: Provide detail such as auction insights, performance drivers, diagnostic insights, audience persona insights, consumer interest insights, search trends, and demand forecasts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Overall, Performance Max puts business goals front and center and allows automation to target them above all else. This is CRUCIAL to maximizing performance from Google Ads.
  • Performance Max for Lead Generation – Google’s premier solution to acquire quality leads at scale.
  • Performance Max for Online Sales – optimize towards purchase conversions.
  • Performance Max for Store Goals – meet your business’ offline marketing and business objectives.
  • New Customer and Acquisition Goals and Insights – Insights available: auction insights, performance drivers, diagnostic insights, audience persona insights, consumer interest insights, search trends, and demand forecasts.
Empower’s Six Favorite Social Trends in 2022 (so far…)
As we all know, trends tend to quickly come and go.

Many of the best trends come from those funny and memorable moments that happen in life. Memes are the most common format when pertaining to trends. They are a great escape from reality and have oversaturated the internet.

CultureTap is Empower’s trend identification platform that helps brands participate in moments that matter. Unlike social listening tools, CultureTap isolates relevant cultural, category, brand, or competitive trends so smart marketers can act before it is too late.

Aligning brand content with culture is a solid way to ensure relevancy and uniqueness among competitors. Through CultureTap, we have compiled our top six social trends in 2022.

Top 2022 Trends

1. Did Somebody Say Wordle? 
At the start of 2022, a new web-based word game took the world by storm. Created by Josh Wordle, the game prompts users to guess one five-letter word in six tries. Everyday there is a new word to discover, and everyone has the same board/puzzle.

It went viral by word of mouth and millions worldwide are now sharing their Wordle results, including brands. From creating Wordle boards with their products to boards that make up an image relevant to the brand, some companies have turned Wordle into pieces of art. Since January, Wordle searches increased by over 53 percent and landed at #2 on trending topics on Twitter.

On Twitter brands have engaged with the trend by sharing color blocks that create ​an image relevant to their brand. The copy always starts with “Not Wordle, …”

40+ brands of all categories have found creative way to engage with this trend by creating their own spin off versions of Wordle, which received .08% above the page’s average engagement rate.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jelly Belly (@jellybellycandyco)


2. The Slap That Shook America – March 2022
A night that started out with awards and celebration ended with a … slap? At the 94th Academy Awards, actor Will Smith smacked comedian Chris Rock on stage during Chris’s speech after the comedian made a tasteless joke towards Jada Smith, Will’s wife. The internet took off once the video aired online.

The video of the slap went viral on Twitter and Google with searches related to Will and Chris growing over 5,000 percent.

This sparked many memes of the infamous slap and audience reactions which brought lots of laughs and engagement.

Within 24hours of the occurrence, many brands such as SLMD Skincare engaged with this event, receiving engagement rates 2x more than their page’s average. This trend only lasted for a few weeks so when brands engaged the best performers were the ones posted within 24 hours of the event.


3. The Million Dollar Question 
Who would have known that a debate over if there are more doors or wheels in the world would divide the internet?

It all started on Twitter with Ryan Nixon’s tweet poll asking if there are more doors or wheels in the world. The debate sparked many conversations and quickly became the new “blue and gold dress.”

Of course, it made its way to the TikTok community where users and brands really showed what team they were on.

Which team are you on? #TeamWheels #TeamDoors

Brands put in their two cents for the debate in their own way. When both Lego and Hot wheels posted about the debate, the post landed in their top 5 best performers for the year.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Hot Wheels (@hotwheelsofficial)

​On TikTok there are over 476M views on #DoorsVsWheels and popular brands such as UPS shared what team they are on and explained why. ​


We counted the doors and wheels on all 127k+ of our vehicles to settle this #wheels #doors #doorsorwheels #wheelsvsdoors

♬ original sound – UPS


4. The Royal Memes 
Long live the queen and the memes surrounding her. Queen Elizabeth II became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service, at the beginning of February. During a four day celebration in June, the world was celebrating with her.

On Twitter #PlatinumJubilee earned the #1 spot on the trending page, generating over 500 social pieces of content.

Brands, attractions, retailers, and publishers all played a part in celebrating the Queen in unique ways.

Brands and retailers integrated aspects of celebration into their content from show integrations to deals. Some brands and attractions took it a step further by releasing limited editions and activations in honor of the Queen which earned high engagements.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Drum (@thedrummag)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by theSkimm (@theskimm)

Others found ways to make into … of course memes.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by theSkimm (@theskimm)


5. Kendall VS Cucumber 
In an episode of The Kardashians, Kendall Jenner is shown cutting a cucumber in quite an unsafe, unconventional way. The clip immediately saw traction on all platforms, with the highest engagement on TikTok and Twitter, where people and brands mocked her technique.


Almost lost a finger don’t let this flop #kendalljenner #kendallcucumber #kendallcuttingcucumber

♬ original sound – Stefano

When brands played on Kendall’s cutting style and made it relevant to their brand it garnered higher engagement rates. ​


Cutting candy like Kendall Jenner cuts cucumber

♬ original sound – Sticky Lollies


6. “S/He’s a 10 but…” 
“He’s a 10 but doesn’t like memes.” What would you rate him? A new social game on TikTok with over 40M views is sweeping the internet where people are creating bizarre and fun scenarios about an imaginary partner.

It always starts out with “He’s/She’s a 10, but” and then followed by a negative or positive habit or trait that contrasts it. The number is based on a scale (1-10) on someone’s attractiveness. The purpose of the game is to determine what rating will balance the partner in the scenario out based on the trait/habit.

Most of the content is from influencers, but brands are also starting to participate in it–some even connecting the trend to pop culture.


They’re a 10 but we wanna know what you give them. 🤔 #hesa10

♬ original sound – darcy stokes

Aligning Brand Content with Culture

We know that brands that align with trends are more viewed as relevant and experience a 30-50 percent higher average engagement on social. But with trends only lasting 24-72 hours, how can you keep your brand on the pulse? Reach out to us to learn how CultureTap can help.

Walmart Connect and Roundel Announce New Search Layouts
Search engines are constantly evolving. Whether it’s the back-end algorithm or the front-end experience, there’s always a need to sharpen outputs in relation to inputs.

Relevance is key. Search engines that deliver poor results leave users confused and – if via an on-site engine – can result in search abandonment. When search engines properly navigate, they deliver positive consumer experiences. Consumers in turn, come to trust the engine and its results, recommendations, etc. With this trust, comes the potential for profit.

Google Carved the Path

With sponsored search, Retail media platforms have taken their cues from Google. The end-all, be-all of search engines – Google has done an other-worldly job of monetization. It’s been a decade-long journey of testing, manipulating, and adjusting. Often, even the smallest changes to Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) would lead to mild panic within the industry. Often though, the changes made were almost imperceivable to the naked eye.

This slow burn approach has given birth to a well-oiled machine. One that balances the essential question any search engine struggles with:

Ensuring paid ads do not undermine the legitimacy of the SERP

Retail media platforms – like Amazon, Walmart Connect and Roundel – are extremely lucky in this way. They’ve had Google laying out the blueprint since the late ‘00s. All that’s required of them is to follow that gameplan.

Amazon Has Followed Suit

Amazon and other retailers’ search tools need only index the products sold on their sites. They don’t have to answer complex questions, scouring the entirety of the internet in the process (like Google). They live by more basic principles, focused on relevancy and sales velocity. Their algorithms take the user’s propensity to purchase and meld it with the most relevant outputs based on the query. Reading into what the eventual purchase will be, while still providing results that satisfy the original input. Essentially cutting to the chase by shortening the path to purchase.

Amazon also cut to the chase when it came to sponsored ads as well. They accomplished this by flooding their layout with ad placements. There was no tip-toeing, or slow process of inundation. Their Sponsored Brand, Sponsored Product and Sponsored Display ads have occupied real estate across almost every inch of their SERP for some time now.

Amazon has made their layout into a battlefield for sellers. It’s ad-heavy and conquest friendly. But as they say, it’s the cost of doing business. Sellers that need to be on Amazon are willing to put up with it because they need to be on Amazon.

WMC and Roundel’s Approach

Walmart Connect (WMC) and Roundel originally took a different approach to sponsored search. Whereas Amazon didn’t pull any punches, WMC and Roundel let organic listings shine – offering sponsored search as a supplemental effort, as opposed to a pre-requisite.

Both retail media networks initially slotted specific – less intrusive – locations where sponsored search could exist. They also held true to the mantra of paid is incremental. Within both networks, competitive conquesting is not allowed. This is a consistent theme across sponsored search platforms not named Amazon. Its what makes platforms like Walmart Ad Center, Criteo, Citrus and PromoteIQ havens compared to Amazon Advertising.

Sadly, approaches like the above don’t keep the lights on. That’s why both Roundel and Walmart Connect have recently announced large scale changes to their search layouts. Walmart’s adjustments are less earth shattering, seeing as they’d made a similar, prior adjustment that softened the blow. But for Roundel, the changes represent a more impactful shift.

Roundel’s New Layout

Roundel has officially update their search experience on both Target.com and their app. The changes are in response to a three-month test designed to evaluate their current SERP, in hopes of finding a better balance between organic and sponsored search listings.

They’ve historically only allowed ads within specific positions – namely the 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th spots. This type of layout ensured organic listings occupied no worse than the first and second slots for any search result on Target.com, lending a great deal of credibility to their SERP. It also ensured sponsored ads could be eased into the overall scheme, instead of being thrust into the top position right from the get-go.

While Target-focused sales teams appreciated this approach (and its focus on organic), it left something to be desired regarding the effectiveness of marketing efforts (sponsored ads). If sponsored ads only ever existed in – at best – the third slot, how were advertisers expected to truly steal category share?

This newest iteration as Target describes it, was based on guest behavior, sentiment, and experience. These three factors drove the reshuffling, which now allows advertisers to appear in the 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th and 9th positions. Even though it’s a small shift, it represents a substantial change.

It now puts an even heavier burden on sponsored ads. For example, a seller could own the top spot organically. But with this new layout, they’re going to need to invest aggressively in sponsored search to truly own the top spot. It also limits the effectiveness of organic listings. If the first and second slots can now be bought, organic listings are going to drive fewer eyes.

Long story short – it means more volume for sponsored ads and less visibility for organic. It also opens category searches up to the highest bidder, representing a hybrid approach between what Target used to be, and what Amazon has become.

Walmart Connect’s New Layout

Walmart Connect is a slightly different story. They already had sponsored ad placements in the first two positions of their SERP. Then in late April, they added two more in-grid sponsored ad slots – set to occupy positions three and four – based on testing.

This new layout means the entire first row of search results on Walmart.com can now be occupied by sponsored placements, in addition to the area above the first row, which is designated for their Sponsored Brand Amplifier ad type. Below are examples of the older and newer iterations of the SERP.

The entire first row being occupied by sponsored ads is very reminiscent of Amazon’s layout:

What to Expect Post Shift

With both Target and Walmart’s layouts revamping within a few weeks of each other, advertisers need to prepare for new outcomes.

Both retailers mentioned advertisers should expect increased volume, improved CTRs and higher ROAS. The volume and CTR upticks make sense. Sponsored ads will now be in more prominent – thus, more clickable – locations within their respective SERPs. This will undoubtedly lead to increased impressions and higher CTRs, which will in turn lead to more clicks and spend.

The mention of increased ROAS might be harder to come by. Making an ad more visible does not necessarily mean it will convert more often. Factors beyond the prominence of a placement determine whether or not a user converts. More accurately, thanks to these changes, advertisers on both Target.com and Walmart.com can expect more overall revenue – not more revenue per dollar spent.

In the end, each of these platforms is slowly following the path Google has set over the course of the last ten plus years. Testing, adjusting, reformulating. Figuring out what works, what doesn’t. Then laying out the best way to monetize the pieces that stick.

With their recent layout changes, both Target and Walmart Connect aren’t being greedy, they’re simply doing what they should be doing. The path has already been carved by Google and Amazon, they simply have to follow it.