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Top-of-Funnel Marketing: Why It’s Risky in Google Ads

For performance-driven agencies like us, running top-of-funnel marketing has always been risky. 

We’re not saying it’s risky because we don’t get results—we do. The problem is that because of incompetent marketers, the “standard” results have given business owners the wrong expectations. 

Here’s what we mean by that. 

These marketers have convinced business owners that a 1X return on Facebook and a 5X return on Google is good because they were going after the brand name. 

But a 5X return on Facebook consistently? It’s pretty much impossible. With Google, however, it happens all the time. 

Just launch a DSA campaign that turns into brand, and run 10 different brand campaigns with 10 different match types and audiences. In the end, it’s still all brand. 

So, Facebook builds all the awareness, Google scoops up all the conversions, and these marketers think that’s how they got results.

They don’t look at the bigger picture—the overall ROAS of the company, the actual amount of sales, or even the conversion path. 

Because they didn’t investigate thoroughly, they have positioned their “stealing of other channels’ traffic” as their own, which led to a massive push in the industry that a 500% return is average on Google. 

Top of the Funnel is not ROAS driven. Because it’s focused on brand awareness and not product awareness, it will be hard to measure.

That’s why you need to look at your overall MER (media efficiency ratio) and your Google Ads account as a whole.

The Most Important Thing to Do When Running Top-of-Funnel Ads

top of the funnel google ads

Bigger companies understand that to go for top-of-funnel, they need to set the right expectations—that the results will look horrible. 

But that doesn’t mean they have to turn it off. Otherwise, they’re going to kill the bottom of the funnel. 

So what should you do instead?

The most important thing to do when running top of the funnel is to run brand awareness ads to a cold audience that includes Google’s own affinity and in-market audiences. 

These are the audiences that are actively searching for products related to yours. And since Google is already monitoring them based on their activities, they don’t need to visit your website for you to capture them. 

Since there are a lot of these audiences, your CPM (cost per mille) and CPV (cost per view) are lower. They’re cheaper than doing an inbound search at broad match or using DSKs (Display Select Keywords).

Tips in Measuring Your Top-of-Funnel

measuring top of the funnel in Google Ads

We mentioned before that measuring the top of the funnel will be challenging. It’s not ROAS or click-through rate-focused. It’s simply brand awareness. 

However, if you can measure the bottom of the funnel, you’ll be able to build the funnel needed to build the brand. Remember, all you’re trying to do at the top of the funnel is to drive more people to your site and get credit for the possible purchases. 

Doing it will spawn more inbound brand searches, and if you can recapture or track more of that, then it will be a good way to prove that top-of-the-funnel model.  

Now, if you run more YouTube, you’ll have to spend more on branded to see if that’s giving you an increasing trend line. 

If it does, make sure your CPA stays about the same between a very high CPA on YouTube and a very low CPA on brand, and that will increase the volume for the same price. 

Now, look at your MER—it should be doing the same. 

Your brand spend should be going up, your YouTube spend is going up, and your CPA and conversions are staying the same.

If you’re unsure and think you’re just robbing organic and direct, then look at your overall MER. Is it staying the same with volumes going up? If it does, then you’re doing it correctly.

Final Words

There’s no doubt that top-of-the-funnel marketing can help increase your brand awareness and drive traffic to your site. While running top-of-funnel marketing is hard to measure, it can be done.

Remember to look at your overall ROAS, MER, sales, and conversion path to avoid attributing conversions to the wrong sources. 

Doing this will help you see how your top-of-the-funnel strategy impacts your revenue and make better decisions to achieve your goals.

Related Blogs:

Google Ads for YouTube: The Ultimate Guide

Build a Better Marketing Funnel and Spend Less with Google Ads

The Digital Marketing Framework


Bryan is the marketing manager at Solutions 8, and has been on digital marketing since 2018. When he’s not working, you’ll find him working out at a local gym, reading personal development books, or playing music at home. He feels weird writing about himself in third person.

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