Google Ads’ Performance Max campaigns have generated a fair bit of noise among advertisers since their inception in 2021—from full enthusiasm to staunch opposition and everything in between.
The reality is, if Performance Max is right for your business, it can be a super effective campaign type if you know how to fully leverage it.
Which is what we’re going to cover in this post. Continue reading to find out:
Google’s Performance Max campaigns, also known as PMax, were rolled out in all Google Ads accounts in 2021, making them a fairly new addition. This cross-channel, fully automated Google Ads campaign type allows you to show ads across all of Google’s ad networks in a single campaign, including Search, Display, YouTube, Discover, Maps, and Gmail.
The way these campaigns work is, you first specify your goal. Then, similar to building out a responsive display ad, you provide your assets like images, videos, logos, headlines, descriptions, and more. You can review ad previews to get an idea of how your ads will look. Once you set the campaign live, Google will generate ads across the applicable channels whenever eligible, using machine learning to serve the right ad at the right time with the right bid, to optimize for your goal.
Like any campaign type, Performance Max comes with its pros and cons.
Although automated, there are still a number of ways to optimize your Performance Max campaigns for maximum success. Let’s take a look.
Being fully automated, PMax campaigns require sufficient amounts of data and machine learning to be effective. Be prepared to budget at least $50-100 per day for at least a month. In fact, Google recommends at least 6 weeks to allow the machine learning algorithm to ramp up and have sufficient data to compare performance.
The more assets you add, the better, because it will increase the chances of an ad being eligible to serve across all types of inventory. Note that if you’re using a Merchant Center feed, you don’t need to upload any product images. Instead, go with lifestyle or brand creatives that will complement product feed images.
If you only want to run Google Shopping campaigns, don’t add any assets at all and simply use your feed. This way, your campaign will deliver Shopping ads along with Display and YouTube ads but the latter will both be in Shopping format.
We’ve shared a full post on Performance Max dos, don’ts, watchouts, and workarounds, but some of them are worth repeating:
Unique to Performance Max campaigns, this feature allows you to choose whether you want to serve the campaign to new and existing customers, or just new users.
When building a Performance Max campaign, you’ll add all of your assets into an asset group. An asset group is a set of creatives that will be used to create an ad depending on the channel it’s being served on. It’s best practice to organise asset groups by a common theme similar to how you organise your ad groups.
Once the campaign has been built, you can go back and add additional asset groups. Structure them in a way that makes sense for your business, which could mean separating them by products or services that you offer.
The next PMax optimization strategy is to use campaign exclusions to prevent wasted budget and improve the efficiency of your campaign. This includes:
It also makes sense to exclude product variations that are relevant for the same search query, products that are not profitable or low margin, and products with a low conversion rate. To achieve this, you can use Listing Groups and exclude these products by Brand, Product ID, Category, Custom Labels, and more.
In addition to improving the efficiency of your campaign, these campaign exclusions will also minimize the number of products that Google will need to put through the learning phase, essentially speeding it up.
When launching a new Performance Max campaign, you have two options for bidding:
Once your campaign has a sufficient amount of conversion data, you can experiment with either Maximize Conversions with Target CPA or Maximize Conversion Value with Target ROAS bid strategies in order to take your campaign to the next level.
You do have the option to use Target CPA or Target ROAS from the get-go but it is a best practice to first gather all important conversion data when launching a new campaign.
There are 14 ad extensions in total—reviews, locations, call, pricing, promotion, and more—but you should always consider using the following:
To illustrate how powerful ad extensions can be, here is an example of a Search ad without any ad extensions running alongside it:
As a comparison, here are two other Search ads that have served in the same auction showing numerous ad extensions. The Wolf and Badger ad features sitelinks, a promotion extension, and a location extension, while the Cambridge Satchel ad features sitelinks, a location extension, a review extension, and a price extension.
This is relevant for advertisers submitting products via a data feed, using the Merchant Centre. Ensure you include as much information as possible in your feed and that it is up to date and relevant.
Important product identifiers that need your attention are listed below. The first three help Google to understand what you are selling and the last three are equally as important from an optimization perspective:
Your data feed will be the foundation of your PMax campaign and will have the biggest impact on results over anything else.
Consider using a data feed management solution to get the most out of ecommerce advertising and for Performance Max campaigns. Feed management tools simplify and automate the nitty gritty feed work, which can ultimately boost online visibility and increase conversion rate and ROAS.
According to the aforementioned Feed Marketing Report, these tools are even more beneficial for certain ecommerce sectors, like automotive, fashion, and home & garden, that deal with a higher complexity of data feed management, due to the high amount of products and variations.
If you are not seeing the desired results after running Performance Max campaigns for a sufficient amount of time, one area to review is Audience Signals.
Tighten up Audience Signals by using your actual business data and prioritize this over using Google’s interests, which include the in-market and affinity audiences.
Google’s interest-based audiences are still a great option but you should try out the above if you want to elevate your Audience Signals.
Performance Max campaigns unlock new opportunities for advertisers and businesses that have perhaps previously been missed, from cross-channel promotion and getting your ads onto new channels, to finding new customers and benefitting from Google’s automation and machine learning technology.
If you are an ecommerce and lead gen business, I would highly recommend experimenting with Performance Max campaigns and using the optimizations in this post! To recap, here’s how to optimize your Performance Max campaigns in Google Ads:
Jacques van der Wilt is a leader in the feed marketing industry and an entrepreneur. He founded DataFeedWatch (acquired by Cart.com), one of the largest feed management companies in the world, which helps online merchants optimize their product listings on more than 2,000 shopping channels in over 60 countries.
Prior to that, Jacques has held leadership positions in both the U.S. and Europe. He is also a seasoned guest speaker at industry events and a mentor at Startup Bootcamp.
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