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Google's Performance Max Campaigns guide

A Detailed Insight Into Google’s Performance Max Campaigns

Getting acquainted with Google’s pMax campaigns just got a whole lot easier with this ultimate guide! Stay hooked! ...

The intricate world of Google Ads has always been a challenge for marketers to grasp and get the best out of their ad campaigns. However, with the introduction of Performance Max Campaigns, or pMax campaigns, in November 2021, the world of advertisers and marketers was in for a sea of change. For better or for worse, remains to be seen and may vary from scenario to case. 

In the guide that follows, we have compiled nuggets of wisdom and insights from digital marketers who have actually used Performance Max Campaigns to meet their specific advertising goals, in addition to everything else that one might want to know about Google campaign’s latest offerings. 

Here’s what you should have a clearer understanding of once you reach the end of the blog;

  • What are Performance Max campaigns, and how do they work?
  • How do pMax Campaigns differ from other Google Ads campaigns?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of Performance Max campaigns?
  •  How to set up and optimize Performance Max campaigns?
  •  How to measure and improve Performance Max campaign performance?

Decoding Performance Max or pMax Campaigns

Performance Max is a new way of advertising on Google that lets you reach more people who might buy your products or services. You can use it together with your Search campaigns that use keywords to show your ads. Performance Max can show your ads on different Google platforms like YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps.

Performance Max helps you get more results based on what you want to achieve, such as more sales or more leads. It uses Google’s AI to adjust your ads, budget, audience, and other factors in real-time and across different platforms, for instance, search and display networks. You just need to tell Google what your goal is, such as how much you want to spend or earn for each conversion and provide some images, text, and other information that Google can use to create your ads.

For those of you who are not familiar with Google Ads, this might sound like a kid in a candy shop because your ads can be displayed across channels with a single campaign using Google’s artificial intelligence.This appears as a less labor-intensive and greater returns kind of campaign.

Interestingly, Performance Max campaigns are not mandatory for all advertisers. They are an option for advertisers who have specific goals and want to access all of Google’s inventory from one campaign. However, some advertisers who were using Smart Shopping campaigns, which were an older way of advertising, that only showed ads on shopping platforms, had to upgrade to Performance Max campaigns in September 2022. This means that they had to use the new way instead of the old way. 

Before we proceed towards how pMax campaigns work, it’s important to understand the kinds of Google Networks, 

1. Search Network

  • Google Search, the Shopping tab, Google Maps, and Google Groups
  • Search sites that partner with Google

2.  Display Network:

  • Google sites (like YouTube, Blogger, and Gmail) and thousands of partnering websites across the Internet

Understanding How Performance Max Campaigns Work

Performance Max campaigns work by using Google’s AI to create and optimize your ads. You just need to provide some information and assets, such as:

•  Your campaign goals, such as conversions or revenue

•  Your budget and bidding strategy, such as max CPA or target ROAS

•  Your product feed from Google Merchant Center, if you have one

•  Your location, language, ad schedule, and campaign run dates

•  Your creative assets, such as images, headlines, descriptions, logos, and videos

Google Ads will then use your information and assets to create different ads for different platforms, such as Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, and Maps. Google Ads will also use Smart Bidding to adjust your bids in real time and across platforms to help you reach your goal. You can monitor your campaign performance and see insights on your audience and creative performance in the Performance Max dashboard.

How do pMax Campaigns differ from other Google Ads campaigns?

Currently, there are the following ways to run Shopping Ads, namely, Standard Shopping, Smart Shopping, or Performance Max.

The major thread of difference between the standard and the automated campaigns is the level of control you will have over your ad campaigns. 

Performance Max is different from other Google Ads campaigns in multiple ways. Here are some of the major differences:

  • Automation: With Performance Max, Google automates the creation and delivery of your ads based on the assets you provide, such as images, headlines, descriptions, and logos. Google also uses Smart Bidding to optimize your bids for your chosen goal, such as conversions or revenue.
  • Inventory: Performance Max can run across all of Google’s inventory, including Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, and Maps. This means that you can reach more potential customers with one campaign.
  • Control: Performance Max gives you less control over your targeting and ad formats than other campaigns. You can’t choose specific keywords, placements, or audiences to target. You also can’t edit or preview your ads before they run. However, you can still set your budget, bidding strategy, location, language, ad schedule, and campaign run dates.

To encapsulate the differences, let’s peruse them in a tabular format.

Differentiating FactorStandard Shopping Smart Shopping Performance Max
Networks reflecting your adsShows your ads only on Google Search and some partner sites.Shows your ads on many Google platforms, such as Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, etc.Shows your ads on many Google platforms, such as Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, etc., and also on Discovery and Maps
Reach of your adsLimited reach or reaches fewer people who are searching for your products or servicesWider reach amongst people who might be interested in your products or servicesVery wide reach amongst people who might be interested in your offerings (the issue of relevancy might crop up here.)
Bid Strategy You can choose from different manual and automated bidding strategies, such as Manual CPC, Enhanced CPC, Maximize Clicks, or Target ROAS. You have more control over your bids and can adjust them based on different factors, such as product groups, devices, locations, or audiencesYou can only use one automated bidding strategy, which is Maximize Conversion Value. This means Google will set your bids to get you the most revenue for your budget. You can also set an optional Target ROAS to specify how much revenue you want to get for each dollar you spend. You have less control over your bids and can’t change them based on different factorsYou can choose from two automated bidding strategies, which are Maximize Conversions or Maximize Conversion Value. You can also set optional targets for CPA or ROAS to specify how much you want to spend or earn for each conversion or sale. Google will set your bids to get you the most conversions or revenue across different platforms, such as Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, and Maps. 
Level of control you exertGives you more control over your ads and targetingGives you less control over your ads and targetingYou exert lesser control over your ads, targeting, and bids and can’t change them according to different factors
Transparency of the Campaign There is greater campaign transparency with details about your ads and performanceDivulges fewer details about your ads and performanceMuch like a black box, there is even lesser transparency here
Potential of OptimizationHigh Low Low
Remarketing Lets you choose if you want to show your products to people who visited your site beforeShows your products or services to people who visited your site before by defaultShows your products to people who visited your site before by default
Impact on Existing Search Campaigns Does not affect how your Search campaigns performDoes not affect how your Search campaigns performAffects how your Search campaigns perform

Two takeaways are hard to miss from the above comparison table;

  1. Shows up in more diverse placements
  2. Can and does impact existing Search campaigns

The last one is of high pertinence, and though pMax may resemble Smart Shopping on multiple levels, please remember that it takes the automation game many notches higher! 

Deconstructing the Benefits & Challenges of Performance Max Campaigns 

According to the initial Google declaration, pMax campaigns help marketers realize the following benefits;

  1. Discover more converting customers
  2. Drive more goal-driven value and enhance conversions
  3. Develop richer insights
  4. Deploy automation with your campaign inputs
  5. Simplify the process of ads optimization and campaign management

There are certain segments of marketers who have experienced that the “insights” delivered on the budget allocation on different channels are, in reality, not that detailed. 

However, most marketers concede that the reach is greater (the relevancy or the lead quality might be questionable, though), and the amount of manual work is reduced with the advent of pMax campaigns.

Now that we are clear with the bright side of the campaign let’s check out the grey shades or the perceived challenges as well!

1. Not-so-clear Insights

If Smart Shopping was already hard to understand, Performance Max is even harder.

Google Ads does not tell you much about how it spends your money. You don’t know which platforms, such as Search, YouTube, or Gmail, get more or less of your budget. You also don’t know which types of people, such as new or returning customers, see your ads more or less.

With Performance Max, you also don’t know how it affects your Search campaigns. You might be paying for the same people twice, or losing some people to other advertisers.

This makes it difficult for you to make good decisions. You might be happy with your results and increase your budget without knowing why it works. Or you might be unhappy with your results and decrease your budget without knowing what went wrong.

2. Low Transparency on Your Ad Placements

If you look at the above screenshot, shared by our digital marketer at Mavlers, there ain’t much insight into where the ads are placed. She comes up with two speculations on this perspective, the first one being that the ad campaign was active only for a short duration (one month), and secondly, the insights may show up later.

3. Cannibalization

Since pMax has a greater range of displaying and running ads, it can and will have a delible impact on your existing campaigns. 

This means that Performance Max can show your ads to the same people who already see your other ads.

If you don’t watch carefully, it will take away some of your sales from your other campaigns and make it look like it did all the work.

This makes it harder to know how much extra value Performance Max adds.

Step By Step Guide To Launching A Performance Max Campaign

To render an air of authenticity and walk you through the process of creating a successful Performance Max Ad Campaign, we got in touch with one of our team members who works behind the scenes to set up stellar ad campaigns for our recently launched digital services all-inclusive suite brand, Mavlers. This is what she had to share!

1. Select a Campaign Objective

In the case study, the goal was to increase the number of store visits and consumer engagement, so we chose “Website Traffic.”

2. Choose a Campaign Type

Since we were experimenting with the pMax campaign, we hit select the Performance Max campaign option.

3. Demarcate Conversion Goals

To get the most out of your campaign, you need to set the right combination of conversion goals. It is important to pay utmost attention to this step. In case you’d like to remove a particular goal that isn’t relevant to your campaign, you can click on the hamburger menu on the extreme left and select “Remove goal.”

4. Bidding

If you’d like guidance on the kind of budget you’d like to allocate, according to Google Ads’ budget recommendations, it is advisable to aim for an average daily budget of at least thrice your CPA or cost/conv.

5. Location & Language Settings

Depending on your target audiences’ geographical location and preference of language, you can alter these settings to include or exclude particular languages and locations. 

In our case, we chose audiences based in the USA, UK, and Australia whilst excluding the rest. 

6. Automatically Created Assets

As the name suggests, here, you can allow Google to automate ads beyond the assets you submit,

  • Text Assets: Google will take words from your website’s landing page and domain for curating your ads.
  • Final URL: Google will find another page on your site that matches better with the intent than the link you give them.

We have opted for both options to stay active; you may choose to turn them off depending on your bespoke marketing goals and needs.

Under the “More Settings” option, you can schedule the ads timing, as well as Start and End Dates.

7. Set up Asset Groups

Asset groups are collections of images, logos, headlines, descriptions, and videos that you use to create your Performance Max ads. Google Ads automatically mixes and matches these assets based on the channel and format of your ads. Each Performance Max campaign requires at least one asset group, and you can have up to 100 asset groups per campaign. Asset groups are based on a theme or a target audience, and they contain one or more final URLs. You can add or remove assets from an existing asset group using Google Ads scripts

Img 8 a. Set up asset groups

As you can see from the above screengrabs, one can deliver a set of creative assets that Google can combine and set up ads. 

This is what you need to provide,

  1. Description texts: 1-4 90-character descriptions
  2. Short description: 1 60-character description
  3. Headline: 3-5 30-character headlines
  4. Long headline: 1-5 90-character headlines
  5. Logo: at least 1 square logo; others are optional
  6. YouTube video: not required, up to 5 videos of min 10 seconds
  7. Images: add up to 20 images with at least 1 square and one landscape image

8. Setting Up Audience Signals

Audience signals are a feature in Performance Max campaigns that let you tell Google who you think your ads are best suited for. These signals include things like age, gender, interests, and detailed targeting. They help Google optimize your campaign performance and reach the right customers. As you can gather from the above screenshots, you can offer a detailed picture of your target audiences. Audience signals are not the same as audience targets. They are just suggestions for Google to start with. You can create different audience signals for each asset group in your campaign.

As we come to the end of this sample case study, it is important to share the insights of the marketer herself, and this is what she had to say regarding her experience with the Performance Max campaign for Mavlers.

“We have run this campaign only for 1 month and are not continuing further because of certain reasons BUT can not give any direct feedback in such a short duration campaign. To give better feedback or insights, we should let the campaign run for at least 3 months:

1. Performance-wise, it’s good to get traffic at a very low cost across the Google networks, but the leads/conversion quality is not good.

2. We are still making some changes on our Mavlers website from a positioning perspective, so once it’s done, we can start the same campaign again for a few more days to attract traffic and build brand awareness.

3. As per my experience, this is good for garnering website traffic, engagement, and brand awareness, not for conversions.

4. Depending on Domain or Industry, the performance varies. For instance, for E-commerce or B2C domains, it is a good venture; however, for B2B service firms, its efficacy needs to be explored further.”

How to Optimize Performance Max Campaigns?

Let’s have a look at some best practices for optimizing your fully automated Performance max campaigns,

•  Commit to your campaigns and give them enough time and data to learn.

•  Add as many assets as you can, such as images, videos, logos, headlines, and descriptions.

•  Use the customer acquisition feature to target new customers.

•  Optimize your asset groups based on themes or audiences.

•  Use campaign exclusions to avoid unwanted placements or locations.

•  Set the best bidding strategy for achieving your goal.

•  Use ad extensions to enhance your ads.

•  Use audience signals to tell Google who you want to reach.

•  Add custom segments to your asset groups based on keywords or data.

•  Monitor your performance and tweak your assets and signals as needed.

•  Set up full-funnel conversion tracking to measure your results.

How to Measure Performance Max Campaign Performance?

Once you are done with setting up your pMax campaign, and it’s been running for a while, the next step is to check for the campaign’s performance. 

  1. Check for the Insights Tab.

It is important to note that the Insights tab shows the data range for the past seven to twenty-eight days. You can analyze the campaign metrics such as spends, conversions, and clicks to judge the performance of your Performance Max Campaign. 

One could also delve into Audience Insights such as the share of clicks coming from multiple audience segments and the Index ratio, which is a parameter that measures the number of clicks coming from a particular audience segment divided by the general audience segment. 

2. Reports

Currently, the Performance Max Campaigns Placement Report is located in the Reports tab of the Google Ads segment instead of the pMax campaign. Select the Performance Max campaigns under the Pre-defined Reports (Dimensions). As of now, one can only peruse the Impressions metric. Over time the transparency might improve!

If you have migrated to GA4, then you can check under the group reports in the Cross-Platform Section. If you are still using GA UA, then you might have to look under the Paid Search grouping to view the analysis.

Summary

In this article, we have tried to deliver intricate and in-depth knowledge of Google Ads’ latest offerings, which we hope has been able to give you a comprehensive idea regarding the same. If you’d like us to deliver one on one GA consulting or meet your bespoke marketing needs, we are a text away, always! Hit us up now.

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Naina Sandhir

A content writer at Mavlers, Naina pens quirky, inimitable, and damn relatable content after an in-depth and critical dissection of the topic in question. When not hiking across the Himalayas, she can be found buried in a book with spectacles dangling off her nose!

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