What’s the Deal With the New Google Performance Max Campaign and How To Prepare

What is Performance Max?

Google Performance Max is a new goal-based campaign type that allows advertisers to access all of the Google Ads inventory from a single campaign. In other words, it’s designed to reduce the complexity and overhead needed to manage multiple campaign types. It’s intended to complement your keyword-based Search campaigns to help you find more converting customers across all of Google’s channels like YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps.

In a big announcement earlier this year, Google Ads notified advertisers that they will automatically transition existing Smart Shopping campaigns into Performance Max campaigns between July and September 2022, and Local campaigns will automatically be transitioned between August and September 2022.

What is the main difference between Performance Max vs Smart vs Shopping vs Local campaigns?

The primary difference between Performance Max and other campaigns is that the targeting and delivery of the Performance Max campaign is automated based upon the information that the advertiser provides. Essentially, you provide images, headlines, descriptions, logos, and Google creates ads from these assets. Google automatically shows these ads to audiences who are most likely to convert. Google says you can speed up optimization by providing audience signals, which include remarketing, similar, custom audiences, and the like. This doesn’t mean your ads are guaranteed to show to these audiences, however. Rather, Google looks at the audiences for signals and will use that data to identify consumers with similar behaviors and interests. Think of the audiences as suggestions that you would like the algorithm to consider.

Performance Max campaigns help you increase conversions across Google’s full range of advertising channels and inventory.
Photo credit: Google

Why is Google changing to Performance Max?

Google is making this change to make advertising across all of its platforms easier, and to take another step in the direction of automation. The more data your campaign can bring in to Google, the more it will have to work off of in finding consumers who will convert. Google has been heading in this direction of full automation for quite some time.

Our Google Performance Max Review so far…

Here is our performance max review in terms of performance compared to other campaigns, where we are seeing this work the best and where we are concerned.

In one example, we have tested out a Performance Max campaign for one of our clients and in the two months that the campaign ran, we saw approximately 28% improvement in conversion rate and a 46% decrease in cost per conversion across the account compared to the prior period. The campaign itself earned about a 19% conversion rate and a very low CPA. That being said, we are concerned about the integrity of the data. This campaign was focused on store visits and ran at the same time as the existing local campaign and we saw that it spent a fraction of the budget of the local campaign but drove 10x the store visits which just doesn’t seem possible. We asked Google about the data and they ensured us there wasn’t crossover between the two campaigns but we find that hard to believe. We were also given conflicting information on whether it’s best practice to run a performance max campaign at the same time as a local campaign or if it’s best to just run one. We are still testing, but we are cautious and are not migrating any existing campaigns over until we have a better understanding of the data.

What do we recommend, what do we think will happen, what is the best approach, what data do we need to see before switching, and do we think Google will go through with it?

Performance Max campaigns are being made available in the API. In addition, Google is fully sunsetting smart shopping and local campaigns by the end of September in favor of Performance max campaigns. Google is 100% going through with this change….so far. It’s happening whether you’re ready or not. Or whether you like it or not.

We recommend you read up all you can on this new type of campaign and get ready to switch your shopping and local campaigns over when the time comes. The good news is that when you “upgrade” your existing shopping and local campaigns, Google uses the campaign history in its automation and optimization. However, as noted above, we are waiting to migrate any existing campaigns until we are forced to or when we have more comfort with the metrics. Additionally, be sure to check out the Insights tab for the Performance max campaigns where you can see some data in terms of audiences that are performing well and even search terms grouped into categories.

Campaign Structure Recommendation

When comparing local and shopping campaigns to performance max campaigns, there is one key difference to note in terms of structure. While local and shopping campaigns have ad groups, performance max campaigns have asset groups. 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 a best practice to organize asset groups like you organize your ad groups, by a common theme. Learn more about how asset groups work.

Another key difference that advertisers will notice is that performance metrics are not available at the asset group level. This may be a point of frustration, particularly for advertisers who are used to breaking out ad groups by creative sets to see which creatives perform best. What’s more, Google has made no indication that it plans to improve advertiser visibility into granular performance. Check out our pro tips below to learn what you can see in terms of asset performance.

Pro tips for performance max campaigns:

  • You can add negatives to these campaigns if you see irrelevant search term categories coming in.
  • You can see placements through Google Ads reporting interface; the report is called “Performance Max campaigns placement”; it’s limited though. You can only see impressions and you can’t exclude placements from these campaigns.

Pro tips for asset reporting:

  • Drill down into the asset group level of your performance max campaign and click View details for the asset group you want to look at. This will bring up the asset report.
  • Look at the performance column to see which assets perform low, good, and best.
  • Be sure to only compare assets by their type. For example, compare headlines against headlines, and images against images, and so forth.
  • Until enough data is available to assign a performance label, you’ll see an asset carry a default “Pending” status.
  • To improve your campaign’s performance, you can replace low performing assets with similar high performing assets.
  • You will also definitely want to check out the combinations report, which allows you to view the top performing asset combinations for each asset group.
  • The combinations report also allows you to preview how your asset combinations would look on different channels such as Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, etc.
  • To view the combinations report, Drill down into the asset group level of your performance max campaign and click Combinations to view the Combinations report.
  • Then click Preview Ads on these tiles to preview the asset combinations on different networks.

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