Since Google’s Performance Max campaigns hit the scene a couple of years ago, they have not only revolutionized how we manage Google Ads but also how we think of PPC campaigns in general. Google has access to a wide range of different platforms, including YouTube, Search, and Maps. To maximize their advertising revenue across their platforms, they introduced Performance Max.
Many Google Ads gurus consider Performance Max an afterthought. The only issue? Google doesn’t see it that way. In fact, when you’re creating a campaign, you’ll notice that Google does everything it can to incentivize you to use Performance Max. For businesses with enough budget to spend, Pmax presents an incredible opportunity.
Since Performance Max Campaigns are a valuable part of any PPC manager’s arsenal, we thought we’d share our best insights into how to run this type of campaign, and how to maximize your returns from one. New Digital is a digital marketing agency that specializes in Google Ads, and we’ll draw heavily on our experience in this article.
Clarifying False Beliefs about Performance Max Campaigns
People often have misconceptions about what Google’s new Performance Max Campaigns are all about. Many businesses mistake it for performance-based agencies, where you pay per result. This is another instance of Google’s naming causing confusion. With Performance Max, or PMax campaigns, you actually pay per click, just like with any other Google campaign, and not per specific result like a conversion, lead, or sale. We’ve witnessed numerous companies transitioning to PMax under the assumption that it would enable them to pay per conversion. Sadly, that’s not the case.
What Are Google Performance Max Campaigns?
Google Performance Max campaigns are a version of Google Ads machine learning-oriented campaigns that allows a user to run ads across all of Google’s platforms in a single campaign. This enables marketers to reach potential customers using audiences they might have never thought of reaching otherwise.
It will require some major experience to set up and optimize ads on these platforms; there are several moving parts. After all, Google allows you to target:
- Google Search
- Youtube Ads
- Google Maps
- Google Shopping
- Google Discover
- Google Display
That’s quite a range of possibilities. Imagine running an advertisement for your car dealership on YouTube, and then following your target audience around with Google Search ads, Google Maps ads, Smart Shopping campaigns, and more. It’s just like having billboards all over your city, except instead, you’re increasing your local presence all over the internet, where people spend more of their time these days anyway.
Powered by machine-learning techniques, Performance Max campaigns tailor themselves to whichever goal they decide. You could choose to drive online sales, power customer acquisition, grow leads or increase offline sales. Depending on your settings, Google will optimize for the outcomes you desire. The campaigns will adjust to your settings in real-time based on your performance data, and help you achieve the best results. That’s where the algorithms come in. Google’s machine learning will allow you to automate bidding, targeting, and even ad creation.
When it comes to audiences, you also get quite a bit more flexibility. You can go as broad and granular as you like, and Google will adjust every aspect of your campaign accordingly. You can target niche interest groups if you want, and discover new ways to reach them.
Google’s AI tools are also competent enough to generate ads for you. You can simply add as many ad assets, including headlines, descriptions, and images, and Google will sort these into different ads that are placed across your campaigns and geared towards different audiences. Of course, this requires some degree of faith in Google’s ability to recognize your products’ selling points, and this aspect of Performance Max campaigns is not obligatory,
Campaign Performance Reports
After it collects enough data, you will be able to review the work that the machine learning algorithms have done to promote your ad. You’ll be allowed to drill down on specific aspects of your success, such as which platforms performed the best, and which audiences delivered the highest returns. Even if you don’t decide to stick with Performance Max campaigns, at the very least, you can take the insights you got from various audiences or platforms, and concentrate your efforts there in the future.
Who Are Google Performance Max Campaigns For?
Ultimately, almost any business can find utility in a Performance Max campaign. They’re designed to cater to a broad spectrum of advertisers. However, not every business is in a situation where they can benefit from a Performance Max campaign at this very moment. Here are some cases where Performance Max Campaigns can work well.
Businesses Who Don’t Want To Juggle Advertising Across Multiple Venues
If you’re running two varieties of Google Ads, for instance, search ads and YouTube ads, then you already have a balancing act to deal with. Constantly checking on and optimizing both campaigns can be a struggle, especially when you have a business to run. Performance Max campaigns help smooth this situation over by giving you an avenue to broadcast a consistent advertising message across the entire spectrum that you desire.
Moreover, if you like to keep your team lean, and automate as much work as possible, then fussing around with different individual ad platforms doesn’t sound like your style. The fact that Performance Max will auto-optimize your campaigns based on real-time data allows you to focus your limited manpower on the things that move your business forward on a day-to-day basis.
Performance Max campaigns should be of particular interest to eComm companies. First off, Google already has mountains of data on which products work with which audiences, so they’ll be ready to optimize for your business off the bat. Then, consider that Google can immediately drive sales across all their platforms if given enough advertising assets. Your products can be seen well beyond Google Shopping, as you can present a unified brand image across multiple platforms. With more impressions, your audience might be more inclined to click and eventually buy.
Companies That Must Meet Multiple Objectives
Usually, when we start launching a regular Google Ads campaign, we only want to take aim at a single objective. But for some businesses, this isn’t really a feasible way to run your search campaigns. Imagine a brick-and-mortar shoe store that also sells its wares online. You might want to drive online sales, but what about your physical store? You’ll need to drive offline sales as well. Performance Max empowers you to combine these two goals: online and offline coordination. You could also integrate all sorts of other marketing objectives, such as lead generation.
Businesses That Already Have Quality Data
If you already know a bit about your customers, you can do a lot more with Performance Max. Essentially, already having comprehensive data on your customers, including demographics, online behavior, and offline conversion data, is like a cheat code. You avoid wasting time trying to find the right markets that fit you, and can immediately unleash the more dynamic features of Performance Max by coordinating your various ad assets across various platforms, with the right audiences already in your pocket.
Overall, Performance Max campaigns are a great choice if you:
- Lack the time or expertise to optimize your campaigns on your own.
- Spend a substantial budget and wish to uncover new target audiences stemming from these campaigns.
- Prioritize optimizing campaign performance but aren’t concerned about specific ad channels.
- Looking to aggregate and “simplify” your Google Ads advertising through a single campaign.
Regarding the industries that gain the most from these ads, it’s somewhat tricky to pinpoint due to the novelty of Performance Max ads. Whether you operate an e-commerce store, a brick-and-mortar retailer, a SaaS brand, or a B2B company, our suggestion is to give them a try, but under the careful guidance of a Google Ads professional.
When you should not run Performance Max
So far, it might seem like Performance Max is some one-size-fits-all silver bullet that will completely revolutionize your online advertising strategy. However, this is not the case for everyone. Some businesses might find that Performance Max is just far too broad to be able to deliver its desired outcomes, other businesses might prefer to have more control over their brand image, and therefore, their campaigns.
In general, you will need a bit of Google Ads data first. But don’t let that discourage you: as long as your business is suited to Performance Max, you can start out by running Google Ads and collecting customer data, and then move on to Performance Max campaigns when you or your ads manager feel confident.
Here are some cases where you should think twice about indulging in a Performance Max campaign.
Businesses With Tiny Budgets
If you have less than $1,000 per month to spend on your Pmax campaign, chances are, you won’t get the most out of it. Pmax is multi-channel and needs a fair amount of budget to work with to test every angle. Remember, you could be spending on every click, depending on your payment model. Each click helps you gather data, and data costs money.
Businesses With Complex, Niche Services
If your business has few customers, or your product is extremely complicated, then casting a wide net with Performance Max campaigns is likely to hurt you in the long run. Other advertising strategies are likely to be more fruitful.
Moreover, if your total conversions per month are low, for instance, less than 25, then you likely won’t benefit from the broad reach that Pmax provides.
Businesses With A Long Sales Cycle
If you sell large-scale enterprise software, you need to spend a long time onboarding clients and familiarizing them with your brand. Performance Max emphasizes quick feedback and quick results. As such, you may want to use different campaign types, e.g. Google Search Ads for targeting and Google Display Ads for focused remarking.
Companies Concerned With Brand-Image
If you want maximum control over how your company is perceived, then Performance Max won’t necessarily afford you this option. If you want to treat each advertisement as its own special campaign, you won’t benefit from the interconnectedness of Pmax campaigns.
Why You Should Run A Google Performance Max Campaign
Full Landing Page Flexibility
Directing your warm leads to static landing pages is too predictable in the era of modern marketing. Landing pages act as the bridge between an ad and a potential conversion. The issue is, customers have seen dozens of different bridges. Pmax allows you to create a unique bridge that a potential customer might never have seen before.
For instance, imagine you have a user who is enamoured with one specific variant of your product. Let’s take the running shoes example once again. If a potential lead clicks on a shopping ad after searching for “orange running shoes” you can then immediately show the user a landing page featuring orange running shoes, given that you added a photo (ad asset) that features an orange pair. How often does that happen? Most ad campaigns will just take you to a generic landing page, not a customized one. You’ll end up with more satisfied customers, lower bounce rates, and a wider range of conversion possibilities.
Performance Max Optimizes Itself
Given that Pmax uses machine-learning optimization, and not just traditional algorithms, your ad campaigns are going to evolve a lot quicker. Traditional algorithms usually work under set parameters. On the other hand, machine learning will adjust your campaigns with every new interaction. Pmax will constantly recalibrate itself based on new user data. Eventually, it will yield a more precise, refined, and effective advertisement strategy that aligns more closely with the dynamic nature of consumer behaviour online. If done well, this tactic should deliver a higher ROI than typical ads, provided the campaign is being run properly.
A Wide Base Of Data
Taking a holistic view of your data is critical in a marketing world where insights fuel every decision. Standard Google Ads will only give you a selection of the data, not the full picture. Meanwhile, Pmax allows for a ridiculous amount of data collection, far more comprehensive than just about any tool out there currently.
One aspect of data that often gets overlooked in online marketing is the offline touchpoints that each business has. Thankfully, Pmax allows you to incorporate your offline conversion data, whether it comes from a CRM, IVR, or other channels, into your campaigns. This allows you to illustrate your customer journey more vividly. Not only this, but you can then take these insights and apply them to ameliorate your campaigns, something that was unthinkable previously. Pmax allows you to craft strategies to optimize for offline conversions too.
With a large base of data comes far more granular touchpoints to target. Instead of targeting a specific keyword or a specific country and age group, you can now dynamically create new audiences that align more closely with your product than anything you could have thought up by yourself using standard plug-and-play audiences. Basically, Pmax allows you to discover your target audience and refine it.
You can easily segment Pmax campaigns based on various themes or services too. This will ensure that the advertisements you create are more impactful, as you continually test different messaging techniques.
A/B testing is a critical aspect of developing a successful advertising campaign of any kind. Even if Google has already integrated split testing into its ad framework for a long time, the auto-generated tests that Pmax campaigns provide take this ethos to the next level.
Remember, Pmax campaigns will automatically generate a landing page and an entire asset group on your behalf. Therefore, Pmax can essentially create split tests for you from scratch. If you have any fear about whether Pmax’s auto-created landing pages will actually function properly, you can at least rest assured that they are not only being tested but that they are considering many different ads and alternatives. This can help you keep up with new trends in PPC marketing without always needing to stay on top of things yourself.
The Anatomy Of A Google Performance Max Campaign
The key to succeeding at Performance Max is to set your campaign up correctly from the start. After all, automation and machine learning imply that you can be pretty hands-off with these campaigns if you manage them properly. However, if you’ve never run a Google Ads campaign in your life, then you or your ads manager should probably start with smaller ads at first to test the waters for a bit first. You can see which of Google’s advertising channels and what types of angles your target audience responds to first, and then engineer your performance max campaign with this data in mind.
Think of it this way: creating a traditional Google Ads campaign is like building a house. And when you make one with more ad groups, it could be like adding additions to the house: a larger living room here, an extra floor there, and so on. You have to follow building codes, but the level of complexity isn’t very high.
On the other hand, creating a performance max ad is like building a massive apartment complex with hundreds of units. You must expend far more resources to get the job done, and there are many complexities you must plan for ahead of time. Once you break ground, there aren’t many additions you can make. You’ve already decided on the structure and handed the plans off to the contractors, who have their own methods of organizing themselves that might not be immediately apparent to you. I.e., it’s very big, and you don’t get to control everything directly.
So, having properly understood the potential use cases of a Performance Max campaign, we can begin outlining the tasks that need to be carried out to execute such a campaign successfully.
Step 1: Preparing The Data And Assets
As we mentioned earlier, you need a decent base of data to be able to start your Pmax campaign. If not, head back to your Google Ads account and start running a few Google Ads campaigns first so you can collect customer data. You need to ground your campaigns in some level of reality.
The types of data you might look for from your audience could consist of:
- Demographic data (age, location, etc.)
- Online behaviour patterns
- Offline behaviour (e.g., from a CRM)
The more data you have, the more nuanced and targeted your campaigns can be, and the less money you’ll waste on campaigns initially. So don’t be afraid to run a couple of regular Ads campaigns first before you start tackling the issue of Pmax campaigns.
Gathering Visual Assets
Oftentimes, visual content is a driving force behind audience engagement. A captivating image, an informative video, or a well-designed graphic can make the difference between a user scrolling past your ad and stopping to interact with it. For Performance Max campaigns, having a repository of high-quality visual assets is pivotal. Remember the example we gave earlier about the orange shoes? Well, you would also need to have the foresight to take pictures of every variety of shoe you offer, and perhaps provide some footage of people wearing it.
Getting the right visuals ready for your business is a topic in and of itself Make sure that you gather material that’s relevant to your target audience, and make sure your main selling points are featured prominently.
Writing Ad Copy
Like the data-gathering phase, writing ad copy that converts your customers is something that requires quite a bit of professional experience. No matter how good your product is, nobody will want to buy it if you don’t convince them with words. Awkwardly worded ads will only serve to hurt your reputation too.
Generally speaking, companies will hire an ad manager to help with this work. You can start by sharing buyer pain points and features of your product with the ad manager. Then, they’ll devise copy filled with strong, active verbs that positions your product or service as the solution. You might also want to integrate testimonials into your landing pages to build trust with your customers.
The most important part of the copy is, of course, getting the user to convert. Your Google Ads manager should be an expert at building a sales funnel. That means that every piece of advertising your ads manager creates should have a purpose, and thus, an action that the potential customer should take.
Create A Performance Max Campaign Structure
Once you have all the parts we just listed, you or your ad manager can begin to put everything together. You should sit down and define your overall goals from the campaign. Your ads need to serve different audiences, but this step will determine who each ad will get sent to. You’ll also determine the key performance metrics that you use to measure the success of your campaign, which will establish reporting standards and thresholds for future collaboration. This step takes time, but if done well, a few adjustments will be required in the future.
Step 2: Create A Campaign
The Performance Max Platform
Given that Performance Max differs somewhat from Google Ads campaigns, you’ll need to accustom yourself to the different settings.
For those embarking on a new Performance Max campaign, click on the ‘New Campaign’ button, select your goal (like sales, leads, etc.), and then choose ‘Performance Max’ as your campaign subtype. This will guide you through the setup process, ensuring that you’re leveraging all the tools available.
You could also integrate Performance Max settings into a brand-new campaign. If you wish to do this, navigate to the campaign you wish to modify. Under the ‘Settings’ tab, you’ll find options to adjust features and align them with Performance Max standards, ensuring continuity and enhanced performance.
Once you’ve created a campaign, you’ll see a large range of campaign parameters. If you’re going to be handling the Google Ads campaigns yourself, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with this dashboard because these are the levers you need to pull to make your campaign succeed.
Here is a broad overview of the sections you’ll see when you open up a Performance Max campaign:
- Overview: A general summary of your campaign’s performance.
- Ads & Extensions: Where you can view, add, or edit your creative assets and their ad extensions.
- Audiences: Insights into whom your ads are reaching and options to refine this audience.
- Settings: Dive deeper into the nuances of your campaign like bid adjustments, ad rotation preferences, and more.
Once you set up your campaign, one of your first tasks is to decide on a bidding strategy. With Performance Max campaigns, you’re essentially choosing to use Smart Bidding, which offers two choices: Maximize Conversions and Maximize Conversion Value.
We always suggest suggest to start off with Maximize Conversions and let the system colect as much conversion data as it can. There will be a learning phase of at least 30 days with any fresh Performance Max campaign. Even with positive audience signals at the beginning, you’ll still need a few weeks to optimize your campaign. You won’t reach peak performance overnight.
After you’ve achieved a satisfactory level of both quantity and quality for your conversions, it’s a good idea to think about setting a Target CPA to keep the costs capped. Alternatively, you might also want to explore transitioning to Maximize Conversion Value with a Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).
Basically, most businesses will want to begin by collecting data. You should optimize for conversions rather than conversion value, which means that you should select the option to “Maximize Conversions”. Unlike standard Google Ads, the bidding framework is pretty much automatic here, so you might not get the granularity that you’re used to. As with other Google Ads campaigns, If you set your target CPA too low or your target ROAS too high, it could potentially lead to a decrease in conversions, consequently affecting your overall revenue. On the flip side, being overly generous with these targets could impact the profitability of your campaign.
Step 3: Refining Your Audience
Note that first and foremost, you won’t be able to target the exact users that you want. For instance, if you were to load a list of 5,000 leads into Performance Max with the intent of conducting a remarketing campaign, Google will merely consider these names as guidelines for who should see your campaign. Performance Max has the capability, you just need to guide it to make the right decisions, rather than force it.
Make sure that you segment your audience into specified, manageable groups. Make sure that you tell it to target everyone you want to target. Performance Max can get very granular, going based on different services that Google deems relevant to them. Once the Pmax platform understands which audiences you want to target, it will look at them and see what might connect these individuals beneath the surface. You might have two audiences that you see as completely disparate, but Google might see that they tend to have a common interest group that you didn’t think of. After that, they might display your ads to that particular interest group to test whether it’s a good fit for your product.
Performance Max is very observant. As such, it collects a large amount of audience signals. In essence, audience signals are cues or insights about user behavior, preferences, and past interactions that can be leveraged for clearer ad targeting. Performance Max will adjust each ad to match the user profile they’ve built based on these signals. For example, if a user has already clicked on your website before, Performance Max can serve ads tailored to them, thus increasing the likelihood of engagement.
Eliminating Negative Keywords
Performance Max allows you to eliminate negative keywords, but not as you would in a standard Google Ads campaign. You can discourage negative keywords at the top level, but you don’t get the same granularity as you would have in past campaigns.
Selecting the geographic area where you’ll run your ads is, of course, essential. You can choose between two modes: exclusively targeting presence, i.e. People who live in a certain area. Or, you can choose to target presence and interest, i.e. people who live in a certain area or are planning a trip there.
For instance, if you consider all of Canada to be your target audience, then you likely won’t want to target people who are planning a trip there (unless you’re in the tourism industry, of course). On the other hand, if your business serves Montreal, then you might want broader local campaigns to target people from nearby cities, like Gatineau for example, because they may visit your area consistently.
Adjusting Campaign Settings
Selecting Landing Pages
Remember the ad copy that you gathered earlier? All those landing pages are supposed to be fed by your ad campaigns. The more pages you develop, the better. It will give Performance Max a far greater range of opportunities to help you optimize your campaigns. Over time, you can take the conversion data that you have from Performance Max and see which ad angles and copy worked the best, and try to replicate that with new copy. Pmax’s final URL Expansion will dynamically coordinate the best landing pages and attach them to the right ad to maximize conversions.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the beautiful parts of Performance Max is that it will create ad assets for you based on your existing content. You might not choose this option simply because it doesn’t produce landing pages that resonate with your brand. You need to evaluate whether these auto-generated landing pages will set the proper expectations in your users’ minds. We recommend that you give this feature a spin, but monitor it closely to ensure you’re not creating false hopes.
In Performance Max, you create Assets instead of Ads as you do in other campaigns. These assets combine various types and sizes of ad copy, images, and videos. We recommend creating several assets, typically to match your key products/services or their groups.
For each Performance Max asset, you would need the images of following types and sizes:
- Landscape images – 1200 x 628px (1.91:1), 5-20 images
- Square images – 1200 x 1200px (1:1), 5-20 images
- Portrait images – 960 x 1200px (4:5), at least 2-5 images
Additionally, if you could create videos with these items or images that are at least 10 seconds long, that would be great. The required video ratio is 1.91:1 (1200 x 628px).
Monitoring & Adaptation
Note that as your campaign has more miles on it, it will eventually perfect itself. We typically call the first month of the campaign the learning phase. We won’t make major changes at all during this phase to see how our advertising decisions worked out. As the campaign progresses, you’ll be able to leverage your insights as you go along. Not to mention, Performance Max will help you adapt automatically to user behaviour and new market trends.
7 Expert Google Performance Max Tips
We mentioned earlier that Performance Max campaigns tend to have a 6-week window at the beginning where they need to be optimized. You probably shouldn’t touch the campaign during this time.
But even after the fact, it can take time to find the optimal ROI for your ads. But it makes sense to persevere because once you find a level of profit that you can exploit, your Pmax will see the success and keep running your campaigns the same way, which will give you an ever-growing stream of revenue well into the future. That’s where the value lies.
Audiences Are Not Audience Signals
Knowing your target audience is all well and good. Everyone familiar with Google Ads knows to start their campaigns off by targeting the right audiences.
But a Performance Max novice might confuse audiences with audience signals and forget them altogether. That’s a major error. Audience signals help you make the most of the Pmax campaign. Pmax allows you to target your ads not only to a specific age or gender but also:
- People who have interacted with your website in some way (e.g., clicked on an ad, signed up for an email list, etc.)
- Repeat customers
- Customers who have lots to spend (based on historical data)
- Anybody else you deem a good customer, based on your own custom-generated signals
This is a lot more sophisticated compared to how audiences were previously.
Create Multiple Performance Max Campaigns
One of the biggest complaints with Pmax is that it’s not granular enough. Both amateurs and ad managers alike complain that you can’t do things like set negative keywords based on a certain product, or funnel your searches towards a particular product.
Every business is different, but depending on the level of granularity you want, you can easily decide to create Performance Max ads for each product, or a certain sector of products. Alternatively, some businesses might create a Pmax campaign for their bestselling product, and a separate one for the rest of their products.
The amount of campaigns you create depends on your budget and the degree of granularity you require. You might target a different ROAS for a different group of products, you might want to focus on your bestsellers because you know they work. If you want flexibility with Pmax, be prepared to think outside the box with your product groupings instead of sticking to a single one.
Optimize Your Assets Based On Traffic
After the data piles in. You’ll notice that some ad channels do better than others. And that means some types of ad assets will do better than others too. At the beginning of your campaign, you might sprinkle a little bit of everything in there: good landing pages, good product photos, just to cover your bases.
However, down the road, you might realize that your best-performing assets are the ones you used in Google Shopping Ads. If you see an opportunity to improve on the product photos you have currently, you can start taking better pictures and uploading them to capitalize even more on the conversions that you’re getting already.
Don’t Say Yes To Everything Google Recommends
When you create your first campaign, Google will recommend you a whole bunch of automated settings that are beneficial to their bottom line, but not necessarily to yours.
For instance, Performance Max ads sometimes create ad assets with your logo automatically. You might like your logo, but this type of auto-generated asset group doesn’t really convert anyone. Usually, you can feel safe saying no to just about any auto-recommendation, so long as you know what you’re doing.
Hire A Google Ads Agency to Run Pmax Campaigns
Google Ads can seem quite simple to the layperson. After all, it’s just a matter of clicking a few buttons, right?
Let’s imagine for a second, that you miraculously ran your entire Google Ads campaign without a hitch. You wrote nice ad copy, you took good product photos, you selected the right audiences, and you even delved deeper into things like audience signals. This takes a lot of time and effort, and you will likely have neglected some aspects of your business. Instead of growing your sales, you might be trying to get back to the level that you were at before unless you really have tons of free time.
Eventually, you will benefit from all the increased sales that you’re getting. But if you’re getting more sales, then you’ll also be busier. It’s a paradox. Eventually, you’ll find that you don’t have time to keep checking up on your ads. At this point, you could end up shoveling a big pile of money at something that’s no longer working for you. A Google Ads manager will know how to pivot at the right moment, instead of letting your money go to waste.
After 2 years, you can rest assured that Performance Max campaigns are battle-tested and here to stay. Not to mention, Google’s machine learning algorithms have now been trained for 2 years, which means that you’re going to benefit from the outcomes of several successful campaigns, not just yours.
New Digital has the appropriate experience to handle both traditional Google Ads and Performance Max. Pmax fits us perfectly since we tend to channel data-driven insights into all our marketing output. Book a call with us today, and start reaching the customers who need you, but can’t find you.