Google Performance Max Guide
A Performance Max campaign is one of the latest and the most automated types of ad campaigns in Google Ads. On the one hand, it’s “the future today” — an automated campaign in which you upload content for ads, and the ads themselves find the right audience and bring targeted users to you. But not everything is as simple as it may seem at first glance.
In this article we’ll explore what Performance Max campaigns are, how to launch them, and what’s important to consider.
- What is a Performance Max Campaign?
- Pros & Cons of the Performance Max Campaign
- How Do You Know If the Performance Max Campaign Is Right for You?
- Performance Max Campaign VS Smart Shopping
What is a Performance Max Campaign?
According to Google, a Performance Max campaign is a goal-based automated ad campaign in Google Ads. It allows advertisers to access all their Google Ads networks in a single place. The Performance Max campaign is available on YouTube, DGN, Search, Google Discover, Gmail, and Maps.
We’ll run ads for your store, and you’ll be profitable in 60 days.
If you aren’t, then you’ll get the next month for free.
How to Launch a Performance Max Campaign?
To launch a Performance Max campaign, you’ll need:
- A link to your website (you have an option to use particular pages, more details on this below).
- Content for creating ads.
Based on these data:
- The campaign will analyze the pages of your website and determine which audience, for which queries, and on what sites to run the advertising campaign,
- The campaign will create ads from your content for different sites and platforms.
Structurally, the campaign has Assets inside and it is similar to the group structure in other types of campaigns. At the Asset level, you can separate ads — test different ad content, run special offers and USPs.
Google has created a helpful video on launching Performance Max campaigns, check it out:
What Is Important to Pay Attention to When Setting Up a Performance Max Campaign?
- Select the goals you want your campaign to be optimized for correctly.
If your account does not have target tracking set up yet, then it’s not the right time for you to set up your PM campaign yet. You can read our article on why it’s important to track conversions. There you will also find tools to help you verify the accuracy of your website conversion tracking.
If your conversions are tracked correctly, measure the number of conversions. The more conversions you have accumulated in your account, the more chances you have to successfully teach your Performance Max campaign.
If the number of your conversions is not high enough, we recommend setting up additional micro-conversions and including them in your PM campaign optimization. Micro-conversions can contain actions on the website that is close to the goal conversion. For an online store, adding items to the shopping cart, or viewing a certain number of products or pages may be considered micro-conversions. For a lead generation business, you can also use a certain number of page views, copy and click on a phone number and email, etc. If you have enough data in Google Analytics, you can use a Smart Goal.
- Tick the box if you want to show your ads to the new users only
- Set a budget limit
Otherwise, you risk spending a lot in the learning phase of the campaign. But at the same time, don’t underestimate the budget. The ad campaign won’t have enough data to learn, and you won’t get results. If you know the cost of conversions, target a budget of at least 5xCPA per day.
- Make sure the geotargeting settings have the correct country/city, etc
Also, select the ads to be shown to people located or regularly visiting your target location. Because by default, Google uses the presence of interest: it shows ads not only to those who live in the target location but also to people from other locations, who are actively interested. If this setting does not fit your business — don’t use it.
- We highly recommend that you don’t run a PM campaign on every page of your website without limits.
Some pages often do not make sense to use in advertising. On the other hand, Google highly discourages restricting the campaign to landing pages, because we still want to teach the campaign to be effective, and to do that it needs a lot of data to learn.
With all this in mind, we recommend enabling the URL in the expansion section, and also setting an exclusion rule for the pages it doesn’t make sense to train the campaign on.
What Is Important to Pay Attention to when Creating an Asset?
When you create an Asset, you can add an Audience signal. These are additional markers for the campaign that you use as a compass to tell the campaign which audiences you think the ads will be relevant for. These are by no means the audiences that the campaign will target for sure, but merely the recommendations for the campaign. Nevertheless, it is very important to use this tool in your Performance Max campaigns. You can use your different audiences.
It’s also good practice to divide assets by audience meaning, for example, one for conversion audiences, one for the special custom audiences, one for social demographic audiences, etc. This division of assets for different audience signals will give you an additional opportunity to analyze the quality of the campaign and its elements.
Creating an ad for an PM campaign is quick and easy enough. But there is a BUT. When you create an ad, you just need to upload the right number of headlines, descriptions, images, logos, and videos. Remember that you need to choose the elements of the ad so that with any combination, you will always get a relevant and consistent ad.
Here’s what you need to create ads:
- Headline: 3—5 headlines,
- Long headline: 1—5 long headlines,
- Description: 2—5 descriptions,
- Images: at least 1 square and 1 landscape image,
- Logo: at least 1 square logo, more are optional,
- YouTube video: not required, up to 5 videos of min 10 seconds each.
We recommend using as many elements as possible.
As for videos, we highly recommend that you add at least one video. If you don’t add a video, Google will create a video itself wherever possible. If you don’t have the resources to prepare video content, at least try to make it using special services (for example, Offeo). This leaves you with one more element you can influence when creating an automated ad campaign.
When preparing your ad campaigns, pay attention to the Ad Strength Indicator. It is important to create your ads with the value of this indicator not less than Average. The higher the value of this indicator, the more relevant and diverse your ads will be.
What Are the Pros & Cons of the Performance Max Campaign?
- The campaign is fully automated and will save you time as a professional or a business owner.
- The campaign can produce results, provided some basic conditions are met (we’ll discuss them in detail in the next section).
- A PM campaign will get you access to all of Google’s sites within a single advertising campaign. Running one campaign on all sites at once will save you energy and resources if you want to reach as many ad sites as possible within Google.
Right now, evaluating campaign effectiveness is the biggest and most troublesome area. It’s not about evaluating the effectiveness of an entire campaign, but about understanding which sites, ads, keywords, and audience signals bring you a converting audience. You can’t know that. All the current PM campaign reports are summarized at the level of impressions. But you’ll never know which particular ad brought you all the conversions.
But let’s first take a closer look at the reports of a PM campaign.
In this section, you will find a little information about the keywords and audiences your ad campaign was shown for. It’s a fairly general level of data, but still more than nothing.
This is what the search terms report looks like.
This is what the audience report looks like.
You can find the site report in the Reports section of the Campaigns page.
Unfortunately, you can’t see any stats besides the number of impressions in the Placement report.
As you can see, the report has a separate summary section for the websites owned by Google, and for the websites from the Google Display Network. You can’t get more details.
With the reporting problems for PM campaigns comes another problem — lack of control. If you want to build your Google campaigns as accurately and clearly as possible — an PM campaign will not allow you to do so. Consider this when you decide whether to run an PM campaign or not.
PM campaigns have a relatively high entry threshold. You’ll need these three elements to successfully train a campaign:
- Enough budget
- Enough time for tests.
Let’s go into more detail:
- Conversions. Before launching a PM campaign, conversion tracking must be set up correctly. The number of conversions should be sufficient to train the campaign. For complex businesses with long decision times and low potential reach, training a PM campaign will be more difficult.
- Budget. You will need money for the launch. It doesn’t make sense to run a PM campaign with a severely limited budget. By severely limited, I mean a situation where, for example, a lead in your niche costs $1000, and you run a campaign with a daily budget of $100. At best, your daily budget should be at least $1000, at least $5000/day is better.
- Time. Campaigns need time to test different targeting audiences and find the audience that converts. The more data goes through the campaign regularly, the faster this will happen. Google itself recommends testing a campaign for at least 6 weeks before deciding on its effectiveness.
When PM campaigns are discussed, the issue of traffic cannibalization always comes up: when one campaign steals traffic from another. Logically we assume that an automated campaign would simply deprive of traffic the ordinary search and GDN campaigns running on the same audience. But as our colleagues at Google assure us, this does not happen with PM campaigns. And indeed, our personal experience, as well as the experience of our colleagues confirm this statement. So you shouldn’t stop your other campaigns when you launch a PM campaign. A PM campaign can nicely complement your already running campaigns without cannibalizing them.
How Do You Know if the Performance Max Campaign Is Right for You?
If you have everything we described in the previous chapter, the PM campaign is right for you. Feel free to run it and expect some amazing results.
I want to elaborate even more on conversion tracking in this section. A PM campaign shows much better results when you track conversions across the entire sales funnel. If we’re talking about eCommerce, the typical funnel usually consists of:
- Visiting a website,
- Viewing a product card,
- Adding items to the shopping cart,
- Buying a product.
Often it is logical to set up tracking each of these steps as a goal for eCommerce products right away.
What about lead generation businesses? In this case, too, it will be more effective to build a tracking funnel. Analyze the mandatory steps on the site users should take, and build this sequence of interaction with users. You’ll need to track and set each action in the funnel as a conversion and as a goal. Such a funnel will allow you to put your PM campaign into an auto-strategy mode based on values. If you set a value for each goal in the funnel, you will be able to choose which conversions you need more and which less at the strategy level. For lead generation, the value can be calculated based on CPA and conversions; for eCommerce, it is often transferred automatically. You will be able to set the campaign objective: this or that action is the most valuable to me, let’s focus on it.
The thing is, for all other auto-strategies, all conversions are equal. They don’t care which conversions lead to purchase (and are the most important to you) and which ones are just steps on the way to the main goal. When you set the value to conversions and switch the campaign to an auto-strategy mode by value — you’re telling the campaign which conversions are the most important.
Performance Max Campaign VS Smart Shopping Campaign
If you need to promote your online store and you were planning to set up a Smart Shopping campaign, then you no longer have a choice — you should understand the PM campaign and be ready to work with it. Also, if you already had a Smart Shopping campaign set up, Google planned to replace most Smart Shopping campaigns with PMs by September 2022. You’ll still have the option to run regular Shopping Campaigns, but in our experience, Smart Shopping Campaigns are much more effective than regular Shopping Campaigns.
But again, Smart Shopping, as well as PM campaigns are good and effective if you have enough products, traffic, and budget. So for those advertisers who have already been actively and successfully using Smart Shopping Campaigns, expanding to PM will not be very difficult. These advertisers will get even more reach through additional Discovery & Maps sites within the PM campaign. Performance Max will replace Google Smart Shopping and Local campaigns.
The PM campaign is the future in terms of automation, which Google continues to strive for. More and more of the routine work is being taken over by Google automation. The important elements of launching an effective automated campaign are coming forward, as they used to:
- Articulated goals: why you’re launching a campaign, and what you’re planning to get out of it,
- Transparent and complete tracking of targeted actions on the site.
If you have questions about Performance Max or whether automation is right for your digital marketing efforts, don’t hesitate to contact our team.
Performance Marketing Specialist working with PPC since 2016. Specializes in Google & Microsoft paid traffic for eCommerce & B2B projects. In love with analysis. When not launching effective PPC campaigns, she is reading about the latest eCommerce and data tracking trends.