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A 5-Minute Guide To Google Performance Max Campaigns

A 5-Minute Guide To Google Performance Max Campaigns
(Image source: Google)

One Campaign Type To Rule Them All [Sort Of]

Google has officially opened the Performance Max doors to all accounts.

Advertisers can now save time by setting up one campaign that serves on all Google networks. This includes Discover, Display, Gmail, Maps, Search, Shopping, and YouTube. What’s even better? Performance Max campaigns use automation and machine learning to optimize toward one goal (set by the advertiser).

You may be thinking, “I just have to set up one campaign and Google will serve my ads across all networks AND it will optimize for me?”. Let’s back up.

Before you delete all of your existing campaigns, set up one Performance Max campaign, and let your account run with the wind, there are a few things you should know.

A Quick Evaluation

Performance Max will exclusively replace Smart Shopping and Local campaigns and are structured to deliver more dynamic ads. With Smart Shopping campaigns, you use product groups to deliver ads in the Google Shopping feed. The is a “one-click” button to transfer your Smart Shopping campaigns to this new campaign type. Performance Max campaigns use asset groups that contain images, text, logos, YouTube videos, and other content relevant to that specific group to deliver ads across the Google network. Performance Max is intended to be supplementary for all other campaign types like Search and Display.

Potential Benefits

Google is reporting an average 22% increase in conversions and 20% reduction in CPA with Performance Max campaigns. Overall, this campaign type is potentiating increased audience sizes for faster results and higher ROI. How? Google’s machine learning and automation optimizes budget allocation, placement, audience, etc. to meet the advertiser’s goal. Tadpull's paid media team has tested Performance Max and also seen exciting results. After just one month of running a Performance Max campaign, one client saw a 67% increase in ROAS (return on ad spend) across the account.

A campaign that automatically adjusts delivery to meet performance goals sounds like a beautiful setup (and it is) but, for anyone who has worked with automation before, you probably have tiny alarm bells sounding in your head.

Potential Drawbacks

If you have strong roots in PPC, you love the control that keywords, bids, and creative give you. With Performance Max, advertisers get just enough control to give the computer the data it needs. Here’s a quick snapshot of what you do (and don’t) have control over while setting up your Performance Max campaign.

Advertisers do have the option to control audience signals to help jumpstart machine learning. This option is somewhat of an illusion of control as audience signals are not hard targeting/exclusions and Google may expand targeting beyond the selected signals. 

Unfortunately, with limited control of inputs, there seems to be an inverse effect of limited visibility of outputs. If you’ve used Smart Shopping before, you’re familiar with the pain of not knowing what search query triggered a product to be triggered in the shopping feed.

Performance Max WILL show you your top performing audience segments, creative asset performance, top search themes, and location data along with clicks, cost, conversion, etc. You will NOT be able to see the breakdown of network (i.e. Discover, Display, Gmail, Maps, Search, Shopping, and YouTube). Remember those tiny alarm bells? Automation and ML are listed as both a benefit and a drawback.

If you did not have a pre-created video as required by the Performance Max campaigns, Google will create up to 3 videos for the campaigns using other assets you provided. Tadpull noticed that the brand colors (pulled from the logo) are used heavily to influence the ad appearance. The videos are 15 seconds long and also contain stock sound. These Google-created videos are a great option if you do not have a video to use, but you have no control over what the video looks like.

You Are What You Eat: Feed Your Algorithm Only The Best

Automation and machine learning powering your campaigns does not mean you should go fire your ads manager tomorrow. In fact, since automation and machine learning are only as good as the data that it’s fed, you’ll need the help of eCommerce experts in order to best optimize for performance. Performance Max is not a “set it and forget it” campaign type, and requires human impact in order to deliver the best results. This is because there are ongoing optimizations needed as the campaign learns and delivers, like optimizing and updating the text, images and videos in ads.

Lack of expertise can lead to expensive and low-performing ads. Brands who have been using Smart Shopping campaigns are familiar with the data input that makes or breaks these campaigns. We are, of course, talking about the feed…

It’s not that dramatic but it is that important. A product feed contains ample amounts of data that’s made up of product titles, descriptions, links, images, pricing, availability, sizing, brand, color … It goes on and on. Since advertisers don’t have control over what serves and where, just like with Smart Shopping, their control lies in the feed. A poorly optimized feed means poor performing campaigns.

Getting Started With Performance Max

Setup Recommendations

  • Run Performance Max alongside existing campaigns for a couple of days
    This will give Google enough time to ramp up spend and avoid a significant drop in performance for your Ads account

  • Run campaigns for at least 6 weeks to start
    This will kick off the machine learning and give you enough data to compare performance to past campaigns

  • Set similar budgets for both your Performance Max and your existing Smart Shopping campaigns
    This will ensure Performance Max can ramp up to capture previous shopping inventory and minimize performance ramifications

  • Pause your Smart Shopping campaign once Performance Max is up and running
    This will ensure Performance Max can successfully take over completely

  • We recommend that each asset group target different products
    (i.e., Products A-L in Asset Group 1 and Products M-Z in Asset Group 2)

  • Utilize Google Ads Conversion Tracking vs. Google Analytics conversion import to track video views or cross-device conversions

  • Use as many assets as possible
    Add at least 5 versions of text assets (4 headlines, 5 descriptions) and at least 5 versions of image assets (including 1200x1200) to your asset group
  • Set your bid strategy to Maximize Conversion Value instead of Target ROAS to push the campaign out of learning mode slightly faster (though you can always add a Target ROAS later)
  • You can only add 1000 products at a time to each campaign. However, Tadpull found workarounds in the feed to include more items.

Optimization Recommendations

  • Upgrading existing campaign > creating new campaign
    Learnings from the existing campaign will apply

  • Leverage 1st party data to reduce campaign ramp-up time
    Upload customer lists and include similar audiences. Custom segments (consider search-term based segments, in particular), interests, demographics, in-market segments, life events, etc. can all be used as audience signals

  • Search campaigns are king
    Performance Max will only show for search terms not included in an active search campaign

  • Use asset groups > multiple Performance Max campaigns
    Only create multiple campaigns if there are different conversion goals, ROAS targets, geo, etc. that would require different budgets

  • Double check and then triple check your goal category
    Your campaign goal is the destination pin on the map. Make sure to give Google the proper signal for optimization

More setup and optimization recommendations from Google


  • Advertisers can now upgrade Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns to Performance Max
  • Serves across Google Search, Google Maps, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover Feed, and Google Partner websites
  • Performance Max was designed to replace Smart Shopping and Local campaigns and supplement other campaign types like Search and Display
  • Asset groups are replacing Shopping Campaign product groups to deliver more dynamic ads across all channels
  • Potential Benefits: Automation and ML, goal-driven campaigns, faster results, and higher ROI
  • Potential Drawbacks: Limited control, cannibalization, and limited insights
  • Optimize your feed. Really. Optimize your feed.

Ready to jump in and set up your first Performance Max campaign? You can watch this video from Google for the crash course:

Take this Google PMax Course to cover the basics

Sources : Google (support), Search Engine Journal

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