Launched in November 2021, Google Performance Max (or PMax) campaigns has been an offering for online advertisers for over 12 months. As of September 2022, all Smart Shopping campaigns were replaced with PMax.
Simply put, PMax is a goal-based campaign type across a range of Google advertising channels, such as:
Search Display Discover Maps Gmail YouTube Allowing retailers to increase their presence across a range of ad formats with the aim of increasing conversions.
PMax promised more conversions through the optimisation of ad performance in real time across all of the above channels by using Smart Bidding.
Smart Bidding is Google’s AI-driven automated bidding service, traditionally used in Smart Shopping campaigns.
Many of the existing Smart Shopping settings were transferred to PMax, which was great for advertisers who wanted to experience the vaguely familiar aspects like responsive ads and conversion-only bidding. With a few ‘novel’ upgrades like auto-generated video assets and URL expansion, we’re here to determine if PMax is all it was cracked up to be.
5 benefits to PMax Google states that PMax is
designed to complement your keyword-based Search campaigns to help you find more converting customers across all of Google’s channels
At the heart of it, PMax’s USP is that it can save advertisers, and therefore retailers, time and effort manually managing campaigns. Once the goals and budget are set for your campaign, Google will automatically run it for you based on the parameters set.
What are some of the other benefits of using Performance Max?
Increase conversions and value Google’s automated service is able to optimise budget and bids across the channels on offer, and helps drive conversions in real-time. Google saw that:
Advertisers making the most of Performance Max campaigns are already seeing an average increase of 13% total incremental conversions at a similar cost per action.
Find new customers You are able to branch out into entirely new channels and unlock extra demand on the Google properties where you already advertise. By customising the goals that matter to your business you can engage customers across the channels Google offers.
Find the right customers With a real-time understanding of customer intent and behaviour, ads are targeted toward interested and relevant shoppers, which allows you to unlock new audience segments you might not have originally expected.
Gain richer insights PMax asset reporting enables you to understand which creatives are impacting performance, which gives you invaluable data that can help you optimise your campaigns to drive ROI. Your insights page is tailored to your business, and looks across Google for trends that are relevant to what you advertise.
Search term insights
Change history insights
The table below summarises the insight types that are only available at account level or campaign level:
Insight Type When This Insight Shows Availability Available campaign type Asset audience insights Asset audience insights will show for asset-based campaigns when there are sufficient impressions, interactions, and unique converters to identify relevant audience segments for the campaign’s assets. Account, Campaign Discovery,
Video Auction insights Auction insights will show when: * Your campaign was enabled during the set date range
* There has been a significant performance change
* Auction competition is driving the performance change
Campaign Performance Max,
Shopping Audience insights: Your data segments Your data segment insights will show when there are sufficient impressions, interactions, and conversions to identify relevant audience segments. Account, Campaign Search, Shopping, Performance Max, Discovery, Video Change history insights Change History Insights will show if there is a significant change in performance and we found a change in your account or campaign likely to have driven that performance change Campaign Apps, Discovery, Display, Hotel, Local, Performance Max, Search, Shopping, Video Search term insights Search terms insights will appear when there is sufficient search query data for the relevant search categories in your set date range. Account, Campaign Apps, Performance Max, Search, Shopping Demand forecasts Demand forecasts highlight only the categories relevant to your business that are estimated to have significant growth in the upcoming months. You may not always find this insight type if no such categories are found.
Account Search, Shopping, Performance Max Diagnostic insights Diagnostic insights will show after a campaign is created when the campaign has not received traffic or conversions. Campaign Performance Max Performance shifts Campaign performance shifts highlights significant changes in performance for entities such as ad groups, asset groups, product groups, keywords, and videos. The specific entities shown depend on the campaign type. Campaign Apps, Discovery, Display, Hotel, Local, Performance Max, Search, Shopping, Video Persona audience insights Persona audience insights will show when there are sufficient impressions, interactions, and unique converters to identify relevant audience segments. Account, Campaign Discovery, Display, Performance Max, Search, Shopping, Video* Search trends Search trends highlight only the categories relevant to your business that are showing significant period-over-period growth. Search trends will also only show depending on whether there is sufficient historical query data for categories relevant to your business.
You may not always find this insight type if no such categories are found.
Account Performance Max, Search, Shopping *Persona audience insights are available for Video Action Campaigns (VAC) only.
Optimise creatives for performance I cannot emphasise enough how essential optimisation of creative assets is for maximising the effectiveness of PMax campaigns.
It isn’t enough to just be visually appealing, you need to clearly communicate your product/service and include a clear CTA.
See what resonates best with your audience through additional testing on different creative elements like, specifications are detailed in the table below:
PMax reports on the ‘performance’ of each assets with the following rankings:
The asset is low performing compared to all other assets of the same type across properties
The asset performs well enough when compared to all other assets of the same type
This asset is one of the highest performing of all assets of the same type on one (or more) properties
Until enough data is available to assign a performance label, an asset’s default status is ‘Pending.’ We recommend using these signals to replace low-performing assets and test new creative.
Additionally, Google creates video content automatically with headlines, descriptions and images too. However, the videos often appear to be low quality and aren’t inline with the company’s branding.
Unfortunately there is no way to opt out of these auto-generated videos, as such, we recommend uploading a 10-15 second video that is generically branded to every asset group.
What Click thinks I asked Performance Max expert Tom Reynolds, our Senior Paid Media Executive, what he thinks of PMax… does he like it? Was Smart Shopping worth retiring? And, how Performance Max could be made better.
I think we’ve generally seen positive results from Performance Max, especially more recently (maybe not so much when it first launched). Performance can still fluctuate on smaller accounts, and due to how heavily automated it is as a campaign type, it’s not always clear why there is a peak or dip in performance or how to optimise for/against it.
It seems to do a good job at remarketing to users. Shopping results will often include products previously viewed on a site now, and then ads for those products appear on other networks so there’s a more complete cross-network marketing effort from one central campaign. That seems to be one of the advantages (or things we’ve seen more prominently) with PMax over Smart Shopping.
The benefits of Performance Max’s cross-network coverage can sometimes be balanced out by the lack of visibility of search terms and the control over negative keywords. They were things Google had begun to remove from Smart Shopping anyway but at one point there was more visibility and control and that’s not something we get with Performance Max.
The main way it could be made better is more reporting in Google Ads.
We get very little data on how different networks perform (shopping v Display v Search etc), not only how they perform in terms of conversions but also the CPC or spend that has gone towards those. (We do have some 3rd party tools that help with that a little bit, but as much as they tell us more than Google does, we still don’t get the full picture).
Also better reporting on the assets (text, images, videos, etc). It’s not clear which ones are doing better than others.
That ties in with another improvement really which is more control. Google tells us it’s so highly automated because it’s targeting the user rather than the search term but there are fewer levers to pull compared to a standard search or shopping campaign.
Final Thoughts It seems that there are a few more steps to go before Performance Max is perfect, but so far we’re a little nonplussed. We’ve seen positive results – albeit slowly – but there is a certain lack of control I’ve seen reported throughout my own research. Google, if you’re reading this take note!
Last year I wrote about setting up a Performance Max campaign, how naïve I may have been! Written before the retirement of Smart Shopping (ah, what a time) the guide is still helpful to enable you to set up your first PMax campaign.