Your Questions On Performance Max Answered

February 2, 2023

Performance Max launched in Nov 2021, and initially had a low usage rate, until in Sep 2022 when Google transitioned all smart shopping campaigns to Performance Max campaigns instead.

Since then it has become an increasingly popular option for advertisers across the Google suite, particularly with e-commerce clients.

So, what is it:

Other than being a funny name, Performance Max is a Google Ads campaign type that combines advertising placement from all across Google’s network. This includes; search, display, video, email & shopping placements.

Why did Google introduce it?

We’re not Google, and we’re not even ChatGPT so we don’t know the real answer to this. But we believe the main reason they introduced Performance Max is to drive more advertising dollars to less popular campaign types & advertising inventory.

This is not to say it can’t also be effective at driving performance at the same time, but the abruptness at which it was introduced and the limitation in visibility and optimisation options that it launched with makes us suspect that the primary reason was revenue-driving.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of other reasons that were likely a factor:

  • Make it easier for small advertisers to run their own campaigns, by limiting it to one campaign type to rule them all.

  • Drive more data into their machine learning algorithm, i.e. have more conversion data in fewer campaigns.

Does it take performance to the MAX?

In short, not really.
In long, that really depends on your industry and what you need out of your advertising, so we’ll split the answer into a table with two parts; the good and the bad of each feature of Performance Max. This should hopefully answer the question for you based on the things you value from your advertising.

What are the best use cases for it?

  1. eCommerce - With the migration of all smart shopping campaigns to Performance Max, that is the prime use case for this campaign at the moment.
    If you already ran smart shopping campaigns successfully before Performance Max, we recommend you continue doing so with Performance Max.
    If you haven’t, we recommend you test Performance Max vs. Standard Shopping and see which campaign type works better for your account. Important to note that you don’t want to trial them at the same time, as Performance Max will cannibalise standard shopping activity.
  2. Testing - as with anything in advertising, you won’t know for sure until you test it. If you’re already maximising your budget across your best-performing campaigns, Performance Max can be a testing opportunity with your remaining budget, challenging your existing benchmarks vs. its performance.
  3. Low time on the tools - if you are very limited with the time you can spend optimising your campaigns, Performance Max will be a better option than stand-alone search campaigns, as it will have a lot more data to work with, and the majority of the work is done at the initial set-up level. But beware, as with any campaign, not monitoring or not testing different options within it will often backfire and hurt performance.

What are the pitfalls to watch out for?

  • Lack of control - with Performance Max campaigns you don’t get a choice of keywords or placements. You provide Google with your goal, a few lines of copy, images, video and an audience signal. From there Google does all the work for you. This can sound great on paper but can be risky for certain advertisers that are very particular about who they want to target, and how and where they want their ads to display.
  • Cannibalisation of paid search traffic - if you want to run Performance Max in conjunction with your existing paid search campaigns, there is a significant chance it will cannibalise on that traffic, particularly with “phrase” or “broad” match keywords. So make sure to add enough negative keywords to prevent it from occurring.
  • Video assets - to run Performance Max you need a video asset. If you don’t upload one, Google will create one automatically for you, and it will not be a good one. So we recommend you not run this campaign type without getting a good video asset first. (15 sec long)
  • Not enough conversion data - this is true for all campaign types but can be particularly problematic for Performance Max which is very reliant on automation and the algorithm having enough conversion data to optimise towards. If you have fewer than 30 conversions per month, we recommend you stick to standard search campaigns.

To Summarise

Performance Max is a relatively new campaign type across Google that combines all of Google’s inventory in one campaign. The results we’re seeing from it are mixed, however, it is worth testing if your business is in e-commerce or if you’re already maximising your budget across paid search and have the testing budget available.

Reach out if you have any questions or if you’d like info specific to your business, industry or if you’d like help setting it up for your specific use case.

Written by:

Lior Kitain

Media Performance Lead
at Reason

Written by the team at Reason.

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