It has been a year since the launch of Google Performance Max, and without a doubt, it has proven its staying power. Its share of revenue, relative to Google Ads’ total revenue, has nearly doubled, going from 22% to 40% year-over-year (according to internal client data).
As we become accustomed to Performance Max and delve deeper into testing the format, we gain valuable insights into the latest campaign type in Google Ads.
Certain elements of Performance Max seem completely innovative, such as autopilot video asset generation and URL expansion. Meanwhile, other features evoke a sense of familiarity, like responsive ads and the option for conversion-focused bidding.
Having extensively worked with Performance Max campaigns across numerous accounts over the past six months, we have compiled a list of the top 10 recommendations, warnings, precautions, and strategies to ensure success with Google Performance Max.
Which businesses should consider using Google Ads Performance Max?
While opinions may vary, we generally suggest that e-commerce businesses should give Performance Max a try. However, for lead generation companies, we recommend trying it only if you have advanced conversion tracking implemented.
Regardless of your business goals, it’s important to note that testing Performance Max requires a significant budget commitment. We recommend not attempting it unless you are prepared to allocate a minimum of $50–100 per day for at least one month. Without enough data and learning, the format may not deliver optimal results.
- Implement precise and comprehensive conversion tracking.
To optimize your Performance Max campaigns, it’s essential to have accurate and comprehensive conversion tracking in place. Performance Max heavily relies on bid automation and targeting, similar to its predecessors. While conversion tracking is always crucial in Google Ads, it becomes even more critical in Performance Max. While implementing accurate tracking is relatively straightforward for e-commerce businesses, we have noticed that many lead generation companies struggle to ensure the quality of their leads.
In our opinion, this challenge doesn’t reflect a failure in the format itself but emphasizes the importance of using tools like enhanced conversions, offline conversion tracking, CRM integration, and other relevant options.
If you’ve been avoiding conversion tracking challenges, now is the time to tackle and resolve them as automation will continue to grow in importance in PPC.
2. Alternative solution: Use Google Analytics to create a PMax segment for enhanced reporting.
While certain reporting features available in Google Ads are not yet supported in Performance Max, such as landing page reports or precise geographic reports, you can employ an alternative solution with Google Analytics.
By creating a segment of users acquired through your Performance Max campaign, you can obtain more detailed insights into their interactions with your business. For example, using a Google Analytics segment in the Landing Page report, you can observe where the campaign directs them and determine if URL exclusions need to be added or if URL expansion should be disabled. This workaround allows you to leverage Google Analytics for more comprehensive reporting and analysis capabilities.
3. Caution: Be careful with URL expansion in Performance Max.
Performance Max campaigns bring together various Google Ads formats, including Search, Display, Discovery, Video, Shopping, and Local, offering a comprehensive advertising solution (excluding App campaigns for now). As a result, Performance Max incorporates certain features that «borrow» other campaign complexities.
One such feature that is easy to overlook is URL expansion, which is similar to dynamic search ads in Performance Max. By default, Performance Max campaigns have URL expansion enabled. This means that unless you disable it, the campaign has the ability to direct users to landing pages different from the designated final URL, similar to a dynamic ad group.
However, there is a crucial distinction: while dynamic ad groups allow you to define ad goals, such as specific landing pages, Performance Max only allows you to set exclusions – the landing pages where you do not want the campaign to generate traffic. Exclusion rules work similarly but require slightly different logic to be set up correctly.
Be careful when managing URL expansion in Performance Max to ensure that your campaign directs traffic properly.
DON’T FORGET: Make sure to include at least one video asset in your Performance Max campaign.
One of the challenges when setting up a Performance Max campaign is not so much the bidding strategy or audience targeting, but providing a broad range of assets for this format, which thrives on creative content. Since the campaign spans multiple types of inventory, it’s essential to provide a variety of text, image, and video assets.
Unlike Display campaigns where video assets are optional, Performance Max requires their inclusion. If you don’t provide any video assets, Google Ads will automatically generate them. However, it’s worth noting that the current quality of these automatically generated video assets may not meet your expectations.
For advertisers lacking video resources but still wanting to utilize Performance Max, a useful alternative solution is to leverage free tools like Canva to animate their image assets into short videos. This allows you to incorporate engaging video content into your Performance Max campaign without the need for preexisting video assets.
Just like with all Google Ads campaigns, your video must be uploaded to YouTube before it can be used in a campaign. If you don’t want your video ad to be visible on your YouTube channel, select «Hidden» visibility.
WARNING: Pay attention to geographic targeting settings.When configuring geographic targeting in your Performance Max campaign, pay attention to the available options. You can choose between «Presence or interest» (people in or interested in the location) or «Presence» only. We recommend selecting «Presence» only to ensure that your ads are shown exclusively to people within your specified locations. If you choose «Presence or interest,» there is a possibility that your ads may be shown to people outside of your intended locations.
It’s important to note that Google defaults to the «Presence or interest» option, so make sure to manually adjust the setting to «Presence» during campaign setup.
If you’ve been unintentionally running your campaign using the «Presence or interest» option, the previously mentioned Google Analytics segment can be particularly helpful. It will provide insights into the locations generating traffic, allowing you to evaluate the effectiveness of your targeting and make necessary adjustments.
Use Performance Max for conversion goals exclusively.
Similar to Discovery campaigns, Performance Max campaigns currently offer bidding options only for conversion or conversion value goals. While Google may introduce an «Awareness Max» format in the future, for now, it is recommended to use Performance Max campaigns solely for conversion-focused objectives.
If you want to leverage Performance Max for mid-funnel or top-funnel goals, you can still achieve that by setting up campaign-level conversion actions. For example, if you want to test Performance Max for an awareness goal, you can create a «Page view» conversion action and configure the campaign to optimize specifically for page views. This approach allows you to tailor Performance Max to alternative objectives while maintaining a focus on conversions.
Create an audience signal to enhance your Performance Max campaign.
With the introduction of Performance Max campaigns, Google Ads introduced the concept of an audience signal, which may be new to many advertisers. Typically, when adding audiences to your campaign, you have full control over specifying the types of users you want to target.
In Performance Max, when you create an audience signal, you inform Google Ads about the type of users you’re interested in reaching with your ads. However, Performance Max does not strictly adhere to these audience segments. Instead, it uses them as a starting point for ad delivery. As it gathers data, the campaign expands its targeting to include users showing behavior indicating a likelihood of conversion.
This approach aligns with the optimized targeting strategy employed in video campaigns focused on view, discovery, and conversion. While selecting audience segments, Google ultimately shows ads to users it deems most likely to convert. Renaming «optimized targeting» as an «audience signal» implies a greater sense of control for the user, rather than leaving everything in the hands of machine algorithms.
To set your audience signal on the right track, it is recommended to include two types of audience segments: Remarketing and Custom Audience. For remarketing, using a customer list is preferred, but if unavailable, pixel-based website remarketing can be used. As for custom audience, a valuable approach is to build it based on top conversion search terms from your search and shopping campaigns.
It’s worth noting that all audience signals in a Google Ads account are stored in a separate tab within Audience Manager, distinct from your data segments. Even if you create them within a Performance Max campaign, they can be accessed at the account level. This suggests that Google has broader plans for audience signals beyond Performance Max, so it’s worth keeping an eye on future developments.
Refer to the Insights tab to improve reporting transparency.
While there have been concerns regarding reporting transparency in Performance Max, it’s important to note that the Insights tab provides valuable information to address some of those concerns. Once your campaign has been active for a few days or weeks, depending on your budget, you will start seeing key information in terms of «Search categories» and «Audience segments» that perform well.
Search categories group similar search terms and offer insights into two crucial questions:
1- Is Performance Max focusing more on branded or non-branded searches?
2- Is Performance Max targeting new searches or the same as your existing search campaigns?
While search categories may not provide the same level of granularity as a search term report, they offer valuable information for evaluating campaign performance. For example, you can determine if Performance Max is successfully targeting branded or non-branded searches and identify new search opportunities that weren’t previously targeted, unlocking significant incremental potential.
The audience segment reports in the Statistics tab provide visibility into the Google audiences to which your conversion users belong. This information is particularly useful for evaluating the effectiveness of the video/display components of your Performance Max campaign in reaching the desired audience. For example, if you find that specific audience segments in the market generate a significant percentage of conversions, this indicates that your campaign is effectively reaching relevant audiences.
By leveraging the insights available in the Insights tab, you can gain valuable information about search categories, audience segments, and their impact on campaign performance, enabling you to make informed decisions and optimize your Performance Max campaigns accordingly.
DO NOT duplicate your Merchant Center feed images as image assets.
When you connect your Google Merchant Center feed to Performance Max, the campaign utilizes the information from your feed, including titles, prices, images, and availability, to create ads, similar to a Shopping campaign.
Due to this integration, I strongly recommend not adding your «ecommerce images» as separate image assets in your Performance Max asset group. The campaign already has access to these images through your feed, so it is redundant to include them again.
Instead, focus on adding lifestyle images that showcase your products or services being used by real people. Google’s own guide for discovery assets offers valuable information on the types of images that perform well, such as:
Avoiding excessive overlaid text or keeping it to a minimum.
- Presenting images in real-life contexts rather than using generic or overly staged backgrounds.
- Highlighting a single focal point that is framed in the center and occupies around 30% to 40% of the image.
- Including images with real people, as they tend to outperform those without them.
By incorporating this type of imagery into your Performance Max campaign, you can create visually appealing and engaging ads that resonate with your target audience.
BEWARE of customer acquisition rules.
While it’s true that Smart Shopping may have been replaced by Performance Max, it left a legacy in the form of customer acquisition rules. In the settings of your Performance Max campaign, you now have the option to bid exclusively for new customers.
Choosing to bid for new customers can be an excellent option if your Performance Max campaign focuses on brand search and remarketing, and you want to use the format to prioritize acquiring new customers. However, it’s important to adjust your performance expectations accordingly. A customer acquisition-focused Performance Max campaign will not deliver the same «optimal» results as a conversion-focused Performance Max campaign at the bottom of the funnel. Converting new users into customers may take more time (and potentially more ads) in this case.
It’s crucial to consider this factor when evaluating your campaign’s performance and setting realistic goals based on your customer acquisition approach. The strategy of bidding for new customers in Performance Max can be effective, but it’s important to understand that the conversion process may require more effort and time to achieve significant results.
How to effectively run Performance Max campaigns.
As mentioned earlier, it is advisable for e-commerce businesses to start testing Performance Max at this time. Lead generation companies can also do so, but only if they have proper conversion tracking set up. Additionally, it’s important to be prepared to allocate a sufficient budget to generate the necessary data for Google to learn and optimize campaign performance. To summarize the 10 tips shared in this post, here is a guide on how to properly execute Performance Max campaigns:
1- Implement accurate and comprehensive conversion tracking throughout the sales funnel.
2- Create a specific segment for Performance Max in Google Analytics to gain more detailed reports.
3- Use URL exclusions to control traffic directed to specific pages.
4- Add at least one video asset to enrich your ads.
5- Be cautious of default location settings and adjust them according to your needs.
6- Use Performance Max exclusively for conversion goals.
7- Create an audience signal to refine and improve your ad targeting.
8- Refer to the Insights tab for greater transparency in reporting.
9- Avoid duplicating images from your Merchant Center feed as additional image assets.
10- Consider customer acquisition rules to focus on acquisition or conversion based on your business objectives.
By following these tips, you will be on the right path to successfully run your Performance Max campaigns and achieve your advertising goals.