We have compiled everything we know about Google’s Performance Max campaigns all in one place. We will cover what Performance Max campaigns are, how to set them up, how they differ from Smart Shopping campaigns, their benefits and more!
What is Performance Max?
Performance Max is a Google Ads automated campaign type, similar, but not the same as Smart campaigns.
This new goal-based campaign type allows advertisers to access, from a single campaign, all of Google’s inventory, including Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail and Discovery. As a result, this maximises your chances of reaching your target audience.
Important: Performance Max campaigns primary objectives are to generate leads, drive online sales and in-store visits.
The main difference between a Performance Max campaign and other campaigns is that Google automates the targeting and delivery of the campaign based on the information provided by the advertiser.
Google will then automate ad creation based on the assets provided. This is very similar to the way that Responsive Display ads work.
How do you set up a Performance Max campaign?
When setting up a Performance Max campaign, much like other campaigns, you are able to choose your ad objective. Depending on what your goals are, you can connect store locations and product feeds.
1. Budget and Bidding
Once you have chosen your objective, you will need to set your budget and choose your bidding strategy.
Note: Bidding strategy options include max conversions and max value, but you can also set a max CPA or a target value/conversion. As a result, this will allow you to leverage Target CPA and Target ROAS strategies.
2. Location, Language and Ad Scheduling
The next step is to choose your locations. Performance Max is not currently supported by Google Ads editor, meaning that the set up of Performance Max campaigns may feel more tedious than other campaigns.
If you have multiple locations to include, you can select “enter another location.” This will then expand to include a blank space and an “advanced search” link. Select “advanced search” if you want to import locations in bulk.
Additionally, you can select your ad schedule, languages, your campaign run dates and so much more!
3. Advanced URL Options
It’s extremely important to set your URL. Otherwise, by default, Google will define its own final URLs unless you turn that option off.
Note: You also have the option to exclude links that you don’t want Google to send traffic to.
4. Setting up Asset Groups
You’ll then be directed to set up an asset group, which is effectively an ad, which will be similar to a responsive display asset. This asset group is called an asset group because it acts as an asset to all platforms. Advertisers can create multiple asset groups.
Aspects of creating your asset groups include:
Selecting your media, including images (up to 20), logos (up to 5) and what video you would like to display
Creating up to five headlines (30 character limit)
Adding up to five long headlines (90 character limit)
Creating one short description (60 character limit)
Setting four descriptions (90 character limit)
5. Informing the Automated Targeting
Each campaign only has one set of targeting. Audiences can be selected to understand who Google should target.
Google states that your ads will be visible to those people who are more likely to convert for your goals. By providing audience signals, you can speed up optimisation.
This means that your campaigns may not solely be delivered to those audiences. Rather, Google looks at the audiences you provide for signals. This data will be used to identify similar consumers that are likely to exhibit the same behaviours and interests.
6. Setting up Ad Extensions
Lastly, you will need to add your extensions. You can either use existing account-level sitelink extensions or create Performance Max campaign specific sitelinks.
The campaign will suggest extension formats based on your goals. For example, if your main goal includes lead generation, then the campaign will make a suggestion of creating a lead form extension.
Note: Structured snippets, promotion extensions, price extensions, callouts and call extensions can also be added.
What are the benefits of Performance Max?
Google’s Performance Max campaign is set to significantly increase online leads and conversions. It does this by automating the optimisation of bids and budgets across all Google platforms. As a result, this means that Performance Max campaigns could be more efficient than a generic search campaign.
Google campaigns benefit from their bank of real-time data on shopper intent and preferences. This means that Performance Max can help you discover new audience segments that you might’ve been unaware of. As a result, you can get your ads in front of more interested shoppers.
Finally, Performance Max is dependent on creative assets that advertisers supply. This way, you can create assets to best suit your audience, helping you to remain in control of your ad campaigns.
What are the cons of Performance Max?
Although there are many benefits of using performance max campaigns, it’s important to remember that there will be some negative aspects. For example, whilst you can get results on top-performing audiences, you can’t get all the valuable data that you can use to reach conclusive results to accurately optimise your campaign.
The potential to have single-campaign optimisation across all Google advertising channels is certainly an advantage. However, you gain almost no visibility on channel-specific performance and how the assets you offer are utilised. This makes it difficult to enforce meaningful change to your campaigns or see how each channel is performing.
Since there’s no channel-specific performance for advertisers, you can’t be sure that your campaigns aren’t cannibalising your other campaigns. Alongside this, you can’t negate keywords to stop this from happening.
Unfortunately, Google hasn’t applied any device modifiers and there isn’t any device-specific data on performance given to advertisers. This makes it difficult to test campaigns to their fullest, and you have no way of comparing desktop and mobile.
When should you use Performance Max?
Performance Max would work well for advertisers who want to appear on all Google advertising platforms, with the capacity to access all of this from a single campaign.
It’s also a good choice for in-house advertisers and smaller businesses, looking to set up a simple Google campaign without needing to delve too much into strategy.
Given the disadvantages listed above, Performance Max doesn’t provide established retailers the same opportunities for growth as other campaign management options. Advertisers using Google’s automated bidding could miss out on invaluable campaign data and may find it harder to compete within their market.
Performance Max vs Smart Shopping
Google’s Smart Shopping is set to be replaced by Performance Max by the end of Q3 2022. If you haven’t already switched your campaigns, don’t worry – your campaigns will automatically be switched to Performance Max campaigns.
Performance Max campaigns cover Google Maps and Discover platforms, unlike Smart Shopping. As a result, this will give your ads more visibility.
Overall, Performance Max campaigns will have the same foundational features as Smart Shopping. However, Performance Max campaigns will build on inventory and data insights provided to advertisers, while still not giving advertisers access to all campaign data.
Important: Since Performance Max still doesn’t offer full transparency and access to data, it may not be the best option for retailers who want to fully optimise their advertising efforts.
What do Performance Max reports include?
Performance Max reporting has been acknowledged as a shortfall. During the Google Marketing Livestream, it was noted that Google would be taking steps to improve transparency within Google Max campaigns, based on advertiser feedback regarding reporting transparency.
Whilst it isn’t currently clear on what reporting will look like in the future, we’ll share our experience with reporting in its current format.
Performance Max reporting is currently limited. Advertisers can report on the overall campaign performance, much like other campaigns. However, it loses transparency when it comes to the breakdowns.
First, the things advertisers can do include:
Report on the performance of top-level campaigns.
Report on location performance. If you are advertising a chain, the store report is available based upon location extensions.
Performance can be reported by hour-of-day, day-of-week and day and hour combined.
What you can’t report on with Performance Max
Though you can add many asset groups, we are not able to report on performance by asset group. For example, in display you can report on performance by responsive display ad but you can’t break down that performance by individual asset in a meaningful way. With Performance Max, you can’t even break down performance by asset group.
There’s also no information provided on targeting. Remember that the targeting parameters that are provided are used as cues to identify other possible consumers in-market, so those audiences provided won’t necessarily be used as targets but rather used as a way to identify qualifiers and indicators to help find other likely prospects.
There’s no way to tell who saw your ad – no audience reporting, no keyword reporting, no demographic reporting, etc. This also means that you can’t add exclusions for these things.
Remember: Advertisers can’t report on device performance or make exclusions.
What network does Performance Max run on?
Unlike other Google campaign types, Performance Max campaigns run across all of Google’s inventory. These campaigns can serve in any of the placements filled by Search, Display, Gmail, YouTube and Discovery campaigns.
Should I stop running my other Search campaigns?
In short – definitely not. Performance Max campaigns should run alongside your core campaigns.
To see the best results, continue investing in your keyword Search campaigns and running them alongside Performance Max. Don’t take the risk of pausing your current campaign structure.
Otherwise, if you only rely on Performance Max campaigns you’ll jeopardise the reach of your campaigns and how they perform. This is because this campaign type does not utilise keywords like Search does.
Overall, these goal-based campaigns have so much to offer advertisers who are looking for the best ways to reach their objectives and audience. We recommend that you upgrade as you see results come in and scale it over time.
Now that you have a better understanding of how performance max can improve your campaigns, let’s dive into some of the other key features of Performance Max.
Key features of Performance Max campaigns
URL Expansion – The default URL Expansion feature chooses a landing page, based on customer intent, to drive the best performance for your goal through machine learning.
Asset Groups – Performance Max use asset groups, which include a set of assets related to a single theme or audience. You can create multiple asset groups per campaign.
Audience Signals – Audience signals will be used to alert Google when a segment of users are more likely to convert.
Reporting and Insights – New reports explain what machine learning is achieving, signals that are used and a breakdown of performance to allow you to adjust your strategy.
Is Performance Max right for me?
We understand that trying something new can be quite daunting. However, if you have the following objectives, you should consider using Google’s Performance Max campaigns:
Specific advertising and conversion goals, like increasing online sales or lead generation.
Maximise your campaigns performance without being limited to which channel your ads will appear on.
Use a single campaign to reach people across Google’s advertising channels.
Gain additional reach and conversion value beyond the keyword-based Search campaigns.
Get in touch
We are experts in SEO and PPC, so if you have any further questions about Performance Max campaigns, get in touch.