Performance Max: A New Era in Google Ads Campaigns

by | May 28, 2024

We’ve carried out a lot of testing on Performance Max, and not all of it has been pretty. In November 2021, Google introduced Performance Max, which would change our lives as advertisers forever. With advanced machine learning algorithms and real-time data analysis, these campaigns help you reach the right audience at the right time, maximising your ROI, increasing website visibility, attracting more qualified leads, and boosting conversions. Performance Max utilises all of Google’s channels, including shopping, display, discovery, Youtube, Gmail, and Google Maps, within one campaign.

In this article, we’ll dive into what Performance Max is, its key features, the pros and cons, and the challenges you may face while using it.


Key Features of Performance Max

One of the key selling points of Performance Max campaigns is how seemingly simple they are. Google has gone for a plug-and-play system in which you plug all of your assets into the campaign setup, including images, various headlines and descriptions, a video, your Google Shopping feed, and your budget. Google will then take all this information and deliver your ads to the right audience at the right time.


Pros of Performance Max

Performance Max’s greatest advantage is that it allows you to access all of Google Ads’ inventory through a single campaign type with ease. It’s designed to work alongside your keyword-based search campaigns, increasing your chances of finding more converting customers across all of Google’s channels. One of our clients in the fashion retail space saw a 56% increase in ROAS YoY after we transitioned their smart shopping campaigns over to Performance Max.

The platform continuously optimises your ads in real-time, using data to make more accurate predictions about the ads, audiences, and creative combinations that perform best for you. With its real-time understanding of consumer intents and preferences, Performance Max can help you identify new customer segments that you may not have considered before.

The platform uses data-driven attribution across channels to optimise for the touchpoints that drive customers to conversion most effectively.

Audience signals are specific parameters or criteria that you set in Performance Max campaigns to guide the bidding algorithm toward finding and targeting the most relevant audience for your ads. By providing signals, you increase the likelihood of achieving your campaign objectives. The following audience signals are available.

Interests and behaviours: You can specify particular interests or behaviours that you believe are most relevant to your target audience. For instance, if you are promoting a fitness product, you could set audience signals that indicate users who have recently searched for fitness-related terms.

Demographics: You can also set signals based on demographic information such as age, gender, income, or location.

Custom intent signals: Another option is to use custom intent signals, which are created based on your own website data. For example, you could use signals based on the pages that users have visited on your website or the types of products that they have viewed or purchased in the past.


Limitations of Performance Max: What You Need to Know

Even though they appear simple, Performance Max campaigns can require a significant investment of time and marketing budget to master. They need quite a bit of data to function effectively, and performance should improve as you give them more time to optimise. As an agency, we have certainly invested a lot of time and budget to master Performance Max campaigns!

Performance Max campaigns automate almost everything in the process, leaving limited control over ad placement, bidding, and targeting. This can be a bit of a pain if you only want to run the shopping side of Performance Max for example. One new feature that Performance Max offers is running an experiment within Google Ads to test standard shopping campaigns against Performance Max campaigns to determine which brings better results. This is a brand-new feature from Performance Max so we’re still in testing mode!

Performance Max’s black-box nature is frustrating for some users who don’t know where their ads are appearing or who they are targeting. Currently, users cannot see how their campaigns are split across different channels like search, display, YouTube, and Gmail. There are various workarounds to this that can be found online but unfortunately nothing official from Google.

Poorly defined goals can result in significant underperformance on Performance Max. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your numbers from the outset, such as your breakeven ROAS, your results may not meet your expectations.

Performance Max can force brands to consider image ads and videos, even if they lack the skills and resources to create them in-house. Don’t have a video? Google will create one for you in most cases. This auto-generated video usually isn’t great and doesn’t adhere to any of your brand guidelines. If you can, get a video in there to prevent this!

Performance Max will cannibalise brand search if you don’t have those keywords in your account. It’s worth putting your brand terms as negative keywords within your Performance Max campaigns as a failsafe to prevent this. Theoretically, there should be no risk of cannibalization when a search query matches an exact, phrase, or broad match keyword within a search campaign, although it’s best practice to have the negative keywords in there just in case.

One big caveat to Performance Max is not having control over where the budget is being allocated. Furthermore, on quite a few occasions, we have seen Performance Max shift all of the budget into display ads, which heavily decreases the conversion rate. Not great news when your performance max campaigns were there to replace your smart shopping campaigns. Sadly, there isn’t much of a workaround for this just yet.


Our Verdict on Performance Max Campaigns

In conclusion, Performance Max is a very powerful product from Google that is only going to get better and better with the advancements in Google’s algorithms and AI as a whole.

Despite its issues, Performance Max can definitely be a good addition to your overall strategy.

Unlock the full potential of your Google campaigns with Performance Max. Connect with our team of experts to take your advertising to the next level and experience the power of Performance Max campaigns today!