Updated on August 15, 2023 | 11 minute read
What is Performance Max?
What network does Performance Max run on?
What are the main benefits of using Performance Max?
Drawbacks of using Performance Max
Should Performance Max replace my other search campaigns?
Is Performance Max right for me?
Why your performance data is vital
Reporting on Performance Max
Who should use Performance Max?
How to get started with Performance Max
Performance Max requirements
Google's Performance Max best practices
What are the alternatives to Performance Max?
Having launched in November 2021, Performance Max campaigns are one of Google’s most recent offerings for advertisers. As of September 2022, all Smart Shopping campaigns have been replaced by this new campaign type. You may also see Performance Max referred to as "PMax" around the internet.
This new campaign type is goal-based and lets advertisers show their ads across Google’s advertising channels, including Search, Display, Discover, Maps, Gmail, and YouTube.
Performance Max ads run across the entire Google Network, which is one of its selling points.
Performance Max campaigns can serve on Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, and Discovery. This means your ads could be shown to a wide variety of different audiences.
Ultimately, Performance Max’s main selling point is that it saves retailers and advertisers time and effort spent manually managing campaigns. Once you’ve set the goals of your campaigns and your budget, Google automates your campaign for you.
Since Performance Max provides users with a simple way of getting their ads displayed across multiple platforms, the unified campaigns cover more platforms than Smart Shopping campaigns can, again reducing time spent managing your cross-platform campaigns.
This campaign type also aims to help advertisers unlock new audience segments: with a real-time understanding of customer intent and behaviour, ads are targeted toward interested and relevant shoppers.
Since you upload your own creative assets to Performance Max campaigns, you have some control over the appearance and content appearing in your ads. Google also provides a Combinations Report where you can see the best-performing assets.
To put it plainly, Performance Max seriously hinders control over your campaigns and the performance data you get from them. That’s easily said, but what exactly do we mean? Let’s dive in, shall we?
Since the AI constructs ads using different assets, the advertiser has limited control over the ads produced. If a strong brand image is important to your business, Performance Max could limit your ability to maintain your branding safely.
Researching the experiences of retailers trialling the Performance Max beta tool returns a number of issues. Whilst retailers have seen an initial improvement in performance, the technology seems to run awry.
Similarly, PPC managers must provide thorough information and collateral for asset groups. Failure to spend sufficient time providing matching assets can result in poor ads thrown together by Performance Max, namely their auto-generated videos.
Usually, advertisers on Google can use dayparting to better target their ideal audiences. However, retailers using Performance Max are unable to control the time of day their ads are served, leaving ads to serve randomly.
With audience signals, Performance Max targets audiences by their likelihood of converting. However, amidst growing privacy restrictions, it's becoming increasingly difficult to collect data on user behaviour. Unlike Google's automated tools, Bidnamic targets search terms with a strong likelihood of converting.
Audience signals act as a suggestion to Google about who would be the best person to serve specific ads to. Audience signals are tied to asset groups, so you'll need to set up new audience signals for each of your asset groups.
Mounting privacy protection on iOS devices continues to restrict data retention, making it more difficult again to target audiences, which is what Performance Max aims to achieve.
Just like Smart Shopping, Performance Max black-boxes your invaluable performance data, preventing you from understanding the search terms your audience uses. This is important as this data can be used in your SEO and social media channels, as well as to inform other business decisions like what to stock, how much of it, and when.
But that's not all. Smart Shopping restricted data access, but this only applied to Smart campaigns on the Shopping channel. Performance Max restricts performance data across all the campaigns their campaigns run on, so retailers can't see how their ads perform on different channels.
Finally, Performance Max prevents the retailers from accessing the performance of their campaigns at the SKU level. This means retailers could be grossly overspending for their sales, or on the other hand, bidding too little and missing out on valuable traffic.
By the 2022 holiday season, all Smart Shopping and Local campaigns will be automatically upgraded to Performance Max. The new Performance Max campaigns will be informed by your previous campaign data, and any historical data will remain available to you.
It’s recommended that you run Performance Max campaigns alongside your keyword-based search campaigns, as Google’s machine learning algorithm needs the information for your Performance Max targeting to be effective.
If you're an advertiser looking to appear on all of Google’s advertising platforms using a single campaign, Performance Max might be for you.
In fact, smaller businesses managing their ad campaigns in-house may benefit most from Performance Max, taking advantage of the unified campaign approach without needing to delve too deeply into strategy.
Having full access to your campaign performance data is vital. From understanding how your money is being spent to better your campaigns to knowing where your money’s going, data is incredibly valuable.
Much like Google Smart Shopping, Performance Max is a ‘black box’ and lacks transparency. Without this data, you’ll miss out on key information that could hugely impact your performance.
Without audience data, you’ll miss out on executing effective social ads and retargeting campaigns. On top of that, search term data is a great way to inform your SEO strategy as well as social and email marketing campaigns.
As mentioned above, reporting and data transparency on Performance Max is an issue for retailers. This is a problem that has been carried forward from Smart Shopping.
Currently, advertisers can report on top-level campaign performance, and location performance, and see performance reports by day of the week, hour-of-day, and both day and hour together.
Users cannot report on individual assets, making it difficult to see what could be changed to improve campaigns. Instead, you can only see a general overview.
While you can inform the targeting of your ads, you receive no information about how targeting is performing. You get no information about who is seeing your ad which is vital for monitoring performance.
Reporting on Performance Max has many shortcomings and isn't a good option for retailers looking to have access to all of their campaign data to maximise their efforts.
Performance Max campaigns can work successfully for retailers who lack the time to optimise for each channel and find it difficult to optimise different campaign types.
It will also work well for advertisers who want their ads to be displayed across the entire Google Network without having to set up individual campaigns.
Setting up a Performance Max campaign is a relatively simple process.
To start testing out Performance Max, you’ll need to provide the assets below:
The max file size for images is 5,120KB.
Video is recommended but is an optional asset.
Any video provided must be more than 10 seconds in length.
After you’ve supplied the above assets, Performance Max can start automating ads that will serve across the Google Network, including Google Display.
Lots of marketers like the control that comes from managing campaigns manually. It allows you to adjust bids based on unique variables, for example, stock availability.
But hundreds of campaign metrics, thousands of products, and tens of thousands of search terms mean that staying on top of Google Shopping management has gone beyond what humans can manage.
Specialist PPC agencies use scripts or third-party tools, often spreadsheet-based, to automate reporting and generate optimisation suggestions. These then need to be analysed, and the best of them implemented manually using some form of block bidding.
Bidnamic’s technology platform is an automated solution that utilises both machine learning and human expertise.
Find out more about how Performance Max compares to Bidnamic
• How a Google Shopping or PPC agency manages your Google Shopping
• Bidnamic’s machine learning approach vs a PPC or Google Shopping agency
• Combining Bidnamic’s machine learning platform with a PPC agency
• How Bidnamic’s machine learning technology works
• Learn how to get started with Google Performance Max
• Or learn how to optimise your Performance Max campaigns
Olivia is a Google Shopping specialist within the marketing team. She creates content to simplify the Google Shopping experience, and help our clients discover if Google Shopping is the right channel for them.