Performance Max: The Future of Google Advertising

Tom Chandler

Tom Chandler

Head of Paid Search and Shopping

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At the start of 2021, Google announced that it was rolling out Performance Max (PMax) campaigns to all advertisers. The new goal-based campaign type allows advertisers to advertise over the whole of the Google Ads inventory such as YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps, from only one single campaign. By the end of 2022, Smart Shopping and Local campaigns will automatically be upgraded to Performance Max campaigns.

We advise that retailers using Smart Shopping or Local campaigns should begin reviewing and testing the use and application of performance max sooner rather than later, to ensure a smooth transition when Performance Max takes over if these campaigns are currently a core component to your current marketing strategy.

Google’s Performance Max (PMax) campaigns enable advertisers to promote their business products and services across the Google Ads inventory such as YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps – all from a single campaign.

As one of the top 1% of UK agencies ranked through Google’s Premier Partner status, Mediaworks has been able to test the early-stage application and suitability of PMax across its diverse portfolio of clients to share thoughts and experiences below.

What is all the fuss about?

The launch of PMax is Google’s most significant advertising product launch since Smart Shopping in 2018. This new, hybrid all-in-one style campaign is a further indicator of the future of Google advertising and the power of machine learning.

Advertisers running local or Smart Shopping campaigns should be aware that Google will be auto-upgrading these campaigns to fully fledged PMax campaigns, a change that is expected to come later this year. This will mean that performance KPIs, set up processes, optimisations techniques, and the increased focus on ad creatives will be key areas that need to be re-evaluated to achieve success.

Notably, with PMax being the next generation of Smart Shopping, the focus has rightly been around how this impacts retailers specifically, with Shopping campaigns being so vital for brands. However, we should clarify that what makes this new campaign type even more significant is that lead generation businesses can also take advantage of the new features available through PMax.

In terms of performance results, Google has stated that PMax campaigns drive a +13% conversion rate increase at the same or lower cost per conversion when run alongside comparable campaigns.

What new opportunities are available and how can you leverage Performance Max to drive better results within your account?

The role of machine learning and how advertisers engage with its functionality is at the very core of running a successful Google Ads account. What we have seen with PMax is that this campaign combines the best of Google Ads’ automation technology and access to all Google property auction data to achieve optimal machine learning. Some key examples of this are as follows:

  • The algorithm has full visibility into auction data across Google properties
  • Auction-time bidding across all channels
  • Automated creative based on your assets
  • Data-Driven Attribution for full funnel awareness

Another key opportunity is the introduction of Audience Signals. This new feature, exclusively available to Performance Max, provides marketers with the opportunity to steer automation closer to marketing goals and utilise proprietary audience and demographic intel in machine learning. The use of custom segments to target people based on their search activity, downloaded apps, or visited sites, as well as using your own data through customer match lists, are two implementations we suggest you make to supercharge the audience signal set up of your PMax campaigns.

The final area to highlight is the coming availability of rich and actionable insights, which can be used to improve your campaign performance. Traditionally, Google Ads campaigns have relied on marketers having to mine through data-heavy reports in order to get insights on the specifics of their campaigns to better understand how to improve their campaign performance. What we have found highly useful is using these insights to identify week-on-week or month-on-month performance changes to be able to fundamentally better understand market conditions In some instances, this can be used to proactively resolve any performance-related issues. For example, we can see which audiences, creatives, and other drivers (including consumer insights and trends) are impacting performance.

Key considerations for when adopting and managing Google Performance Max.

Start testing PMax alongside existing channel campaigns – it’s important to run PMax alongside your existing channel campaigns as a complementary strategy. That way, you can seamlessly manage the transition from standard or SSC campaigns. For example, if you’re a retailer that intends to launch PMax, this will take priority over current standard and/or smart shopping campaigns in which products appear in both campaign types. Allow for PMax to gradually scale and develop learnings so that your previous campaigns are phased out, to ensure top-line performance is not impacted.

Understanding more detailed campaign performance data is key in levelling up your ability to analyse the additional value being driven to your business and/or marketing objectives. How we suggest doing this is through utilising the predefined reports available within Google Ads. To get that more granular actionable data insight into how the campaign is functioning, we would suggest creating custom reports – understanding the mix of performance across the 6 ad inventories is a key insight to gain. This then allows for actions and optimisations to be made to adjust the campaign such as:

  • Review campaign goal objectives
  • Analysing the impact of PMax on other campaigns in your account
  • Adjusting CPA/ROAS targets
  • Conversion value rule adjustments
  • Final URL expansion – only send traffic to the URLs you’ve provided or exclude specific URLs onsite.

Finally, as with any new campaign launch and especially one as new as PMax, we need to allow for adequate learning periods. That means we can effectively analyse the data and results that are generated (Note: limit any major changes to the campaign during this launch period as it may skew performance results and decision making). We would suggest a 4–6-week time period as being ideal to review your pre- and post-campaign activation results.

In Conclusion

It’s fair to say that this won’t be the last we hear or discuss the functionality of performance max. We predict Google is going to continue developing this campaign type by providing more formats and inventory to expand campaign reach, smart bidding advancements, and gradually improve insights, reporting, and tools made available to marketers.

It probably seemed like just another campaign type, but if you have been paying attention, Performance Max can do a lot more. For the last five years Google’s strategy has been aiming towards creating a fully automated Google Ads platform. This is part of Google’s bigger vision: full automation.

If you need anymore information on Google Performance Max and would like to speak to a member of the Paid Team today, email info@mediaworks.co.uk or call +44 (0) 330 108 6522.

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