Daaaaaaaamn, Google Ads: back at it again with the automated campaigns! You may have heard of the newest Google Ads campaign called Performance Max. A little heavy-handed with the naming there, right?
Slowly rolled out in 2021, Google Performance Max campaigns allow advertisers to run Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover and Maps ads from one single campaign.
You read that right. All of the major Google Ads platforms in one, convenient package. It feels like the next evolution of Google’s push towards automated campaigns that are comparatively straightforward to set up.
What is Google Performance Max?
According to Google, “Performance Max helps you drive performance based on your specified conversion goals, delivering more conversions and value by optimizing performance in real-time and across channels using Smart Bidding.”
Essentially, you feed Google ad copy, images, videos, audiences, locations, and campaign goals and it serves all across Google ad platforms. You also feed it your conversion goals and budget and you’re off to the races.
The big question here is, is it worth running a Performance Max campaign?
To be fair, there’s a whole lot to like about Google Performance Max.
According to Google, Performance Max campaigns were created to supplement your core campaigns, including search. This means that these campaigns can theoretically run without interfering with your existing campaigns.
While there is certainly cause for concern on potential cannibalization, there are signs that this isn’t a concern and they work in tandem with your existing campaigns.
Additionally, there’s a lot of appeal to the ability to hit several different ad networks with a single campaign. This can significantly decrease the time it takes to prop up campaigns as the asset groups can utilize text, images, and video across multiple platforms without having to create separate campaigns and assets.
Google Performance Max also allows use of smart bidding solutions to drive the action you want a customer to take, from max conversions to target ROAS (return on ad spend). This is great for advertisers who have specific ROAS goals that must be met or want to drive as many actions as possible.
There is also an interesting feature called URL expansion, where you can allow Google’s algorithm to select the best landing page for a customer to land on. This can theoretically help advertisers who have dozens and dozens of pages that may be a “best fit” for a user. This is an optional feature, so Google is also accommodating tighter landing page experiences.
Finally, these campaigns allow the use of audience signals, which gives Google more data on the type of people you want to target. You can use custom segments, remarketing lists, interests, and demographics to show Google the audiences you think are most likely to convert. Google will then expand the audience outside of these parameters. This is great for both hitting existing audience members and those you may be missing out on.
So what’s the catch here?
Google Performance Max sounds great, but there are several negatives to consider before going all in.
For starters, you don’t get to select your keywords. Instead, Google will go after users based on what you supply it in terms of landing pages, custom audiences, remarketing audiences, locations, etc. This is a tremendous loss of control for advertisers, especially those with tight keyword needs. There are definitely scenarios where advertisers in niche industries could get irrelevant traffic.
There is also no way to add in negative keywords yet. Google has stated that account-level negatives will be available at some point in the future, but has not set a hard date for when to expect that capability.
One additional item to consider is that Google will automatically create video assets using your display assets if you don’t provide any video content. For brands that want to ensure specific branding, this may be a hurdle too high to clear.
Also, the reporting for Performance Max campaigns has been a bit lackluster thus far. You can’t get metrics at the asset-group level, so it can be difficult to know which asset groups perform better compared to others. This also includes a lack of reporting for audience segments, so it’s tough to pinpoint which audiences are performing and driving your traffic.
Besides the granular issues with Performance Max, it also hits at advertisers’ worst fear: automation. Obviously, Google is full steam ahead with its automation initiatives, from Responsive Search Ads to the auto-apply feature. So this may just be another step towards the dystopian, keyword-less future that gives Google Ads users nightmares.
Is Google Performance Max right for you?
Considering the pros and cons, does Performance Max have a place in your campaigns?
The short answer is yes. There are several potential uses for Google Performance Max:
- Advertisers that are looking to run ads on Google with a limited budget
- Businesses with long sale cycles that want to stay in front of potential customers
- Advertisers looking for a supplemental campaign for the main core campaigns they are running
- To expand the reach where current campaigns are not hitting their max budget
- If an advertiser doesn’t have time to juggle multiple campaigns and wants things condensed into one campaign
- For businesses who are interested in Google Ads but don’t know where to start
However, we don’t think of Google Performance Max as a replacement for your tried-and-true campaigns at this point. Instead, think of it as supplemental pieces that can hit audiences at different points in their customer journey.
What we predict for Google Performance Max
At this point, Google Performance Max is a low-risk proposition that won’t affect your current campaigns. Its features also allow you to reach people outside of your audience that you otherwise may not be able to target.
While improvements are expected, Hennessey Digital feels there is potential for Performance Max to exist in harmony alongside other campaign types. One thing to keep in mind before moving forward is a lack of control and granular reporting compared to other campaigns. And of course, we will be eagerly anticipating the addition of negative keywords.
If Google Performance Max sounds like something that may fit for your business, test it out with a small budget for a few weeks and compare its performance to your other campaigns or marketing efforts.
And if this is something you need help with, our Paid Media team has your back!