Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Performance Max Campaigns

The digital marketing world has been reacting to Google’s new Performance Max advertising tool. As a PPC agency we’re in the thick of that conversation, so here are our observations so far on how Performance Max could fit into marketing plans.

Firstly, what is Performance Max?

It’s an automated, goal-based ad campaign system which applies machine learning to the creative assets and information you feed it to choose who sees your ads, where they see them, and it can even choose what page to bring the prospect to.

It’s not unlike the Smart campaigns, and some PPC management agencies are describing it as an “upgrade” for those using Smart and Local campaigns with Google.

How does Performance Max work?

A bit like paid social campaigns, Performance Max runs automated campaigns, with its parameters based on the information you supply about the product or service, the audience(s) you’re targeting and your budget. Much like a Facebook ad campaign, you kick off by selecting a campaign objective such as leads, sales, or website traffic.

Its use of dynamic ad formats is very reminiscent of Ad Manager in social media marketing; the big difference being that you don’t get ad previews, or select/de-select which platforms you want your ad to appear on. That’s all part of the automation.

The big digital media headline for Performance Max is that its ads can run across the entirety of Google inventory of digital channels, including YouTube and Gmail as well as Search, Display and Discovery.

With YouTube in there, this potentially offers an opportunity for those following a brand awareness marketing strategy driven by inbound marketing and content marketing. With high quality, high value creative, there is potential to harness a highly engaged, knowledge-seeking audience.

With a campaign objective set, you then select your bidding strategy and define the budget. Bidding strategies can include maximising conversions and maximising value, however you can also set upper limits for the cost per acquisition (CPA) and targets for the value/conversion.

Adding language and the schedule for the campaign is fairly straightforward. Google Ads Editor isn’t currently supported by Performance Max, making locations a bit more labour intensive, however there is an option to upload locations in bulk.

Performance Max’s automations extend to URLs, meaning that it will select the URL it believes best serves the campaign objective. You do have some control over this aspect. Its final URL expansion is defaulted to “On: Send traffic to the most relevant URLs on your site”.

It is possible to toggle this option off and stipulate specific URLs to send traffic to. There is also a halfway house option, whereby you can go with Performance Max’s URL choices, but enter a list of URLs you want to exclude from that list.

Creating Performance Max ads

You’ll be invited to set up an asset group, which is basically an ad. You upload and enter all of your ad creative, including visuals and copy. It can help to think of each ad as a responsive display asset; it works in a similar way.

While you can run multiple asset groups / ads within a campaign, a campaign can only have one set of targeting, so no ‘ad groups’. The automated targeting can employ a ‘lookalike audience’ type approach, in that you can select audiences to help Google decide who to target.

They use your audience info to look for signals; audience signals are online behaviours that help them identify people most likely to respond positively to your ad.

The final step is defining your ad extensions. A Performance Max ad extension is an additional bit of information or a call to action added on to your ad to prompt a desired action. That’s why it’s called an extension – it’s an extension to the asset group/ad you’ve created.

Google will suggest extensions based on your stated campaign objective. For example, if you want to generate new enquiries, adding a call extension would be a good extension. If you have a more traditional marketing goal, such as more visitors to a brick and mortar store, a map extension could help people to find you easily.

Reports and results

The PPC agency world has voiced frustration with the lack of meaningful data available for campaign reports.

What you can see:

  • Top level campaign performance – so things like total conversion rate, CPA.
  • Location performance
  • Performance of campaigns by time of day, day of the week, plus day and time combined

You can’t currently see how well each individual asset group is doing, if your campaign has more than one (which it will do, if you are targeting different market segments).

There is also no way to see key data on who your ads have been shown to. The audiences you select are used to identify signals and behaviour patterns, but does not necessarily mean that audience will be directly targeted.

With no reporting on keywords, demographics, audience, there is no way to add exclusions either, however it’s believed negative keyword functionality is coming down the line, so we’ll keep an eye out for that.

Despite the limitations, early indicators are positive for Performance Max’s performance. Some like for like (as far as possible) comparisons show cost per lead (CPL) averaging around 20% lower than search engine display campaigns. The evidence is anecdotal at this stage but still positive.

If you have any questions about this type of ad campaign or any related issues, we would love to have a chat. Phone 028 3833 9100, email info@cornellstudios.com or send a message via our contact page.