What Are Google Performance Max Campaigns?
Google rolled out Performance Max (PMax), an auto-upgrade to your local ad campaigns earlier this year. Following a successful launch, PMax will become the only campaign type for businesses running Smart Shopping and Local campaigns created in Merchant Center. By 2023, all businesses using these ad types will be converted. Campaigns created through Google Ads or a third party may follow a different timeline.
With PMax, you’ll get most of the same foundational features you already have with Smart Shopping and Local campaigns. But after you upgrade, your previous Local campaigns will be set to “Removed” status. In fact, you won’t be able to edit or reactivate these campaigns.
Increased Visibility but Some Tweaks
Beyond that, though Google is touting PMax’s increased visibility for advertisers, there are tweaks to several areas: where your ads appear, data, and optimization control.
For example, unlike with Smart Shopping, PMax campaigns extend visibility to Google Maps and Discover platforms, giving your ads more visibility. Ads are pushed out to Google-only platforms such as Google Maps, Discover, YouTube, and Gmail.
This new campaign type will have the same foundational features as Smart Shopping. It will build on inventory and data insights and provide that information to advertisers. Yet it will not give advertisers access to all campaign data.
Less Control to Optimize
According to Google, with PMax, you will reach a lot more people than in the past, and one single campaign will have improved reach and impact. One caveat, though: You will have far less control in both what shows up and what is set up.
Google ads come in various types and have different goals. PMax focuses on conversion—sales, leads, local store visits—and caters to a warm audience … in other words, people ready to buy. That’s why it’s perfect for ecommerce, perhaps less so for lead generation. Beyond ecommerce, PMax ads are perfect for conversion campaigns at the end of your sales funnel as well as campaigns optimized for store goals.
But compared to Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns, you are limited in your ability to optimize. But compared to Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns, you are limited in your ability to optimize. Instead, we now focus on optimizing the ROAS target, Seasonal Bid Adjustments, budget allocation, etc. We also put effort into creating and improving assets to ensure feeding the best potential ingredients for the Google ads.
PMax Feature: Audience Signals
That said, Audience Signals are a new feature unique to PMax campaigns that let you suggest audiences to Google’s machine learning algorithms (AI) with the goal of optimizing conversions.
When you create an audience signal in PMax, you let Google Ads know what type of users are of interest. However, PMax will only use these audience segments as a starting point to serve ads. Then, once it starts gathering data, it will branch out beyond your signal and show ads to people who exhibit behavior that suggests they are likely to convert.
Advantage out of Approach
Some industry experts call PMax a creative-hungry format. Since the campaign covers so many different types of inventory, you’ll need to feed it lots of text, image, and video assets. While video assets are optional in a Display campaign, that is not the case with PMax. If you don’t provide any video assets, then Google Ads will create them for you.
As with all launches things can improve. But for now, many analysts say that the auto-generated video assets leave something to be desired. An alternative is for you to turn to Canva to animate your image assets into a short video. Set up is fairly easy if you want to generate your own to provide more personalization to the asset.
Because PMax is fairly new Google still has to work the kinks out. At this point how good the maintenance will be is anybody’s guess.
Google Takes Over
Basically, you could say that Google is inspiring people to level up their ads with more images, better logos, and stronger headlines. In essence, you set the stage for Google—you’re saying this is what I want you to show you—then Google takes over and spreads the word with the help of AI.
The Machine Versus the Human
You can make the case that the human knows the business better than the machine. While Google does have a lot of information about its audience, there could still well be a gap in having a full understanding about what and how you want to sell.
On the surface, there may be more ease having someone like Google doing all the heavy lifting for you. But you may discover that advertising on other platforms than PMax may be more impactful. The help of Ballantine or an agency like us that knows your goals and optimizes ad opportunities to achieve them may be a beneficial alternative.
It’s always a good idea to explore other options. So, give us a call, and we’ll talk about your ad campaign needs.
I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!