In 2021, Google introduced Performance Max (PMax) campaigns, an all-in-one campaign type that hits every stage of the digital marketing funnel.
Although the compulsory transition from Smart Shopping to PMax unfolded this past summer, this multi-tactic campaign type has been around long enough now for Smart Shopping to feel like the distant past. With PMax predicted to stick around for the long haul, we’ve compiled a list of best practice do’s and don’ts when it comes to implementing these campaigns into your ecommerce strategy.
Get your product feed right
Getting your product feed right is critical in ensuring the success of your PMax campaign. While PMax can serve along many parts of the digital marketing funnel, it’s important to remember that if your feed is in a bad state, your performance probably will be too.
Smart shopping still exists within the behemoth of PMax and, if you’re sly about it and don’t include image and text assets, you can limit your use of the campaign to the bottom of the funnel - this is the core of the campaign. You can run without assets but you can’t do much of anything without a connected product feed.
Use automated bidding
Automated bidding will prove to be extremely beneficial to the success of your PMax campaign. PMax and target return on ad spend (tROAS) go together like peanut butter and jelly. Take advantage of your inputs and what you can control, like budgets, targets and assets, and make PMax work for you. Use all the tools at your disposal.
Test adding and removing assets
We’ve already alluded to the trick of excluding image and text assets to run PMax campaigns with only the product feed, and we highly suggest you try testing the campaign both ways. Depending on the brand and product, you can get very different results by focusing your PMax placements to just those accessed by the product feed, or by widening your approach to all placements with image and text assets.
Either method is valid, but in general, you can expect higher short-term return and efficiency by excluding additional assets. By including them, you can broaden your reach and increase awareness, which will feed into the PMax machine learning for use further down the funnel in the long-term. Cover all your bases and try each out for three to four weeks, preferably before Q4 so you can take the learnings into peak and compare the performance. Whichever setup you choose to run with long-term will really just depend on your goals and the test results.
Don’t use super granular campaign structures
When setting up PMax campaigns, it’s best to make sure your campaigns are not set up in a super granular structure. Though PMax is still essentially a black box when it comes to reporting, don't give in to reporting demands and set up a ton of campaigns. It’s important to remember that consolidation within campaigns is best. The more information fed in, the better results you’ll get out. Instead, keep your asset groups split within campaigns. According to Google, asset group reporting is on its way, so get familiar with your listing groups and get set up for the incoming reporting capabilities we’re super excited to get our hands on.
Don’t rely solely on automation
While we highly encourage using automated bidding, we don’t recommend relying solely on automation. Though PMax works great with automated bidding it isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of deal. You’ll find that the tROAS algorithm won’t react as quickly to sharp changes in demand. Keep the 30 day lookback in mind and keep your thumb on the pulse.
Don’t just use Performance Max
Though PMax is a super useful campaign type, the limitations in targeting, keyword negatives, and granular reporting mean that it’s a better companion to other campaign types than a replacement for them. Especially with regards to Brand Core keywords, it’s highly recommended that you keep your regular search campaigns active as exact keywords will trump PMax in Search and will limit the lift to performance that you can expect if PMax captures all that high-intent activity. Still, let’s all keep telling our Google reps we want more reporting capabilities and keep your fingers crossed that they come through.
PMax campaigns are here to stay and offer advertisers greater access to all their Google Ads inventory, so it’s imperative that marketers understand how to best use this tool to their advantage. Despite some of the limitations marketers may face when working with this multi-tactic campaign type, it’s also proven to have great benefits for driving ecommerce strategy.