With machine learning becoming more prominent and the needs of online users becoming highly specialized, marketers (and search engines!) are seeking ways to optimize their reach on the web. Google Performance Max does exactly what it sounds like – it maximizes your performance.
Google processes over 8.5 billion searches per day, which would be impossible for mere humans to keep up with. Machine learning and advanced AI technologies allow users’ needs to be met in an efficient and time-sensitive manner.
In this article, we’ll cover important tips to help you adapt to these new technologies, including helpful resources and best practices for the creation, implementation, and evaluation of Performance Max campaigns.
What Is Google Performance Max & How Does It Work?
Google Performance Max is an automated campaign structure that uses machine learning to understand consumer trends and adjust your ads accordingly to be shown in various formats across Google channels (YouTube, Search, Gmail, Discovery, and more).
Google will automatically optimize your performance for the channels your target audience visits the most, allowing your ad spend to be used responsibly to target the right audience that may eventually convert (buy your product).
If you’re not a marketer, here’s a fun example to help you understand Performance Max campaigns: Think of it like a buffet at your favorite restaurant!
If you’re bringing a group of people together and have only one entree, it can be difficult to satisfy everyone in the group with that single choice. Each person has different preferences. But with a buffet, everyone can be served something different. You can satisfy the preferences of multiple people with a single restaurant.
Similarly, Google Performance Max uses a single campaign across many channels/formats to satisfy a variety of people, no matter which one they prefer.
Keep reading to uncover Performance Max best practices to enhance your Google Ads experience. Check out the Google Ads Help Center for step-by-step guidance on setting up your Performance Max Campaign.
10 Performance Max Best Practices
Now that we’ve identified what Google Performance Max is, let’s move on to some best practices that will allow you to get the most value out of your campaign.
- Use it in conjunction with your other search campaigns. If the query exactly matches a keyword you’re bidding on, the Search campaign you have running will show its ad. However, if it doesn’t match exactly, Google will show either the Search ad or the Performance Max ad (whichever has the highest Ad Rank score).
- Select one of two bidding strategies (make sure it aligns with your business goals):
- Maximize conversions: Use this strategy when you’d like to get the most conversions possible (i.e. leads, signing up for an email list, phone calls, etc.)
- Maximize conversion value: Use this strategy when you value certain conversions more than others (i.e. If you’d ultimately rather have more leads rather than phone calls, give them a higher value so Google will optimize for those)
- If you already know your target audience, you can either use your own data like Customer Match/Audience lists or specify various groups using Audience Signals. These are suggestions that give Google an idea of which audiences to go after, speeding up the machine learning process of discovering new audiences. Google will still show your ads to other audiences aside from these, this is just simply a starting point.
For example, if you run an event venue for theater performances, you can select audience signals like “Frequently Attends Live Events,” “Performing Arts Tickets,” or “Theatre Shows and Plays,” among others.
- Consider using a feature called “Final URL Expansion.” This option is a new way to automatically customize your ads to match the queries your audience is searching for, even if you aren’t bidding on those exact keywords. If you opt into this, Google will choose the landing page on your site that best matches the user’s query, along with developing a dynamic headline and description.
Now, you may be reading that and thinking, “Hey, I want control over which pages on my site Google can choose from!” and that’s a valid point. There are cases where you, as the marketer, will decide that letting Google automate everything isn’t the best solution.
In that case, you can choose to restrict certain URLs (“URL exclusion”). Additionally, if you only have one landing page that you’re directing people to, it wouldn’t make sense to use this feature.
- Another Performance Max best practice is to make sure you’re supplying as many assets as it’s asking for. This gives Google plenty of options to choose from. Enter the maximum amount of headlines and descriptions, use as many audience signals and match lists as are relevant, use a high-quality video, and upload a variety of photos for Google to choose from.
It’s best to have a minimum of 5 versions of text assets (4 headlines, 5 descriptions) and 5 versions of image assets. Having a variety of assets also contributes to a higher ad strength (ideally, you’ll want your ad to be in the “Excellent” category).
To expand on this, you’re probably wondering about the details of Performance Max asset requirements. We’ll cover this in the next section.
- Visual content is so important to connect with your users and capture their attention. Be sure to keep your content fresh and upload new highly relevant assets regularly.
- Pay attention to how well your assets are performing and replace the ones that aren’t performing well. Be sure to replace them, not remove them to avoid negatively affecting your campaigns.
- If you’re targeting multiple products, try focusing on only one for each asset group so it can be as personalized as possible. You can have a maximum of 100 asset groups per campaign. However, you’re going to want to make sure you have enough budget (the more asset groups you have, the more budget you’ll want to have as well).
- Some sources recommend a daily budget of at least $50-$100/day for Performance Max campaigns in order to receive enough data to analyze results adequately.
- Keep your campaign running for at least 6 weeks to give Google enough time to learn your strategies and fully optimize the account.
Performance Max Asset Requirements
When you go to create your Performance Max campaign, it will walk you through the asset requirements you’ll need. These include:
- Business Name
- Up to 20 images (in a variety of sizes – square, landscape, etc.)
- Up to 5 logos (at least one must be a square)
- Up to 5 videos that are 10 seconds or less
- Up to 5 headlines (30 characters each)
- Up to 5 long headlines (90 characters each)
- Descriptions (one 60-character description and up to four other 90-character descriptions)
- Call to action button
- Final URL
For more specific guidance on what size photos to upload, check out the assets section of Google Ads API.
In addition to these, you may be familiar with ad extensions, now also called Assets, which take up additional space in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This allows for more clickable components in your ads and provides additional information to help your audience decide whether or not your ad answers their query.
Here are some examples that you can add to your Performance Max campaigns:
- Four or more sitelinks (additional pages on your site that you wouldn’t mind leading traffic to)
- Promotions (10% off, $25 off, etc.)
- Prices and descriptions of your products
- Phone number of your business
- Structured snippets (additional information based on category – styles, types, etc.)
- Lead Form (includes basic contact information for your user to fill out)
- Callouts (small pieces of information that aren’t clickable, but still provide relevant information. i.e. “Free Shipping”)
- Locations (connected to your Google Business Profile)
How To Evaluate Campaign Performance
Now that you’ve set your campaigns up for success, how can you ensure these best practices are working?
- Google Ads provides an “Insights page” to combine your data with larger trends across Google. It will notify you of optimization opportunities and any problems to address. There are different types of insights: asset audience insights, search trends, auction insights, demand forecasts, and more.
- Run an experiment! Test the performance of your campaigns with or without a Performance Max campaign.
- Remember, be sure to give the campaign at least 6 weeks before you come to any conclusions about its performance.
What Are The Benefits Of Performance Max Campaigns?
Something that’s unique about Google Ads, and specifically Performance Max, is that it focuses heavily on your “why.” Why are you seeking to run Google Ads for your business? What is your ultimate goal?
Google Ads optimizes entirely around whichever goal you select, giving you more store visits, sales, or whichever goal you’ve identified as most important to your business.
Benefits For Users
- Receive information in a variety of formats to fit any preference – search, discover, video, and more.
- Show more visual assets such as photos and videos rather than only text ads for a more engaging experience.
- Obtain access to products and services that they have an interest in. Meet their needs for products that they’re already searching for, or help them identify something they didn’t realize they need.
- Create a more unified experience rather than an orphaned ad on a single platform. Repetition and seeing ads in a variety of formats/platforms help users identify with the brand.
Benefits For Marketers & Business Owners
- Simplify the campaign set-up process (who doesn’t love that?). You’ll only need to set up one campaign, and yet it will be optimized for multiple channels.
Without using Performance Max, you would need to set up individual campaigns for YouTube, Search, and Display, along with individual budgets for each. This could limit the number of impressions, interactions, site visits, and conversions you receive.
- Receive insight into your top audiences and target those categories specifically. You’ll also receive insight into which channels (YouTube, Search, Gmail, etc.) your audience is using the most.
If you already know your target audience, you can specify various groups using Audience Signals, as mentioned previously.
- Understand rising search trends and identify future opportunities to capitalize on. Google provides this information under the “Insights” tab in your Google Ads account.
- Draw more people to your physical store location if you decide to use Performance Max for Store Goals. This is especially helpful for retail businesses.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Performance Max Campaigns?
In mentioning the benefits of Performance Max, it’s also important that we mention some disadvantages.
- Marketers will have less control. Although you provide the assets, Google ultimately chooses the combinations, which could be in any number of formats. There’s no way to predict the exact combinations that will show.
- If you don’t have a video to upload, Google will create one for you from the images you provide. However, a point of caution is that if it ends up not being high enough quality, Google may stop showing your video ad, which puts you at risk for significant impacts in your campaign’s reach and performance.
- It may take some time for Google’s machine learning algorithm to learn and adapt to your bid strategies, budget, audience, and highest-performing ad formats.
- Pay attention to the size of your images that you upload to ensure they aren’t getting cut off in any of the formats it appears in.
- It’s challenging to add negative keywords to a Performance Max campaign – you’ll need to contact a Google Ads representative.
- It can get expensive, especially if you are running search campaigns, too.
In summary, while Performance Max campaigns have both advantages and disadvantages, they ultimately can help you diversify your channel mix, giving you more unique opportunities to reach the right audiences.
In my opinion, automation is the direction the world is headed. It’s not a trend, but rather, something marketers must adapt to. With these best practices in mind, you’ll be able to optimize your performance to be the most effective.
Additional Performance Max Resources
- Take a Google Performance Max course through Skillshop – it’s something I found very helpful when researching information for this blog!
- Solutions 8 has a comprehensive guide to Google Performance Max.
- Having some problems with your campaign? Check out Google’s Troubleshooting Guide.
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