Curious About Google’s New Performance Max? Here’s the Skinny

Google has touted its new Performance Max ad campaigns, first unveiled in November of 2021, as the next generation of its long-running Smart Shopping and Local campaign types. And according to the online-search behemoth, the new campaign type is built to deliver on a range of primary objectives — including lead generation, driving online traffic and sales, and boosting in-store visits — all while helping advertisers unveil actionable insights and reach promising new audiences of consumers.

But does it deliver on all of these promises? And how does Performance Max compare with its predecessors? If not already of interest to current and prospective Google advertisers, these questions will likely be very relevant to them soon, as all Smart Shopping and Local campaigns will automatically be transitioned to Performance Max by the end of September 2022.

Brandon’s take on Performance Max

Of course, as with anything new, there’s a clear learning curve involved in leveraging Performance Max campaigns for your business. But fortunately for those who may be brand-new to or only vaguely familiar with the new campaign type, the paid-media experts at Brandon have already taken quite a few test drives — and we’re here to share our informed impressions of Performance Max with you.

Read on to hear our thoughts on the biggest pros and cons of Google’s new Performance Max ad campaigns, along with a use-case example from a Brandon client for whom we’ve already put Performance Max to work.

The Pros of Performance Max

In putting Performance Max to use for our clients, we’ve found some areas where the new ad type clearly shines. Some of these include:

1. Enhanced automation

Performance Max campaigns offer a more automated approach than the Smart Shopping and Local campaign types did, allowing for creative assets and ad copy to be displayed across a variety of advertising channels, such as:

  • Search
  • Display
  • Shopping
  • Discovery
  • G-mail
  • Local
  • YouTube

As a result, marketers’ workloads are reduced when utilizing Performance Max, as there’s no need to re-size and otherwise rework campaign assets for use across different ad channels.

2. Goal-based campaign strategies

To help guide campaign performance and tactics, Performance Max lets advertisers choose from a variety of campaign objectives, including:

  • sales
  • leads
  • local store visits and promotions
  • website traffic

3. Increased cross-channel conversions

The new campaigns use smart bidding and automation to help generate more cross-channel conversions — providing a performance boost when compared to the Smart Shopping and Local campaign types.

4. Added flexibility

Delivering a high level of flexibility for marketers, Performance Max offers a full-funnel approach, covering:

  • brand awareness and audience building (top of funnel)
  • product/service consideration and remarketing (middle of funnel)
  • purchases/transactions and future purchases, if applicable (bottom of funnel)

5. Eased campaign adjustments

With Performance Max, advertisers can create various “asset groups,” which simplifies a range of regularly anticipated campaign adjustments by allowing for the easy toggling between different promotional/seasonal assets and evergreen assets.

6. More tailored (and more targeted) messaging

With the option to implement different “audience signals,” Performance Max also offers advertisers the opportunity to target different audiences with more tailored ad messaging. Audience signals are Performance Max’s way of letting the user guide where the ads are served — based on consumer characteristics such as custom intent/affinity audiences, demographics, customer lists, etc.

7. Broadened reach

Performance Max also gives advertisers the option to go beyond desired audience signal targets and find more customers that may match their criteria based on Google learning.

The Cons of Performance Max

While the list of advantages to leveraging Performance Max is a long one, the new campaign type does — in the eyes of Brandon’s paid-media team, at least — fall short of its predecessors in a handful of areas. Among them:

1. Less control

With Performance Max, users don’t have as much manual control over their campaigns as they did with the Smart Shopping and Local campaign types, as the campaign-objective type chosen generally dictates when/where ads show and what combinations of ads are used. (That said, Performance Max campaigns are not to be misunderstood as “fully automatic” campaigns. More on that just below …)

2. Not fully automated

Once properly set up, Performance Max campaigns do require occasional attention in the form of new ad assets, audience signal updates and feed optimization (where applicable). Further, as with other smart campaign types, Performance Max does best when audience signals and targeting guidance are provided. And with third-party data becoming harder to obtain/utilize, having first-party data available to import into these campaigns will help save time and shorten that learning period.

3. Limited visibility

Currently, there’s not a lot of visibility into the Performance Max campaigns reporting-wise. As it stands right now, users cannot see exactly where their ads are being shown or how frequently — leaving them largely in the dark regarding how many of their ads were shown on the search network vs. discovery vs. display, etc. Further, there just isn’t a lot of “under the hood” visibility right now beyond the automated Insights that Google provides as data is collected.

Performance Max In Action: Fish Hippie

Brandon launched a Performance Max campaign for client Fish Hippie in March 2022 to support keyword-based search campaigns, as well as to begin making the transition from Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max. In setting up the campaign, we provided audience signals, plus tied the campaign to a shopping feed so that it would deliver specific product-image ads.

Within weeks of its launch, the Performance Max campaign had:

  • been responsible for 28% of the account’s monthly ad impressions, helping to increase overall brand awareness across various Google advertising channels
  • generated visits to the site at an average cost per click below the account’s monthly average
  • converted users at a higher rate than the account average
  • produced an early return on ad spend of 3:1.

While the initial results were quite promising, Performance Max campaigns can be optimized to produce even better results as they move forward. Once a few weeks of data have been collected for a Performance Max campaign, new asset groups can be created to more specifically feature more common product types, and even specific products. Further, different affinity and in-market audiences can be highlighted to help provide additional optimizations so that new asset groups can focus more closely on the highest-performing audiences. Additional Performance Max campaigns can also be added with different goals.

In the case of this particular Fish Hippie Performance Max campaign, the original campaign was added as a supplement to existing search and shopping campaigns. But as the campaign gets more settled, new campaigns can be added with different goals at various stages of the marketing funnel. For example:

  • A new Performance Max campaign could be created with a primary objective of brand awareness.
  • By using more passive ad text and creative, an inbound marketing approach can be highlighted to promote education of the brand as opposed to pushing direct sales. This would be more of a long-term approach that would ultimately help nurture new client relationships and help generate future audience signals for sales-based campaigns.

The following chart illustrates some Fish Hippie Performance Max vs. Shopping campaign data, all based on reviews of nine weeks of results from before and after the Performance Max campaign launch. As the data shows, the Performance Max campaign outperformed the Shopping campaign in engagement (1.17% higher CTR), efficiency ($28.28 lower cost/conversion, and 78% higher ROAS), and revenue (+$15,028).

ShoppingPerformance MaxPMax Improvement

While Performance Max is more a certainty than a question, advertisers don’t need to fear the transition. Now that Google has released their Smart Shopping Upgrade tool, the shift from Smart Shopping to Performance Max need not be rough & bumpy. This means the time needed to reach the improved results is minimized, allowing you to focus on the scaling opportunities that Performance Max provides. For advertisers that haven’t had the budget or opportunity to leverage YouTube or Discovery, Performance Max can be a gateway into investing in a full funnel marketing strategy without sacrificing your efficiency goals. 

Looking to elevate your brand’s paid social efforts by leveraging the latest, most effective tools for the job? At Brandon, our team of social-savvy marketing experts stays on top of all the latest developments in social advertising … and has the experience needed to move the needle for your business and its bottom line. To learn how you can put our team of social media professionals to work for your brand, contact us today.