In this appearance she explains what is Google Performance Max, the pros and cons, and who can benefit from it.
And she talks about how the right setup can get you the most out of Performance Max.
Table of contents
a. A good tracking setup
b. Structuring things correctly
c. You MUST have a video
d. Then there’s the audiences
e. Close monitoring
What Performance Max is
Performance Max, or PMax, is a new type of Google campaign that leans into artificial intelligence and machine learning. It involves automatic ads being placed across all the Google platforms – Google Search Display, Discovery, YouTube, Gmail, shopping maps.
There’s been something similar with ads in Google for a while, but PMax, says Ilana, has improved significantly. And it sounds like a dream – you give Google a budget and your website URL, and they deliver you sales.
Who should be using the feature?
For some people, Ilana says, Performance Max is a really good option.
These are people who have a well-established ecommerce brand and ad account. They have a decent budget, and don’t really have the time nor inclination to tinker with campaigns.
Ilana would also say you don’t need an agency to run a PMax campaign. You hire an agency to make sure that you’re not wasting ad spend on lots of areas, and to get the most amount of performance from tinkering and playing around with budgets.
A campaign like PMax eliminates all that necessity by being somewhat set and forget.
Who should pass on PMax
It’s also worth mentioning who Performance Max is not for.
That would be small budget accounts. PMax needs data, which means they need budget to fuel the traffic that the machine can learn from in order to optimize.
It’s also not for brand new accounts, because, once again, not enough data. The machine won’t know who to show the ads to and who not to show the ads to.
And at the time of this recording, says Ilana, they’re not running Performance Max campaigns for lead generation campaigns (small businesses or local businesses, like dentists or plumbers). It’s strictly well-established ecommerce websites.
How will this impact the need for agencies?
One of Ilana’s members is running PMax campaigns quite well. And funnily enough, they don’t need an agency anymore.
That’s interesting, says James. Does Ilana think robots will eventually edge agencies out of the marketing equation?
Ilana thinks the future of an agency is just changing away from tinkering on bid adjustments, and all that kind of stuff in ad accounts, towards more creative. Because machines are more limited in their ability to produce creative work.
With the good, there’s the bad
Now what are the drawbacks of Performance Max?
You get much, much less control at your disposal, says Ilana. Your ads are sprayed across all Google platforms, regardless of whether or not, say, you want them on YouTube or not.
Reporting is minimal, meaning you can’t really leverage insights from one platform and apply it in a strategic way to another platform.
Wasted ad spend
And because reporting is minimal, you won’t be able to eliminate wasted ad spend. You must be resigned to the fact that your ads will be placed somewhere you know they won’t get results.
Hard to scale
Ilana has also noticed these campaigns are difficult to scale. Sometimes they’re bound by a certain ROAS limit, so even if you increase budget, Google might not even spend it.
Killing other campaigns
But Ilana thinks the biggest issue is that PMax is what’s called a high priority campaign, which will kill existing shopping campaigns.
Say you’re running a standard manual shopping campaign – if you launch Performance Max, your shopping campaign won’t get any impressions or any clicks, it just won’t get any air time. The same for existing Google paid search ads.
E-commerce people better check this
The predecessor of PMax was Google Smart Shopping ads. This was just a shopping campaign, and it did not sacrifice and impact search campaigns.
Smart Shopping has been automatically upgraded to Performance Max. So if you’re in e-commerce and have been running Smart Shopping, you’re likely already running PMax and not knowing it.
Getting the most out of the feature
For one of Ilana’s Teach Traffic members, the upgrade dropped their conversion rate from eight or nine percent to one or two. That, she says, is because it wasn’t set up in their best interest.
A good tracking setup
The first thing you’ll need for PMax is a really good tracking setup, so you’re giving Google the right conversion data.
You might have various conversions set up – maybe you want people to obviously buy or contact you. You’ve got to be really laser-specific with your objective for the campaign so that Google can optimize for that, rather than conflicting signals.
This is something Ilana helps people with, setting up tracking so they have good data. You can find her at TeachTraffic.com and either join the membership or send her an email.
Structuring things correctly
Next you need to focus on good structure.
The way campaigns are structured is Performance Max is at the top. Within that campaign, you have what’s called audience signals or your asset groups, and then you’ve got your assets tied to that.
You want to create one audience signal per asset group, says Ilana, which will force Google to give you insights as to which audience are working. If you group all your audience together in one asset group, you won’t to be able to decipher which audience is working or not.
You MUST have a video
You also need really good assets, really good images, because once again, your ads will be sprayed everywhere.
And you must have a video. Performance Max will allow you to launch a campaign without a video, but if you only have images, Google will automatically create a video for you based on those images.
Ilana has seen this when auditing an ad account – a 15-second video, and, she says, it’s terrible. It’s like a slideshow pieced together from images and headlines; her nine-year-old daughter could have done a better job.
So Ilana would urge you – if you don’t have a video, don’t even bother with PMax.
Then there’s the audiences
You also need to create really good audiences, something Ilana also helps with. You can create an audience, obviously, based on your website traffic, uploading your customer list, custom segments, so you can create your own kind of audience based on the keywords people type into Google, and browse the websites they visit.
And you need to give Google data. So lots of keywords, lots of competitor URLs, etc., so that these audiences have the best chance of working.
Keep an eye on your overall account performance, says Ilana. A PMax campaign takes credit for brand and retargeting traffic, so it might look like it’s doing well, but it’s killed your brand campaign, therefore inflating its performance.
The role of negative keywords
While negative keywords are not yet usable with Performance Max, rumor is they will be, so it’s worth collecting a negative keyword list now.
Negative keywords, though not often used, are a critical tool in paid traffic, says James. Ilana explains them as keywords that will prevent your ads for showing for certain terms.
So for example, if she sells a course, free would be a negative keyword. Or if, says James, you’re Apple selling phones and laptops, you might want to block terms relating to apples in an orchard.
You’re trying to just stop wasted ad spend, stop unnecessarily showing your ads for the wrong things. So you need to guide Google by adding those negative keywords.
What ROAS is, for those who don’t know
Ilana also mentioned ROAS, which James thinks is worth explaining.
ROAS, says Ilana, is return on ad spend, how much revenue you get relative to how much you’ve spent to acquire a customer. You can give ROAS targets to your campaigns.
Say you have a recurring product, like a coffee subscription. Knowing it’s recurring, your ROAS target might be lower than if you were selling a one-time product.
Because you’re thinking of customer lifetime value, says James. He loves how Ilana simplifies the geeky stuff.
Again, Performance Max is a Google feature, an automatic upgrade, and if you’re in the e-commerce space, you may want to check what campaign you’re currently running.
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