Performance Max – The New Hybrid Model, A Performance Max Guide

performance max the new hybrid model and guide image

Article Author
Sophie Penny

Performance Max is a new goal-based campaign type that allows advertisers to access all of their Google Ads Inventory from a single campaign. Unlike its predecessor, ‘Smart Shopping’, this new campaign type allows you to find more converting customers across all of Google’s channels like YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps.

Advertisers can choose their conversion goals and add their products, images, videos and text before letting Google’s machine learning drive results. 

What are the benefits? 

Performance Max aims to maximise conversions or conversion value by allowing advertisers to engage with a larger audience across Google’s channels and networks. Combined with customisable goals and Smart Bidding, Performance Max hopes to find more converting customers, drive more value and acquire rich insights through reporting. There is also the benefit of time-saving, as previously you would have to individually create multiple campaigns for different placements such as Search and Shopping. With Performance Max, they are created and managed in one place

What are the cons?

Similar to previous Smart Shopping campaigns, reporting visibility is limited. Search terms are currently hidden, leaving you unable to see what query has led to the sale. You also find your Ads ranking for brand terms, which isn’t favourable for many advertisers. Brand traffic, whilst sometimes positive, is sometimes unnecessary if covered by your SEO efforts. Alongside this, advertisers now feel they have less control over their campaigns due to automated bidding, which has been largely criticised amongst the PPC community. 

Performance Max Best Practice

Despite this, we are currently seeing some excellent results from Performance Max campaigns using our ‘Hybrid Model’. Let me explain. 

Whilst Performance Max can accelerate your Conversion Value and increase your Return On Ad Spend, it’s simply not enough to add all of your products into a catchall, add your targets and throw it to the wind, you need a strategy. 

If your product set is large enough, we recommend grouping your Performance Max campaigns by category. For example, if you have a homeware store you will want separate pMax campaigns for Furniture, Lighting, Bedding, Decor and so on. This is useful for the initial data collection phase. The more information Google has, the better it is for the machine-learning. 

Once enough data is collected, you will be able to decide which products are ‘Bestsellers’ and which are ‘Poor Performers’. Typically, products that have spent over half their value and have not converted are considered to be performing badly. Despite Google’s intelligence, spend can often continue to accrue on unprofitable products. This is where the keen eye of a PPC Specialist comes in! 

What do I do with poor-performing products?

The best practice in this situation would be to exclude those poor performers from your pMax campaigns. 

‘But I still want to rank for them!’

I hear you.

YOU CAN. But instead of giving Google the reins, this time we will want to monitor them using a Manual CPC campaign (yes, we are going old school). Moving poor performers into their own manual campaign means you can set the maximum you want to pay for a click, scaling back the spend on products that don’t convert. In turn, this will mean you are overall spending less of your budget on these products, which will improve your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). 

How can I scale my bestsellers?

The opposite of this can of course be done for your star products. If you are consistently exceeding your Conversion Value and ROAS targets for a set of products, exclude them from your category campaign and add them to a designated ‘Bestseller’ Performance Max campaign. Having a smaller group of high-performing products with their own high budget will allow you to scale their Conversion Value, as you are putting more money into what you know works. It can also be useful to reduce ROAS targets in order to increase Conv. Value for campaigns that are outperforming the account. 

The combination of Google AI-controlled Performance Max campaigns paired with the close, manual control of an advertiser creates the perfect hybrid strategy to scale your account, whilst improving profitability. 

What else can I do in my Performance Max Campaign?

Unlike the old style Shopping campaigns, Performance Max campaigns allow a combination of assets, alongside your Product Set. You can add up to 20 images, 5 logos and 5 videos. These can show across YouTube, Gmail, Display or Discover. 

In terms of Copy, you can add:

  • 5 Headlines (30 Characters)
  • 5 Long Headlines (90 Characters)
  • 1 60-Character Description
  • 4 Other Descriptions (90 Characters)

Whilst you may feel you lack control in areas such as bidding and search terms, you can add your creativity using assets. Just like a responsive Search Ad, Google will test your copy using its AI to find the best combinations. You can still of course pin headlines in 1st, 2nd and 3rd position for extra control. 

Ensuring you have high-quality Ad Copy and Creatives will increase your Click-through Rate. A great way to check this is by looking at the ‘Ad Strength’ indicator Google provides. This will give you a good idea of the chance your Ads have at performing well.

As you can see, without Video content your Ads are not fully optimised, but are still considered ‘Good’. We recommend using as many assets available to give you the best chance at high performance. 

Once your campaign has been running for a few weeks, Google will be able to tell you which of your assets are outperforming the rest. As you can see below, ‘The UK’s Leading Outdoor Store’ has performed better than ‘Highly Innovative Products’ which Google have scored as Low. You can then swap out your Low performing assets and try new 

Anything else I should know about pMax?

Whilst Performance Max can be a fantastic campaign type, and often outperforms the old strategies, you need to be careful. If you have products in existing Shopping campaigns AND new Performance Max campaigns, they are likely to be cannibalised, so you will need to keep an eye out on whether this is beneficial to your account or not.

If you want any help with your Google Ads, book a free discovery call with us and let’s get the ball rolling.

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