When Google Performance Max was introduced in May of 2022, I was skeptical. In fact, skeptical is not even the right word, I was a downright naysayer.
Afterall, I had been successfully managing manual shopping campaigns for years, had taught classes on how to setup and optimize successful shopping campaigns and even published a highly regarded book on the subject, Make Each Click Count Using Google Shopping.
I also had been testing Google Smart Shopping campaigns over the last year and not once had I ever see where a Smart Shopping campaign outperformed one of my well-optimized manual Shopping campaigns.
So when Performance Max came out I was feeling even less than enthusiastic on PMax campaigns as they are called given the past results of Google Smart Shopping campaigns.
That was because Performance Max was designed to replace not only manual Shopping campaigns (like Google Smart Shopping campaigns), but in addition it also would replace manual Google Search campaigns (other than exact match keywords) and manual Google Display ads.
Truth be told, for most private clients I manage, we do not run Display Ads (other than retargeting) and have limited Search Ads. Plus, just like the Google Smart Shopping campaigns, with Performance Max campaigns advertisers can’t see what network ads are serving or what keywords they are serving ads for.
It was hard to imagine that PMax campaigns could be as successful as one of my well-optimized Shopping campaigns that uses strategic priority levels and includes a robust list of negative keywords. However, I always suggest testing and between June 2022 and Fall 2023 I tested Performance Max multiple times within various accounts.
Again, the Google Performance Max never came close to outperforming my created and optimized manual Google Shopping campaigns. This was the proof I needed to continue using manual Shopping campaigns.
However, I kept hearing of the success other agencies were having using Performance Max, which perplexed me. Then, I had a client switch their agency from mine to another, an agency that only created Performance Max campaigns.
A few months later, this past client reached out to me that their Shopping campaigns were more profitable and generating more sales than ever before.
This was the kick in the pants I needed to further investigate Google’s Performance Max.
It turns out that I discovered there is a way to create Google Performance Max that ONLY serves ads in the Shopping network and not within the Search or Display networks. This was a real gamechanger, as now I could run Performance Max campaigns for only Shopping (PLA) ads.
It involves a bit of a workaround where you create assets ONLY connected to a data feed, but it is possible.
** Note – The process is a bit in-depth, but I am working on a training that shows step-by-step on how it can be done.
By implementing PMax for Shopping ads only, I have found success and have started to implement throughout some of my accounts and have discovered some key lessons.
Here is what I’ve learned and answers to some commonly asked questions:
What is different between and the Smart Shopping campaigns Google introduced before Performance Max and Performance Max campaigns running ads only on the Shopping network?
The truth is that they work the same way; however, in the last 2 years, the AI used has changed. I have found the results to be much better with PMax than Smart Shopping and a viable alternative to running manual campaigns.
Do I still use optimized Manual Campaigns?
The answer is Yes. (Well, yes, sometimes). For accounts with a smaller number of product offerings (under 100), I have still found that well optimized manual Shopping campaigns work better most of the time.
When do I use Performance Max (Shopping only) campaigns?
I’ve started using PMax when a client has many products or when I have had limited success running optimized manual campaigns.
How do I optimize Performance Max?
This is the real trick when wanting Performance Max to perform well. First, you need to make sure you create PMax campaigns that are only serving shopping ads. If you allow PMax to serve shopping ads and display ads, you may reach more potential customers, but your profitability will undoubtedly be lower. For those wanting to maximize profitability then, excluding search and display ads is a necessity.
Second, it is important to segment your PMax campaigns by product listings by listing groups. By segmenting you can control your Target ROAS in each campaign and for accounts with large product offerings you can better discover which product subsets convert the most at the most profitable level. By knowing this you can adjust not only your budgets, but also your ROAS guidance.
If you want to properly segment your campaigns it still requires implementing custom labels into your data feed, so that hasn’t changed. However, creating and more importantly the work it takes to continue the optimizations within and account and the ability to scale results has gotten a whole lot easier with the proper use of Performance Max.
Performance Max absolutely can be the right choice for companies with many products. However, for those where profitability is the driving motivator, it is vital that you know how to exclude Performance Max from running on the Search and Display Networks.
Also, for maximum results, you will still want to segment your products in different campaigns. Running a single PMax campaign is the equivalent of previously running a single manual Shopping campaign with one bid and no segmentation.
Even though you can’t control the bidding on PMax, you can control the Target ROAS. By segmenting campaigns by product listing groups, you will be able to determine which product or group of products convert well. Once you have this information you can use it to increase the budget for those campaigns that convert well and decrease budget for those that don’t.
You can also adjust your ROAS guidance to increase profitability.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Splichal is the founder and managing partner of True Online Presence, author of the Make Each Click Count book series, host of the Make Each Click Count podcast, founder of Make Each Click Count University and certified online marketing strategist with twenty plus years of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues.
He has been called the foremost expert in eCommerce Marketing Growth Strategies. He was named to Best of Los Angeles Awards’ Most Fascinating 100 List in both 2020 and 2021. To find more information on Andy Splichal, visit www.trueonlinepresence.com or read The Full Story on his website or his blog, blog.trueonlinepresence.com.