There’s been something brewing at Google HQ which will be of universal interest to search marketers. Google has been working hard on an AI-driven automation solution that introduces a new way of buying ad inventory across Google’s network (Search, Display, YouTube, Discovery, Gmail and Maps) from one single campaign. Enter “Performance Max”.
Performance Max is designed to work alongside your existing search campaigns to help advertisers grow into channels they may have traditionally shied away from – all the while powered by Google’s automated super-smart AI. At first glance, it appears Google will slowly roll their other products and solutions into Performance Max, and it has already earmarked this for Smart Shopping and Local campaigns sometime in 2022.
How Does Performance Max Work?
For those paying attention, Google has been pushing most of their products towards automation and AI (e.g. Smart Shopping). Performance Max is taking things one step further, with advertisers leaving a large part of the variables they’d typically have control over at the mercy of Google and running it across all of their products.
You still need to supply the creative and ad copy to use in the campaigns, but much like a responsive search or display ad, Performance Max will determine:
- What it shows
- Who it shows it to
- When it shows
- Where it shows
- How much it bids
And while we can still set a bid strategy, so the campaign has something to aim for, it requires an overall daily budget to get going. That being said, the idea is that Google can optimise performance, making the most of your budget by having flexibility and control over all their products in one singular campaign. This consolidation allows them to drive better engagement with the right audiences, across the proper channels, at the right time.
As with anything related to AI and automation, it lives and dies by the data it’s being fed, and the campaigns truly work towards whatever goal you set for them. One thing to bear in mind – make sure your accounts have a lot of data on conversions so the AI can work its magic.
Should I Use Performance Max?
In our experience – and from anecdotal industry evidence – Performance Max is working really well for eCommerce businesses. Although we haven’t been able to test it in a B2B function yet, we see no reason why to doubt its performance in a lead generation capacity provided you have substantial assets available.
Matt Corless, our Biddable Specialist at Yoghurt, had this to say, “Performance Max campaigns have driven great results so far for our clients. Despite a couple of hiccups relating to campaign setup and compatibility issues, which are all but fixed, it’s a great option for advertisers – especially smaller businesses that don’t have the technical skills/time to set activity up.”
Overall, Performance Max is supposed to make digital advertising more streamlined and easier to manage. If you have access within your Google Ads account, it’s well worth setting up a test. But tread carefully and seek help if you’re unsure about how to set up campaigns.
How Does Performance Max Perform?
Google has some pretty compelling case studies on their Performance Max blog page, and Yoghurt Digital was one of the first agencies in Australia to have access to it for our clients.
For one of our travel clients, we utilised Performance Max to provide significantly increased coverage across top-of-funnel activity whilst keeping complete control of everything brand-related.
In Q1 of 2021, we launched Performance Max, gradually scaling the budget from $20k per month to $50k per month over a 12-week period. Performance Max performed so well that we began scaling back spending on our generic campaigns and reduced this to $0 in the final month of Q3 (meaning Performance Max was the sole performance driver).
The results were staggering. We saw over 800% ROAS from the Performance Max campaigns compared to 300% of the generic activity over the same period. Performance Max was so good that we immediately asked Google if we could access it for this client’s activity in other regions. Happy us + happy client = everyone’s a winner!
What Are The Drawbacks of Performance Max?
While the shiny new AI and single campaign setup may appeal to most, even the shine of a new toy isn’t enough to hide its drawbacks.
At the time of our testing, we encountered difficulties controlling the displayed copy as Performance Max was pulling copy dynamically from the client’s website. Plus, there was little oversight from a reporting perspective, meaning we had very little idea of how much was spent in each channel, e.g. display, search, and discovery. Instead, Google provided more high-level data such as overall spend, overall revenue, and overall conversions, which is a no-go for a data-hungry paid specialist!
Daniel Rostron, UK Strategy Lead, had this to say:
“It’s really exciting to see automation and the use of AI increase within Google’s portfolio of products. Performance Max offers an interesting approach to traditional campaign set-up and performance optimisation, one which we initially viewed with trepidation due to some of the loss of control. However, the performance gains we’ve seen for clients using it far outweigh our reservations. As always, though, we wouldn’t recommend businesses just turn off their usual activity in favour of Performance Max. It’s something that should be tested and phased in based on performance and learnings.”
As of November 2021, Google has released Performance Max to all advertisers, so it should be in your Google Ads account to have a play with right now (speak to your Google rep if not!). AI and automation are here to stay, and solutions like this will only get better from Google.
The One Stop Campaign Shop
The big G is already planning to add new features that help retailers and businesses with store locations, alongside the proposed upgrades to Smart Shopping and Local campaigns.
It’s only a matter of time before Google sunsets other campaign types or rolls them into Performance Max to make it the ultimate one-stop-shop of a campaign for managing all of your paid Google activity.