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In Defence of Performance Max

Posted In: Digital by Connor,
April 18, 2024


I’m Emma, a paid digital expert, and this is my defence of Performance Max. As digital marketers we’re often resistant to change. I remember the outrage we took to the change from AdWords to Google Ads, and that was just a name change. (To this day I still feel a sense of comradeship to anyone who refers to it as AdWords). As a fast-paced industry, we bear the brunt of constant updates and changes to the platforms that we use. And, as PPCers, we are often first to dismiss them as annoying, useless or downright money-grabbing by the platforms. 

Performance Max has faced its fair share of hatred from us all and I’m here to defend it. Because, like most of these changes, there are some merits to it. That is not to say it is without its drawbacks – prevalent is the lack of control you get with it. But you would be foolish to dismiss it outright without considering its benefits…

Firstly, what is Performance Max?

Performance Max is a relatively new type of campaign offered by Google (and more recently Bing) that uses Google’s AI, with a focus on assets (away from keywords) and covers all Google Ads (think YouTube, Search, GDN and Shopping) inventory from a single campaign. 

The idea is that Google will manage most aspects of your campaign for you, utilising Audience Signals and Assets that you provide, thereby delivering improved Conversions, Clicks, CPAs etc. etc.

Simply put – Performance Max works.

Time and time again I begrudgingly set up a PMax (as it’s affectionately known) campaign for my accounts, convinced this is the time it will fail. But, over and over again, it proves itself as one of, if not, the best campaign in the account. 

Now I’m not talking about cheap clicks, like many who remember the old trick of excluding mobile placements from your GDN ads as although cheap it was often misclicks shown by the almost 100% bounce rate. I am fully aware of the likelihood that these cheap impressions and clicks are from very poor sites, bot traffic etc. 

Instead, and as is often the beauty of Paid Digital, I am looking at conversion metrics. As an agency that specialises in the Home & Garden sector, we have a large majority of e-commerce clients whose primary focus is ROAS or actual revenue driven. And it is these revenue and ROAS KPIs that I am judging it by. 

Now there is an argument that the Google Data Driven attribution is unfairly attributing sales to PMax, but even this feels a long stretch for a sceptical digital marketer like me.

But why does it work?

Maybe we can accept that Performance Max does work. The logic is after all sound, and something we as marketers have pushed for. It helps achieve that goal of reaching customers throughout their buying journey. It can use Google’s AI to hit them with the right message, in the right format, at the right time. Much like I used to build with my manual campaigns to have GDN and YouTube after a user first visits the site, using remarketing audience bid adjustments for when they search for relevant terms so you can ensure you’re high in the results etc. etc. 

I believed in the strategy then, so why now, when Google (who even a sceptic like me might concede is smarter than most) is helping make the decisions?

What does it mean for me?

Do I hate the fact that I can’t see what search terms there are, what assets are performing or even what platform is driving the clicks and sales? Of course I am, I work in PPC – I love granularity and control. But it works. 

Am I saying we should abandon everything else and put all your marketing spend into one Performance Max campaign? Of course not. 

As with everything there is a strategic approach to follow:

+ Ensure the campaigns are set up correctly

+ Optimise your shopping feed

+ Create effective Audience Signals

+ Provide high quality image and video assets across all ratios

I also strongly believe in keeping some old school Search and Shopping campaigns to pick up anywhere that PMax may be missing and providing a safety net of consistency and control. 

But Performance Max certainly has, in my opinion, earned its place amongst my other beautifully curated, granular campaigns. Working together to drive some excellent improvements for my accounts – find out more: Case Studies

PMax: A Strategic Addition

The recent ability to exclude Brand Lists is an interesting development, as for a few accounts it does appear to have led to a decrease in performance due to a perhaps over reporting as PMax relied heavily on brand terms before… But they have not died a death, and a less cynical person may say it’s in line with market changes. 

Either way I may be recommending PMax as part of a well structured PPC account now, but you have my word that the moment I can denounce it as poor performing, I will gleefully remove it from all my accounts with a smug smile. 

Are your Paid Search campaigns underperforming? Let Boutique’s experts help you leverage Performance Max to drive results. Contact our Paid Search specialists to complete an audit of your accounts.




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