Performance Max (or PMax) is a new type of advertising campaign in Google Ads that is becoming increasingly relevant in the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. As online advertising becomes more complex and fragmented, PMax campaigns use machine learning and automation to optimize ad delivery and bidding strategies across multiple Google networks and platforms.
As a Senior PPC Strategist at Portent, I have been able to launch and test PMax since its inception in 2022, improving performance for my clients along the way. In this blog post, I will cover the top PMax optimization best practices that have proven to be the most effective in my day-to-day work with clients. Since implementing these strategies with one client, we have increased our ROAS 3x since launch!
Whether you are a seasoned PPC advertiser or new to Google Ads, these best practices will be helpful for readers looking to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and tactics in online advertising.
What Are Google’s PMax Campaigns?
PMax campaigns are a campaign type in Google Ads that aim to maximize the performance of a specific advertising goal, such as a purchase or form fill, across different Google campaign types, networks, and platforms.
The goal of PMax campaigns is to use machine learning to optimize ad delivery and bidding strategies in real-time, allowing advertisers to target the right audience and serve the most effective ads at the right time and place. PMax campaigns also offer various targeting options, including audience targeting, demographic targeting, and location targeting, to help advertisers give Google the correct signals to reach their desired audience.
PMax campaigns offer more control over ad creation and targeting compared to Smart Shopping campaigns. While Smart Shopping campaigns automatically generate and display ads based on a product feed and machine learning, PMax campaigns allow advertisers to create and customize their ad assets and choose their own targeting options.
PMax campaigns can target audiences across a wider range of Google properties, including YouTube and the Google Display Network, while Smart Shopping campaigns were limited to the Google Search and Google Display Networks.
While Google PMax campaigns offer several benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. Some of these challenges include:
- A lack of transparency in where ads are shown and what campaign types receive what percentage of impressions and clicks can make it difficult for advertisers to understand and optimize their campaigns fully.
- PMax, while possible for goals beyond e-commerce, may not be a good fit for lead gen strategies as there are limited case studies proving its effectiveness.
- PMax campaigns require a significant investment in ad creative and may not be as effective for all types of advertising goals or industries.
For more information on whether PMax is the best campaign type for your business, read our blog post on the Pros and Cons of Google Ads Performance Max Campaigns.
6 Best Practices to Optimize PMax Campaigns
You need to do many things before launching your PMax campaigns and Google Ads account in general. Our 6 best practices ask that you identify your top target markets and personas before diving into the campaign setup. Your feed is also a critical component of PMax success that isn’t editable in Google Ads. With our 6 best practices, your PMax campaigns will be up and running with a profitable ROAS in no time!
1. Feed Optimization
To talk about PMax Optimization, we need to start at the foundation of effective shopping ads, your Google Merchant Center Feed. The quality of your product feed determines whether your products appear in relevant search results and how effectively they compete against other products. A well-optimized feed can improve your click-through rates, conversion rates, and, ultimately, your return on investment.
How to optimize your feed:
- Ensure your feed contains accurate and up-to-date product information, including product titles, descriptions, images, and pricing.
- Verify that your feed meets Google’s technical requirements, such as using the correct format and including all required attributes.
- Regularly monitor and adjust your feed so you can stay competitive and relevant in an ever-changing e-commerce landscape.
There are third-party tools, such as Feedonomics, GoDataFeed, and Data Feed Watch, that can make it easier to manage and update your feed. Overall, feed optimization is a critical component of a successful Google Shopping advertising strategy.
2. Create Effective PMax Asset Groups
As you assess the strategy of your shopping ads, you need to define your different audiences. These audiences, in turn, will impact the creative strategy, including the images, headlines, and other assets you create to draw their attention.
An asset group is a collection of assets centered on a theme or related to a specific target audience. Each asset group in a campaign can target any listing group from your product feed.
There are many reasons to differentiate your PMax asset groups within a campaign.
- Specific ROAS by Product Category
- Product Type Organization
- Budget (To Manage Large Product Groups)
Once you decide on your audiences and create your PMax asset groups, you can begin crafting the audience assets and choosing which of your products to target.
3. Add Audience Signals
By adding audience signals to your PMax campaigns, you can reach people who are most likely to be interested in your products and tailor your ads to them. Audience signals such as custom segments, customer match, affinity audiences, and in-market segments can help improve your ads’ relevance and effectiveness.
Signals you can add to your campaign include:
- Custom segments that you create based on the keywords people search for, the websites they visit, and more.
- Remarketing lists include people who’ve visited your website, engaged with your YouTube channel, provided their contact details, and more.
- Interests include in-market segments, life events, affinity segments, and more.
- Demographics include age, gender, parental status, and more.
We strongly recommend uploading a customer match list using your company’s first-party data. This provides the strongest signals for Google to learn who your target market is. You need a minimum of 1,000 matches to use the audience in your PMax campaign.
By adding audience signals, advertisers can improve the performance and efficiency of their PMax campaigns, ultimately leading to a better return on ad spend and increased revenue.
4. Optimize Creative Assets
Optimizing creative assets is essential for maximizing the effectiveness of PMax campaigns. To truly take advantage of these benefits, it’s important to have compelling and relevant ad creative that resonates with your audience signals you provide by asset group.
Google lists out their PMax asset requirements and specs here. Effective creative should be visually appealing, clearly communicate your product or service, and include a clear call to action.
Additionally, testing and iterating on different creative elements, such as ad headlines, images, and descriptions, is important to see what resonates best with your audience. PMax reports on the “Performance” of each asset with these rankings:
- Low – the asset is low performing when compared to all other assets of the same type across properties.
- Good – the asset performs well enough against all other assets of the same type.
- Best – the asset is one of the highest performers of all assets of the same type on one or more properties.
Until enough data is available to assign a performance label, an asset’s default status is ‘Pending.’ We recommend using these signals to replace low-performing assets and test new creative.
Google also creates automatically generated video content with headlines, descriptions, and images provided. These videos often appear to be low quality and do not match the branding of the company. There is no way to opt out of the videos being generated, so we strongly recommend that you upload a 10-15 second general branded video to every asset group.
Regularly reviewing and optimizing your creative assets can help ensure that your ads are achieving the desired performance and that you are getting the most out of your advertising budget.
PMax provides very few insights and even less control over campaigns. If you go into Google Ads and click on Reports > Other > PMax campaign placement, you can find what percentage of impressions go to “Google Owned and Operated” placements and what other websites and apps your ads are served on.
We recommend working with Google support or your Google rep to ad exclusions to campaigns if a low CTR is observed. These exclusions include:
- Placement Exclusions
- Mobile Apps
- Content Exclusions
- Website Categories: News
6. Check Insights for Reporting
To continue to optimize your PMax campaigns, check the “Insights” tab within Google Ads. This will provide you with insights such as top search terms within your PMax. If you see terms that are not relevant to your products, reach out to Google Ads Support to request a negative keyword list application for your PMax campaign. You can also use these search terms to optimize your headlines and descriptions in your asset groups!
Date ranges for the Insights page can be viewed week-over-week (last 7 days) or month-over-month (last 28 days). Check Audience insights to see which audiences are converting at higher rates. Focus on segments labeled as ‘Optimized’ to learn the new audience segments that automation discovered for you that you may not have known about before to help inform your broader business strategy. You can use these optimized audiences to your advantage and apply them to your search, display, and other non-PMax campaigns.
Google is slowly releasing more data and control to the advertiser. Until that time, don’t sit idly by; take control of all the components of PMax you can optimize. When optimizing, start at the foundation of your marketing strategy by optimizing your feed. Once past that point, solidify your goals and how you want to divide your products into campaigns. From there, plan out your audiences and create audience signals as well as assets tailored to each audience.
Finally, you want to regularly check the performance and insight report on your PMax campaigns. With this data, you can optimize both PMax and other campaigns to see the impact on your ROAS and ROI. By implementing these strategies here at Portent, we’ve been able to drive effective results for our clients. With these PMax best practices, you can gain greater control over your shopping ads strategy!