11 Performance Max Best Practices to Optimise Campaigns

February 14th, 2023

Performance Max is Google’s new automated PPC campaign type. And while Performance Max has its pros and cons, Google claims it’s the future of advertising. So if you’re planning to use PPC effectively for your business, you need to know how to get the best possible results from PMax.

In this article, we’ve leveraged the knowledge and expertise of Google Ads specialists Miles McNair and Bob Meijer to outline 11 Performance Max best practices for optimising your automated Google Ads campaigns. Here’s how you can improve your PMax performance with top tips from our free Expert Guide to Performance Max.

1. Use First-Party Data in Your Audience Signals

Audience Signals are a new feature for Performance Max. They allow you to suggest audiences that are most likely to convert to online sales or leads, helping the PMax algorithm understand who your customers are.

To make your Audience Signals as effective as possible, use first-party data. Data you’ve collected directly from your users is immensely valuable for Audience Signals, as it tells Google about those people who are already using and benefitting from your product or service. This helps Google focus on finding more similar audiences, so you won’t waste your ad spend targeting irrelevant users.

Provide multiple customer types to help the algorithm recognise the value of each conversion. For eCommerce, first party data should include:

  • New customers 
  • Repeat customers
  • High conversion value customers
  • Low conversion value customers

If you’re focusing on lead generation, make sure to include low and high-intent leads as well as clients with both high and low customer lifetime value.

2. Don’t Target Branded Keywords in Performance Max

Excluding branded search terms from your PMax campaigns may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important for keeping your data clean.

Including branded search terms in your PMax campaign gives Google an inflated view of the campaign’s success. People searching for your brand specifically will have much higher conversion rates than people searching for non-branded search terms. So excluding branded keywords gives you a truer picture of your PMax campaign success.

Instead, catch brand search terms with a standard shopping campaign. This ensures you still reach those people who are searching for your brand, without giving Performance Max a false impression of its own success and feeding it with artificially high conversion-rate data

3. Test a Feed-Only vs All Assets Structure

Smart Shopping campaigns are no longer available within Google Ads. But with Performance Max’s feed-only campaign structure, you can replicate this type of campaign within PMax.

A feed-only campaign only displays your product feeds; it doesn’t include any assets or creative. This restricts your campaigns to the Shopping channel of the Google Ads inventory, rather than YouTube and Display.

Google encourages Performance Max users to include creative assets in their campaigns as best practice. So if your feed-only campaign performs better than an all assets structure, this should ring alarm bells. Go back to your PMax strategy and see if you can optimise your asset groups, creative, and campaign structure to achieve better results

4. Segment Bestsellers Into a Separate Campaign

Performance Max campaign structure is essential for getting results. Miles recommends keeping your structure simple, and not using too many campaigns, so you can keep your data in one place:

For eCommerce, we use a base layer campaign structure strategy, where you have two or three campaigns segmented by value for your business. On top of that, you layer building blocks, which can be additional campaigns for your bestsellers.

Miles McNair

Google Ads Expert & Founder of PPC Mastery

Segmenting your bestsellers (or other specific product groups like seasonal products or new products) into multiple Performance Max campaigns works well as a best practice for eCommerce businesses. It allows you to advertise these products more aggressively when you need to.

That said, Miles also advises only segmenting out campaigns if you have a really good reason to do so:

There could be a lot of different reasons to create a new campaign, but you’ve got to keep in mind that you need to have enough data inside one campaign to make the wider strategy work. Usually, if you create more campaigns, you’re fragmenting your data. The more you fragment your data, the harder it is to optimise for your bid strategy and algorithm.

Miles McNair

Google Ads Expert & Founder of PPC Mastery

5. Protect Your Campaigns From Fake and Junk Traffic

Feeding your Google Performance Max campaigns with quality data is one of the most important things you can do to improve PMax performance. As Miles points out, you must focus on your data input to get results:

Because it’s an automated system that is driven by AI and machine learning, you need to feed the machine with the correct input. That input is then being used by the algorithm to predict a specific end result, which is your conversion.

Miles McNair

Google Ads Expert & Founder of PPC Mastery

Unfortunately, bots and fake traffic can easily compromise the quality of your data, which ultimately leads to lower quality conversions. Bad conversion data continues this vicious cycle, causing your PMax campaign to churn out even more low quality leads and conversions. Not only that, but every time a bot clicks your ad, you’re losing money — increasing your CPA with nothing to show for it.

Lunio ensures 100% of your ad spend is spent on users who are likely to convert. It eliminates non-human traffic, preventing bots and fake users from clicking on your ads. By protecting your Performance Max campaigns with Lunio, you can maximise conversions and get more from your ad budget. PPC agency Mabo saves more than £32,000 every month by using Lunio.

6. Optimise Your Product Feed

Include as much information as you can in your Performance Max product feed without exceeding the specified limits. Carefully crafted images, titles, and prices are essential for your products and/or services.

Use these best practice tips to help:

  • Include a detailed product description, including size, colour, material, and any other search-friendly information
  • Use powerful, appealing images that show your products in their best light
  • Include video assets where possible.

If your Performance Max campaign is underperforming, work on further optimising your assets. Improving the quality of your assets is likely to have the biggest impact on your overall campaign performance.

7. Create Your Own Video Assets

Google’s AI now creates video assets for brands that don’t add them themselves. And they’re not the best. Here’s a video Google’s AI auto-generated for a brand selling space posters:

You’re much more likely to see a genuine return on your video ad investment if you create your own video ads. These don’t have to be high budget (more on this in the next section) but they should represent your brand and products well. The best practice here is to use Ads Creative Studio to make your own videos, or work with a freelancer from Upwork to create videos for you at relatively low-cost. 

8. Test Before You Invest Heavily in Video

High budget video can be a great investment in your Performance Max campaigns. According to Hubspot, video marketing boosts brand awareness and engagement, improves customers’ product understanding, generates leads, and helps you reach your business goals.

But don’t invest in expensive video productions until you’ve found out what works. Test your messaging and imagery in low-budget video and see which converts best before you commit resources to a more professional production. This best practice will help you see the biggest return for the lowest cost.

9. Write Compelling Ad Copy

Ad copy is a craft. So take the time to make this powerful and compelling for potential buyers. Here are some tips for writing better ad copy:

  • Focus on customer benefits rather than product features
  • Test the length of your headline — short and snappy vs longer and more descriptive
  • Tie your ad copy to your keywords (and follow this through to your landing pages)
  • Avoid generic language — create targeted ads that speak directly to your ideal buyer.

10. Set up Conversion Tracking Properly

Conversion tracking is vital for feeding the Performance Max algorithm with good information about who you want to see your ads. As Miles says:

Your data input needs to be in place. Make sure that you understand what your goals are, and that you can actually steer towards those goals with your conversion tracking. And use Enhanced Conversions when you’re using conversion tracking, which basically solves the issue of lost conversions due to people not accepting cookies.

Miles McNair

Google Ads Expert & Founder of PPC Mastery

While many advertisers import goals from Google Analytics, these don’t allow you to track those additional key conversion actions. Instead, use the Google Ads Tag to track and measure view through, engaged view, and cross device conversions. Here’s how to add a Google Ads Tag to your site:

Implement Enhanced Conversions to improve Google Ads conversion tracking and attribution. This encrypts first-party information on your site and sends it to your Google Ads account, meaning conversions can be traced back to the original ad if the user returns at a later date to make a purchase.

11. Don’t Shock the System

Performance Max campaigns are easily shocked. So if you make too many changes in a short space of time, you could damage your campaign performance.

Whenever you make a change, the algorithm needs time to gather data and optimise performance based on this adjustment. So test Performance Max campaigns systematically, giving the platform the time it needs to adapt.

In the meantime, help the platform learn about your goals, priorities, and audiences by ensuring your data is of the highest quality.

Boost Campaign Performance With Lunio

Lunio helps you get the most out of your Performance Max budget. By preventing fake and invalid users from clicking on your PMax ads, you can lower your cost-per-acquisition, increase the quality of your conversions, and eliminate wasted ad spend. In fact, you can reduce ad spend by 25% and still get better results.

Book a demo to see how Lunio can protect and optimise your Performance Max campaigns.

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