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Performance Max for Marketplaces: Everything You Need to Know

May 15th, 2024

Google Ads has officially launched Performance Max for Marketplaces – yet another Google campaign type. This one aims to help users sell goods and services on specific marketplaces using Performance Max (PMax). 

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably feeling a bit ‘Ben Affleck’ after hearing this:

(Credit to Mike Ryan from Smarter Ecommerce for that one)

You’re probably also wondering how this new campaign type will affleck affect us as marketers. 

Here, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Performance Max for Marketplaces, including:

  • What it is and how it works
  • What marketers are saying about PMax for Marketplaces
  • Why we should care about this new campaign type
  • When (and how) to use PMax for Marketplaces

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What is Performance Max for Marketplaces?

In late 2021, Google introduced Performance Max campaigns – a game-changer for marketers seeking an automated, all-encompassing approach to online advertising. 

Now, Google has taken things a step further with the release of Performance Max for Marketplaces – a campaign type specifically designed for sellers who use established online marketplaces, like eBay or Amazon. 

Traditionally, Google Ads relied on Merchant Center feeds and dedicated landing pages to power advertising campaigns. PMax for Marketplaces disrupts this model by allowing sellers to advertise their existing marketplace product listings directly. 

This means users can use Google Ads to reach new customers and drive sales – with no need for a separate website or Merchant Center setup.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Connect Accounts: The user links their Google Ads account with a supported marketplace platform.
  2. Campaign Creation: Once connected, they can create PMax campaigns specifically designed for their marketplace products.
  3. Leveraging Existing Data: PMax for Marketplaces automatically integrates with existing marketplace product data – including descriptions, images, and pricing, to generate compelling ad creatives.
  4. Automated Optimization: As you’d expect, PMax for Marketplaces is very similar to regular PMax campaigns, meaning AI and machine learning take center stage. It takes campaign goals, budget, and audience targeting into account to deliver ads across various Google Ads networks – including Shopping, Search, YouTube, Display, Maps, and Gmail. The automation optimizes ad delivery in real-time based on user intent and behavior, attempting to maximize reach and conversion potential.
  5. Seamless Reporting: Campaign performance is tracked and reported within the Google Ads interface, providing detailed insights into clicks, impressions, and conversions generated through marketplace product listings.

You might be expecting PMax for Marketplaces to work in the exact same way as regular PMax campaigns – but for, well, marketplaces. This is largely true, however PMax for Marketplaces is currently missing a few features that standard Performance Max campaigns benefit from: 

  • No cross-account conversion tracking
  • No URL expansion
  • No video assets
  • No new customer acquisition modeling
  • No data segments for audience reporting

It’s worth noting that as of right now, PMax for Marketplaces is still very much in beta. Key marketplaces – such as Amazon, eBay, etc have yet to announce whether they will integrate with Google for this campaign type.

If all goes well, we can expect the major marketplace players to adopt PMax for Marketplaces in due course. For now, however, we can only speculate about the impact of the new campaign type. 

What Marketers Are Saying About PMax for Marketplaces: 

In Google’s own words:

Performance Max for Marketplaces helps you reach more customers and drive more sales of your products using a marketplace. After you connect your Google Ads account to the marketplace, you can create Performance Max campaigns that send shoppers to your products there.

But what do marketers think about PMax for Marketplaces?

Mike Ryan, Head of Ecommerce Insights at Smarter Ecommerce (and renowned meme creator) spoke about the implications of PMax for Marketplaces in a LinkedIn post. He talked about how the campaign type could contribute to the ongoing CPC wars already putting the strain on advertisers, and mentions the importance of data input and output optimization. 

Commenting on the post, Joann Stecca (freelance Paid Media Strategist) questioned the viability of merchants having to pay 15% commission for Amazon as well as paid search acquisition. Mike responded, agreeing that the platforms (Google and Amazon) are the real winners here.

Navah Hopkins, Brand Evangelist at Optmyzr, mentions the ongoing US v. Google Antitrust hearings, which contextually makes the introduction of PMax Marketplace campaigns a questionable decision on Google’s part.

Many marketers are hesitant to comment on the implications of the new campaign type, as Google is yet to release any sort of list detailing which marketplaces are approved and ready for PMax for Marketplaces. 

Google has mentioned that they are currently “working to add more marketplace platforms”, leaving us curious about how impactful this new campaign type will be. Web Marketer Dario Zannoni mentions that Singapore-born marketplace Shopee is one of the few marketplaces currently supporting PMax for Marketplace campaigns. 

Why Should Marketers Care About PMax for Marketplaces?

This is Google clearly recognising the ever-growing importance of online marketplaces, such as Amazon.

It’s still early days, but for marketers with established marketplace sales, PMax for Marketplaces is likely to play a big part in their Google Ads strategy going forward – providing all goes according to Google’s plan. 

Since there’s no need for an expensive site or merchant center, there’s a massive opportunity for small businesses here – as well as those with a limited budget. 

Yet PMax for Marketplaces has the potential to offer some key benefits that businesses of any size can take advantage of:

  • Budget-friendly: PMax for Marketplaces eliminates the need for a separate website and Merchant Center setup, simplifying campaign management and saving on costs.
  • Enhanced Reach: The sheer reach of Google’s advertising network is incredibly valuable – PMax takes advantage of this by targeting potential customers across various touch points throughout their buying journey, wherever they may be.
  • Auto-Optimized Performance: Just like regular PMax campaigns, PMax for Marketplaces leverages Google’s machine learning expertise to optimize ad delivery and maximize conversions based on real-time insights.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Gain accurate performance data within the familiar Google Ads interface, allowing for data-driven decision making and campaign refinement.
  • Accessibility for Smaller Sellers: In theory, PMax for Marketplaces can empower smaller businesses without a dedicated website to compete in the e-commerce landscape.
  • Uncover New Demand: With access to your entire marketplace catalog, PMax can identify and target previously undiscovered customer segments, expanding your reach and customer base.

When to Use Performance Max for Marketplaces Campaigns

As with standard PMax campaigns, PMax for Marketplaces sound great on paper – but they’re not right for everyone. 

Those looking for a precision control of their campaigns certainly won’t find it here – you can’t choose specific keywords or placements, which is not ideal for marketplaces with very specific audiences. 

Alongside this, there are a few other scenarios where PMax for Marketplaces should be avoided at all costs: 

  • Campaign Goals: If your primary focus is driving sales directly through your marketplace listings, PMax for Marketplaces could work well. However, if brand awareness or website traffic is your goal, PMax for Marketplaces won’t get you very far.
  • Product Catalog Size: PMax thrives on a robust product catalog. If your marketplace listings are limited, Google’s machine learning system might not have enough data to optimize effectively.
  • Comfort with Automation: PMax relies heavily on Google’s machine learning/AI for optimization. Whilst it’s proven to be incredibly effective, it doesn’t always get it right – especially if you’re targeting a niche audience. If you prefer more granular control over ad placements, PMax for Marketplaces probably isn’t for you.

Getting Started with PMax for Marketplaces

Think Performance Max for Marketplaces is the right campaign type for you? Here are the initial steps to get set up.

Keep in mind that, at the time of writing, the beta is currently only available in a select few regions – so don’t worry if you can’t see it just yet!

  1. Check Compatibility: As mentioned, Google hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about which marketplaces are/aren’t supported. You’ll need to get in touch with your marketplace of choice to find out whether they support PMax for Marketplaces.
  2. Connect Your Accounts: Link your Google Ads account with your supported marketplace platform.
  3. Campaign Setup: As with any other PMax campaign, define your campaign goals, budget, and target audience within the Google Ads interface.
  4. Creative Assets: While PMax uses existing product data, consider providing high-quality images and standout ad copy to improve performance.
  5. Optimize, Optimize, Optimize: Regularly monitor campaign performance within Google Ads and make adjustments as needed. Remember, the beauty of PMax lies in its ongoing optimization, so give the AI some time to learn and refine its delivery strategy. 

Quick tip: Keep in mind that your products and ads will need to comply with all Shopping ads / Google ads policies.

Final Thoughts

With Google still “working to add more marketplace platforms”, the overall impact of Performance Max for Marketplaces largely depends on adoption by key marketplaces. 

Once major players such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc. are on board, this campaign type has the potential to become the new norm, and shift the marketing landscape entirely for marketplace sellers. 

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Fake clicks are becoming increasingly problematic for marketers. Invalid traffic (IVT) wastes more of your ad spend than you think – with 1 in 12 online clicks being invalid. 

Nobody is truly protected – IVT affects every ad campaign out there, and will likely impact PMax for Marketplaces, too. Google’s own invalid traffic protection and refunding system has proven to be inadequate in the face of the growing IVT concern. 

Lunio works to protect your campaign budgets and prevent invalid traffic, and ensures your ads are only seen by real customers – not bots who have absolutely zero chance of converting. 

See how much invalid traffic is affecting your PPC success (and how much you can save by eliminating it) with Lunio’s free, no-obligation traffic audit.

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