Performance Max is easy to use, saves time, and even complements your existing campaigns. Sounds ideal, right? Unfortunately, all this comes at the expense of control and insight, which are essential for getting the most out of your marketing budget.
So should you be using Performance Max? In the third article in our Performance Max series, you’ll find out all the pros and cons of using Performance Max to run your Google PPC campaigns.
Google Ads specialists Miles McNair and Bob Meijer, contributors to our free Expert Guide to Performance Max, have helped us construct this list of the fundamental PMax pros and cons. Between them, Miles and Bob have profitably spent more than €100M on Google Ads, so their insights are invaluable to those hoping to achieve success with Google’s automated campaign platform.
So what are the Performance Max pros and cons? Let’s take a look.
Pros of Performance Max
There are several benefits to using PMax. Here are eight Performance Max pros:
1. One Campaign to Rule Them All
With Performance Max, you can run ads across the entire Google Network from a single campaign. You don’t need to set up individual campaigns for Shopping or Search; your ads will be shown throughout the Google Ads inventory. This includes:
- Google Maps
This is ideal for businesses who don’t have the time or in-house expertise to set up campaigns for every individual Google channel. It can level the playing field for new and inexperienced advertisers, as well as those who don’t have the budget to hire a PPC specialist. But, as Bob points out, a more even playing field introduces new challenges:
Imagine it’s 2024, and everyone is running Performance Max campaigns. How do you make sure you differ? How do you you stand out? I think that’s a very important question to be thinking about.
2. Performance Max Complements Search Campaigns
Performance Max is designed to complement your keyword-based Search campaigns. It helps you find more converting customers across all Google’s channels, rather than relying solely on a keyword-based approach. This can futureproof your campaigns as Google moves towards a keywordless future.
Performance Max is an easy introduction to the rest of the Google Ads network, making it easier to acquire new customers with paid ads.
3. Continuous Ad Optimisation
Performance Max uses machine learning and AI to optimise campaigns, with the aim of increasing your overall conversion volume. Ads are refined in real-time, enabling the system to find the ads, audiences, and creative combinations that perform best.
Performance Max automates the traditional A/B testing of your creative. But there are some manual campaign variables you can experiment with to assess their impact on results. Bob and Miles recommend testing the following to fully optimise your Performance Max campaigns:
- Campaign structures — which products should you group together?
- Asset group structure — which creative assets should be connected with which products?
- Types of assets — expand beyond text ads to include more video and images
- Final URL expansion — let Google decide which landing page on your site best marches the searchers intent
- Audience signals — suggest different audiences to Google’s machine learning algorithms and measure the results.
4. Unlock New Customer Segments
While you have some control over who sees your ads (more on this later), Google trusts its own AI to serve the most relevant, appropriate ads at the right time. This gives you less control, but it also helps you reach buyers you’re not necessarily targeting already.
As a result, Performance Max can discover new audiences for you to tap into and capitalise on. Even if you already have a good idea of your ideal customer profile, finding new audiences is a great way to expand your business and generate more revenue.
Understanding your real customers can help you create better, more targeted ads in future. Asset Audience, a new Performance Max feature, helps you see how well certain customer segments respond to your ads. Knowing which images, videos, and copy are resonating with your audience helps you optimise your campaign.
5. Use Data-Driven Attribution To Convert More Customers
Keeping track of where and when your customers are converting isn’t easy. Miles says:
Attribution is always difficult, but it’s going to become even more important as we steer away from keyword targeting and keyword bidding as we know it. Especially when you consider we’ll likely eventually lose third-party cookies too.
The data-driven attribution in Performance Max gives credit for conversions based on how people engage with your ads and decide to become customers. It uses data to determine which keywords, ads and campaigns have the greatest impact on your business goals. You can then optimise the touchpoints that generate the most conversions and revenue.
Using Google’s Enhanced Conversions feature allows you to trace conversions back to an ad if the user returns at a later date to make a purchase. So Bob and Miles recommend including it as part of your PMax attribution strategy.
6. Achieve Your Advertising Objectives
Performance Max can help you achieve your chosen advertising objective. According to testing conducted by Google, advertisers who switch from Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max see a 12% increase in conversion value at the same or better ROAS.
To see these improvements, you’ll need to set a target cost-per-acquisition (tCPA) or target return on ad spend (tROAS) in your PMax campaign. Without these, your ads may be placed into awareness stage networks, where conversions may not translate into meaningful revenue.
7. Performance Max Saves Time and Effort
Performance Max makes it much quicker to set up campaigns. There’s no need to build individual campaigns across different platforms; PMax automates the process for you. You just provide inputs, then monitor and adjust the automated campaign to achieve your objectives. This frees up valuable time.
But you can’t just “set and forget” a Performance Max campaign. Without human oversight, there’s a real risk of significantly overspending, or being flooded with low-quality conversions and leads. Continuously monitor your PMax campaigns to reduce these risks.
8. Steer the Algorithm With Audience Signals
Performance Max has removed much of the control PPC marketers had with Google’s previous campaign types. But Audience Signals allow you to nudge Google’s machine learning algorithms in the desired direction, guiding your campaign towards those who are most likely to make a purchase. Miles says:
On the YouTube, Display, and Discovery side, it’s heavily focused on audience targeting. You need to steer the machine in the right direction, especially if you’re starting off with new Performance Max campaigns.
Audience Signals aren’t a traditional form of targeting. Instead, they allow you to make recommendations to the algorithm that Google can ultimately ignore. But introducing highly specific Audience Signals may help you reach the right audience.
Cons of Performance Max
As well as these benefits, there are several disadvantages of running PMax ads. Here are five Performance Max cons to consider.
1. Lack of Campaign Controls
Lack of control in Performance Max can be frustrating. Lots of existing campaign functionality is missing from PMax, so users can’t yet fully optimise for all campaign variables. For example, it’s not possible to select different bid strategies for different asset groups within a single campaign.
PMax users hope Google will start to introduce more user controls in future. But at the moment, lots of elements are left entirely up to Google.
2. Lack of Insights
Performance Max is a “black box” system. You set the inputs, wait for the algorithm to work, and hope for conversions at the other end. This saves time, but it doesn’t give you much visibility of the success of your smart campaigns. At the moment, you can’t even see your campaign split across the different Google channels. As Bob says,
The insights within PMax are getting broader every week. So Google is actively working on insights and adding new features within PMax. But there’s still a lot of important insights missing.
At the start of a new campaign, you don’t know where your ads are showing, or who’s seeing them. Evidence shows that Performance Max delivers real results when calibrated correctly. But getting to this stage — especially if you have minimal PPC experience — can be difficult.
3. Well-Defined Goals Are Essential
If you start a Google Ads Performance Max campaign with poorly-defined goals, you’re likely to see significant underperformance. You won’t see the results you want, and might even lose money. So you need a good grasp of your numbers before you get started.
Miles outlines some of the crucial figures you need to know before setting up your PMax campaign:
What is your break even ROAS? What is your break even cost to acquire a new customer? Is your first sale more valuable because you can upsell more on the backend? Or is your first sale typically less valuable than the ones that follow? These are the kinds of questions you need answers to. If you know your numbers inside out, you can translate them into concrete goals.
4. Poor Campaign Design Leads to Overspending
Poor campaign design can lead to lots of low quality conversions that don’t add value to your business. Your ad spend then increases to compensate for this. Miles says:
Even though Performance Max may seem super simplified, I think it’s actually becoming a lot harder to get the results that you want. Because there’s a lot of thinking that goes into the campaign before you actually set it up.
To make sure your Performance Max campaigns work efficiently, map out your bid strategy, asset groups, and creative in advance. Fully optimised ads and well-designed campaigns can help you regain control over your spending.
5. Image & Video Ads Are Non-Negotiable
Performance Max puts multimedia assets front and centre of your campaigns. This makes sense from a sales perspective; 78% of marketers believe video marketing is effective for lead generation. Leo Pizarro, Lunio’s Head of Demand Generation, says:
The future is going to be AI-generated images and video, and there’s a reason for that. Ad platforms have slowly been shifting towards more of a visual/interactive impact. Search ads include visual assets. Facebook is leading with video.
YouTube and responsive display ads are integral to Performance Max campaigns. So businesses must now include images and videos in their PMax strategy — even if they don’t have the skills and resources to create these in-house. So you’ll need to invest even more to compete in the PPC marketplace.
Protect Your Performance Max Campaigns with Lunio
Performance Max has a lot of potential. But lots of issues need to be ironed out before PPC marketers can use it effectively without worrying about overspending and campaign inefficiency.
Performance Max hasn’t eliminated the problem of fake traffic plaguing PPC, either. Fake users and invalid traffic can reach your site via your ads, leading to even more excess spending and low-value conversions.
Lunio optimises Performance Max campaigns by detecting and eliminating fake or bot users before they click your ads. It protects PPC campaigns across the whole of Google’s ad inventory, increasing genuine conversions and reducing PPC costs by up to 25%.