Performance Max campaigns: how to make the most of them?

In online advertising, innovative ways to reach customers and achieve maximum results are constantly emerging. Some turn out to be dead ends, others come to the fore. One of these successful approaches is Google Performance Max (PMax or PM for short) campaigns, which will become more widespread here in late 2022. At TRITON IT, there is virtually no client whose account we are currently using PMax campaigns. And for most of our clients, PMax campaigns are the main source of conversions. This article is a case study summarizing our experience with intensive deployment and optimization of Performance Max campaigns over the last year.

What exactly are Performance Max campaigns and what channels do they work on?

Performance Max campaigns are a relatively innovative ad format from Google that brings several benefits and allows ad campaigns to achieve higher success rates than traditional campaigns to date. The principle behind these campaigns is based on the current trend of artificial intelligence. Similar to how chatbots learn as they exchange messages with the user, Performance Max campaigns are based on machine learning. Performance Max campaigns use a wide range of channels through which they can reach a large number of potential customers. With this approach, advertisers can reach users at different points and stages of the buying process, increasing the likelihood of conversion and campaign success.

What inputs are needed for a successful Performance Max campaign?

For Performance Max campaigns to reach their full potential in the form of machine learning, you need to supply all the necessary inputs in all the necessary formats This includes text, banners or even videos.

a) Texts

Ad texts play an important role in Performance Max campaigns. It is necessary to prepare short and engaging headlines and descriptions that will arouse interest and convince the user to make the desired conversion. The texts must be optimally adapted to the individual channels on which the campaign will run, meet the required length and contain important keywords that can play a role in the user’s decision-making process. It should be borne in mind that the texts will be used to generate “classic” adverts for search campaigns, but in combination with the supplied graphics they will also be displayed in content advertising.

b) Videos

Video advertising has a huge potential to reach the target audience and bring them closer to the products and services offered. Performance Max campaigns require videos of different lengths and sizes that are optimally adapted for each channel. The emphasis in the case of videos is primarily on the content message, but eye-catching visual elements should not be forgotten.

The video for a Performance Max campaign should be 15 seconds long, as recommended. There are no specific dimensions, but the video is uploaded to YouTube, from where the campaign then takes it over.

c) Banners

Properly selected and attractive banners are crucial to the success of a campaign. Banners need to be relevant and tailored to each channel, both in message and format. It is important to pay attention to the graphic aspect of the banners to attract the attention of users.

type of bannerrecommended size
landscape image1200 x 628
square image1200 x 1200
portrait image960 x 1200 and 672 x 1200
square logo1200 x 1200
landscape logo1200 x 300
Table 1: List of required banners and recommended dimensions

Performance Max campaign structure and recommendations from Google

The structure of Performance Max campaigns differs from traditional campaigns in several ways. The basic recommendation, which Google initially gave us in several consultations, is not to create multiple PMax campaigns, but to stick to just one. This is because in the case of multiple Performance Max campaigns, it can happen that the campaigns compete with each other and audiences start to intersect. A better solution is to create one campaign and then set up multiple assets, i.e. reports that serve to break up the campaign more. Within each report, the performance campaign specialist can then specify targeting users through keywords searched or websites visited, as well as select different impact pages, texts and banners to show to the report. When we work with multiple reports within a single campaign, it is common for Google itself, based on its own decision-making mechanism, to start to favour those reports that are more converting and bring more profit to our client over time.

Performance Max campaign performance example
Figure 2: Performance Max campaign performance example

However, based on our experience and a few more consultations with Google experts, over time we have come to see certain patterns in creating multiple PMax campaigns. In the case of e-shops advertising products with significant price variance (and therefore large differences between conversion values), there can be a situation where a Performance Max campaign favors cheaper products because it wants to bring in as many conversions as possible, thus neglecting more expensive products. This is despite choosing a strategy to maximize the value of conversions. In this case, it’s a good idea to create multiple Performance Max campaigns that are split just between more expensive products and cheaper products, for example. On the other hand, if we manage an e-shop where the prices of the products are similar, or a client where the conversion value does not play a role, as for example the B2B form submissions are collected, it is advisable to create only one Performance Max campaign.

Targeting and remarketing with Performance Max campaigns

Successful targeting is a key factor for effective Performance Max campaigns. It’s important to properly define your target audience and choose the appropriate advertising elements (headlines, descriptions, banners, impact pages) to achieve the best results. When it comes to remarketing, Performance Max campaigns offer the possibility to target users who have already shown interest in the products or services offered.

For our clients, we most often target users who have either searched for terms defined by us in Google search or users who have visited competitors’ sites and can therefore be assumed to be interested in our clients’ services or products. We often supplement this targeting with remarketing audiences. Based on our experience of running Performance Max campaigns, we have found that this is the best way to bring the most relevant audience with buying interest to a client’s website.

Performance Max vs. Shopping and Search campaigns

Performance Max campaigns offer new and expanded opportunities for online advertising, but they don’t have to replace traditional Shopping and Search campaigns. On the contrary, appropriately combined campaigns can reinforce each other and achieve even better results. It’s important to set the right targeting and budget for each type of campaign so they don’t cannibalize each other to get the best results. Campaigns always complement each other once launched. We can do this by creating more detailed PMax campaigns to go alongside more general search campaigns.

Optimization and evaluation of Performance Max campaigns

Just like any other PPC campaign, Performance Max campaigns need to be monitored, evaluated and optimized throughout. Evaluation is more challenging than for regular campaigns due to the complex structure of the campaign, but if key indicators such as the number of conversions or cost per lead are tracked, the performance marketing specialist can then adjust targeting, descriptions or banners, as well as the budget. When adjusting the budget, it is important to follow a simple rule – move the budget level by no more than 20%. This is because due to the machine learning nature of Performance Max campaigns, a sharp increase or decrease in budget could cause the campaign to switch back into learning mode. It can then take up to a month for such a campaign to run before its results can be considered relevant.

Other optimization options include changing headlines and descriptions. If a campaign has been running for a long time, Google can evaluate which headlines and descriptions have the best results and which ones fail to drive users to the website. Based on this information, we can analyze user behavior and optimize the display ad to achieve the highest CTR and desired conversion rate. We can also add new assets or break existing campaigns and assets into smaller units.

A regular form of optimization is adjusting targeting and focusing on certain time windows or locations that appear to be the most successful based on past campaign results.

How we used Performance Max campaigns to elevate Alutech Bohemia and MISURA

We have been working with Google’s PMax campaigns since the end of 2022 and even in mid-2023, we were surprised to learn from the PPC Advanced Training where we were the only agency of all the participating agencies to use this new campaign format.

Experience with Performance Max at Alutech Bohemia

One of the clients where we have successfully deployed PMax campaigns is Alutech Bohemia, a company offering aluminium pergolas. We have used Performance Max campaigns to reach people who have been interested in pergolas in the past, either through search engine queries or by visiting some of the competitor websites we have selected in collaboration with the client. We also remembered to reach existing visitors through remarketing.

Year-on-year comparison of the number of conversions at Alutech Bohemia
Fig. 3: Year-on-year comparison of the number of conversions at Alutech Bohemia

The Performance Max campaign soon began to complement existing traditional search campaigns very effectively and in many ways even surpassed them. We continued to optimize and regionally diversify the campaign. As a result, we launched a single-asset Performance Max campaign in which we targeted users who searched for any terms containing the word pergola and users who visited our client’s competitor sites.

Evolution of the number of visits and conversions at Alutech Bohemia
Fig. 4: Evolution of the number of visits (dark blue curve) and conversions (light blue curve) at Alutech Bohemia

When we launched the campaign itself, we were able to bring in a large number of users, and over time we were able to bring in more and more relevant audiences. As a result, the click-through rate started to increase slightly, but at the same time as the click-through rate increased, the number of conversions started to increase, which was our client’s primary goal.

The results that Performance Max brought to Alutech Bohemia were enthusiastically received by the client. Year-on-year, we saw a more than 400% increase in conversions, and while conversions from paid advertising only accounted for 50% in 2022, by 2023 it was almost 90%.

Experience with Performance Max in MISURA

We’ve had similar success deploying Performance Max campaigns with MISURA, a client that focuses on selling innovative products in the technology world. Here, prior to implementing PMax campaigns, we were seeing conversions primarily from traditional search campaigns, and occasionally from product campaigns as well.

With the launch of Performance Max campaigns, we started to drive much more relevant users to the client’s website, which we achieved by defining precise audiences for each product category. Once the campaign was up and running, we followed a proven scenario where the number of users brought in was decreasing, the cost per click was increasing, but the campaign was able to bring in more converted users and the first purchases through the PMax campaign on the MISURA e-shop started to appear.

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