Performance Max Campaigns: Go Beyond the Keyword

Performance Max campaigns make some of us feel anxious. 

Why? Because we feel uncomfortable letting go of any control and allowing Google machine learning to make decisions for us. 

I felt that way for a long time too. 

But over the last couple years, I’ve become convinced that living with that loss of control—even if it feels uncomfortable—can pay off.

In this blog post, I’ll reveal some of the great results we’ve achieved with Performance Max campaigns for our clients.

I’ll also highlight a few things you need to know to make these campaigns a success. 

But before we get into all that, let’s review what Performance Max campaigns are.

What Are Performance Max Campaigns?

Performance Max allows you to access all Google Ads channels from a single campaign. 

You provide inputs, such as audience signals, marketing assets (such as headlines, images, video) and conversion goals. 

Google Ads then uses machine learning to find potential customers and serve ads on the “best” Google channel at the “best” bid price. 

This video provides a good description: 

Next, let’s look at a client example where we used Performance Max campaigns. 

An example

Here are three short-term campaigns from one client account:  

As you can see, Performance Max campaigns dramatically outperformed Dynamic Search Ads and Remarketing* campaigns in this example. 

Will you get the same results with your Performance Max campaigns? Maybe. Maybe not. 

In fact, we’ve found that in some accounts, Performance Max campaigns don’t perform well at all. For example, in another account we launched a Performance Max campaign with a shopping feed—and it blew through $700 in just a few hours. 

To add salt to the wound, Google had more than doubled our campaign budget, which we had originally set to $300! 

On a positive note, we caught the problem quickly. We hit pause and developed a plan to test again with slightly different targets. 

Still, in other accounts, such as the above example, Performance Max campaigns are a homerun—which is why they’re worth testing.

What You Need to Know About Performance Max Campaigns

As with any new Google Ads product or feature, advertisers have a lot of questions about Performance Max campaigns. 

A recent PPC chat between Julie Bacchini (a respected PPC Pro) and Ginny Marvin (an Ads Product Liaison at Google) hit on the most common and pressing questions. 

Let’s look at a couple of the questions that came up in this discussion and their answers (highlights added).

This is an important thing to know. Performance Max campaigns MAY cannibalize your other campaigns if they cover the same products. You shouldn’t run them in parallel. 

However, Search campaigns are the exception. They’re higher priority than Performance Max, so cannibalization shouldn’t occur when a query exactly matches an exact, phrase or broad match keyword within a Search campaign. 

Next question (highlights added):

This is the kind of thing that makes some advertisers squirm. 

If you don’t upload video content, Performance Max will create it for you with the assets you do have—and you have no way to opt out.  

But again, even if this makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s worth testing. The results you achieve may help you feel a whole lot better. 

Final question (highlights added):

When Performance Max first launched, many of us thought of it as a top-of-funnel campaign. 

But as you can gather from this conversation, Performance Max is actually aimed at low-to-mid funnel (TOF and MOF). However, you can use your asset groups to bend that focus a little bit. 

The discussion between Julie and Ginny covers many more questions about Performance Max. I encourage you to check out the whole conversation here.  

Performance Max Campaigns Require a New Way of Thinking

In a way, Performance Max campaigns require you to change the way you think about Google Ads campaigns. 

They’re no longer all about the mighty keyword. We’re moving beyond that—and have been for some time.

So I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and test Performance Max campaigns.

Because they may hit it out of the park. 

*Update: We’ve since learned that remarketing doesn’t come into play with Performance Max, illustrating on of the hazards of being an early adopter—there’s always more to learn!