Google rolled out Performance Max (Pmax) in November 2021. As is usually the case with any new product, Google has been monitoring user feedback, continuing its testing, and has added a host of new features to improve it. In our July 2022 article on Pmax we outlined some of the benefits and drawbacks of the new product. A lot has happened since then, most notably, Pmax has completely replaced Smart Shopping, greatly increasing its use — and of course, there’s all those new features. In this article, we outline the features that have been added to Pmax over the last year.
Pmax in a Nutshell
Pmax is a Google Ads campaign type that uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate your ads to be displayed across all its advertising channels: Search, Shopping, YouTube, Display, Discover, Gmail, and Maps. You supply your marketing objectives/goals, budget, creative assets and geo targets, and then hand it off to Google’s AI to decide what your ad will look like, as well as which of Google’s channels AI will show it on, when, and to who. Google claims that this results in a better return on ad spend (ROAS). Recent data shows that the results are more nuanced, but in general one out of every three Pmax campaigns exceeds their ROAS targets.
Pmax’s New Features
The new features will improve campaign performance on search inventory, increase ad effectiveness with easier video production, allow experiments to test Pmax against other campaigns and improve the ability to measure and report on campaigns. Let’s dive in, and go through each of the new features in turn.
Features to Help Improve Results from Search Inventory in Performance Max
Pmax works in tandem with Search campaigns, taking direction from what is working in your Search ads to boost conversions across all of Google. Search inventory refers to the ad space on the website or app and also includes targeting — the characteristics of the space where your ads are displayed and to who. Pmax will learn lessons from Search’s successes in areas such as placement, targeting (inventory) and keywords, and will expand on these lessons using AI to drive incremental conversions across all of Google’s channels, including Search. Think of it as compounding the benefits.
Account-Level Negative Keywords give marketers more control over who sees the Pmax campaigns. They exclude traffic that isn’t wanted, so the ads are shown only to high-converting traffic, potentially making the campaign more efficient and less costly. More specifically, negative keywords are the terms you don’t want triggering your ads to appear. For example, if you sell expensive handbags, you might want to add “cheap” as a negative keyword, so those people looking for cheap handbags aren’t shown your ads. Account-level negative keywords apply to campaigns that serve on Search and Shopping, but not Discovery.
Campaign-Level Brand Exclusions also allows more control over who sees the ads. Brand Exclusions are particularly useful to help advertisers avoid the inflated cost per click for branded terms. The brand exclusions also help block traffic from brand misspellings and searches in a foreign language. Brand exclusions apply to Search and Shopping traffic in Pmax and can be applied at the individual campaign level, or across multiple campaigns with a shared list.
Page Feeds allows advertisers to send traffic to specific URLs on the site, so visitors will see the most valuable ones for the goals, and not the URL that detract from your objectives. Page feeds work in conjunction with the Final URL Expansion feature. When the Expansion feature is turned on, Google can use any of your site’s URLs it likes. Turning it off, limits Google to the URLs in your feed. You could also leave it on, but add exclusions, such as your login pages, or anything not related to what you are selling.
Easier Video Creation
Google has incorporated a video creation tool into the assets section of the Pmax interface, making it easier to make high quality video within the ad creation workflow.
Experiments to Measure Incremental Conversion
Pmax experiments help advertisers to A/B test features, settings and campaigns in order to improve results. Pmax offers two types of experiments:
- Pmax uplift experiment helps advertisers measure how much incremental benefit occurs by adding a Pmax campaign alongside current Search, Video, Discovery, and Display.
- Compare Regular Shopping vs Pmax to see which one performs better.
Reporting and Insights
Understanding the Pmax campaign’s performance is critical to be able to optimize the campaign and improve results. Luckily, Google is providing more tools to advertisers to enhance this ability. This data can, of course, be combined with other pertinent data such as organic search to give a comprehensive view of what is going on with all your assets. Here at Stikky Media, for example, we put together a Data Looker Studio for each of our clients — a place where all the relevant website and ad data, Including Pmax, can be seen at a glance.
- Asset Group Reporting will allow advertisers to see conversions, conversion value, cost, and a variety of other metrics at the asset group level. Asset groups allow advertisers to tailor messages to target different audience segments. Asset Group Reporting will provide advertisers will insight into how well different asset groups are contributing to the overall campaign performance, so they can adjust accordingly by adding more assets or asset groups
- Budget pacing insights help advertisers understand how the budget is distributed across campaigns, possibly uncovering opportunities to optimize.
Pmax’s new features help mitigate some of the limitations of this campaign type. Even though Pmax is AI driven and touted as being simpler for people to use and get results, it is actually very complex, with a good proportion of its functionality hidden within a black box. Pmax, however, is a powerful tool in the hands of an expert. It definitely isn’t for the do-it-yourself advertiser. Need help with Pmax? Check out Stikky Media’s services.