Insights / Digital Media

PUBLISHED: May 16, 2022 7 min read

Unlock Customer Insights with Performance Max Campaigns

Learn how this Google Ads campaign format can improve your traffic quality with brand new customer insights.

Google’s Performance Max has now been out of beta for six months. While it’s still a new ad campaign format, we’ve been proactively using, testing, and communicating with the Google team about the ins and outs of this new tool.

Our team has been able to gather unique insights about Performance Max campaigns. As with every campaign type, Performance Max has its pros and cons. However, unlike other formats, Performance Max can unlock brand new insights about customers’ interaction with your brand and products.

Being agile and proactive with the latest tools and technologies is part of a healthy, long-term marketing strategy – that actually delivers real results. So, what can Performance Max (six months in) teach you about your campaigns and customers?

What is Performance Max?

Performance Max is a fully automated, goal-based ad campaign type that advertises across all of the Google networks. Put simply, it allows marketers to use one campaign to reach a wide audience across Google networks:

Image source: Google Ads Tutorials: Audience signals in a Performance Max campaign, May 2022

The two most common misconceptions about Performance Max campaigns are: how it operates best and how to accurately measure its success.

Myth #1: It’s assumed that Performance Max campaigns offer similar performance to Search or other more established campaign types.

In reality, Performance Max’s current strength lies in its ability to supplement other search campaigns.

For example, for most accounts, Performance Max campaigns can act as a good supplement for both branded and non-branded search campaigns, which are generally a foundational part of any strategy. As a fully automated campaign, this includes using artificial intelligence to dynamically generate combinations of text, image, and video ads relevant to each user.

Myth #2: Performance Max campaigns should be measured just like Search and other more straightforward campaign types.

Conversely, Performance Max campaigns should be measured differently than other Google Ads campaign types.

These common misconceptions can pave the way toward inaccurate reporting and inefficient spend. Through our time utilizing this new campaign type, we’ve been able to establish what companies can benefit most and how.

Which brands gain the most from Performance Max campaigns?

Thus far, the three biggest benefits of Performance Max are:

  1. Wide reach: Performance Max campaigns can follow users across all the Google networks. From video, searches, websites, and more reach audiences right where they are.
  2. Responsiveness: Based on the inputs provided, Google automatically creates a vast array of creative combinations that can be customized to each person.
  3. Brand awareness: Due to its wide reach, Performance Max campaigns can enhance brand awareness by increasing the frequency of brand logos and messaging across Google networks. This can establish and strengthen brand perception and loyalty better than other existing campaign types.

While there are benefits for most businesses to be using Performance Max campaigns within the context of their larger media mix, several aspects stand out.

  1. Data stockpiles: Since Performance Max campaigns are fully automated, smart bidding strategies can maximize conversions, target CPA, and more when equipped with the data to do so. Businesses with more data will do better than those that generate lower numbers of conversions.
  2. Lead generation: Businesses that focus on lead generation have benefited from this new ad format. Partially, this is due to more data being generated, but lead generation also offers other benefits that align with this campaign type.
  3. Brand awareness deficit: Businesses that need to reach more people broadly across different networks stand to benefit. For example, companies that may not have much paid social, minimal branded search, or retargeting on any Google network. Performance Max can provide retargeting and remarketing with a wide reach that brands haven’t yet, for one reason or another, been able to capture elsewhere.

Key knowledge gaps about Performance Max campaigns

There’s been a key knowledge gap in the differentiation of Performance Max campaign reporting. Most of the online discussions about Performance Max campaign successes use blended reporting numbers. Identifying traffic sources, such as branded vs. non-branded, are an important part of identifying what specifically is (and isn’t) working within a campaign.

Marketers often compare Performance Max campaigns in a simplified way with existing campaigns such as non-branded Search, etc. However, to take these numbers at face value doesn’t offer an accurate comparison. Existing campaigns, such as Search and YouTube campaigns, are well-established and require less nuance. Performance Max campaigns demand a more granular investigation.

For accurate measurement, dig into the full breakdown of Performance Max insights to extract key comparison data.

Here’s a common example. Your brand begins a Performance Max campaign and starts seeing some good results. So, naturally, you try to scale up the campaign. It’s doing well, why not scale it up? While this is a natural thought process, it’s easy to miss why is it doing well? What is it actually doing well? Inevitably, there is a limit to scaling success when you aren’t sure what exactly is bringing you these results.

Where are traffic and conversions really coming from? For example, brand-new, non-brand prospecting, or branded retargeting to users who have interacted with your brand at some point in the past, or are even existing customers? While successes with Performance Max are clear, there has been less conversation about why scale in Performance Max campaigns can be limited.

Oversimplifying Performance Max campaign successes affects the accuracy of comparison data and marketers’ understanding of the limitations of this campaign type.

How to diagnose and improve Performance Max traffic quality

Marketers need additional resources to understand the long-term impact of Performance Max campaigns. Having only come out of beta in mid-November 2021, it’s still in the early days. Over the past six months, Google had added additional reporting and insights that were originally unavailable at launch.

One example is the addition of a search terms report. This report gives an initial breakdown of search terms within Performance Max campaigns. However, businesses still need to collect and filter their own data for more granular findings. While it’s expected that Google will continue to enhance its Performance Max reporting, it’s unlikely that it will ever be as robust as Search campaign reporting.

In addition to using all available reporting within Performance Max campaigns, Google Analytics and other third-party tracking software can provide the needed information to assess traffic quality. For example, the Google Analytics engagement rate can offer a better metric than what’s currently provided within Performance Max reporting.

These tools can help answer:

  • What is the bounce rate?
  • What is the percentage of new users?
  • What are the portions of branded and non-brand types of traffic?
  • What are the portions of new vs. returning users?

Performance Max campaign reporting reminds us that every campaign is only as strong as the strategy behind it.

Using new tools and technology doesn’t guarantee sustainable results, but an expert strategy that harnesses the latest innovations to cohesively work within your entire media mix is how to achieve the very best business outcomes.

How does our team approach Performance Max campaign reporting? We have been proactively using all of the new reporting available for Performance Max while in beta or as soon as it’s available including new tools for customer acquisition. As part of the Premier Google Partners program, we’re able to have regular, in-depth conversations with our Google support team. In these meetings, we’re able to ask detailed questions and request further information. As an agency partner, our team has an open line of communication and is starting to see some of our requested features and suggestions come to life within Performance Max.

While Performance Max has its limits, most businesses can benefit from trying it out. Why? This campaign type can offer a new perspective to learn more about your customers. Discover new insights into how your customers interact with your brand and their interest in your products and services.

To learn more insights about Google advertising, read How Dynamic Search Ads Can Accelerate Campaign Performance.