Performance Max: How to Harness its Power for Successful Online Advertising

Published on August 24, 2023 by Alex Eade

Those of you who have Google Ads accounts, or who are interested in advertising to your audiences online, might have heard of Performance Max. But what is it, how does it work, and is it a useful tool for your business? 

What is Performance Max? 

In a (very small) nutshell, Performance Max is a type of Google Ads campaign. 

Unlike other campaign types, it is heavily automated and uses machine learning and Google’s algorithms to fully optimise the placement and visibility of your ads, as well as your bidding strategies – all in real time. 

Performance Max (or PMax) was created to help marketers better achieve their unique goals across the Google network (Search, Display, YouTube, and Discover) by harnessing the power and speed of AI. 

If PMax is automated, do I need to do anything?

The answer here is absolutely yes! We’re not at a stage where we can fully rely on Google or any other platform to just create the right ads for us. When setting up ads on PMax, the marketer will provide the headlines, product/service descriptions, creative (e.g. photos) and any other assets needed. Crucially, although PMax is automated, this leg work needs to be done properly at the beginning to ensure that you have strong ads that people want to click on. 

Once this is complete, Google’s algorithms can dynamically create and serve ads using the information you’ve input. These ads can be served across multiple different Google platforms based on user behaviour. A key benefit of PMax is that it allows advertisers and marketers to reach a wider audience and maximise the visibility of their products/services/brand without manually creating, managing and separating campaigns for each network. It speeds up the process so more time can be spent on creative.

Are Automated Videos Beneficial? 

PMax offers an automated video asset generation feature for marketing on platforms like YouTube and various Google Partner websites. However, it’s important to note that while this automated option exists, its performance may not always meet your expectations. Despite offering this feature, Google actually tends to favour original content over auto generated materials. Paid Media Manager, Tanya, would always recommend creating your own high quality content instead. Alternatively, she says that marketers can swiftly craft a distinctive video utilising the various templates available in Google’s Asset Library. This empowers you to exercise precise control over image selection, font styles, accent colours, and even the choice of the most fitting jingle or song for your content.

What are PMax’s main features? 

  • Optimisation through automation: Machine learning adjusts bidding, targeting, and ad placements in real-time to achieve the goals the advertiser has told it to go for – such as conversions or clicks.
  • Dynamic Content: Google will create your advert, using the materials you give it, based on user preference and context. This, theoretically means it’s much easier to show people the right ad, at the right time. 
  • Cross-Network advertising: PMax ads can feature on Google’s Search and Display networks, as well as YouTube and Discover. This helps marketers to tap into lots of platforms and audiences with just one campaign. 
  • Focused on Goals: Ads and ad campaigns are tailored to specific campaign objectives which could be anything from number of website visits up to sales or leads. 

How do I know if Performance Max is right for me? 

Performance Max is great for marketers looking to simplify their advertising whilst reaching a broader audience online. Paid Media Manager, Abdul also likes to use it to discover new audiences, saying that it’s great to find untapped audiences that you might not have previously considered. 

It’s important to remember though that PMax will not do all of the work for you – the better the work you do at the beginning to provide imagery, video, headlines and descriptions, the better the ads that Google will create. 

Pinpointing Audiences with Performance Max 

When it comes to pinpointing the most relevant audience to target, Tanya believes that a multifaceted approach should come into play. She says that: ‘Strong audience targeting requires the ingenuity, research prowess, and strategic implementation that only human decision-making can provide. It’s a realm where data intertwines with creativity, enabling the formulation of strategies that transcend algorithms. While PMax excels in automating various aspects, the art of audience selection remains a testament to the value of human insight and expertise. It’s in this juncture that marketers delve into demographics, psychology, and the intricate tapestry of consumer behaviour to make informed choices that steer campaigns toward resounding success’.

Top of Funnel Audiences 

Paid Media Manager, Brent, likes that PMax campaigns expand on audiences and information that you already have. He says: ‘They can reach not only your targeted audience that you know are engaged, but also reach more top of funnel audiences that may be willing to buy, but aren’t aware of your product/service and so aren’t necessarily searching in Google for it. By including Gmail, Google Maps, Youtube, Discovery, Display & Search, Google is able to show the right ad at the right time of the user’s buyer journey, using AI and machine learning that we as advertisers may not be privy to’. 

Test and Measure, Always and Forever 

Whilst PMax is automated, it’s wise not to just let it run and assume that it’s doing everything right. Abdul says that it’s a good idea to test the ads for a period of time so that you can find out what works, what doesn’t, and then use this information to improve your headlines, text, images etc. 

Tanya would agree with this, saying that: ‘it’s important to highlight that the process of gathering intelligence through PMax is an undertaking that requires patience. A minimum period of approximately one month is essential for PMax to accumulate the necessary data and insights. This duration is crucial for the system to comprehensively grasp nuances, trends, and patterns. This invaluable period of intelligence gathering lays the foundation for robust decision-making and optimally targeted strategies moving forward. Therefore it’s not ideal for a short run campaign e.g. 2 weeks, although this can still be created but it would benefit from being live for a longer period’.

If you’d like to find out more about Performance Max, or how our Paid Media Team can support your business through online advertising, then get in touch. We’d love to help.