Digital marketing has always been a constantly evolving industry, with platforms and practices changing greatly every few years. Machine learning and automation seem to be the top priority in terms of innovation. Today, we can assign mundane tasks like setting bid changes to smart algorithms, while we can focus on researching and strategizing. The fact of the matter is, the algorithms are better suited for such tasks. So is it also possible to get better ad results with the help of automation? Google has tried to answer this question with Performance Max campaigns. Of course, it is still a very new phenomenon and should be wisely studied and understood before it is used.
What is a Performance Max Campaign?
Performance Max (or PMax) campaigns were introduced by Google in November 2021, and digital marketing services worldwide have embraced them as the next step in the evolution of advertising. They are goal-based campaigns that combine the best features of responsive ads and smart campaigns. The idea is that you provide Google with all of your creative assets, goals, and budget, and then let machine learning take over. Google uses automation and slowly acquired data to determine what your ads will look like, when they will show up, and whom they are shown to, in order to best serve your goals.
Of course, there is still some amount of control you have over these ads. You have the ability to:
- Set custom goals for your campaign
- Set the budget
- Decide what copy and creatives assets will be used
- Create custom geo-targeting
- Manually target selective audiences or demographics if you wish to
The primary objective here is to make advertising more accessible to novice users who can otherwise be overwhelmed by the number of available channels. As mentioned earlier, however, it is still relatively new, and will take some time and fine-tuning to work as good as the manual alternative. PMax campaigns have their own pros and cons which you should know about before deciding on using them.
Pros of Performance Max Campaigns
High Amount of Automation
The most obvious advantage of PMax campaigns is your ability to leverage automation. Bidding will be taken care of automatically, and you won’t have to stress over your campaign budget. With the right data input, automated bids can effectively outperform a manual bidding process. You also have no need to manually research keywords or create target audiences – Google will do all of this for you. Not only does this save tremendous amounts of time, but it can also lead to more and better value conversions. PMax campaigns have also been noted to work well in attracting new customers.
You Can Focus on Strategy
When you have multiple campaigns active, your responsive search ads, display ads, etc. all come with different creatives and messages which you have to compile and analyze separately in order to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. This process is made significantly easier with Performance Max. You have all the data that you need in one place, making optimization of your ads, planning your creatives & campaigns, and PPC reporting much simpler.
Supplement Existing Search Campaigns
If you have existing search ad campaigns active, they shouldn’t be affected by PMax campaigns. Search keywords still take priority, which means advertisers have some degree of control when it comes to targeting high-priority or high-volume search terms.
Cons of Performance Max Campaigns
You Have Low Control
The entire idea behind PMax campaigns is to take work from advertisers and automate it. However, this also means it gives you less amount of control. Firstly, it becomes easier for Google to spend as much as it sees fit for every ad. Since Google’s ad inventory is huge, you must manually narrow your targets if you want expenses to stay low. You don’t have access to a lot of audience data unless you manually select them as well. Additionally, there’s no way to add negative keywords or make use of smart bidding strategies in these campaigns.
You Get Low Reports
While Google is still gradually adding more reporting features, it still leaves much to be desired. It is rather difficult to get meaningful insight into each campaign, or analyze how well each asset combination is working. When there isn’t enough traffic for Google to track data from, it becomes difficult for them to identify which clicks came from which audiences. So all of your data is grouped into an “Other” category, which makes it further difficult to analyze which keywords are high-performing or which audience groups are producing good results.
Marketing Goals Must be Perfectly Clear
If you rely too much on the automation aspect, you’re likely to lose out on a lot of money without great results. You need to clearly delineate for Google your marketing goals. At the least, you need to have a clear idea about what conversion-specific actions you are looking for, and need to enter these details so that Google can optimize these campaigns accordingly.
The same is also applicable for your ad quality. You will have to provide the best possible creative inputs to the system in order to get good quality ads. The AI doesn’t have any power in finding and implementing better quality creatives and copies by itself.
Performance Max campaigns are certainly an exciting new option for the next generation of digital advertising. However, it is important to understand that this feature is still new, and has a long way to go before it is actually at par with manually curated campaigns. That said, automation and machine learning are the future, and they are bound to highlight the next generation of technology as well. PMax campaigns are just an example, and will perhaps become the mainstream practice of the near future.
As it stands right now, it is still useful for those without the time or resources to optimize ads for each channel, but who want exposure to the entirety of the Google Ads inventory. It is also useful for those with enough budget to experiment with this new feature to understand new markets and unlock new customer segments.