Google’s Performance Max (P-MAX) campaigns stand as a significant move in their constant drift towards automation, especially for small businesses in the UK. This blog post aims to quickly unpack the complexities of P-MAX campaigns, focusing on challenges like managing search query data, controlling traffic quality, and navigating budget constraints.
The aim is to help small business owners to understand the benefits and drawbacks of this campaign type.
What are Performance Max Campaigns?
Performance Max campaigns mark a departure from traditional Google Ads search campaigns where a search query typed by the user into the search box on google.co.uk offers a list of relevant websites for the user to view in order to find what they are looking for.
Performance Max campaigns are designed to automate ad placements across Google’s platforms, including Search, Display, YouTube, and more. The aim is to maximize the reach and effectiveness of ads by using Google’s machine learning technology. However, this automation brings its own set of complexities.
The majority of the traffic we see for ecommerce websites from P-MAX campaigns is Google Shopping traffic – this is where you are given product recommendations by Google. In order for your products to show in the Google Shopping or Performance Max campaigns you need to upload a feed of your products to Google Merchant Centre. The Performance Max campaign results for ecommerce websites tend to be quite good as they are largely automated based on the product data in the product feed so very easy for Google to map the products to relevant user search queries.
But for non-ecommerce sites it is a mix of search, display, YouTube & Gmail. The results can be quite mixed as it really depends on having excellent ad content such as videos in order for ads to work well on the display channels and then more importantly the website needs to really effectively sell your product/service as we have moved from a demand driven channel (someone searching for something they want) to an interruption channel where you just target a selected audience with your offerings and hope that they are interested.
The Transition Challenge
The shift from Shopping, Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns to P-MAX has been challenging for many small businesses. These changes require advertisers to rethink their strategies and possibly increase their budgets. This is because AI driven campaigns require a good amount of data in order to be effective.
Small businesses should really be targeting a tight niche that is most likely to buy from them. With traditional search campaigns small businesses have full control to select the right keywords for them and run the ads on those keywords. Then after a few days/weeks you can analyse the conversions and the search queries to get a handle on whether you are hitting the right people or not and then adjust accordingly.
Performance Max campaigns can learn and do this over time but to build up enough conversion data in order to have a clear target audience takes time. Additionally the targeting cannot be checked and verified beyond the broad audience signals (shown below) that you set on your campaign so you need to put a lot of trust in Google. If results are great or poor it is tricky to identify why and learn more about your business and how customers are interacting with it.
For effective P-MAX campaigns, a budget of approximately £100 per day is often recommended by Google, which can be a steep demand for small-scale operations and I feel that there is often not much consideration of this.
For many small businesses it is important to keep running traditional search campaigns alongside the performance Max campaigns.
Search Query Data and Traffic Quality
One of the major challenges with P-MAX campaigns is the reduced visibility into which search queries are triggering your ads. This opacity can make it harder to fine-tune campaigns for optimal performance. Small businesses must learn to navigate this reduced control, focusing on broader performance metrics and trend analyses to guide their strategy.
We find that more effort is now going into:
- Improving websites as we can get data on conversion rates and A/B test content easily.
- Making sure that the ads written content, images and video content is as effective as possible.
- Monitoring cost per lead or ROAS & Ensuring the bidding and budgets are being carefully controlled.
- Working on improving product data on the website and in the feed.
- Testing different audience signals – such as with Search themes and without search themes, with competitor websites and without etc etc.
- Analysing which products are getting the most visibility and adjusting this towards the best performers when Google are slow to do so.
- Monitoring the channel split between shopping, display, YouTube etc to understand changes in performance.
Balancing Automation and Control
The automated nature of P-MAX campaigns offers efficiency but at the cost of granular control. Businesses must find a balance between leveraging this automation and maintaining some level of control. This might involve a more strategic use of available data and a keen focus on campaign goals and performance metrics.
We are unsure whether Google’s intentions are to improve accessibility of their marketing tools to small businesses by making them easier to use through reducing data and controls or a more pessimistic view could be that they are keen to dumb down their users so that they check their campaigns less frequently and instead just leave things up to Google.
We hope that all advertisers keep well on top of their campaign performance and work hard to get the most out of their campaigns as Google Ads is still perhaps the most effective marketing channel available for a lot of businesses.
Practical Strategies for Small Businesses
To effectively leverage P-MAX campaigns, small businesses should focus on defining clear marketing objectives, using high-quality creatives, and targeting their audience judiciously. For those who find P-MAX challenging and are struggling to get their campaigns to work – please contact us for a free consultation where we can help you find solutions to these challenges.
Performance Max campaigns present both challenges and opportunities for small businesses in the UK. Embracing these changes requires adaptation and a willingness to experiment with new strategies. By staying informed and agile, businesses can harness the potential of these complex yet powerful advertising tools.