Is Performance Max Worthy of Your Advertising Dollars?

by | Dec 18, 2023 | Advertising, Google

As Google’s AI-driven Performance Max campaign increases in newsworthiness, more clients are asking if the placement is worth it.

There are a lot of benefits that go into Performance Max campaigns:

• It is a combination of all Google’s offerings: Display, Search, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Discover.
• Like Google Shopping, it can link to a Merchant Center feed, showing actual products in the ads.
• It works to drive conversions with its AI technology, reaching what Google sees as the best potential customers.
• If desired, it can auto-generate many of the assets needed for it to run, such as video, image, and text. It pulls this information from the URL provided.

Because of these benefits, Performance Max can be a great asset to a business who doesn’t have a marketing department, the time to set up multiple types of campaigns, or the budget required to hire an advertising agency. However, there is always another side to everything. The main problem with Performance Max campaigns is that because it is AI-driven, depending on machine learning, advertisers are at its mercy.

Google provides very little transparency in where the ads show. Google doesn’t provide a full site list, nor does it provide a search terms report, like SEM placements do. It only provides a look at search categories, or a more general idea of what was searched for your ads to show.

It also doesn’t provide insight into how the ads showed. We have been able to glimpse some of the ads our clients have been running in the wild as we are visiting websites, and they do not always look very clean. Often they are banner ads with a layer of text overtop, covering messaging or imagery.

During set up, Performance Max does not allow for keywords or negative keywords to be set up. It does allow for 25 keyword suggestions, to help the campaign with its machine learning, but there’s no guarantee it will use them. As well, with negative keywords, a request needs to be sent into a Google representative to have them set up. They can also be set up at the account level, but we have tried this with little success.

In terms of brand safety, a new report from Adalytics has noted that some ads have been found on pornographic, sanctioned, and pirated websites. Google is looking to provide a temporary fix to this, allowing advertisers to opt out of certain networks, but hasn’t promised a long-term solution or taken responsibility.

Lastly, it has been reported that Performance Max does well for conversions because it largely depends on branded terms, previous site visitors, and/or offline lead generation lists. People who were already likely to convert, and Performance Max takes credit for.

Overall, Performance Max has been designed to help businesses set up consolidated campaigns, but they’re not the best option for agencies or businesses that have access to higher-level placements and control. What a Performance Max campaign can do with its set up, Mediology can do better with a combination of SEM, Display, and Video, in a more targeted, transparent, and brand-safe way.

To learn more about Performance Max, including all its pros and cons, please visit Search Engine Land’s full breakdown.