Maximize Your Google Ads’ Shopping Campaigns Alongside Performance Max [Updated for SA360 rollout 2022]

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Did you see that Performance Max (PMax) campaigns are now available in Search Ads 360 (SA360)?  Or maybe you’ve seen the name in Google Ads and are wondering what all the buzz is about. Either way, we know that leveraging new features can be a critical step for any Search Marketer when it comes to succeeding in today’s environment. 

There are always questions that are bound to arise. How quickly should we adopt? How do these changes impact what I am running now? Will this update actually improve my performance? 

With the launch of Google’s newest Performance Max campaign type, we had these same questions. After working closely with the Google outreach teams, we were able to answer those questions and noticed some key changes to the shopping campaign structure that will be useful to know about if you are utilizing Google Smart Shopping Campaigns (SSCs), as well as a few bonus considerations now that it’s available in Search Ads 360.

What’s Changing:

Along with many other features that Performance Max has to offer, Google Smart Shopping Campaigns are fully transitioning to be a function of the new Performance Max campaigns. Using Google automation and machine learning, PMax campaigns will crawl the website and serve ads for what people are searching for without needing the user to provide specific keywords or landing pages. If you plan on testing PMax and are using SSCs, you should take some additional steps to avoid competition between campaigns.

Questions We Had

“How quickly should I adopt this new feature?”

With tech updates, there is always a fine line between being an early adopter for a product that might be a bust or being behind the eightball. Right now, we are in that sweet spot. Being at the forefront of Google Ads automation and machine learning algorithms has historically proven to be very fruitful for search marketers as we look at past updates. And by all accounts, Performance Max looks to remain on trend with its predecessors. Best of all, as of May 25, 2022, PMax is now also available to use in SA360.

The main goal of PMax is to connect with customers at the right moment across all ad formats at a rate more efficiently than you could realistically achieve manually. While that may sound too good to be true, we have seen Google achieve similar feats in the past of tailoring an experience to each user when we think about features like Responsive Search Ads, Dynamic Search Ads and Dynamic Keyword Insertion. Ultimately, the speed at which you adopt PMax comes down to opportunity cost; You can wait until next month, next quarter, or next year to test this campaign to see if it works, but you will very likely be missing out on increased performance during that period.

“How do these changes impact what I am running now?”

Performance Max will absorb all Smart Shopping Campaigns in the future, and during testing, PMax campaign inventory will get priority over other campaign types, which could impact your performance. While you will not be able to use SSCs in the future, PMax will continue to give you the same base features of Smart Shopping and Local campaigns with additional access to:

  • New inventory (Dynamic Search, Discovery, YouTube In-Stream and Maps ads) 
  • New formats (Text and YouTube In-Stream ads & Maps pins)
  • New bidding controls (Max conversions with optional CPA and Audience Signals)

Additionally, with the inclusion of PMax campaigns in SA360, this campaign type now allows for the use of Floodlights (see below), bringing a whole new degree of accuracy and efficiency for SA360 users who utilize Floodlights for advanced bidding.

“Will this update actually improve my performance?”

The short answer for this is that we have been given every reason to believe that would suggest Performance Max campaigns will improve overall performance for your account. While this feature is new to everyone, Google has run extensive alpha and beta tests to ensure the machine learning algorithms will benefit clients when used correctly. Based on those tests, using PMax yielded the following metrics:

  • Increased conversion volume from customers who would traditionally slip through the cracks 
    • Average of +5% in conversions at similar CPA for managers that use DDA
  • Stretching your budget further
    • Average of +12% in conversion value at the same or better ROAS

The concession that agencies and direct marketers must make is that you will not have as much visibility and control over Performance Max campaigns as you might be accustomed to. These campaigns lean heavily on Google automation and machine learning algorithms to optimize performance, which takes control away from the user. This does require a certain amount of trust in the Google algorithm, and this is why we recommend you do some testing of your own before putting all your eggs in any one basket.

The Value of Floodlight Bidding with SA360

For those of you new to the GMP, Floodlights are tracking pixels that allow you to measure conversions across platforms like CM/SA360/DV360. Collecting this data not only helps you better understand your client’s cross-platform journey but can also be used to help with your automated bidding strategies. As of May 25, 2022, PMax campaigns now support Floodlight use for data tracking which can give you more insight into cross-channel conversion metrics. While you cannot currently use Floodlights for bidding on PMax campaigns in SA360, this inclusion gives you a more holistic view of your data compared to management solely in Google Ads

Rollout Schedule

The new Performance Max is available to all Google Ads users, but Google has allowed each account admin to choose how quickly they would like to start testing the new features prior to making any changes to current campaigns. The rollout schedule is currently broken out into three phases with rough timelines that are subject to change:

  • Phase 1 (Started in mid-Q1): Includes rollouts for users to manually switch over Smart Shopping Campaigns and launch PMax campaigns
  • Phase 2 (Planned April to June) Upgrades available for users to transition SSCs to PMax campaigns with one button click via the recommendations page, Google Ads Editor or within the campaign table 
  • Phase 3 (Planned July to August): All SSCs will be automatically switched to PMax with no action required by the user

The final step may have some users worried as all Smart Shopping Campaigns will eventually be switched over whether you are prepared or not. For this reason, we recommend you begin testing ASAP. When you prepare to launch your first Performance Max campaign, we recommend testing with one or two existing SSCs. Allow up to two weeks for the learning phase as Google’s machine learning algorithm orients to your site and campaign. After the learning phase is complete, allow the PMax campaign to run for one full month before you evaluate. Be sure to factor conversion lag time in your analysis as well.

Best Practices:

Finally, our search experts have compiled a list of some best practice tips for Performance Max and shopping campaigns.

1. Do not run Performance Max alongside Smart Shopping campaigns. 

Google has stated that PMax campaigns will take priority for most inventory, which will be detrimental to the performance of your SSCs and ROAS.

2. Start testing Performance Max alongside existing channel campaigns. 

While PMax does have omnichannel capabilities, you should run it alongside your existing campaigns during beta testing (excluding SSCs) to evaluate head-to-head performance.

Existing campaign types have additional features and tools that can help you maintain the brand presence and conversion volume that you are used to seeing. PMax is intended to capture the additional conversion opportunities that would not be captured through traditional channel campaigns

3. Run Performance Max tests with as few constraints as possible.

Because PMax campaigns are heavily automated, your campaigns will be optimized the best when Google has maximum flexibility to capture conversions.

Keep a close eye on any flags for budget constraints when launching your campaigns and increase budgets promptly to ensure you get a fair and accurate test and do not miss out on conversions

We are very excited about the new updates coming from Google in 2022. Keep an eye on the Adswerve blog for more info. And if you still have questions, reach out and we will be happy to help.