Do Performance Max Campaigns for Retail work?

Google Performance Max campaigns are here to stay. They represent what Google Ads will be in the immediate future and are preview of what is to come further down the line in the world of digital advertising. Where once we had dozens of manual optimization possibilities, we’ve seen these reduced down to just the bare essentials. Algorithms now take the reins in real-time decisions, leaving us to make decisions in a more strategic and technical orbit.  

If you are wondering if Performance Max works for retail, sales and e-commerce goals, the quick answer is yes.

If you are wondering if Performance Max works for retail, sales and e-commerce goals, the quick answer is yes, but keep reading if you want to learn how you can best take advantage of what these campaigns offer a retail site.  

Just what is Performance Max anyway? 

Welcome to the 21st century: Google Performance Max campaigns (“PMax” in industry jargon) are a type of campaign in which the advertiser incorporates its 1st and third-party audiences (signals) based on their target’s profile. These campaigns include elements such as text, extensions, images and videos, and Google almost ‘magically’ does the rest. In addition, Google includes these ads in all its available inventories: Search, Shopping, YouTube, Display, Discover, Gmail and Maps. 

But the ease of setup is also the rub. PMax campaigns are amazingly simple to setup for anyone who is used to Google Ads, but this simplicity comes at a price: campaign managers have little to no configuration options nor do they have much visibility into what exactly goes on in these campaigns.

The two biggest limitations are: 

  1. You cannot choose which channels or inventory areas you want your ads to appear on. Rather, Google will decide for you if, for example, your ads are better suited to appear in YouTube or in Search.  
  1. You will never really know which keywords are causing your ads to show and to date, there is no way to properly avoid cannibalization between campaigns. (Although it seems there is a beta version that lets you include negative keyword lists).  

Another factor to consider is that this supposed simplicity shifts your ability to influence outcomes primarily to account configuration itself and the strategy you’ve defined.  No matter how easy the setup, your PMax campaigns must be built on solid foundations. This means a clear definition of your business strategy and objectives, as well as a correct configuration of conversion pixels. This ensures that the data that these campaigns use to feed themselves are reliable and appropriate to your objectives.  

Summary of advantages and disadvantages of Google Performance Max Campaigns

Primary advantages of Pmax campaigns include:  

  • Easier objective creation and setup. 
  • Greater campaign reach. 
  • Easier to appear for low volume terms. 
  • Simplification when generating image and video creatives. 
  • Covers the entire conversion funnel with a single campaign. 

The disadvantages we’ve seen with Performance Max campaigns: 

  • Inability to exclude search terms. 
  • Extremely limited configuration possibilities. 
  • Cannot choose how your ads will appear nor how often they will appear. 
  • Cannibalization of search terms.  
  • Lack of transparency in reporting. 

PMax Campaigns for Retail 

 Despite the issues mentioned above, Performance Max campaigns for ecommerce are not up for debate—they are a necessary nowadays. This is especially true because Performance Max represents the only uncomplicated way to give visibility to your product feed without having to do the extensive manual work of structuring complex Shopping campaigns that are properly aligned with Display Remarketing campaigns.  

All this can be taken care of with a single Performance Max campaign, giving you the option to show your products everywhere in the entire Google inventory, and covering all stages of the customer journey and the entire conversion funnel. But as we’ve made clear, Performance Max campaigns come with some inherent problems.  

It is particularly important to have following elements in order before you begin: 

  • Your business objectives and the KPIs that are really important to you. If your conversion volume is low, you should consider shifting to simpler goals (micro conversions). 
  • Your priority audiences and how to create them: what apps they use, how old they are, what they search for, what they did in the past on your website. 
  • The quality of the data that you are feeding into the system. It is essential that your measurement metrics are correctly configured and you understand what they measure.  

In our experience, the best way to incorporate Google Performance Max campaigns is to combine them with Search structures, at least until the dust settle a bit. This way, you can secure quality Search traffic that generates a sizable portion of your conversions and pair it with more longtail, low-volume terms in Performance Max, to ensure you have the best of both worlds.  

Where these campaigns especially excel is in Shopping, where they manage to increase the volumes achieved by their Smart Shopping predecessors.

Where these campaigns especially excel is in Shopping, where they manage to increase the volumes achieved by their Smart Shopping predecessors. Here there really is no better way to structure your campaigns. It’s all about testing and finding a setup that works best for your business. There are several ways you can proceed towards generating maximum traffic: a campaign that includes the entire feed, a campaign organized by product categories or one organized by margins. Another option is to set up multiple campaigns with different feeds, organized by sales levels or even using an alternate account to separate a Pmax campaign from other campaign types.  

Feel free to reach out to us if you need help making choices about Performance Max campaigns for your ecommerce site.  

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Carlos has worked as a Performance Marketing Specialist at All Around for 7 years and was the second employee of the agency. With extensive knowledge of paid media platforms such as Google Ads, Bing Ads, or Meta Ads, he was in charge of SEM campaigns for a wide portfolio of clients during his time at All Around.