Have you run Google Performance Max campaigns in the past but failed to get the results you wanted?

AI-enhanced ad platforms are relying more on automation than ever – and providing marketers with less access to data, less control over bidding, and fewer targeting options.

In this shifting environment, media buyers today have to strategize, guide the algorithm, and troubleshoot campaigns. This requires a mental shift as much as anything else because data, settings, and signals are what create success now – not a specialized understanding of the ad platform’s systems or infrastructure.

That said, the transition to AI-driven platforms hasn’t been a smooth one, even on AI-forward channels like Google’s Performance Max offerings. Three of the biggest challenges that Martin has identified in PMax campaigns are poor traffic quality, a lack of control, and measurement or attribution. And he shared solutions for each – starting with mastering your inputs to improve traffic quality.

Critical Inputs For PMax Success

According to Tim Frank, Google’s Senior Director in charge of Performance Max, “AI is a powerful tool that works on your behalf based on the quality of your expertise and the quality of your inputs.” What this means is that your data and strategy need to be extremely high-quality for the Performance Max algorithm to perform well.

Because Performance Max is a bit of a “black box,” focusing on inputs in your control becomes extremely important. Those inputs can include conversion tracking and goals, budgets, settings, assets, targeting, and more:

The inputs in your control

Optimizing For Scale

If you want to maximize Performance Max, getting your conversion tracking and campaign goals right is crucial. Focus on your most valuable actions to ensure accuracy and guide the algorithm’s optimizations.

Setting up an effective bidding strategy in Performance Max is another prerequisite to scaling, but these will need to factor in the maturity of your business. Performance Max gives us three options:

  1. Maximize conversions
  2. Target ROAS
  3. Target CPA

Maximizing conversions is great for new businesses that don’t have a lot of data and need inputs to learn about customers. As your business matures and you have more information, you can start to play around with bidding strategies like target ROAS for ecommerce and target CPA for lead generation.

Also, Martin recommends a consolidated campaign structure and asset groups based on products in Performance Max, which gives you the ability to focus on gross profit segments rather than the entire product catalog. This also makes it easier for the automated systems to generate creative outputs with the right assets.

Speaking of which, Performance Max will need a range of high-quality creative assets to generate effective ads that convert customers in Google’s shopping placements.

In addition to creative assets, keep in mind that optimized Performance Max campaigns work best when you have:

  • High search volume or a super niche product
  • Shoppable products
  • Higher budgets
  • A warming-up period to guide the algorithm
  • Lots of customer data

Finally, when you do start to scale, it’s extremely important to find the sweet spot for your target ROAS and increase it incrementally over time. Too high, and you’ll lose out on revenue due to a reduced number of clicks and impressions. Too low and you’ll end up with lower-quality traffic, which also leaves money on the table.

Target ROAS

Hacking Measurement

One of the biggest challenges in Performance Max is that the native reporting features don’t give you a holistic view of your campaigns’ effectiveness. Martin has found a few workarounds, however, that make measuring Performance Max campaigns easier.

The first way to get a better look at your campaigns’ performance is by using a free API script developed by Michael Rhodes that shows you where all of your Performance Max spend and placements are going. You can also collect this information manually by calculating your cost per view and the number of views per channel to see your total cost.

Both of these solutions give you a better view of the overall campaign impact, which can help you improve assets and targeting by channel and increase spend on winning placements.