Performance Max in Google Ads: When, Why and How to Upgrade

By September 2022, Performance Max will replace most Smart Shopping and Local campaigns in Google Ads. If you currently use these kinds of ads, then read on to find out how the change will affect you, and what you need to do now to make the most of this new feature.

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What is Performance Max in Google Ads?

Selecting Performance Max in Google Ads

Performance Max (also known as pMax) is a new type of Shopping Ads campaign that lets you create a single campaign to advertise across multiple platforms. Until now, if you wanted to advertise on – for example – Search, YouTube and Display, you would have to create three separate campaigns.

It also uses AI to automatically build ads that are suitable for each advertising location and the equivalent audience.

What does Performance Max replace?

Performance Max will replace Google Smart Shopping and Local campaigns. If you already run these for your business, you may find that you have been automatically upgraded to pMax. If not, consider doing that now to gain a head start and to begin getting used to the new format.

Pros and cons

Like any change, PPC experts have spotted advantages and disadvantages to Performance Max. Here are the main things to look out for.

Performance Max Pros

As pMax is so new, there hasn’t been much chance to test and analyse how well they really work. However, Google claims that advantages include:

  • Better targeting of relevant audiences through machine learning,
  • More in-depth and useful insights, and
  • Increased conversions at a better value.

For beginners and casual users, Performance Max campaigns should also be less time-consuming to manage. Most of the work and optimisation is done automatically by Google, and you only have to create one campaign in order to advertise in multiple locations. Previously you’d have to create a new campaign for each location.

Performance Max Cons

Potential poor performance: if you just let your current campaigns automatically roll onto pMax without making any changes, there’s a good chance you’ll see poor results. I go into this in more detail below, but you should be aware that you’ll need to spend some time on updates.

Less control: there’s less opportunity to manually tweak pMax ads, which means you can’t experiment to find what  works best, or make changes to better suit your strategy and audience. While, theoretically, Google will do all this for you instead, it’s not a perfect system and Google’s automation has been known to be poor at times.

Automation isn’t always best: Although you may think you can set off a pMax campaign and sit back while it brings you loads of leads, this isn’t necessarily the case. Like with any ads, you can end up wasting a lot of money if you don’t set up and run campaigns effectively. You still need to keep an eye on any Performance Max campaigns to make sure you’re seeing good results.

How to upgrade to Performance Max

Upgrade to Performance Max in Google Ads

If you have already received a notification on Google Ads that you can upgrade, then simply follow the instructions provided. If you have previously received the notification and cleared it, then just go to your Shopping campaign and select Upgrade available.

If you haven’t yet received a notification, you will have to wait until you do. As pMax is being rolled out, it will reach different accounts at different times.

Many accounts have already received an automatic update, so check your campaigns to see if they have already been changed to Performance Max.

Add more assets

Whether you’re self-upgrading or have already been automatically swapped over, you will need to make some adjustments to your ads.

Anything learned by Google’s AI on the old Smart Shopping camp will be transferred over, so your upgraded campaign won’t be starting from scratch. It already has a lot of information that it can use to optimise for the best results. Other elements of your campaign will also transfer, including budget, conversion goals and assets such as images and copy.

You will, however, need to add more assets (images, video and text) to your new campaign.

Ads in a Performance Max campaign will display over multiple platforms. Each of these platforms has different asset requirements. For example, an ad on YouTube would require a video, and the dimensions of a Search Ad image would be different to those on the Display Network.

In particular, you may not have any video assets. And, while Google will automatically create these for you if you don’t, their videos aren’t particularly impressive.

Canva video templates

You can instead – for both video and image – create your own assets on Canva, which is a free and easy-to-use tool.

Google recommends you include as many different assets as possible, with the following as a minimum:

  • 4 headlines
  • 5 descriptions
  • 5 images of different dimensions (including one at 1200 x 1200)

As mentioned above, you should also seriously consider including at least one video, too.

Identify issues

Insights provided by Google Ads will point you in the right direction if something isn’t set up correctly. Keep an eye on these and make adjustments as necessary to improve your results.

Give it time

Like anything, Performance Max campaigns will take some time to find their feet. As a result, you may see your results bouncing around for a while. Google recommends allowing the campaign to run for at least 6 weeks to allow things to settle.

What happens to old campaigns?

Historic data from Google Ads Smart Shopping campaign

Once you’ve upgraded a campaign to Performance Max, you will no longer be able to edit or reactive the original. You will also lose the ability to create new Smart Shopping and Local campaigns.

You will, however, be able still access historical data, which is useful for comparisons and analysis.

Conclusion

Performance Max will automatically replace most Smart Shopping and Local campaigns by the end of September 2022. If available on your account, you can get ahead of the game by manually upgrading now. You will need to make some updates when you upgrade – such as adding more assets – to ensure the best performance.

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