Performance Max: My Honest Review After Running For 6 Wks
Back in November 2021 Google released their performance max campaigns. This was aimed towards business owners or companies who didn’t have enough time to learn the Google ad platform but still wanted to run some ads.
The idea is to keep things as simple as possible so it’s not confusing and doesn’t put anyone off using the platform. Sure, I think this is a great concept from Google however it still needs a huge amount of development.
Anyway, the time came where I wanted to get testing these campaigns and find out if they are any good. I love to check out and see how all of Google’s new AI technology performs and the performance max was a big one to try.
To give you some background information in the campaigns:
- They were set up with $150 per day budget
- I added 15 images, 1 video, 5 logos and maxed out all of the headlines & descriptions
- I set target locations and ad schedule of 9am-12am
- Conversion tracking is for lead form submits or phone calls
- Service based business
Some extra information you might find interesting is that I am using a CRM which creates a new contact once they have submitted a form. This gives me extra tracking information and direct comparison in terms of the quality of leads.
Ok! Well I’ve pretty much covered the starting info so let’s jump in and find out what we found.
Table of Contents
Quick Summary Of Google Ads Performance Max Campaigns
Just to quickly go over what performance max campaigns are. I don’t want to spend too much time on this so I’ll cover it super quickly.
What are performance max campaigns?
Performance max is the name of a new campaign type that’s been developed by Google ads. It’s designed for beginners and start up businesses wanting to try Google ads. They run using smart machine learning technology.
One thing I must point out is how restrictive they are in terms of control over the campaign. Performance max doesn’t let you control virtually anything apart from the budget. For me, this is a huge downside because there are going to be a lot of areas that waste the spend.
How do they work?
You have two options for the end goal in performance max campaigns. You can choose to focus on generating the maximum number of leads possible or focus on getting the best cost per lead.
Google will use a collective number of data points to target and learn using AI to achieve these goals for you. There are ways to specify your target audience using interests, remarketing data and demographics. These are called Audience Signals.
It’s good practice I find to add a few audience signals who are different from each other to find the best performing audience.
Essentially the performance max campaigns work by taking a large variation of the content assets you’ve chosen like images, videos and search headlines and showing them around in a constant test to find the best matching combinations.
When is it best to use them (or when to avoid them)?
Ok, so I’d start off by saying avoid using these campaigns if you have limited data in your account. For example, if your account is brand new then it will take longer for the machine learning to understand where to find the most conversions.
To be honest, this might just end up being expensive for you as the performance max will need at least $150 budget per day MINIMUM.
This kinda makes the whole reason for why these were designed pointless though. They’re used for start up businesses or people with new Google ads accounts… Hmm, I’m not 100% sold.
There is also no point in you trying this campaign unless you have the correct assets. I’d recommend at least 1 high quality, professional video. Minimum of 15 x high quality images in all 3 recommended ratios.
Finally some sales copy for headlines etc. If you’re moving with the market then I suggest you check out ChatGPT to find headline suggestions and captivating sales descriptions.
If you don’t have these assets I’d suggest trying out a search campaign. I don’t mean SEO, but the option to create Google ads on their search engine.
Try the performance max if you have a decent amount of data in your google ads account
If you already have a good amount of data in your account I’d suggest giving this a try if you don’t set and forget. It needs to be checked and monitored or else it will pretty much consume the budget. Not only this, but you will need to check the quality of leads and where they are coming from.
If you have a good amount of quality assets then I’d suggest checking this one out and seeing how it performs for you. Due to the fact it uses AI and machine learning I would try and feed the performance max as much data as possible.
This means maxing out the number of headlines, descriptions, images and videos. It will help the machine create variations and learn from these quicker.
The Performance Max Campaigns Almost Tripled Our Leads…
Ok so to get started I want to make the statement that the performance max campaign did actually increase our leads by a massive amount.
At first, I was shocked. I could see so many new leads coming in from the performance max and I was hoping to finally be able to put my trust into the technology of Google.
When compared to my other campaigns using manual CPC there were around 3x the number of leads. Not only this, but the cost of these leads were hitting a record low.
To give you an idea, we usually get between 3-5 leads per day in our manual CPC and with the performance max we were sitting on an average of 12 leads a day. That’s a whopping increase…
Since we’ve moved over to some other bidding strategies using ads scripts and automation, we see around 5-8 leads per day.
There is no doubt about it, the performance max campaigns significantly increased the number of leads we got from Google ads. With the correct assets, I’d strongly recommend trying out this campaign if you have a very broad product or service.
Lead Quality From Performance Max Dropped An Insane Amount
Yes. The quality of the leads from the performance max campaigns were extremely low. I’d even argue that a small percentage of these were bots and bugs being sent to our site.
Fortunately, we have a good CRM and a strong sales team who are able to qualify the leads which allows us to quickly determine how bad these actually were.
Although we had tripled the number of leads, I had serious doubts if these leads had turned into sales. Honestly, for me I don’t focus on the number of leads I’m getting. This is only one part of the picture. If these leads don’t turn into sales then you’re clearing cash without any return.
This puts my clients and me in a tough situation as what is my job for if none of the leads I generate sell. There is a fine line between quantity lead generation and the quality of leads coming through.
So, I spent some time digging a little deeper into why these leads were such low quality and how I could get a process to qualify these more.
Performance Max Location Settings Were Showing Us Outside Of Our Targeted Locations
Now this was extremely frustrating from Google. What’s worse is you don’t have access to this data inside the performance max campaign. It’s totally hidden.
I was only able to know this from the postcodes and phone numbers of the leads from Google ads in our CRM. They were all from other countries?!
I then checked inside the performance max location settings and saw one feature was missing. The targeting options where you are able to choose to only show your ads to people in your target location or people who are interested in your target location.
Of course you would always choose people in your target location as this prevents your ads from showing worldwide. Without this option available, Google was generating us worldwide leads which are unusable for a service based business.
At one point, we got 15 leads in a day and 15/15 were from another country we don’t service inside. This was a full waste of our daily budget and spend because we can’t use those leads.
It also triggers the performance max machine learning to target overseas because this is where conversions are coming from. Seems to be a vicious cycle.
Our Spend On Google Increased Significantly
One thing that is certain; we spent a whole lot more in these 6 weeks than we ever have before on Google ads. This is most likely due to the performance max showing across so many platforms.
Think about it. You have youtube, display, search and shopping. This is going to require the ad spend of at least 4 campaigns.
If you are going to run performance max then ensure you are ready to be spending a lot of budget. I’d strongly recommend at least $150 to $200 per day to maximise the number of conversions.
Remember, it takes a few days to exit the learning phase so the first few days might just be spent on buying data / learning what converts for Google.
Website Traffic Was Up By Around 15%
I’ll mention this again because I don’t want to rule out the option of running this campaign for certain goals such as web traffic, even for service based businesses.
Over the course of 6 weeks we did see an increase in website traffic. Around 15% increase in total users and 22% increase in sessions.
It was good to see more users on the site which we can then remarket to at a later date. In fact, the performance max actually does remarketing for you so it’s a good tool to cover all areas.
However, the website traffic wasn’t really targeted to who we want it to be. We just had too many people outside of our target locations and traffic that looked like bots.
Large Proportion Of Performance Max Conversions Were From Our Business Name
I’d say around 20% of the performance max leads came from our business name.
So, there is an area in the performance max campaign called Insights. Here Google will give you a very limited amount of data so you can see the performance of the campaign.
One section shows you the search terms that generated the most conversions. To my dismay, at the top seemed to be our branded business name.
I really hate this technique.
It provides false information because if someone is actively searching for your name I’d personally want them to click on the first organic results (which is you) rather than pay for the click.
Most of the traffic that comes from people searching your name are existing customers, referrals or issues which I wouldn’t say require sending to a high converting Google ads landing page.
Anyway, the most frustrating thing about this is the fact you cannot yet add negative keywords into the performance max campaign. Anyone who runs Google ads will know how important a negative keyword list is.
Especially when using automated bidding or campaigns like this… Google has released that they are adding the feature to increase “brand safety” which is good to hear.
Will I Be Using The Performance Max Campaign Again?
Umm, it’s a good question.
There is absolutely no doubt that this campaign increased the number of leads we were getting. Even after checking through all the dead leads, we were still left with a few that were ok.
I think I will use this campaign again if they are able to fix the location targeting settings and when the new negative keyword feature comes out.
My biggest concern is the quality of leads and this can be overcome by adding a negative keyword list and some location settings.
I don’t think I can write off this campaign totally, however I do feel like it needs some improvement and added freedom to control the campaign settings and performance.
To summarise, Yes I will use the performance max again when it gets updated.
My Honest Thoughts On The Campaign…
Look I can’t fault Google on the conversion side of things. I wanted more leads, Google gave me more leads.
For a business who wants more leads then this is ideal, and I can see why Google has set it up this way. However, for me it just didn’t work because the quality of leads were too low.
There just wasn’t enough room for the return on investment we were looking for.
However, in saying this the performance max campaign does look like it would work extremely well for business or companies who target worldwide and have a broad service or product.
I can personally see this working extremely well with online-based service or products. For people who can target very broad audiences and convert that way. Just remember to add as much information as possible.
Overall, I think this is one campaign to keep an eye on in the future. It shocked me in terms of how many leads it can generate but at the same time made me realise how important ROI and lead quality is.
Hopefully with a few updates we can get there. For anyone else who has run this campaign please share your thoughts or feedback in the comments below.
We’d all love to hear from people with service based products and if you have had any success or hit the same walls as me.