If you follow my blog and newsletters, you definitely have heard me warn against the dangers of letting Google run your Google Ads campaigns. Performance Max campaigns are another example of a “black box” type ad spend where Google takes your ad dollars and spends them in a way that you have less and less control of.  With a name like Performance Max though, it has to be great right?  Well, I have been test-running some Performance Max campaigns with several e-commerce clients in recent months and just wanted to report back.

Be Careful with Performance Max – Of Course

Every client has different goals. It is important to try to maximize for those goals. One thing I have learned as an agency that is constantly emailed, called, and notified by Google for better ways to run my campaign, is that Google doesn’t know what the core driver is for you, or my clients.  The clients I most recently tested Performance Max with have a ROAS goal (Return on Ad Spend) for their eCommerce shops.  Right off the bat, Google’s AI tells us we should lower our ROAS goals.  This means we should want to get a lower return on our ad spend. But I digress.  Let’s get into Performance Max.

As with many updates and changes in Google Ads, the Performance Max campaigns rely on AI to help you “maximize performance”. You give them your target goals and then they sort of take over and mix all of the elements you have available such as display, shopping, and search, to get the best results. Sometimes this may work. Sometimes this may work for a little while.  I must be transparent and say that I have seen it work for a while in a few of the campaigns. I have also seen it completely fail. It is worth testing with a piece of your budget.  Keep in mind AI is only as good as the information being fed into it.  If Google is using data from recent performance, but you are regularly changing your sales and promotions, the AI is based on data that isn’t necessarily relevant to your current offering. Google is regularly making additions to the offering and has recently allowed “seasonality adjustments” and other pieces to help with this. Hopefully this will give the advertiser a little more control as we move forward.

The Bottom Line on Performance Max So Far

When I get right down to it, the Performance Max campaigns underperformed the campaigns where we take greater control, quite significantly. One of the dangers I noticed was that sometimes they would perform very well in the early going, only to fall off a ledge and start to underperform. I’m not saying this is intentional, but if an advertiser sees it is running great, and then cranks up the budget and lets it run while they work on other things, they may come back to find they wasted a lot of money. I would say it is still worth having a campaign running if you have the spare budget for it.  See how it performs, but watch it very closely. Check-in regularly. Measure results effectively. If you see it working, that’s great.  I think there is a lot more work to be done. As Google continues to remove advertiser controls, we have seen Google Ads management change considerably over the years.  It pays to have an experienced professional at least check in for you on a regular basis. These things are changing so quickly these days, it is important to keep a close eye on things.