How to Fix and Avoid Low Ad Performance on Google Performance Max

The introduction of Performance Max made quite a splash in November 2021. The idea behind the new campaign type was simple—to allow the advertiser access to all of their Google Ads inventory from a single point of entry and let AI do the job. At the same time, it also triggered the need to develop new skills.

No wonder there are a few specialists who are pulling a blinder with their Google Ads Performance Max campaigns, for now. Let’s look at the most common issues that cause ads to show low performance on Google Performance Max. By resolving these issues, you can get the most out of your Performance Max ads.

Google Performance Max Basics

The basics about Google Performance Max that many have already learned are the following.

  • Primarily, Performance Max works well for lead generation, shop visits, and online sales. For other goals, e.g. awareness, PMax won’t be a good fit.
  • Performance Max is relatively easy and sometimes even fun to use, especially for Google Ads newbies or cases when you need to set up a campaign quickly. You just put the goals and assets in one basket and wait for ads to get auto-generated for all the Google Ads channels.
  • You have to provide clearly defined goals and flawlessly optimised assets right at the start to get the best possible outcome. 

Provided you take all of the above into account, you’re likely to achieve impressive results with Performance Max. Yet the devil is in the details. Here’s what you have to do to avoid low or zero ad impressions when using Performance Max.

Properly Add the Assets to Performance Max

When You Should Add All the Assets

Adding all the assets is crucial for getting the most out of your Performance Max campaigns. In some cases, you can do without some of the assets but we'll talk about those later in the article. 

If you add poor-quality assets or omit some assets, PMax simply won't be able to create good ads based on missing and poor assets. It will auto-generate ads based on what you provided. 

For example, PMax will auto-generate its own ad videos based on the images and texts you added.  There's a high probability those might not reflect your brand's consistency and, moreover, might not look attractive at all. All this, in turn, will affect the clickability of the ads. 

Go for auto-generated videos only if you're completely eager to experiment with your campaigns. On any other occasion, make sure you add all the assets:

  • videos
  • texts
  • images.

Avoid low creative asset coverage so the assets have good Ad Strength. This means you should provide at least several options for each asset type, e.g. several texts, images, and videos. This way Google will be able to come up with different combinations of ads. A limited number of asset types reduces the chances of ads entering more auctions and result in limited reach. 

When You Should Exclude Assets

You can do without some of the assets needed for setting up a typical PMax campaign if you want it to function like a classical shopping campaign. For that, do not add any assets (texts, videos, and images), other than your product feed, and exclude your branded keywords. 

Also, remember that Google will prioritise newly created shopping-like PMax campaigns over the existing Smart Shopping campaigns, standard Shopping campaigns, and Display Dynamic Remarketing campaigns. So pause those timely to avoid cannibalisation and poor performance.

Optimise Your Google Merchant Center Feed

Non-optimised Google Merchant Feeds tend to show bleak performance. Wrong or missing attributes greatly contribute to that. The basic approach to creating a Google Merchant feed is simple—provide as much accurate data as possible, including extra data. This includes

  • product type
  • descriptive titles + keywords 
  • Google taxonomy (categorisation) 
  • multiple and good-quality images 
  • custom labels
  • brand 
  • GTIN/UPC/MPN, etc.

Read these resources for more information on how to create a winning Google Shopping/Merchant Center feed👇🏾

Aim at the Right Conversion Goals and Actions

Your PMax campaigns are more likely to show good results if you provide clear conversion goals. In Performance Max, conversion goals are formed based on conversion actions. The latter are arranged in groups within similar categories. 

Base your goals on the target actions you want the customer to take. For example, purchases would fit shopping campaigns, while leads—e.g. forms, calls, etc—would be a better choice for a lead generation campaign.

Another important thing that you must pay attention to when setting up conversion goals in PMax is that you'll need to assign primary and secondary actions. 

  • Primary actions are used for bidding, these bring the main conversions, e.g. purchase.
  • Secondary actions are basically micro conversions, e.g. add-to-cart, and are not associated with bidding in any way.

Finally, when setting up conversion actions, remember that Google Performance Max is a great tool for the middle and lower parts of the conversion funnel. This means you should carefully match the projected conversion volume to business goals when setting up the goals and actions for your PMax campaigns. 

Create Audience Signals

Create an audience signal for your asset group to increase the chances of Performance Max campaigns being successful. It is important to note that PMax audience signals are what they are called—these are suggestions, not strictly defined target audiences. 

The more comprehensive information about the audience's portrait (interests, demography, etc) and behaviour (e.g., people who have already made a purchase or abandoned their cart, use the intent based on keywords, etc) you provide to Performance Max, the higher the probability it will show your ads to the appropriate target audience. Each asset group should be assigned its own audience signals, otherwise, it may affect the performance of your PMax ads.

Use your existing customer data and segmentation (for example, from Smart Shopping campaigns) for setting up Audience Signals if you want to find new buyers that resemble your existing customers' behaviour and preferences. If you're opting for a new audience, simply provide the general portrait of who your new customer might be. 

Pick the Right Bidding Strategy and Budget

There are two bidding options available with Performance Max. 

  • Maximise conversions (with optional target CPA). If you have a new account, start with this one, so Google will be able to absorb as much data as possible.  Also, you can use this bidding strategy if you already have historical data. If your goal is to get as many conversions as possible within a set budget, use the Maximise conversions strategy.
  • Maximise conversion value (with optional target ROAS). With this strategy, you can get as much conversion value as possible at a fixed budget or fixed return on ad spend. Also works fine for accounts that already have historical data.

In general, be reasonable with setting up the budget, don't go with either a tiny or a huge budget, especially if you're just starting with PMax. Use your usual average budget size as a benchmark.

What Else to Do to Make Performance Max Show Good Results

  • Start relatively small, then expand. Adding too many entities right off the bat—e.g. keywords, ad groups, placements, or a huge budget—won't do any good, it will only confuse Google's algorithms. Making PMax work does take some time. As for the budget, it should not be too small, you can use your usual average budget size as a benchmark.
  • Turn on Final URL expansion (optional). With Final URL expansion feature, headlines and descriptions for search text ads are generated automatically based on the final URL that was provided. Final URL expansion will use a more relevant landing page based on the user's search query and intent. In some cases, Final URL Expansion may not be a good fit for your purposes—read more here.
  • Ensure the location targeting is correctly set up. Your audience size must be large enough and the location exclusion must be lifted. 
  • Regularly check the PMax insights page to assess the performance of your ads and use that data to introduce changes. 
  • Connect solutions that allow for more control over your campaigns and analytics gathering. For example, Bidbrain can provide you with insights unavailable in PMax and Smart Shopping, allow you to enable products without historical data, gain maximum control over your product feeds, etc.