A Retailer’s Guide to Performance Max: Testing and Optimizing Asset Groups
Chances are, if you are running paid advertising campaigns, your ears have been buzzing about Google’s Performance Max (Pmax). Performance Max is just one of the many options available in your media mix. And whether your Pmax budget allocation is big or small, it’s important to lean into testing to optimize your ad spend. We’re here to be your trusty Performance Max guide and show you the ropes on how to make the most out of this channel.
Keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to conquering Performance Max campaigns. Each account is unique, and Pmax best practices may need a bit of tailoring to fit your brand’s individual needs.
Let’s get started so you can learn how to guide the Performance Max algorithm to crush your performance marketing goals.
PERFORMANCE MAX TESTING AND OPTIMIZATION BASICS
Before jumping into the deep end of testing, take a moment to ensure your campaigns are set up for success. To test and optimize any campaign, align your campaign settings with your brand’s needs. Set appropriate campaign goals, customer acquisition settings, budget, and location settings for maximum performance.
FINAL URL EXPANSION SETTING
The Final URL Expansion setting enables Performance Max to act similarly to a Dynamic Search Ad, utilizing an index of all pages on your website to select a more relevant page that matches user intent. Google recommends keeping this setting “on” for maximum reach across its properties and to capture potential traffic missed by brand and non-brand search campaigns. For more control, advertisers can choose URL exclusions while using this setting.
To optimize your campaigns, provide Google with ample information to generate targeted ads. In Performance Max, aim for “excellent” ad strength by supplying rich, high-quality creative assets. This includes proven ad copy, potentially sourced from successful search campaigns and relevant images and videos that align with your brand and campaign messaging. You can also opt into Google’s automatically created text assets, allowing content from your landing page, domain, and other ads to be combined with assets you provide to create dynamic ads based on relevance to the query. However, at Adlucent, we always recommend custom creative that helps your brand stand apart.
Order volume is a crucial consideration when making segmentation decisions during campaign set-up. Google recommends that campaigns receive a minimum of 30 conversions in 30 days to see optimal results. This threshold can help determine whether to build multiple campaigns or a single, larger campaign with multiple asset groups (i.e. one catch-all apparel vs separate campaigns for tops, bottoms, shoes, etc).
Budgets also influence Google’s algorithm in determining the best mix of placements (shopping, search, display, video) to achieve your goals. Allocating ample budgets allows Google to find the right audience and placements for maximum conversions/revenue.
Restricting budgets may result in lower costs but could lead to serving on display or video channels with lower cost-per-click (CPCs) and conversion rates (CVR). Using an efficiency target (tCPA, tROAS, etc.) also affects the most effective placements for your ads, with retail accounts favoring shopping over display or video.
When setting up a Performance Max account focused on retail conversions, ensure that your feeds and landing pages are optimized and healthy. Regularly review your feed(s) in the Google Merchant Center (GMC) to address any health issues like policy violations, pricing mismatches, landing page problems, or missing feed values. These issues can limit serving or result in disapprovals, hindering the success of your Performance Max campaigns. Optimizing your feed provides relevant signals to Google, enabling the algorithm to serve targeted ads to the right users at the right time.
For retailers using a feed, some overlap of products in asset groups within a single campaign is acceptable since these products don’t compete with each other. However, be aware of campaign-level overlap to minimize competition between campaigns. If you serve products across multiple campaigns, setting targets (tCPA or tROAS) helps Google prioritize campaigns in auctions.
PERFORMANCE MAX ASSET GROUP TESTING
MAKING BREAKTHROUGHS, NOT BETS
While diving into testing, we can’t overlook the regular learning periods that might trigger performance fluctuations. Nevertheless, taking calculated risks is essential as the potential rewards are significant. Advertisers need to be willing to make informed decisions and test new Google products and features to maximize return on investment (ROI).
Remember to conduct small-scale tests to ensure effectiveness and brand alignment before scaling up.
Create a collection of evergreen and seasonal ad copy, images, and videos with targeted audience signals through testing in Performance Max asset groups. These asset groups can be paused or activated as needed. Keep in mind that there is a limit of 100 asset groups per campaign, so it’s advisable to reserve space for ongoing testing if your brand requires a large number of asset groups.
If you still need to create asset groups, start by building one from scratch. If you already have existing asset groups, copying them can save time. Next, set a date range for your test and include buffer time for the new asset group or campaign to ramp up and exit the learning period. While new asset groups typically don’t impact overall performance as much as new campaigns do (if current asset groups are still active), it’s essential to account for this to maintain the purity of the testing period. So let’s dive in:
AD COPY & CREATIVE TESTING
Testing assets come in various forms but often rely on fresh ad copy and creative. Regular updates of images, videos, and ad copy throughout the year by the brand or creative team generate more testing opportunities for campaigns and asset groups. It is important to update assets for sales, seasonal periods, or other events where imagery or ad text changes from evergreen to event-specific or season-specific.
When testing new assets, keeping your best-performing assets active is recommended in order to maintain consistent performance and minimize the learning period. Check your top asset combinations (under View Details > Combinations) to identify the most frequently and effectively served individual or grouped assets.
LISTING GROUP TESTING
Listing Groups in Performance Max are product groupings based on your product feed, used for serving Shopping Ads. Testing listing groups is valuable when examining how different product groupings impact asset group or campaign performance.
For instance, you can test smaller product groupings to assess if targeted ad copy and images improve performance within specific subsets of product categories (e.g., T-shirts vs. Tops vs. Apparel). Additionally, you can use feed values to prioritize products (e.g., high/low AOV, low/no click volume, top performers) and create unique product groupings. It’s important to note that listing group reporting is directional and limited to shopping or product-related placements. Nonetheless, with thorough testing, they can offer valuable insights into the performance of different product sets.
AUDIENCE SIGNAL TESTING
Audience Signals in Performance Max offer valuable testing opportunities with various audience types based on search terms, similar websites, customer lists, interests, demographics, and more. Leveraging these signals can accelerate Google’s algorithm learning process.
It’s important to note that these signals don’t completely restrict ad serving to the chosen audience but provide cues to the algorithm about your preferred target audience. Google utilizes these signals during learning periods to optimize your campaigns and asset groups for maximum conversions, leads, and more, to align with your campaign goals.
PERFORMANCE MAX ASSET GROUP OPTIMIZATION (POST-TESTING)
After completing the testing phase, use the results to determine how to optimize the campaigns or asset groups and formulate ideas for future testing. Continuously improve performance by conducting ongoing tests, considering month-to-month, season-to-season, and year-to-year variations.
Wait for the standard conversion window to close before evaluating results to account for any potential delayed conversions. Compare the performance of the test asset group(s) to your current asset groups within the same timeframe. Take note of notable differences in data across the asset groups. Keep records for future comparisons and implementation in other testing areas. Consider using the pre-test period and year-over-year data to gain a holistic understanding of your testing outcomes.
For effective Performance Max campaign management, it is recommended to limit adjustments to your efficiency target (tROAS) to once per conversion cycle. Frequent changes can disrupt the campaign’s stability and lead to volatility. This is particularly crucial during the testing phase to ensure consistent results.
In conclusion, we hope this guide has shown how Google’s Performance Max campaign type can help you achieve your brand objectives by leveraging asset groups and performing targeted testing. Aligning tests around campaign settings along with providing high-quality creative assets can greatly help to optimize campaign performance.
For conversion-based retailers, feeds and listing group testing are crucial to maximizing ROI. In addition, audience signal testing can offer valuable opportunities for campaign learning, while post-testing optimization and careful adjustments to efficiency targets help to ensure stability. By implementing these strategies, you can unlock the full potential of Performance Max testing and drive success for your brand.
If you’re interested in partnering with us for further insights and expertise in Performance Max, don’t hesitate to contact Adlucent. Our team is here to help you maximize your campaign performance and achieve your goals.
And remember – Pmax is only one piece of the media mix puzzle. Adlucent is here to help you every step of the way. Subscribe to our blog for more digital marketing insights and contact us today to explore how we can work together.
Craig Loeffler is an Account Coordinator at Adlucent. He is responsible for managing complex customer accounts and fostering client relationships. His strengths include process skills and data analysis in Search, Shopping, and Performance Max. When away from his desk, you can find Craig enjoying a round of disc golf, brewing beer, playing vibraphone, or cuddling with his dog, Zuko, and cat, Molly.
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