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Tips, Tricks, & Advice

Demystifying PMAX

PPC Expert Kim Wright Search Engine Marketing Online Queso

by kim wright

A year ago

Google is pushing their newest campaign type, Performance Max, harder than ever before. We are going to review:

  • What is PMAX?
  • The downsides to PMAX
  • Important notes on PMAX
  • When PMAX is a good fit and when to hold off
  • Tips on setting up PMAX
  • Measuring PMAX performance

First - What is Performance Max (or PMAX)? 

This campaign type was created to replace smart shopping campaigns on Google, but it does so much more than that too. PMAX also runs across search, display, discovery and YouTube ads as well. This is targeted via a shopping feed (but you can still use this without a shopping feed -  more on that later) and audience targeting. Below are all of the places (plus shopping if you have a shopping feed) where PMAX shows.

Pmax options


Downsides to PMAX:

The downsides to PMAX are mainly that you have very limited reporting insights and very few levers to adjust performance compared to a more standard campaign type. Google is slowly rolling out more insights and adjustments, but as this was a campaign type designed to replace a “smart” (fully automated) campaign type, I do not expect that we will gain all the controls we are typically used to on standard campaigns. 

Key Notes On PMAX:

You can request for brand terms to be added as negatives to PMAX campaigns, but in my experience that has limited effectiveness and brand terms do still heavily come through.

You will need image assets and copy assets. Ideally, you will also want to provide video assets as well, as the Google created video assets are not the best branded experience.

As mentioned above, you can use PMAX without a shopping feed. This will, however, interfere with any discovery campaigns you may have set up and spend will shift from discovery to PMAX in many cases.

PMAX is a great option if:

  • You are new to Google Ads or have a small budget
  • You are having trouble scaling more on Google Ads - specifically on shopping.
  • You have products that are struggling to receive exposure.
  • You want to introduce a new product line.
  • You are not seeing performance in any other campaign types.
  • You just like testing new things!

Hold Off on PMAX if:

  • You are testing shopping feed optimizations (titles, descriptions) and looking for how this alters the searches they show for
  • You have strict compliance or brand guidelines to follow
  • You do not have proper tracking in place or specific goals in mind
  • You are seeing strong performance in other campaigns but are limited by your budget.

So you have decided PMAX is a good fit - now what?

Some tips for implementing PMAX:

I have tried several formats for setting up PMAX and how you set these up really will vary depending on your business. 

If you have several different price points/product lines, I recommend creating a PMAX campaign per product line. This helps to ensure you can adjust the target CPA or target ROAS to align with each product line, and can help you to easily scale these up and down based on performance, inventory, or budget. 

For example if you sell t-shirts and keychains, you would want one PMAX campaign for t-shirts and another PMAX campaign for keychains. This helps to control your CAC/ROAS for each product line and how much you spend on each which cannot be accomplished within one PMAX campaign currently.

Another great option for PMAX is to use this in conjunction with a shopping campaign, but to utilize PMAX only for products that are not gaining impressions and clicks on shopping. Shopping campaigns do not tend to treat all products fairly if there is a large inventory, so PMAX can help to push specific products that are not doing as well on shopping. 

How to measure PMAX

For PMAX it is important to not look at just that campaign when we are measuring the success. This is because of how this campaign type overlaps with other campaigns we are running. For example, typically when launching a PMAX campaign we will see brand spend decline or shopping spend decline. We want to look at the account as a whole to see if there was a lift or improvement in conversion volume or improvement in CAC/ROAS(depending on your goals). You will also want to take into account if you added incremental spend to launch this campaign type or not as well. 

For example, if your brand campaign was limited by budget and you launched a PMAX campaign with an incremental $100/day, you will most likely see an increase in conversions because this is going to pull in branded terms as well. Since brand terms tend to convert at lower a CAC/higher ROAS, you will want to take this into account when judging the performance of PMAX and the lift this brought vs if you had increased the brand budget by the same $100/day. 

If you did not use incremental dollars and instead pulled from another campaign, you will also want to take that into consideration. Let’s say that you pulled budget from a nonbrand search campaign and placed that into PMAX. Since we know PMAX can pull brand terms which would be much more efficient than nonbrand, this can lead to us thinking at first that PMAX is a much stronger performer than the nonbrand campaign. In this case, assuming your brand campaign was not limited by budget, measure the impact to the brand campaign and calculate out the lift as a whole. 


Kim Wright is a search engine marketing expert and runs Big Pecan PPC

Additional Resources: 
Top Digital Marketing Strategies in 2023
10 Tips For Creating A Winning SMS Marketing Campaign


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