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Performance Max Campaigns

What We Know About Performance Max and Google Shopping Campaigns (re-post)

What We Know About Performance Max and Google Shopping Campaigns (re-post)

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

Post Summary

UPDATE July 2022: We've dug into Performance Max more these days (along with everyone else!) and have written some additional posts on this important new campaign type. Keep watching the ZATO Blog for additional PMax campaign articles to come!


Other posts to read: 

Original Post:

Confused by the fact that Performance Max sounds like a Ford truck diesel engine model? (confession: I stole that joke from Shaun Elley).

More specific to today's conversation, are you confused by what’s going to happen with Shopping Ads as Performance Max kicks in? 

Well, you’re not alone! Virtually every network I’m a part of has people asking for more clarification on what is going to take happen to Standard and Smart Shopping campaigns with Performance Max.

I decided to gather everything I’ve learned on it from Google and others, and share that with you all.

I’ll be breaking this into two sections.

Section 1: What We Know So Far (which could change)

And

Section 2: What We Are Surmising from What We Know


Before we hop in, let me also note that I’m referring to Shopping Campaigns only in these questions, and not to other channels Performance Max touches. I’ll let others delve into those questions in their own articles, though it's worth pointing out that our agency Google Rep has described pMax as Smart Shopping with DSA tech layered in (as a simplified explanation of the ad tech).

Make sense? Let’s dig first into what we know:


Section 1: What We Know So Far (which could change)

Can I caveat this section, by noting that for those in the PPC world, contradictory Google remarks are a known thing. I won’t try to determine the motivation for those, but even if there is simply a miscommunication that occurs, it’s not that uncommon for one Googler to note one thing, and another Googler to note something else. 

I say that, because I want to make sure it’s clear that even the “what we know for sure” section, should be taken with a grain of salt! It’s what I’ve been told (or what Google has told others who reported it), but that could end up changing.

That being said. 

Here’s what we know so far :) 

  1. EDITED: Performance Max will be fully migrated from SSC by September 2022
  2. Performance Max will take priority over Smart & Standard Shopping campaigns for the same products.
  3. EDITED: Performance Max is built on SSC ad technology
  4. There are no firm, publicly shared plans, as of yet to eliminate Standard Shopping Campaigns.
  5. Performance Max does include Maps and Discover, unlike Smart Shopping.
  6. We don’t yet know the impact to Local Inventory Ads (LIA)
  7. BONUS: As of February 10, Standard Shopping campaigns will only show on YouTube if opted into the Search Partner Network (SPN). Standard Shopping campaigns will no longer show on Gmail or Discover (this isn’t specifically about pMax, but it’s kind of in the realm of Shopping Network changes so I threw it in here).



Now that we’ve covered what will factually (try not to laugh at that word) occur, let’s take what we know and make some (hopefully) logical assumptions. 


Section 2: What We Are Surmising from What We Know

Based on what we know, here are some assumptions our team is making here at ZATO. 


EDITED FACT: Performance Max will be fully migrated from Smart Shopping by September 2022

Updated on January 27, 2022 based on Google's release: Get ready for Smart Shopping and Local campaign upgrades

Image from Google release (link in image)

Additional facts about this migration: 

  • pMax to replace SSC (auto-upgrade is the language) between July-Sep
  • 1-click migration tool available in April for SSC if you want to manually upgrade early

EDITED ASSUMPTION: Based on the timeline now given by Google, it would be wise to have your plan in place well before July... even if you don't opt to manually upgrade sometime in April. That being said, it's a required upgrade, so you might as well do so early on manually in your clients. This happened so recently, that we haven't had time to discuss a strategy internally as a team, but it will likely look by selecting accounts with more stable products and performance to begin migrating first to test outcome before implementing in every account.




FACT: Performance Max will take priority over Smart & Standard Shopping campaigns for the same products.


ASSUMPTION: Nobody should be surprised by this one since we had Smart Shopping Campaigns (SSC) to prepare the way, but Google automation tends to take precedence. 


That being said, my suggestion is to test just like we do with SSC. Grab a product type or product brand that has enough conversions to give you some solid data for 2-4 weeks and to give the machine a fighting chance, but also do NOT choose your top performer responsible for 90% of your site sales. 


Test that and see what happens. This should allow you not to totally cannibalize everything since you’re targeting a subset of products and searches rather than everything in your Google Merchant Center, but give yourself and Google a fair shot at a test. I would also suggest testing in multiple accounts, as we’ve seen Smart Shopping work better in some accounts than it does in others. 






EDITED FACT: Performance Max is built on SSC ad technology

EDITED ASSUMPTION: While discussing pMax with one Google rep, they described it as built on Smart Shopping ad technology, with DSA tech layered onto it. In other words, we are making the assumption that it will be similar in nature to SSC... with the additional complexity of DSA. While this means there are new variables that come into play, the core of it is still the SSC tech we're familiar with, and we're creating our initial tests and optimizations with this in mind.

FACT: There are no firm, publicly shared plans, as of yet to eliminate Standard Shopping Campaigns.


ASSUMPTION: My opinion here is that Google really does have no plans to deprecate Standard Shopping. I think they’re playing the wise route of moving more automated while maintaining the pathway for more advanced advertisers (if I’m correct here, I applaud this decision!). 


If anything, this deprecation would have more naturally occurred with Smart Shopping since that is channel specific to Standard. The fact that Search is also included in pMax campaigns leads me to believe Google intends to utilize both pMax alongside of Standard Search and Shopping campaigns for a while. I don’t anticipate them shutting advanced advertisers completely down yet (don’t quote these words in 3-5 years). 


I think this is really good news, TBH, and I actually expect Standard Shopping to make a resurgence in a world with no SSC since the leap from Standard to pMax is greater than Standard to SSC because of the inclusion of Search Ads.





FACT: Performance Max does include Maps and Discover, unlike Smart Shopping.


ASSUMPTION: Cool. Nothing really to add here…





FACT: We don’t yet know the impact to Local Inventory Ads (LIA)


ASSUMPTION: I received this information directly from our Google rep so if someone has any updated information on this, I’d love to hear it. My assumption is this would be remain in pMax as a natural element to local shoppers. 


To be honest, I’ve never understood why a completely separate feed is required for LIA. Perhaps as things move more automated and efficient, there will simply be attributes to add into the existing Shopping feed with opt-in options for LIA on the admin side per advertiser (as there have been for a long time at the campaign level). My guess is Google will handle more on the ad placement side with this, and will simply streamline how the advertiser communicates stock data to Google. 





BONUS FACT: As of February 10, Standard Shopping campaigns will only show on YouTube if opted into the Search Partner Network (SPN). Standard Shopping campaigns will no longer show on Gmail or Discover. 


BONUS ASSUMPTION: To be clear, this isn’t specifically about pMax, but it’s kind of in the realm of Shopping Network changes so I threw it in here. I’m definitely happy about the decision to remove Gmail and Discover from Standard as an option since Standard is Shopping channel only. 


That being said, I’m more ambivalent on the decision to move YouTube placements to the SPN. I mean, in some ways, that’s the SPN already, so it’s a good natural place for those placements: kind of a random cacophony of publishers. 


That being said, the inability to exclude specific publishers from the SPN, or even to see data there has long been a complaint of Google Advertisers so… it also kind of stinks that it is being forced into the SPN. 


I would absolutely watch the SPN at all costs after Feb 10 if you are advertising on it! You may see some weird things… I don’t really know what to expect. When we could opt manually into those placements with Standard Shopping, I do remember being unimpressed with the low volume that came with it, so if no new placements are added, it could be just as unimpressive… that might be a good thing so you don’t see a surge of SPN traffic. I guess we’ll see in 20 days.








BONUS NOT A FACT MORE OF A QUESTION REALLY: What about pMax Optimization best practices? How will that differ from Smart Shopping? 


BONUS ASSUMPTION: At this point, the two campaign types seem fairly similar in big picture adjustments. The inclusion of Search Ads will change some things, but I’m finding the way to strategically think about the two of them is similar. In that way, for those of you in my course, I would take the same general principles we’ve discussed for Smart Shopping and tentatively apply them to pMax, making adjustments according to common sense as you find some differences. 


As with everything, test, test, test.





Final thoughts, is it just really bizarre that Google rolled out Smart Shopping only to deprecate it for pMax a few short years later? I wonder if that was always on the roadmap, or if it changed. Regardless… just surmisings. 


What about you? Anything to add? Hit me up on Twitter, LinkedIn, or if you’re in my Smart Shopping Course, let’s chat in our private Shopping Ads Facebook Group.

 EDIT 1/19/22: 
Some smart people shared some thoughts on Optimizing Performance Max that I wanted to include for your consideration as we all learn together. Some good things to ponder here! Original post and comment thread here if you want to see my responses on some of these questions: PPCKirk on pMax Campaigns & Shopping Ads



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Kirk Williams
Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter, and Linkedin, or follow his marketing song parodies on TikTok.

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