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Find Out What Is Happening Inside the Black Box of Google’s New Performance Max Campaigns

By: Sarah Stemen    September 30, 2022

Performance Max is a new Google Ads campaign type that lets advertisers reach Google Ads inventory from a single campaign. The campaign is highly automated. Advertisers provide headlines, descriptions, images and videos. Google takes these assets and determines ad placements across Search, Shopping, YouTube, Display, Discovery, Gmail and Local Maps.

Performance Max is a deviation from the old days of ad buying. In the past, advertisers could pick where to place ads. Advertisers could choose precisely what the ads would display, from text order to imagery.

The level of automation currently in place has come about quickly and is expected to continue growing. In the future, Google Ads will likely ask advertisers to submit only a website URL. At some level, Google Ads is already there. URL-based ads are certainly part of Performance Max with the URL expansion setting. URL-based ads are going to be expanding further with the recent announcement that Google will create assets if URL expansion is turned on – starting October 1.

With all this automation, advertisers have found themselves wondering what is happening inside Performance Max. Here are some ways to discover where ads are being displayed:

Campaigns Tab
The Campaigns tab shows top-level metrics for each campaign. To find these metrics, go to the navigation, select “Performance Max campaigns” and add the Avg. CPV column. This column from the Google interface is defined as “the average amount you paid each time someone viewed your video ad.” It equals the total cost of all views divided by the total number of views. This calculation differs from maximum CPV, which is “the most you’re willing to pay for an ad view.” This column will only appear for video ads, so if you see data here, then it means Performance Max is using video ad formats.

Unlisted Video
Another way to determine the extent of Performance Max’s YouTube placement is if the video has been marked as “unlisted” on YouTube. An unlisted video is only available with a link. If the video is only being run in Performance Max and is unlisted, then the view count on YouTube can give you a good idea of how many times your ads have been shown.

Landing Pages
Using the secondary navigation pane, click on “Landing Pages.” You can filter campaigns by campaign type and then by Performance Max to get a better understanding for how much Performance Max leads into dynamic functionality of the campaign. The landing pages will have many pages that were not provided in setup. This situation could indicate that Google is going after “colder” or higher-funnel traffic to increase conversions in the account, especially if the traffic is going to blog content or other content-heavy pages.

Asset Groups
The Asset Groups tab provides information about a campaign’s Product and Shopping ad performance. If you are running Product ads, then the Listing Groups tab will show the product performance by listing group. This option is a great way to determine how many Shopping ads are serving. Looking at asset details is another way to determine if the campaign is leveraging dynamic URL expansion because there will be ad combinations shown with creative that was not provided.

Google Reports > Other > Performance Max Placements
In this report, there is data about the placements in the display network. There is a large portion of traffic coming from the Google Owned and Operated category, but the rest of this data is specific to placement.

Finding where ads are showing in Performance Max campaigns can be difficult. While the interface provides some additional detail, it’s lacking a many metrics. The good news is with these methods, ad placement in Google becomes a bit clearer which allows for better conclusions and decision making.