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    Paid Media
    Paid Search

    Are you burning cash in Google Ads?

    Mar 05, 2024 |
    Written by:
    Alex Smith

    Take back control of your spending in Google Ads and make the system work harder to find new customers and grow your business.

    Since Google Performance Max launched in 2021, our team has been figuring out how to use it best to help our clients grow. 

    Running a successful Google Ads account for a scaling brand in 2024 requires a fraction of the daily manual inputs compared to even a few years ago. This is all thanks to the increased automation of products in Google’s repertoire. Even though we’re changing things less on a daily basis, the changes we do make are having a greater impact. To the untrained eye, It is becoming less and less clear which buttons to click, which recommendations to accept and which settings to toggle. In this post we’ll focus on Performance Max (Google’s latest and greatest double-edged sword) specifically, sharing some tips to help make your money work as hard as possible in Google Ads to help grow your brand.

    Performance Max is a highly automated campaign type that can be a great way to drive new customers through Google, but if you don’t get reins on it you’re likely to be burning a lot of cash. We often audit Google Ads accounts and find that the vast majority of PMax spend and revenue is driven through brand searches on shopping placements. These searches are naturally going to have the highest purchase intent and therefore Performance Max will go after them with everything it’s got to drive its “performance” to the “max” (apologies). That will often mean you are simply inflating the CPC for these terms in the shopping space. Take into account also that the incremental value of showing ads for brand searches is likely to be lower, your PMax campaign has probably got a nice ROAS on the surface but is unlikely to be actually driving new customer growth for your brand. Here are our recommendations to make PMax work harder:

    1. Exclude your brand from PMax: Google have actually made this easier as of late by adding in an option, hidden away in campaign settings allowing you to exclude showing ads for certain brands from your campaign, including your own.
    2. Exclude your brand from PMax: You might be asking “This is the same as step 1?”. A crucial note about point 1 is that it isn’t the same as adding negative keywords, neither is it as foolproof. In our experience, step 1 does 80% of the lifting, but misses things like misspells. To make absolutely sure that you stop showing for your brand searches through PMax you’ll need to get onto Google Merchant Center support and request your brand keywords to be added as negatives to PMax campaigns in the back-end (we suggest doing this on phrase match).
    3. Setup a brand shopping campaign: Whilst we’ve been stopping all the leaks of brand into PMax, we still want to show ads for brand searches in the Google shopping space, those ad slots are going to get filled somehow and if it’s not you, it’ll be your competitors. Doing this through a standard shopping campaign instead of PMax means you have far more control on how much you spend on brand – you also have the option to easily negate keywords in-platform.
    4. Ongoing optimisation: In Google Ads, PMax should always trump standard shopping campaigns that can show in the same space, therefore technically your new standard shopping campaign should only show for the brand terms that you have excluded from PMax. However, it’s not always the way, and some non-brand terms might slip through the net (this can be due to your PMax campaign being limited by budget so do check this and de-limit it) so we would suggest looking once a week and negating top non-brand impr/spend drivers.
    5. Next steps: There are options to add customer lists and make PMax bid higher/only to new customers that you can look into further down the line, but we’d suggest starting with steps 1-4 as a solid base to increase incremental value of PMax spend.

    We work with a leading UK health and supplement company, and since taking the above steps with them we’ve seen far more efficient new customer growth. When we excluded brand from Performance Max, average daily spend on the campaign reduced 50%. At the same time, we were able to achieve over a 95% impression share on these brand terms through our controlled brand shopping campaign for a mere 10% of the initial PMax daily spend. Thus by taking the steps above, we were able to maintain stable revenue and brand visibility whilst spending 40% less per day. This was a huge win and shows just how much PMax can inflate brand CPC, we were able to re-invest that saved daily spend into other upper-funnel activity to help drive new customer growth.