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Performance Max upgrade & optimisation tips for audience signals and assets groups

By Magdalena Sulikowska, Account Manager, Google Shopping l Expertise Series [April 2022]

What is Performance Max?

Performance Max is a new type of goal-based campaign from Google. It uses the platform’s best automation capabilities, allowing you to access your entire Google Ads inventory from a single campaign. Performance Max is designed to complement your keyword-based Search campaigns to help you find more converting customers across Google's channels, from YouTube, Display and Search, to Discover, Gmail, and Maps.

Google estimated that advertisers who upgrade from Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max campaigns could see a 12% average increase in conversion value, with the same, or better, return-on-ad-spend (ROAS).1

Earlier this year, Google also announced the launch of a special Upgrade Tool in your Ads Panel in Q2 2022, which will allow you to upgrade your Smart Shoppings to Performance Max with one click.2 The upgraded campaign will start working immediately, however, bear in mind that some features might not be available.

We’ve included some key recommendations and best practices below, identified by the Google Shopping (CSS) team to make the most out of your Performance Max campaigns.

Note: In this article, we’ll focus on Performance Max for advertisers with a Google Merchant Centre Feed.

Build better Shopping campaigns with asset groups and audience signals

Assets groups and audience signals are two new Performance Max features that can help you build better Shopping campaigns, depending on your potential customer needs.


Asset groups 

An asset group is a collection of creatives centred around a theme or related to a target audience. You can create more than one asset group if needed – the more assets you create, the better.


How to use asset groups

Let’s say you're a sports equipment retailer getting ready for the winter season. You have a sale coming up and, based on your business data, you know that more 18–25-year-olds are likely to purchase snowboards this quarter. You also know that your customers positively respond to bright-coloured snowboards and ads that promote the product and depict healthy lifestyles.

In this case, you can populate your first asset group with unique snowboard pictures, videos of young people having fun on the slopes, cool headlines, captivating descriptions, your logo, and a URL to direct your customers to the snowboard page on your website. In the end, you can add audience signals to make sure the ad is reaching the right customers.

On the table below you can see what mandatory and optional assets you can add to your asset group:

What assets to I need?

Asset groups – best practices

You can add as many high-quality assets as you want – the more assets you provide, the more ad formats the system can create. Don’t worry if you’re missing an asset, such as a video, Google can automatically generate one video for you using pictures from the asset group. When you have your own video ready, you can upload it to replace the auto-generated video. If you decide to upload your own video, please remember that it needs to be longer than 10 seconds and you are recommended to follow the best practices below:

  • Introduce the brand in the first 5 seconds – people who quickly skip the video will still see your brand.

  • Include audio to reach people who are only listening on YouTube as well.

  • Tightly frame the subjects and create memorable visual elements to grab people's attention.


Image picker and ad strength

When it comes to creating various assets you can use ‘image picker’ – it allows you to choose images from recently-used assets, past uploads, or from your website.

Key tip: Don’t forget to upload assets that you’re using for social campaigns.

The assets groups feature also provides you with a real-time feedback tool called ‘Ad strength. This helps you implement best practices for optimal asset group setup, so you can maximise performance across all inventory where Performance Max can serve.

Asset insights will keep you in the loop about the performance of your campaigns, giving you more information and control over what visuals are served to your customers.


Creating asset groups – 3 key takeaways

  • Use the ‘Ad strength’ indicator to replace low-quality assets with better creative;
  • Add as many assets as possible to serve the ad on more inventories;
  • Make sure assets comply with Google’s image quality requirements. Reach out to your Google Shopping (CSS) Team if you need any specific advice.

Audience signals

Audience signals are the next highlight of Performance Max. They allow you to add audience suggestions that influence automation by directly indicating the audiences that are the most relevant to your business, and have the highest conversion probability. Although adding audience signals is optional, using them can help you guide the machine learning models on the ideal way to optimise your campaign.


Audience segments that are compatible with Performance Max

To reach your goals, you can use all existing audience segments in automated targeting. The following are also compatible with audience signals:

  • Your data (i.e Remarketing and Customer Match lists)

  • Custom segments

  • Google Audiences (e.g. Affinity, Detailed Demo, In-Market segments)

  • Demographics

  • Additional audience segments


How do audience signals work?

While audience signals are optional, the question you need to ask is: if you have insights, which audiences are more likely to convert for the particular asset group? Like in our previous example of a sports equipment shop, you could add the 18–25-year-olds demographic audience to your asset group, because you had data confirming that would be the right audience for your product this quarter. Please remember that when you add a specific audience list to the asset group, this is not exclusive; the campaign might target users beyond the selected signals, if it predicts that will help you reach your campaign's goals. Don’t worry if you don’t have any insights – Performance Max campaigns use machine learning to automatically optimise towards top-performing audience segments.

Should I use Audience Signals?

Audience signals – best practices

If you decide to use audience signals for your Performance Max campaign, you may also ask yourself: how many audiences should I add? Will adding more audiences help my campaign perform better? 

  • There is no indication that more audience lists will improve your Performance Max campaigns.

  • Use audience signals on the audiences where data shows that they’re more likely to convert.

  • Add higher intent and more specific audiences – prioritise first-party lists like Remarketing, Customer Match and Custom Audiences, as they allow you to provide your own customer insights.

3 Key takeaways for Performance Max

  • A tick for eligibility

    Check if you’re eligible to test Performance Max – if the answer is yes, then you can already test Performance Max campaigns with your GMC feed.

  • Lightbulb

    Please remember that Performance Max campaigns will take over your existing Smart Shopping campaigns for the same products.

  • Take advantage of Google’s new features by adding asset groups and audience signals to your campaigns.

1 Google Data, Global, Ads, September - October 2021 (published here).

2 Google, Ads & Commerce Blog, ‘Get ready for Smart Shopping and Local campaign upgrades’ (2022).

This article was published by Google Shopping (CSS). Google Shopping is Google's CSS and a Premium CSS Partner.