Google Ads (formerly AdWords) is an all-powerful marketing machine that can help brands of all sizes. That we cannot deny. Its wide range of campaign types – including Search, Display, Shopping, Video (YouTube) and more – have given advertisers a complete suite of impactful marketing tools at their disposal since its inception at the turn of the century. The duopoly of Facebook (Meta) and Google have completely dominated ad spend in recent years, and digital marketers have come to love the complete control over campaigns they have typically enjoyed within these platforms. Many advertisers have taken for granted the level of granularity they have been able to conduct in client campaigns.
However, Google has been slowly but surely changing the status quo as it relates to advertiser control. With the rise of machine learning and AI, Google has made several platform updates in recent years that take away user control and increase advertisers’ reliance on Google’s algorithms. From the constant tweaks to keyword match types, to phasing out of expanded text ads, to hiding search terms within the search term report, and much more, Google has kept the inevitable march toward automation at a consistent pace for several years and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The most recent of these changes concerns Google Smart Shopping and Local campaigns. Smart Shopping campaigns have proven to be a valuable campaign type for e-commerce brands. Harnessed by the power of Google’s machine learning, Smart Shopping combines regular Google Shopping campaigns with remarketing, using automation to match products to users on Google platforms. Local campaigns are similar in that they use machine learning, but rather than driving e-commerce sales, they focus on promoting local businesses with offline visits, calls and clicks on Google location pages for map directions. Now, starting in April, both of these longtime campaign types will be phased out and replaced by Performance Max campaigns.
Google Performance Max campaigns first rolled out in beta in 2020 and became available to all advertisers in 2021. Based on machine learning, Performance Max continues the trend of Google taking away user control from advertisers and forcing them to rely on Google’s algorithms. According to Google, Performance Max is a “goal-based campaign type that allows performance advertisers to access all of their Google Ads inventory from a single campaign.” Under Performance Max, advertisers simply input all their campaign assets, including videos, images and text, as well as audience and conversion data, and Google dynamically pieces them together and serves ads to people based on machine learning. That’s it. This is a far cry from advertisers completely controlling the levers of all facets of campaigns, including individual creative testing and choosing placements where ads will be served.
Is This a Good Change?
It doesn’t really matter. When it comes to Google Ads, digital marketers have no choice but to adapt or die. Although Performance Max campaigns represent the continuing trend of lessened advertiser control, they can also be a powerful opportunity for advertisers with lots of data to help the machine learning thrive. At the same time, smaller advertisers with limited scope, audience sizes and data volume may suffer with these newly imposed campaign types. Once Google Ads officially switches Smart Shopping and Local campaigns to Performance Max, all digital marketers will need to assess the likelihood that their product or service will thrive in a machine learning environment. If not, it may be worth exploring other media types. Either way, there’s no going back.
Maximize Performance with The Ward Group
Our digital media stewards have been keeping up with the everchanging Google Ads landscape since the beginning. Whether it be Performance Max or any other platform updates, The Ward Group is on top of it and ready to help with your digital marketing needs.