Despite their growing popularity, Performance Max (PMax) campaigns can often feel like a black box, with crucial reporting metrics and insights seemingly hidden. This lack of transparency can leave advertisers puzzled about where their ad spend is going and what’s driving their campaign performance.
👋 Before we get started, check out: How Analyzify Helps Shopify Merchants with Google Ads Tracking & Performance.
Spending on branded clicks can be valuable, but the issue is that many merchants are unaware that this is happening.
Campaigns are often named after product groups or collections, leading merchants to believe that these campaigns are driving sales from non-branded terms. In reality, a closer look at the data often reveals that a substantial portion of the traffic and sales comes from branded searches. Understanding this distinction is crucial for making informed decisions about your ad spend.
Let’s go through a scenario. You have the following two campaigns:
And the numbers suggest the “iPad Cases” campaign is not doing well with ROI. So you provide more budget into “iPhone Cases” and maybe even stop the “iPad Cases” campaign.
But! What if – most of the “iPhone Cases” campaign’s traffic came from your branded terms? In that case, it wouldn’t be a fair comparison – and probably a wrong decision. So it is not a good idea to judge the campaign performance without knowing the search terms & more details.
So a lot has changed with PMax campaigns, we just need to adapt. Let’s learn how we can take the best possible reporting and structure out of this.
There are several best practices to keep things under control. First of all, you need to KNOW. You need to check the search terms of each campaign. Well, it is not easy to do so, but we’ll show you here.
Later on, you can decide to exclude branded terms from these campaigns – like in the old days, huh? I’m not saying you do not advertise on the brand. I’m just saying let’s have a clear overview of what’s going on.
Wait?! Is it possible to use negative keywords in PMax campaigns? Yes, it is – and again, it is not easy 🙂
You should start by reviewing your Google Ads account’s Insights and Search Terms reports. This will give you a good idea of where your clicks are coming from and whether they’re branded.
You don’t get to see all of them at a table just like in the old & good days. But it is still possible.
How to check search terms (keywords) in PMax Campaigns?
Step 1: Go to Google Ads > Campaigns and choose the campaign you want to check.
Step 2: Choose 28 Days (You only have 7 & 28 days options, so make sure to check this report often)
Step 3: Scroll down and find Search Terms.
Step 4: Do not believe the first grouped term you see. Click the arrow next to each keyword and “View Details.”
Step 5: You will be navigated to another window, do the same there.
Step 6: Check the other metrics using the dropdown: Conversions, Clicks, Impressions, CTR, Conversion Value, and Conversion Rate.
If you are looking to get a single table to see all search terms and numbers, that won’t happen. The metrics are kind of “hidden” here.
You can use this report not only to understand if the terms are branded but also to generally analyze the campaigns performance and structure. You can also detect more negative keywords you don’t want to pay for.
By the way, are you using Enhanced Conversions? Please make sure to check out our “Google Ads Enhanced Conversion Guide for Shopify Merchants.”
Making decisions according to one source is generally not a good idea. We always recommend double-checking with other reports and reporting sources. In this example, you can additionally review the Landing Page Performance report for more insights. The landing pages will also give you an idea of search terms.
You will see which product & collection pages receive the most clicks – and you can judge their performance using the conversion-focused metrics.
You can create a custom Google Ads report focused on Performance Max campaigns. Follow our relevant tutorial for more information: How to create PMax Landing Page Custom Report in Google Ads.
Additionally, you can also create a similar report in Google Analytics 4. The same tutorial will also lead you to how to do that.
While the front-end interface of PMax campaigns doesn’t provide an option to add negative keywords, the feature does exist—it’s just hidden.
To access it, you’ll need to contact your Google Ads representative. You can either provide a list of specific negative keywords or create a “Negative Keyword List” in your Google Ads account. The latter method is preferable because it allows you to manage and update the list easily.
Otherwise, you will need to contact your Google rep every time you want to add a negative keyword. So the best is working through negative keyword lists.
To effectively manage negative keywords in your PMax campaigns, I recommend creating two separate negative keyword lists to start with:
Account-Level Negatives: General negative keywords irrelevant to your business or products.
Branded Terms: Branded terms that you want to exclude from specific PMax campaigns.
You can surely come up with more negative keyword lists depending on your business. Another good example could be the cross-campaign negatives.
If you want to ensure your “iPad Cases” campaign won’t receive any clicks from “iPhone Cases”, you can create negative keyword lists for both and apply them to the opposition campaigns.
Consider creating a different PMax campaign; one focused solely on brand terms. This way, you can clearly see the performance of each and make data-driven decisions. For this to work properly, you need to make sure to exclude your branded terms from the other PMax campaigns so that all the clicks & impressions fall into Branded PMax campaign.
And that’s how you can effectively manage negative keywords in your PMax campaigns. I hope you find this information valuable, and I’m excited to see the positive impact it has on your advertising efforts!
Please note that there isn’t any single truth in digital advertising. One can be successful ultimately with different methods and techniques. Our ultimate goal here is to have a transparent reporting & Google Ads structure so that you know what’s happening inside the campaigns.