Unveiling the Duel: Google Performance Max vs. Standard Shopping Campaigns

Stephen Anderson
11 months ago

In the dynamic world of digital advertising, harnessing the power of Google Ads is a pivotal strategy for e-commerce business owners seeking to amplify their online presence. Among the spectrum of campaign options available, two stalwarts take the stage: Google Performance Max campaigns and Google Standard Shopping campaigns.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into these campaign types' intricate differences, similarities, advantages, and disadvantages, catering to the needs of discerning e-commerce advertisers.

The Art of Choice: Standard Shopping, Performance Max, or Both?

Navigating the multifaceted realm of Google Ads demands strategic decision-making, and choosing between Performance Max or Standard Shopping campaigns comes with its complexities. Advertisers often ponder over which avenue to traverse – to harness the familiarity of Standard Shopping, dive into the dynamic waters of Performance Max, or blend the two for an optimised approach.

Indeed, there are instances where Standard Shopping campaigns hold their ground firmly. Their granularity in control, ranging from bid adjustments to product targeting, appeals to advertisers who value meticulous oversight. These campaigns are a go-to choice for those who desire a hands-on approach and prefer traditional manual optimisation.

Enter Performance Max, a novel contender with a plethora of automation and reach across Google's expansive network. It's essential to note that Performance Max campaigns took center stage when Google upgraded Smart Shopping campaigns in September 2022, rendering Performance Max the sole option for automated campaigns serving shopping ads. This shift underscores Google's commitment to harnessing the potential of machine learning and automation to deliver unparalleled results.

What Were Smart Shopping Campaigns?

In the realm of Google Ads, Smart Shopping campaigns emerged as a beacon of automated efficiency. These campaigns harnessed machine learning to optimise bidding strategies and audience targeting autonomously. Their hallmark was the streamlined approach that required advertisers to provide a product feed via Google Merchant Center and let Google's algorithms take the wheel. However, the evolution of automated campaigns was far from over.

In a seismic shift, Google transformed Smart Shopping campaigns into more advanced Performance Max campaigns. With this transformation, Performance Max now operates similarly to its predecessor, focusing on more than just the domain of Shopping Ads. This upgrade extended to encompass all Smart Shopping and Local campaigns, effectively transitioning them to Performance Max by September 2022. The significance of this evolution underscores Google's emphasis on automated solutions as the future of advertising.

We've covered how Performance Max now encompasses smart shopping in another post. To read more, check out Google Performance Max & Smart Shopping

What Are Performance Max Campaigns?

Performance Max campaigns are a testament to the fusion of automation and expansive reach. As they are designed to maximise conversions or revenue, these campaigns empower advertisers to define goals and constraints while relinquishing manual bidding adjustments, campaign priorities, and product group management. With Performance Max, the algorithmic prowess of machine learning generates ads across all of Google's networks, spanning Search ads, Shopping, YouTube, Display Networks, and Discovery.

Performance Max campaigns lean on the Shopping ad format, amplifying the visibility of product listings across various touchpoints. The seamless blend of automation and reach allows advertisers to tap into a wider audience without the intricacies of manual management.

To learn more about Performance Max campaigns, read our Complete Beginners Guide To Google Performance Max

What Are Standard Shopping Campaigns?

Standard Shopping campaigns, a stalwart of the Google Ads repertoire, have been advertisers' fixtures for a considerable time. These campaigns offer manual control, allowing advertisers to fine-tune bids, set campaign priorities, and tailor product groups to align with their marketing objectives. While powerful, the increased level of control demands a deeper understanding of the Google Ads platform and a substantial investment of time.

The allure of Standard Shopping campaigns resides in the flexibility they provide to advertisers who value granular control over their advertising strategies. Moreover, these campaigns are full of automation. The option of Smart Bidding, powered by Google's machine learning algorithms, lends an automated edge to the bid management process.

Performance Max vs Standard Shopping Campaigns: Navigating the Differences

As e-commerce businesses seek the optimal path of Google Ads, the divergence between Performance Max and Standard Shopping campaigns unfolds. These campaign types harbour key distinctions that steer advertisers toward distinct avenues, each with advantages and considerations.

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Performance Max Campaigns: Automation And Versatility

Performance Max campaigns epitomise the synergy of automation and versatility. Their defining feature is their dynamic ad format, encompassing various campaign types, including Display Ads, Text Ads, and the cornerstone – Shopping Ads. This innovative format serves as a gateway to diverse ad formats, catering to advertisers looking to disseminate their offerings across multiple channels and mediums.

The crux of Performance Max campaigns lies in their comprehensive reach and inherent automation. They remove the need for manual bid adjustments, prioritisation tweaking, and granular product grouping. This translates to an automated campaign structure adept at adapting to the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Standard Shopping Campaigns: The Art of Control & Precision

In contrast, Standard Shopping campaigns offer great manual control and precision. These campaigns have stood the test of time, requiring advertisers to roll their sleeves, manage bids, set campaign priorities, and meticulously curate product groups. This meticulous approach demands Google Ads platform knowledge and time investment, resulting in a level of control unparalleled in the automated alternatives.

The attraction of Standard Shopping campaigns is particularly appealing for those who relish the nuances of campaign management. Smart Bidding is a testament to Google's machine-learning prowess, infusing automation while allowing advertisers to exert their strategic influence.

This comprehensive comparison illuminates the distinct characteristics of Performance Max and Standard Shopping campaigns, enabling advertisers to align their strategies with their goals and preferences.


Performance Max

Standard Shopping

Level of Automation High Low to Moderate
Difficulty of Setup Low Moderate to High
Level of Control Limited High
Ad Placement All Google Networks Google Search, Shopping & Image Results
Reporting Detail Aggregate Data Granular Insights
Control of Negative Keywords Limited Comprehensive
Targeting Broad Focused
Refinement of Strategy Algorithmic Manuel Optimisation
Device Bid Adjustment None Granular
Location Bid Adjustment None Granular
Search Query Reporting Limited Available
Exclusion Of Search Partners N/A Available


How Does Google Standard Shopping Work?

Embarking on a journey through the intricacies of Google Standard Shopping campaigns unveils a world where manual control and precision converge to deliver impactful results. This campaign type operates with a distinct methodology, sharing certain similarities with Performance Max shopping ads that illuminate the crossroads of these two approaches.

A Glimpse into the Mechanism

Google Standard Shopping campaigns are a manual yet potent means of promoting your products across Google's network. The core of these campaigns revolves around product listings, known as Shopping Ads, that appear within the search engine results. These visual representations of your offerings contain essential information such as the product title, price, and store name, enabling users to make informed decisions directly from the search results page.

Screen shot of Google Shopping ads in search engine results pages


Notably, the output ad format of Standard Shopping Ads mirrors that of shopping ads served by Performance Max. The visual and informative consistency across both campaign types ensures a unified user experience, irrespective of the campaign's automation level.

The Nexus of Content: Google Merchant Center Feed

At the heart of Google Shopping campaigns lies the Google Merchant Center feed. This repository of product information is the cornerstone of your campaign's efficacy. The content displayed in your ads, including product images, prices, and descriptions, is gleaned from the meticulously curated data within your Google Merchant Center feed.

Showcase of Google Merchant Center Powered Shopping Ads

The synergy between your Merchant Center data and your Standard Shopping campaign manifests as meticulously structured product groups. These groups enable you to categorise and prioritise products, ensuring that your ads resonate with the right audience at the right time.

What Are The Pros and Cons Of Using Standard Shopping?

Navigating the realm of Google Ads campaigns involves weighing the benefits and challenges, a balance exemplified in Standard Shopping campaigns. As we delve into the advantages and disadvantages of this campaign type, the nature of these considerations becomes apparent.

Benefits of Standard Shopping

Enhanced Reporting and Reach Insight: Standard Shopping campaigns spotlight robust reporting features, delving into the nitty-gritty at the SKU level and revealing the search queries that trigger your Shopping Ads. This granularity empowers advertisers with insights to refine their strategies and optimise for a more targeted audience.

Moreover, the search impression share metrics offer a compass to gauge the extent of your reach on the search engine results pages (SERPs), enabling you to align your efforts with market demand.

High Level of Control: The essence of Standard Shopping campaigns lies in the high level of control they offer. Advertisers can meticulously curate product groups, set individual bids, and adjust campaign priorities to align with their overarching objectives, including management of the search queries triggering shopping ads.

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Disadvantages of Standard Shopping

Resource-Intensive Setup: Despite their apparent simplicity, Standard Shopping campaigns demand a significant investment of time and resources to establish. The meticulous process of crafting product groups, optimising bids, and refining a search query targeting strategy requires a dedicated effort from your team. This could deter businesses seeking quick deployment and automation.

Manual Testing and Optimisation: Unlike automated ad campaigns, Standard Shopping ads require manual testing and optimisation to find the sweet spot that resonates with your target audience. This iterative process involves constant vigilance and adjustments to ensure your ads align with evolving market trends and user preferences.

Limited Placement: Standard Shopping campaigns have a more confined scope regarding ad placement. They are primarily focused on appearing within the Google Shopping tab, alongside search results, and within the Google Images tab. This limits their visibility compared to campaigns that extend their reach across Google's extensive network, like Performance Max.

In digital advertising, Standard Shopping campaigns offer a blend of control and insights, coupled with resource demands and limitations in placement. As you navigate this landscape, a well-informed decision hinges on your business's objectives and resources.

An Enhanced Approach to Google Ads For E-Commerce

In the intricate tapestry of Google Ads, where campaign strategies interweave with automation and control, lies an enhanced approach for e-commerce businesses seeking to maximise their reach and impact. This strategic amalgamation involves harnessing the synergy of complementing Google Performance Max with Standard Shopping Campaigns, a powerful duo that demands expertise and vigilance for optimal results. While this fusion necessitates a comprehensive understanding of the Google Ads platform, the potential benefits are vast, offering momentum to the evolution of your Google Ads strategy.

Should I Run Both Performance Max And Standard Shopping Campaigns?

Running Performance Max and Standard Shopping campaigns alongside each other is possible but demands meticulous implementation. One crucial consideration revolves around the campaign priority hierarchy. Performance Max campaigns wield the highest priority, which will garner the lion's share of ad impressions. If a product is listed in both campaign types, Performance Max will overshadow Standard Shopping, potentially leading to decreased visibility. This, therefore, requires a solid strategy that's decided at the outset so that these campaigns can be implemented to work together rather than against one another.

Strategies That Combine Standard Shopping & Performance Max Campaigns

Promote New Products

Performance Max campaigns harness the power of Google's machine learning, leveraging conversion data to optimise bidding and placements effectively. However, this reliance on historical data can challenge new products needing more sales data. The consequence can be a cycle of neglect, as Performance Max garners minimal impressions due to a shortage of sales. To break this cycle, deploying a Standard Shopping campaign can serve as a traffic conduit, generating sales data from which Performance Max can learn, ultimately enhancing its performance for the same product once it is introduced back to the Performance Max campaign.

Resolve Zombie Products

Similar to new products, items with minimal sales data or "zombie products" can be neglected from Performance Max campaigns for the abovementioned reasons. Once again, a Standard Shopping campaign emerges as a solution. By reintroducing these products to Standard Shopping only, advertisers can rekindle their visibility, garner sales data, and reintegrate them into the Performance Max campaign with renewed conversion data for the AI to use in optimised ad delivery.

Promotion Of Seasonal Products

Seasonal products present a unique challenge for Performance Max campaigns, mainly when demand fluctuates throughout the year. Standard Shopping campaigns can seize the reins when a surge in demand is anticipated. Their manual control empowers advertisers to swiftly maximise reach during peak demand, subsequently scaling back efforts as demand wanes, all by an intuitive strategy guided by internal business knowledge.

Resolve Products With A Low Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)

Low-ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) products warrant particular attention, often from niche markets or fluctuating demand. Standard Shopping campaigns provide a strategic avenue for managing these products with refined bidding control. Including search query reports offers additional diagnostics to dissect Google's perception of the product and its served search queries. This intelligence can illuminate areas for optimisation within your Merchant Center feed, enhancing product visibility and performance.

In e-commerce, the fusion of Performance Max and Standard Shopping campaigns unveils a realm where manual finesse blends with automation, guided by astute strategy. As you traverse this terrain, the benefits of this nuanced approach can drive your business to new heights.

Conclusion & Our Recommendations For Google Ads For E-Commerce

As the curtain falls on our exploration of the dynamic landscape of Google Ads for e-commerce businesses, it's clear that several possibilities and strategic nuances emerge. The journey from Performance Max to Standard Shopping campaigns has been enlightening, revealing each approach's intricacies. The decision to integrate these campaigns, harnessing their respective strengths, is pivotal, offering a pathway to heightened reach and efficacy.

A cardinal principle is the avoidance of spreading your efforts too thin. While coexisting Performance Max (PMax) and Standard Shopping campaigns are plausible, the correct setup is essential. Google inherently favours PMax campaigns, underscoring the need for strategic prioritisation. At ClickPilot, we've fine-tuned our approach, often prioritising PMax campaigns while simultaneously running active, low-priority, catch-all shopping campaigns. This strategy ensures comprehensive inventory coverage without compromising the potency of your Performance Max campaigns.

Don't Let Your Google Ads Account Flatline

Understanding the nuances of campaigns, optimising strategies, and extracting maximum value are the pillars on which we stand. Our team boasts in-house shopping campaign experts poised to deeply dive into your paid media strategy. By identifying what's working and what demands transformation, we pave the way for a revitalised and results-driven approach.

Unlock Your Potential: Get an Expert Account Review

As you embark on your journey to harness the full power of Google Ads, our team of Google Ads experts stands ready to conduct a comprehensive account review, dissecting the intricacies of your campaigns and offering insights that could be the catalyst for transformative change.

Whether you're delving into Performance Max, refining your Standard Shopping campaigns, or seeking a balanced combination, our insights can illuminate untapped avenues and streamline your efforts.

Make sure to leave the potential of your campaigns untapped. Let us take the reins, guiding you toward a future where your Google Ads strategy thrives. Contact us today to embark on this journey of refinement, excellence, and maximising impact.

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