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TPE #14: Fix untrustworthy pMax data with Branded Standard Shopping

Oct 24, 2022

 

You can’t trust your Performance Max results.

Why? Because they’re heavily inflated by Branded Search conversions.

At a first glance, the data might look really good. But when you dig deeper, you often see that a significant part of your conversions is actually from branded searches.

This is traffic that was going to convert anyway, and pMax loves to take credit for it.

On average, we see 10-20% of conversions are from brand. This makes your campaigns look better than they actually are (pMax should not claim these conversions).

This is what to do about it: exclude branded searches from your pMax campaigns.

The only problem with that: you’re no longer visible on Search and Shopping when users search for your brand.

The solution: set up Branded Search and Branded Standard Shopping campaigns.

99% of you will already have Branded Search campaigns live, so we won’t talk about that in this newsletter.

However, most specialists don’t know how to effectively set up Branded Standard Shopping campaigns, so we’ll show you how to do it.

Let’s dive in.

 

Brand and non-branded traffic have completely different goals, so treat them differently

We split up branded vs. non-branded traffic in separate campaigns because they have completely different goals.

With branded campaigns, you want to maximize visibility (impression share).

With non-branded campaigns, you want to maximize conversions/conversion value within your CPA/ROAS precondition.

Splitting up branded and non-branded Search campaigns has been the best practice for years (and rightly so)…

So why should it be different for pMax?

Let’s look at how this would work.

 

How to use Branded Standard Shopping to catch branded traffic on Google Shopping

This is the 6-step process to maximize brand visibility on Google Shopping with Branded Standard Shopping campaigns:

  1. Analyze share of branded search in pMax
  2. Exclude branded search terms from pMax
  3. Set up a Branded Standard Shopping campaign
  4. Exclude non-branded search terms from Branded Standard Shopping
  5. Maximize impression share on Branded Standard Shopping with manual CPC
  6. Scale pMax with realistic CPA/ROAS targets

 

Reach maximum visibility on branded searches on Google Shopping, and better scalability pMax

If you follow this process, this will happen:

  • Your pMax ROAS/CPA will get worse, but it’s much more reliable which makes it easier to scale (because it doesn’t contain branded searches that were going to convert anyway)
  • You can maximize visibility (impression share) on branded searches on Google Shopping with a Branded Standard Shopping campaign

Look at the screenshot below from one of our accounts. 

You see 1x Branded Standard Shopping campaign. ROAS (conv. value / cost) = 33.64, Search Impression Share = 94.43%. The latter is a huge reason why Branded Standard Shopping is so crucial: you actually KNOW how visible you are for branded searches on the Shopping network by looking at the Search Impression Share.

With pMax, you don’t get this metric, so you have no idea how well you’re defending your brand. Sure, Auction Insights are useable, but it’s aggregated data of both branded and non-branded traffic.

You also see 2x Non-branded Performance Max campaigns. ROAS (conv. value / cost) = 2.47 and 2.65. Much lower, but very reliable to scale because all searches are not brand related (tROAS is 250%).

Before we dig deeper, let’s look at a few common misconceptions people have about this setup:

 

Misconception 1: “Performance Max will take priority over Standard Shopping so this setup won’t work”

Well, it’s true that Performance Max takes priority over Standard Shopping if you run them alongside each other with the same products.

However, if you exclude branded search terms from pMax (step 2), there will be nothing to take priority over (because you excluded the search terms!)

 

 

Misconception 2: if you exclude branded search terms from Performance Max, you’re taking away valuable conversion signals

I agree: we don’t want to limit pMax by taking away valuable conversion signals. However, there won’t be a problem because the conversion data is shared across campaigns when you use data-driven attribution.

Alright, so now on to how to actually make this work.

 

Step 1: analyze share of branded search in pMax

The first step is to analyze the share of branded search in pMax. On average, we see 10-20% of conversions are branded. Here’s how to analyze:

  1. Click on your pMax campaign > insights > scroll down to search terms insights
  2. Calculate the total conversions/conversion value that came from branded searches
  3. Compare that to the total conversions/conversion value of your pMax campaign

Now you know you share of branded searches in your pMax campaign. If the share is below 5%, maybe don’t bother because it may simply not be worth the effort. But if it’s >10%, definitely move on to the next steps.

 

Step 2: exclude branded search terms from pMax

The next step is to exclude your branded search terms, so pMax will no longer take credit for branded conversions. This is how:

  1. Create a negative keyword list specifically for Performance Max
  2. Contact Google support and ask them to apply it to your campaigns
  3. Add negative keywords whenever you want inside the Google Ads interface

(fyi: we wrote about this in an earlier issue of The PPC Edge that you can read here)

 

Here’s proof that it actually works: all of these campaigns have a negative keyword list attached with brand keywords that are now excluded.

 

 

Pro tip: don’t forget to keep adding misspellings that may be caught by pMax!

Your Performance Max campaigns will no longer catch branded search terms. The next step is to set up a Branded Standard Shopping campaign.

Quick note: do NOT forget to also run a Branded Search campaign. We assume you’re already doing that so we won’t touch on it here.

 

Step 3: set up a Branded Standard Shopping campaign

Now it’s time to set up your Branded Standard Shopping campaign. We won’t show you every exact step, but take in mind these best practices:

  • 1 campaign is enough, don’t overcomplicate it
  • 1 ad group could be enough, unless you want to segment by products/categories, that’s also fine
  • Create multiple product groups either split up by product category or product ID. This makes it easier to manage the CPCs of specific products/categories
  • Select the right feed and location targeting
  • Use Manual CPC unless you have a specific ROAS target for branded searches, (then use tROAS). More on this in step 5
  • Set campaign priority to low

Congrats! You now have a Branded Standard Shopping campaign.

But… You’re not there yet. There is one crucial step you must take to ensure your Standard Shopping campaign actually only catches branded search terms.

 

Step 4: exclude non-branded search terms from Branded Standard Shopping

There is one big problem: Branded Standard Shopping doesn’t really exist. You can’t target specific (branded) keywords. With Google Shopping, you are automatically matched to relevant search queries based on your product feed. Therefore, you will be matched both on branded, AND non-branded search terms.

That’s why you must exclude every non-branded search term you see in the search term report of your Branded Standard Shopping campaign.

Here’s how:

  1. Create a negative keyword list
  2. Add the negatives to your Branded Standard Shopping campaigns
  3. Go to your search term report and create a filter: “search term does not include [branded search term + ALL misspellings]”, “added/excluded: none” (you should now only see all non-branded search terms that were matched on Branded Standard Shopping)
  4. Select all search terms and select “add as negative keyword”
  5. Click “negative keyword list” > select the list you created in step 1 (add all as exact match negatives)
  6. Save this filter so you can easily use it in the future
  7. For the first few days, add all the non-branded search terms that were matched. Then, add it to your weekly checks

We recommend to use a negative keyword list because you can add it to multiple Branded Standard Shopping campaigns (if you have them). This is especially relevant and easy if you have campaigns with the same language in different countries.

It’s a bit of a manual process, but if you do this for a few weeks, your campaign will be almost completely branded. As time passes, the amount of search terms you need to exclude every week will get smaller and smaller.

 

Step 5: maximize impression share on Branded Standard Shopping with manual CPC

Congrats! You now have a fully operational Branded Standard Shopping campaign.

You selected Manual CPC in step 3 because it allows you to find the perfect balance between a high Impression Share as well as a low CPC (be mindful: we’re not advocating a Manual CPC setup on non-branded campaigns, this is just what works well for Branded Standard Shopping specifically!)

With Manual CPC, you have control over which products you want to give more visibility on specific branded search terms. Increase/decrease CPCs whenever your performance calls for it.

 

Step 6: scale pMax with realistic CPA/ROAS targets

By going through these steps, you’ve ensured that your pMax data is trustworthy, which makes it easier to scale. It’s likely that your CPA/ROAS has gotten worse, but that’s fine because you know pMax is not taking credit for branded conversions.

It just became easier to scale your pMax campaigns.

 

TLDR recap

So that’s it. Give it a try, it actually works. You’ve seen it in the screenshots above.

Quick recap on how to make your pMax data more trustworthy while still maximizing visibility on Google Shopping with Branded Standard Shopping campaigns:

  1. Analyze share of branded search in pMax
  2. Exclude branded search terms from pMax
  3. Set up a Branded Standard Shopping campaign
  4. Exclude non-branded search terms from Branded Standard Shopping
  5. Maximize impression share on Branded Standard Shopping with manual CPC
  6. Scale pMax with realistic CPA/ROAS targets

 

We showed this strategy first to the students of our Performance Max Mastery course (launched in August). If you want to learn how to effectively set up, optimize and scale pMax campaigns, consider enrolling here. We have a ton of 5-star reviews from big and small agencies, freelancers and in-house teams from all over the world.

Anyways… See you soon - we hope you will crush it this week!

Bob & Miles

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