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TPE #55: urgent pMax news: end of feed-only?

Aug 14, 2023

Read time: 4 minutes

Hey, Bob & Miles here with an urgent issue of The PPC Edge.

Last week, Google low-key announced a major update that will change Performance Max campaigns forever.

And in true Google Ads fashion — the announcement was really small.

Thankfully, Mike Ryan read the entire update and noticed a very important sentence:



“… Performance Max will start using images from your product feed to unlock additional inventory and formats, including YouTube Shorts.”


That means our beloved feed-only Performance Max campaigns are changing, since Google can now also serve auto-generated ads on YouTube (and maybe Display, too).

In this newsletter, we’ll dig into what these changes mean and what you need to do to prepare (to ensure your performance doesn’t drop).

Let’s dive in!


Implications for feed-only pMax campaigns

For those who are unaware, “feed-only pMax campaigns” are a variation of Performance Max for ecom accounts, where you only add a product feed and no additional assets.

By not adding any assets, you force pMax to spend the majority of your budget on the Shopping network (you might still serve ads on Search too, and do a little Dynamic Remarketing).

It always felt like a gimmicky workaround, but it’s worked really well for our clients.

But that’s going to change now, since Google can take the images from your product feed to create ads for “additional inventory and formats, including YouTube Shorts”.

^ Keyword: “including”.

Aka including, but not limited to.


How to prepare for the upcoming changes

Don’t underestimate the impact of this update. Here’s what you need to do now to ensure your performance doesn’t drop:

  1. Be extra alert when analyzing your campaigns.
  2. Double-check your spend allocation script output.
  3. Monitor the “views” on your Performance Max campaigns.
  4. Keep an eye on your auto-generated assets.
  5. Optimize your product feed images.
  6. Adjust your strategy.


Before we dive in: Mike Ryan reached out with some additional details about Google’s new way of auto-generating ads based on your product feed:


“The ad format is image-based, not video-based, with some minor interactivity when product tiles are shown. 

Features include:

  • 4 product images sourced from the advertiser's Google Merchant Center (GMC).
  • Selection based on product group filters and/or user personalization signals.

Clickable elements:

  • Click-to-action (CTA) button.
  • Three-dot menu for enhanced user control.
  • Users can swipe to the next YT Short feed result if they choose not to engage.”


Great insights — shoutout to Mike, go follow him on LinkedIn!

Let’s look at how to prepare for the upcoming changes in 6 steps.


1: Be extra alert when analyzing your campaigns

When Google rolls out systematic changes like these, it’s crucial to be extra alert for performance changes. Analyze your campaigns every day for a while to spot anomalies quickly.

Quick tip: pMax has a tendency to spend unspent daily budgets on Video/Display placements, so be sure to cap your budgets to what you can profitably spend on bottom-of-funnel placements such as Shopping and Search.


2: Double-check your spend allocation script output

Now is the time to double-check your spend allocation script output. Look for sudden increases of spend on Video/Display placements.

Not sure how to do that? Here’s a guide on how to use a script to see where pMax has spent your budget across Shopping, Search, Video, and Display placements.



3: Monitor the “views” on your Performance Max campaigns

In addition to double-checking your spend allocation script output, monitor the “views” on your Performance Max campaigns. See a sudden increase? This indicates you’re serving ads on the video network.



Here’s how to check the views on your Performance Max campaigns:

  1. Go to all campaigns
  2. Add “views” to your column set
  3. Add filter: “campaign type: Performance Max”


Step 1 and 2 are crucial. If you click on all Performance Max campaigns, you won’t be able to add “views” as a column.

Weird, right? That’s why you need to go to “all campaigns” first.


4: Keep an eye on your auto-generated assets

You want to keep an eye on your auto-generated assets to ensure Google isn’t serving any low-quality video ads.

Here’s how:

  1. Click on a Performance Max campaign
  2. Go to “Assets”
  3. Add filter: “source: Automatically created”

See any auto-generated video/image assets you don’t like? Check out step 6 to determine your next move.



5: Optimize your product feed images

A big change like this understates the importance of a well-optimized product feed.

If Google can take images from your feed to make auto-generated video ads, you better ensure you have high-quality images.

Add as many different types of images as you can (product-centered, lifestyle, different angles, with/without people etc.).


6: Adjust your strategy

The last step is the most important one: adjust your strategy based on what you see when you analyze your campaigns.

Since the update is still so new, we don’t know yet what will happen but it’s likely one of two scenarios:


Scenario 1: feed-only Performance Max acts as usual

In this scenario, feed-only Performance Max doesn’t show any ads on networks outside of Shopping (and maybe a little bit of Search). If your campaigns act as usual, you don’t really need to make any changes — but remember to stay alert and keep analyzing


Scenario 2: feed-only Performance Max starts to act as full-on Performance Max

In this scenario, you will see increased spend on Video/Display placements. Technically, this means your feed-only pMax campaigns are now functioning like full-on pMax (full exposure on all placements with all asset types).

In this case, you have three options:


1: Do nothing and let Google run auto-generated ads

↳ This is not recommended because auto-generated ads tend to really suck.


2: “Upgrade” to full-on pMax

↳ This gives you back some control because you add your own assets. Therefore, you don’t rely on Google’s auto-generated crap.


3: Revert back to Standard Shopping

↳ This is a viable third option and there’s nothing wrong with taking back control by reverting back to Standard Shopping. The only downside here is that we don’t know how long this campaign type will still be around. Maybe for years, maybe for months. It’s all speculation for now and we hope Google won’t kill Standard Shopping…


Use your own brain

We can’t tell you how you need to adapt your strategy, but hopefully this breakdown gives you some directions on how to determine what’s best for your individual case.

We don’t know if this will be the end of feed-only Performance Max campaigns, but it sure looks like it.

To recap, here’s what you need to do now to prepare:

  1. Be extra alert when analyzing your campaigns.
  2. Double-check your spend allocation script output.
  3. Monitor the “views” on your Performance Max campaigns.
  4. Keep an eye on your auto-generated assets.
  5. Optimize your product feed images.
  6. Adjust your strategy.


We hope this was useful — good luck out there.

See you again next week!


Bob & Miles

p.s. we’re updating our Performance Max Mastery course with new learnings and insights. It will launch in 1-2 weeks. Stay tuned for a special offer (of course the upgrade is free to all current Performance Max Mastery students)!

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes sneak-peek — the production quality is much, much, much higher. Can’t wait to show it to you soon!

And whenever you're ready, here's how we can help you further:


1. Join our global community of world-class Google Ads Specialists:
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Become a member of The PPC Hub (1.200+ members).

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