How I Use Google Shopping Campaigns in 2023

Jul 20, 2023

Up until very recently, Google Shopping campaigns were a core go-to, must-use strategy for any eCommerce brand running ads on Google.

But right now, in 2023, Google Shopping campaigns, while still useful, are not the core go-to strategy that they once were.

The reason for this is that, in the vast majority of cases, Performance Max is giving far better results than Shopping campaigns.

In this article, let's talk about the reasons for WHY this is happening. But before that, in case we have not met yet, my name is Aaron Young…

Now, it goes without saying that for success with Performance Max campaigns, you need to make sure that these are set up properly. To help you, you can get access to my PMAX setup guide…

To explain why Performance Max is now performing better than Shopping campaigns, we need to look at the recent history of Shopping and Performance Max campaigns.

Performance Max campaigns were launched at the end of 2021, and then through the middle of last year, Google discontinued its Smart Shopping campaigns.

And it's important to note the differences between Smart Shopping and Performance Max. Now, most people would know that, unlike Performance Max, Smart Shopping campaigns only showed ads in the shopping network, unlike Performance Max, which shows your ads across search, shopping, display, video, and Gmail.

But another core difference is that Smart Shopping would target:

  • Initial searches that related to your products
  • And then also bid more aggressively with remarketing when other searches were completed by the user

So, Smart Shopping was focused on targeted searches and remarketing.

Whereas Performance Max starts earlier in the buying process by:

  • Showing "potential" buyers your ads before they even complete a search
  • Then, if that user completes a search or is from an audience that has converted well, Performance Max will bid more aggressively at this point
  • Then, it will continue to show your ads until a conversion is reached

So, you can see that Performance Max starts the process much earlier than Shopping campaigns - especially Smart Shopping.

Now, I have had some in-depth conversations with Google Shopping feed team specialists, both here in Australia and the UK, and they agree with my thought process as to why Performance Max is now performing better than Shopping campaigns.

Because when Performance Max was first launched, Shopping campaigns performed better. In fact, I didn't really use Performance Max for the first 6 months.

And it was not until the end of 2022 that I started to favor Performance Max more than Shopping campaigns.

The reason for that was this…

When Performance Max was first launched, Shopping campaigns were still performing better because of two reasons:

  1. The account had better conversion data.
  2. In the auction, Shopping campaigns were still the dominant type of campaign, so your shopping campaign was going up against other shopping campaigns.

BUT now, as more and more people are using Performance Max and Performance Max campaigns have more data, Performance will win auctions.

Now, many people are saying this is because Google is favoring Performance Max at the auctions. While that might be true, that is actually not the core reason.

Remember what we spoke about earlier, that Performance Max starts targeting users earlier in the buying process.

Because of this, your Shopping ads are going up against Performance Max ads that may already have 1, 2, or 3 interactions from users or groups of users. It's with this data that Performance Max uses to bid more aggressively.

Which is why, with Performance Max campaigns, when they are set up and optimized correctly, you will see better results as the campaign matures and gets more data.

So, when and how do I use Shopping campaigns in 2023? There are three main ways that I use Shopping campaigns:

Firstly, if I am dealing with a product that has some very clear regulations. For example, in Australia, if you are advertising certain types of health supplements or vitamins, there are regulations around what search terms your ads can appear for, and you need very strict ad copy. So, in these cases, Performance Max is not an option due to the limited controls we have for keyword targeting and ad copy.

If the account is in the process of starting with Performance Max. In this case, I won't just turn off shopping ads and start Performance Max. The better option is to run them at the same time for a period of anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months. Usually, you would not do this, but this transition period allows for a smooth transition between Shopping and Performance Max.

When Performance Max favors search over shopping, and you notice in Merchant Center that your ad spend in the shopping network reduces significantly.