Should you Switch Dynamic Search Ads to Performance Max? Gains & Losses

  • 6 min read

Dynamic search ads have long been a go-to ad type for advertisers, with DSA performance striking the perfect balance between leveraging website content and driving conversions. However, with the rise of Performance Max, things are changing. 

Google has been encouraging advertisers to upgrade their Dynamic and Display campaigns to Performance Max within the Google Ads interface. Speculation is growing that this is the beginning of the end for dynamic search campaigns.

The burning question that advertisers are now facing is whether they should switch their dynamic search ads over to Performance Max. There’s no straightforward answer to this question because there are several variables to consider, which we’ll explore in this article. 

  • Both dynamic search ads and performance max use high-powered automation to generate conversions, however, there are stark differences between the two.
  • Performance max campaigns serve ads across all Google channels, use audience signals for targeting and offer more in the way of ad assets. 
  • Making the switch could result in a loss of control over the website pages being targeted, where ads are served and short-term account stability. 
  • Possible gains are about greater control over ad assets, taking automation to the next level and the potential to reach new audiences.
  • If advertisers can meet the recommended PMax criteria and they are comfortable with the possible losses, switching to performance max could pay off in the long term.


Dynamic Search Ads vs Performance Max campaigns

Dynamic search ads are a type of search ad that’s available in Google Ads and as the name suggests, they are dynamic. The ad itself looks similar to standard search ads, however, there are a number of key differences. 

Dynamic search ads must be created within a dynamic ad group using dynamic ad targets instead of keywords. Dynamic ad targets are made up of website content, whether that’s feed-specific pages, specific page categories or the entire site. 

The dynamic search ad headlines and final URL are generated automatically by Google, once a user's search has been matched with content from the website. The automation that’s involved ensures dynamic search campaigns are a highly relevant ad type.

Check out this article to discover some of the best Dynamic Search ads examples.

Google

On the other hand, Performance Max is a goal-based campaign type in Google Ads, which allows advertisers to serve ads across all of Google’s inventory from a single campaign. This includes YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail and Maps.

Performance Max campaigns are automatically optimized by Google and will aim to generate as many conversions and/or as much conversion value as possible. Setting your campaign goals and ensuring your account has sufficient conversion data is the main priority because Performance Max campaigns require sufficient data to be successful. 

PMax campaigns were rolled out in November 2021 as the most streamlined campaign type benefitting from machine learning and automation. They are capable of serving ads across all channels, including search, plus they use automation similar to DSA campaigns, which is why there’s now a case to switch dynamic search ads over to performance max.

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Key differences between Performance Max and DSAs

There are three key differences between dynamic search ads and Performance Max campaigns that are noteworthy when comparing them side by side:

1. Channel

Performance Max can serve ads across all Google Ads channels, creating ads using all of the assets within an asset group or a product feed. Whereas dynamic search ads are search ads only eligible for the search network.

2. Targeting 

Dynamic search ad targeting requires dynamic ad targets, which are website pages to be included in a dynamic ad group. For Performance Max campaigns, advertisers must create an audience signal made up of a mix of age, gender, location, audiences and search keywords. Audience signals provide PMax with guidance into who the target audience is.

3. Ad assets 

Another key difference is for Performance Max campaigns, advertisers have more control over the content of an ad, such as headlines, descriptions and creatives. There’s still little control over the combination of assets served to users, however, at least you know it’s accurate. For dynamic search ads, advertisers only have control over the description copy because the headlines and final URL are created dynamically. 

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Should you switch from DSA to Performance Max?

There is a case to switch to Performance Max campaigns, or at least experiment with them, to future-proof your Google Ads account. First of all, Google is recommending advertisers make the switch, which suggests that dynamic search ads might not be around forever. 

Experience has taught us that staying ahead of the curve and moving forward with the ‘new’ pays off. An example of this is adopting broad match keywords. A couple of years ago, broad keywords would have been deemed risky and a waste of budget, whereas now they can perform better than exact and phrase matches. 

Therefore following the recommended approach, with caution and in a sensible, controlled way, is likely the best thing to do. There are some caveats with that based on what it takes for performance max to be successful. 

Let’s first look at the potential losses when making the switch, which will help determine whether or not you should make the switch. 

Losses from switching from PMax to DSA

Unable to use specific website pages for targeting

What can make DSA performance so great is the ability to exclude non-relevant and non-strategic pages. With PMax campaigns, advertisers will no longer have the ability to exclude certain website pages. They run using feeds and URL expansion, offering little control over specific website pages. 

This means advertisers will lose the ability to use specific content for targeting. That’s the main loss when switching over to Performance Max from dynamic search ads. 

Loss of control over where ads are served

Lack of control doesn’t end there because, with Performance Max campaigns, advertisers have little control over where their ads are served. Search is considered to be a more bottom-funnel compared to Display and as well as that, Discover and YouTube placements are more visual compared to Search. 

Losing the ability to manage this means having to rely heavier on Google’s algorithm and capability for generating conversions and conversion value.

Loss of account stability when transitioning 

It’s also likely that switching from dynamic search ads to Performance max will rock the boat and cause a period of instability. 

Performance Max ads require sufficient data to be successful, as we’ve already mentioned. However, it’s also recommended the campaign is given a minimum of 4 weeks to collect data and optimize its way through the learning period. 

The loss of stable and consistent results during this learning period is an important consideration. Can you afford to impact performance while the campaign transitions? 

Gains from switching to PMax from DSA

Although there are potential losses that need to be thought carefully about before making the transition, there are several gains to be had.

eCommerce expert Greg Ashton shared their opinion on why you should potentially make the switch: 

Greater control over ad assets

Yes, advertisers lose control over certain elements mentioned above, however, with Performance Max there is more control over the assets within an ad. This provides advertisers with more confidence in knowing their ads will be relevant and include the right content. 

When building a new asset group, advertisers can preview their ads, similar to how responsive search ads and responsive display ads can be previewed

Potential to reach new audiences

Rather than solely focusing on Search, PMax provides a broader mix of channels and placements, which has the potential to reach new audiences. 

This should add value to your Google Ads account, providing it can generate the same results (or better).

Greater use of automation 

One of the key benefits of running dynamic search ads is the automation that’s involved, however, Performance Max campaigns take automation one step further. They use automation to find potential customers wherever they are across all Google channels.

Google argues that this can provide even stronger results compared to running dynamic search ads, with automation and attribution enabling advertisers to deliver better aggregate performance than manually optimizing campaigns. This also frees up time for the advertiser to focus on strategy. 

Who should and shouldn't make the switch?

Advertisers who are happy with the potential loss when switching dynamic search ads Performance Max should consider it. If the potential reward outweighs the risk, it could pay off to experiment with Pmax and stay ahead of the curve.

Advertisers who cannot afford to take the risk should instead build a realistic timeline for transitioning, and start to transition at a rate that will cause minimum disruption.

Performance max campaigns recommend a minimum of 30 conversions or purchases in a month. Any less could result in not enough data for a campaign to be optimal. 

The minimum recommended daily spend for PMax is also in the region of $50 - $100 per day, again tied to generating a sufficient amount of data for the optimization process to work. 

If you are not able to meet these criteria, it would not be recommended to experiment with them and instead ensure your standard search campaigns are fully optimized and performing efficiently.

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How to make the switch from DSA to PMax?

There are two ways advertisers can switch to Performance Max. 

If you are running DSAs and in the recommendation section, Google recommends creating a Performance Max campaign, click ‘Get started’. 

This will walk you through the process of setting up a new performance max campaign.

Alternatively, at campaign view, click on ‘New campaign’ and again follow the steps involved in setting up a new campaign.

If you are launching a Performance Max campaign for the first time, treat it like an experiment and be sure to benchmark DSA performance against the new performance max campaign.

To ensure your campaigns are set up to succeed, check out these 10 Performance Max campaigns best practices.

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Conclusion

As with everything digital marketing related, whether you should or shouldn’t switch your DSA campaigns to Performance Max will depend on your circumstances and objectives. 

Exploring PMax, even if your DSA performance is strong, should certainly be high on the agenda given how much Google Ads are pushing them. It would also help prevent being caught out if and when dynamic search ads are retired, to minimize the impact this might have. 

In the meantime, there’s no harm in continuing to harness the wonders of dynamic search ads. Here are 7 dynamic search ads best practices every advertiser should know.


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