PMAX Search Themes

Published at Mar 3, 2024

PMAX Search Themes

Search themes in Google Ads are words or phrases that advertisers can provide to Google to help target their ads more effectively. These themes help match ads with Google searches and provide additional context and signals for targeting in Performance Max campaigns. Advertisers can add up to 25 unique search themes per asset group, and these themes respect brand exclusions and account-level negative keywords. Search themes are used to reach specific audiences based on their search behavior, refine campaign targets, and improve ad performance across various Google Ads inventory, including Search, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, Maps, Display, and of course Performance Max (PMAX).

When should you use them

You should add search themes in Performance Max (PMAX) under the following circumstances:

  1. New Market Entry: If you have just entered a new market or launched a new product without a track record, search themes can help you reach the right audience effectively

  2. Holiday Promotions: When planning a holiday promotion but lack past data to rely on, search themes can assist in targeting the right audience during seasonal campaigns

  3. Enhancing Ad Performance: By leveraging search themes, you can utilize Google’s AI to reach specific audiences across various Google Ads inventory.

  4. Limited Campaign History: If your campaign lacks complete information or the latest updates regarding products and services offered, search themes can help bridge the gap and enhance campaign performance

  5. Expanding Reach: When aiming to expand your reach within Performance Max campaigns across different Google Ads inventory, search themes can be a valuable tool to target new audiences effectively

Pros and Cons

Pros of using search themes in Google Ads include:

  • Improved targeting: Search themes help match ads with Google searches and provide additional context and signals for targeting in Performance Max campaigns
  • Relevance: Search themes help ensure that ads are relevant to the search queries of potential customers, which can improve ad performance
  • Flexibility: Advertisers can add up to 25 unique search themes per asset group, and these themes respect brand exclusions and account-level negative keywords

Cons of using search themes in Google Ads include:

  • Time-consuming: Adding search themes to campaigns can be time-consuming, especially if advertisers need to research and test different themes to find the most effective ones
  • Limited control: While search themes can improve ad relevance, they may not provide the same level of control as traditional keyword targeting

How to add them into Performance Max (PMAX) campaigns

To add search themes in Performance Max (PMAX) campaigns, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Navigate to the desired Performance Max campaign.
  3. Choose an Asset Group within the campaign.
  4. Locate the section next to your ad assets in the Asset Group, where you can enter search themes.
  5. Enter up to 25 unique search themes per asset group, separated by commas.
  6. Ensure that the search themes reflect how your customers typically search for your products or services.
  7. Avoid using special characters, URLs, phone numbers, or excessive length (up to 20 characters without spaces).
visual guide on how to add search themes in PMAX campaigns

search themes performance and reporting

Google Ads reports search themes primarily through the asset_group_signal resource, which does not provide performance metrics directly at the asset group signal level. Instead, you can analyze search term insights at both the campaign and account levels to understand the performance of your search themes.

Here are the main ways to report on search themes in Google Ads:

  1. Campaign-Level Search Terms Insights: Access search term insights at the campaign level to see which search categories your ads matched to, and associate conversion performance with those search categories[1][3].

  2. Account-Level Search Terms Insights: Retrieve account-wide search term insights to gain a broader perspective on the performance of your search themes across all campaigns

  3. GAQL Queries: Use Google Analytics Query Language (GAQL) to extract search theme texts and associated performance data for a specific asset group

Best practices

  1. Use Broad Search Themes: It is recommended to use broad themes rather than specific search terms when setting up search themes. This ensures coverage across related keywords and maximizes effectiveness

  2. Avoid Duplicates or Close Variants: It is important to avoid using duplicate or closely related search themes to maintain clarity and ensure that your ads remain relevant and effective

  3. Align with Assets and Messaging: Ensure that your search themes align with your assets and messaging to provide a cohesive user experience and improve campaign performance

  4. Monitor Spend Allocation: Regularly review your spend allocation script to ensure optimal budget distribution when using search themes, helping you manage your budget effectively

  5. Analyze Performance: Analyze the impact of search themes by checking if your chosen themes appear in your search term insights. This analysis will help you evaluate the effectiveness of the search themes and make necessary adjustments

Common issues affecting Search themes

Some common issues with Google Ads search themes include:

  1. Overlapping or vague themes: Using themes that are too broad or overlap with others can lead to less targeted ads and reduced performance

  2. Poor alignment with assets and messaging: Failure to align search themes with assets and messaging can result in disjointed campaigns and decreased performance

  3. Limited budget optimization: Without proper budget allocation, search themes may not receive sufficient funding, affecting overall campaign performance

  4. Cannibalization with Search campaigns: Search themes in Performance Max campaigns may compete with existing Search campaigns, causing unnecessary spending and reducing ROI

  5. Difficulties with negative keywords: Manually adding negative keywords to prevent irrelevant clicks can become time-consuming and challenging, especially when dealing with large volumes of search themes

Tips

  • be patient when it comes to results
  • Align Search Themes with assets (text)
  • Align Search Themes with assets (media)
  • Align Search Themes with assets (general message)
  • Use Search Themes in order to assist new PMAX campaigns
  • Keep in mind that Search Themes will respect Brand exclusions
  • Keep in mind that Search Themes will respect account negatives
  • You don’t need to add 25 Search themes per asset group
  • Keep in mind that traffic from Search Themes will go to landing pages instead of only product pages
  • Keep in mind that Search Themes will behave such as phrase match and broad match. This means that Ad rank will influence the results.
  • Search Themes are not required in order for PMAX campaigns to generate results
  • Search Themes will help with poorly optimized landing pages
  • Search Themes will help with poorly optimized product pages
  • Search Themes will help Google Ads account with little to no historical performance data
  • It would be best to analyze the Search Term insights results semi-regularly

Should you use Search themes in PMAX?

Using search themes in PMAX campaigns can be beneficial. Search themes allow you to provide additional context and signals to Google, helping to refine campaign targets and reach new relevant placements. They give you more control over your Performance Max campaigns, making them more effective and tailored for your audience. By adding search themes, you can guide Google Ads AI to reach specific audiences in your PMAX campaign across various Google Ads inventory like YouTube, Gmail, Discover, Maps, and Display.

Search themes help ensure that your ads are shown to users who are actively searching for related keywords or topics, which can improve the relevance of your ads and potentially increase your click-through rates (CTRs) and conversions. Improved relevance is crucial as it can lead to higher CTRs and better overall campaign performance.

Furthermore, search themes will benefit lead-based PMAX campaigns and fully-fledged ecommerce PMAX campaigns. By aligning search themes with the objectives and offerings of these campaigns, you can enhance targeting precision and drive more qualified leads and sales.

However, it’s important to note that search themes may not benefit feed-only ecommerce PMAX campaigns as much. In such cases, where the focus is primarily on product feed data rather than search intent, other targeting methods may be more effective.

Additionally, search themes will help with poorly optimized landing pages and product pages. By directing traffic to relevant landing pages based on the themes, you can improve user experience and increase the likelihood of conversions.

It’s essential to be cautious of campaign cannibalization when using search themes. Exact match keywords in your Search campaigns take precedence over search themes, so using exact match keywords can help prioritize traffic to Search rather than PMAX campaigns.

That said, incorporating search themes in PMAX campaigns can be advantageous as they provide more control and help optimize campaign performance, but it’s crucial to understand their impact on campaign prioritization and to use them strategically alongside other targeting options like exact match keywords.

Learn more about Search Themes for PMAX campaigns

About Search Themes (BETA) in PMAX campaigns

Top posts in Google Ads

How to audit Google Ads campaigns

How to audit Performance Max campaigns

How to audit Search campaigns

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