Optmyzr Blog

Search Terms Available Again in Performance Max: What This Means & How Can You Benefit

May 13, 2024
Performance Max

Navah Hopkins




In March of 2024, Google fixed a glitch that blocked Search terms from showing in the PMax scripts that would pull search categories. This means that you can see the categories PMax matched your budget with, as well as the specific Search terms.

Just like in traditional search campaigns, understanding what your users are searching for helps you bid more effectively, and know which negatives to add to eliminate waste. However, this still requires a script—meaning that you need to have knowledge of applying scripts, or your own API tokens, or use a tool like Optmyzr.

Optmyzr customers have access to our PMax search terms report and a number of other tools. But, in this article, we’re going to focus primarily on solutions for advertisers who don’t have access to Optmyzr’s solutions for PMax because it’s important to us that everyone has access to budget-saving resources.

Before we dive into analysis and optimization we need to know what we’re working with. So, let’s quickly define a few important terms.

What Are Search Categories, Search Terms, Search Keywords, & Search Themes?

A search category is specific to PMax. It groups similar search terms giving you an eagle-eye insight into what is going on in your account. It’ll also give you a sense of the main themes for searches.

It’s important to note that the categories do not spill over into placements, so you shouldn’t take the categories you get for search as an indication of your placements. Understanding the places you’re serving for requires different tools.

A search term is the actual thing—a word or a group of words—a user searches for. Typically, you will see something related to the keyword (which we’ll go over in a bit in the search term) but sometimes due to the nature of close variants, the words in the search term will actually be completely different. This can happen due to broad match or the way that PMax matches.

Part of the reason that search terms are so important to audit is that you can sometimes get cheaper ways of searching off of those search terms. You also can get insights into potential ideas for negatives.

A search keyword is the thing that you bid on in traditional search campaigns. It has different match types and uses different signals to match user queries. In PMax you don’t actually bid on keywords. Instead, you use something called search themes.

Search themes, behave sort of like broad keywords. However, they have interesting ranking rules. If you have a keyword in your traditional search campaigns that is an exact match, there’s a very high likelihood that that keyword will win for other match types.

It’s much more likely that the search theme will win out, especially if the user semantically searches exactly the way that the PMax search theme is written. Understanding the difference between keywords and themes will help create the best strategies for your account going forward.

What Can You Do With The Data From The PMax Reports?

Now that we have a basic understanding of all the pieces in play, we can dive into what to do with the data available through our PMax search term and search category reports.

You start with an audit of your PMax search themes, confirming that you’ve got the right ones in place. If you see a lot of search terms that are the same as your search themes and keywords in your traditional search campaigns, you may want to switch out your search themes. This is because you are setting yourself up to cannibalize your search budget with your PMax campaign.

A better way to go about it is to pick exact match keyword concepts that you want for your traditional search and test new potential candidates in PMax. In this way, you can get that incremental traffic by testing new ideas without having the repercussions of limiting your search campaigns that may need more data to ramp up.

The other really important point is around negative keywords. PMax doesn’t behave like a traditional campaign. It requires you to send a list of “normal” negatives through a form to Google support reps, and brand terms that you want as negatives.

This can apply to both your brand and your competitors.

While you can only eliminate waste, you can’t necessarily direct traffic. This is an important mechanic because many will treat asset groups like ad groups and the lack of ability to have asset group level negatives means you can’t do this without hurting your account.

You will likely have asset groups that don’t perform and may have parts of your business that don’t get access to budgets.

Finally, having a sense of how much of your budget is going to search in general is useful. If you see that the auction prices in your PMax campaign are drastically cheaper than your traditional search, especially for search categories that are important to you, that could be a sign that your PMax campaign isn’t budgeting enough for what you’re going after, and the lion’s share of your budget is being soaked up by visual content.

Visual content isn’t inherently bad, but it can create false positives in terms of how much keyword concepts cost.

How to Audit Your PMax Search Terms?

We talked quite a bit about the analysis. Here are the main action items that you’ll want to do in relation to PMax and auditing your search themes, categories, and terms.

  1. Make sure that there is minimal overlap between the search themes and your traditional search keywords. If you have a lot of overlap, consider swapping out your search themes.
  2. Don’t forget negatives! Also, remember asset groups do not allow for negatives. You have to make the choice at the campaign level through the form or at the account level and just eliminate waste.
  3. Remember that different channels have different auction prices. If you’re seeing a high level of spend that’s cheaper than your traditional search, consider reworking your structure so that PMax either can get a little bit more budget, or be mindful that you probably don’t have the budget for PMax to hit the minimum 60 conversions in a 30-day period and Google is doing the best it can with the limited resources.

As a reminder, Optmyzr customers have access to the PMax Search term script and can use our other suite of tools including Rule Engine, Campaign Automator, and many other resources to build out account structures that serve them best.

If you’re not an Optmyzr customer, our co-founder Fred Valleays released a free version of the script which you can test out in your own accounts. And if you’d like to explore becoming a customer, you can click this link for a free full-functionality 14-day trial.

Thousands of advertisers — from small agencies to big brands — worldwide use Optmyzr to manage over $5 billion in ad spend every year.

You will also get the resources you need to get started and more. Our team will also be on hand to answer questions and provide any support we can.