What is Google Ads Performance Max?

Paid SearchPerformance Media

What is Google Ads Performance Max?

Performance Max automates the targeting and delivery of your ad campaigns based on goals and assets you provide during setup. Google will complement your keyword-based Search campaigns by placing ads across its network, including YouTube, Search, Display, Gmail, Maps, and Discover.

Google launched Performance Max in 2021 to replace Smart Shopping and Local campaigns, which the company discontinued in 2022. The aim is to give advertisers more exposure and possibly identify better-performing channels beyond basic Search ads.

How Does Performance Max Work?

Here is a step-by-step overview of creating a Performance Max campaign.

Campaign objective

The first step defines your campaign’s objective. Google gives you eight options:

  • Sales: online eCommerce or in-app purchases

  • Leads: acquiring user contact details

  • Website traffic: driving people to your website

  • Product and brand consideration: encouraging people to browse your products or services

  • Brand awareness and outreach: using ads to build brand awareness

  • App promotion: getting people to download or pre-register for your app

  • Local store visits and promotions: driving customers to a local business—retail, restaurant, car dealership, etc.

  • Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance: create a fully customised campaign.

Conversion goals

Next, you select conversion goals which differ depending on the objective. For example, if you chose leads as an objective, you can set up website or phone call leads as goals. Performance Max allows you to set multiple goals for each campaign, which expands coverage to Google’s ad network.

Budget and campaign settings

Budget and campaign settings work similarly to other Google Ad campaigns, where you set daily budgets, locations, and language. Setting Final URL expansion to “On” is important as Performance Max will funnel traffic to the landing pages most relevant to each user.

Asset group

It’s important to include as many asset types as possible, including multiple headlines, copy, images, and video, to get the most coverage from your Performance Max campaign. Google’s machine-learning algorithms will test assets to determine which meet your goals and objectives.

Google Ads tells you how many of each asset you need to qualify for each placement and shows a preview of how your ads will look on YouTube, Gmail, Search, Display, etc.

Audience signal

Unlike other Google Ad campaigns, Performance Max will display your ads to people beyond your selections to help you find new audiences. This point is important because regular campaigns allow you to restrict Google Ads, whereas, with Performance Max, you’re giving more control to Google’s algorithms.

You can help direct Google’s AI in the right direction by adding information about search activity, interests, websites people visit, apps they download, demographics, and more. You can also include data from your customer list so Google can build personas and find similar audiences or even new ones.

The rest of the Performance Max settings are similar to other campaign types. You review the ad summary and hit “Publish Campaign.” Google recommends giving Performance Max a few weeks to run experiments and optimise results.

When to use Performance Max

According to Google’s documentation, there are four instances where Performance Max delivers the best results:

  1. When you have specific advertising and conversion goals

  2. You want to maximise campaign performance according to the best channel.

  3. You want easy access to all display networks—YouTube, Search, Gmail, Maps, etc.

  4. You want to find new channels beyond keyword-based Search campaigns.

Performance Max is also great for testing ad campaigns and exploring new channels. For example, you may usually use Google’s Display network for your banners but discover that these ads perform better on YouTube and Maps, allowing you to adjust your strategy accordingly.

It’s important to note that Performance Max will work best for eCommerce and brand awareness campaigns. You’ll get better results using other ad types if you want to drive website traffic, generate leads or newsletter signups, for example.

Performance Max is also better suited for small businesses and those new to Google Ads, intimidated by the settings and optimisation. Experienced Google Ads experts familiar with the platform’s features and how to optimise campaigns will likely get better results—for now! 

As these AI models improve, they will become the standard for Google Ads, making advertising more accessible to every business—which is Google’s ultimate goal.

Tips to Optimise Performance Max Campaigns

Performance Max campaigns need time

Many marketers will A/B test several campaigns simultaneously over a few days to identify the best performer. Unfortunately, this strategy won’t work with Performance Max.Performance Max campaigns rely on machine learning which needs time and data to optimise accordingly. It can take several weeks to start seeing results. The great thing about machine learning and AI systems is they improve as the dataset grows. So, long term, your Performance Max campaigns should outperform regular ones.

Understand your ideal customer profile

Performance Max uses your “Audience Signals” data to find lookalike audiences and new customers. The more information you feed Performance Max through Audience Signals increases the likelihood Google’s algorithm will place your ads in front of the right people with greater efficiency and at the lowest cost.Use your first-party data to build accurate ideal customer personas (ICP). We recommend improving these profiles by researching your customers through Web/product analytics, social media, support tickets, community engagement, and other touchpoints to enrich these ICPs further. Adding this data to your Audience Signals will increase Performance Max campaigns accuracy and profitability.

Use audiences to optimise campaigns

Following the ICP theme, audience segments are crucial for effective Performance Max campaigns. YouTuber and Performance Max expert Aaron Young recommends including three key audience types with your campaigns:

  1. Remarking/previous visitors

  2. Google AdWords optimised audiences

  3. Similar audiences

These three audiences provide Google’s algorithms with baseline data to find new customers interested in your products and services. Performance Max doesn’t have to run as many experiments, reducing your overall ad spend.Aaron also emphasises the importance of promoting products and services with the highest sales or conversions. Once people visit your landing page, Performance Max automatically re-targets these leads across the display network, resulting in better ROAS.

Use Google Ads experts

Our final recommendation is to use a Google Ads expert to help set up and optimise your campaigns correctly. Performance Max doesn’t work for every business and requires careful planning for those it does.Our Paid Search Experts work with companies worldwide, integrating Search campaigns with social media ads and other marketing initiatives for better results. Contact Metric Labs today for a free assessment to discuss your ad and marketing needs.


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