5 point guide to Performance Max campaigns

Ellie Burns Written by Ellie Burns

5 min read   -  8th May, 2023

5 point guide to Performance Max campaigns

Performance Max campaigns, or PMax campaigns are a relatively new Google Ad campaign type. They merge automation and AI from Google’s extensive advertising platform. But it’s less complicated than it sounds.

We’ve put together our top 5 points to help you get the best from your own PMax campaigns:

  1. When to use Performance Max?
  2. What's the main goal of Performance Max campaigns?
  3. What are the benefits of Performance Max campaigns?
  4. When to use Performance Max 
  5. How to get the best out of your Performance Max campaigns
  6. The cons of Performance Max campaigns
  7. Optimising your Performance Max campaigns
  8. Why use Performance Max vs. other campaigns types 
  9. New Performance Max features

Firstly, what is Performance Max?

It’s useful to really understand what Performance Max is to get the most out of it. In a nutshell, it combines Smart Bidding and Google’s machine learning capabilities.

It’s the classic Google Ads Smart Bidding, mixed with Smart Shopping, rolled out into an entirely new type of ad in line with GA4 developments.

Most importantly, a PMax campaign will take one goal and run ads across Search, Display, YouTube, Shopping, Discover, Gmail, and even Google Maps to help you reach your target audience and conversion.

What is Performance Max

What’s the main goal of Performance Max?

The main goal of any Performance Max campaign is to utilise AI-driven automated bidding on your ads, across multiple channels, to increase your presence and conversions online.

What are the benefits of Performance Max?

Using AI across multiple channels with just one campaign could speed up the time spent finding the best route to your dream conversion rate.

  • Multiple channels - find new customer groups in new channels
  • Saves time - automated, so you can focus on other things.
  • Potential to increase your reach exponentially compared to other ad types.

When to use Performance Max

We’d recommend using Performance Max ads when you have:

  • Rich historical data - this is because the algorithm and machine learning adapt your campaign bidding based in part on this data. 
  • New and previously unexplored segments - you don’t know until you try, and this is the quickest way to A/B test campaigns on various channels.

How to get the best out of your Performance Max campaigns

With such a significant amount of power being leveraged from machine learning it can be daunting to let your campaign strategy run in the hands of Google’s algorithm.

Top tip: you still hold the power to maximise the potential of your PMax campaigns through strategic decision-making.

Check your Google Merchant Center set up

Ensure you set up your Google Merchant Center feed with precision. PMax campaigns work in the same way as Google Shopping; you submit your feed to the Google Merchant Center and link it to your campaign. The feed from this becomes a data set that creates your PMax ads.

Make the most of your assets

Performance Max takes the hard work out of creating ads for countless different formats and aspect ratios. 

  1. You simply upload a variety of digital assets for each advertising channel, including ad copy, videos, logos, and images. 
  2. Google’s machine learning then takes those assets and creates numerous variations of ads, suitable for a variety of channels. 
  3. It then dynamically tests those ads in a diverse number of combinations to see which provides the best results for your goal. 

Top tip: give it plenty of assets to increase the number of options it can create for you.

1. Choose the campaign’s focus

Take control of the direction of your campaign in confidence by choosing the focus of the campaign.

Performance Max campaign objective

2. Choosing conversion value or maximise conversions

PMax campaigns do not allow for manual bidding, but you have two strong options to consider. This is your choice and will guide the entire campaign, changing its performance style completely. Choose wisely

  • Conversion value - if you have multiple goals with different conversion values, we recommend setting your target ROAS via conversion value.
  • Maximise conversions - if your goals all have the same value, it’s worth setting a target CPA via maximise conversions.

3. Use the Performance Max insights tool

One of the best features of Performance Max is the diagnostics insights tool. You can find the insights section in the left nav in the Google Ads interface.

  • It sends you automatic alerts for potential issues with your campaign. 
  • Issues include account concerns, policy violations, campaign status changes, budget, ad strength, or billing issues. 
  • Each alert will also send you recommended steps to take to resolve these issues. Take note of any campaign issues. 

Performance Max Insights tool*Example from Google Support

The cons of using Performance Max

This is the cutting edge of modern PPC campaign creation. These advantages still present some areas we’d encourage you to be wary of, just to stay on top of your algorithm-driven campaign.

1. Visibility on search terms

Compared to Smart Shopping campaigns, you currently won’t get as much detail on the search themes that are instigating user interaction with your Performance Max campaign. We’re hoping this will improve over time, but it’s something to be mindful of at present.

2. Caring for your existing ad campaigns

Here’s the thing. If you run Performance Max campaigns across multiple channels in new and diverse ways, it is almost a guarantee that the performance of your existing ads will be affected. We’d encourage you to consider new keywords or goals for any Performance Max campaigns, so that the results from your existing campaigns can be easily attributed to the existing campaigns only. Keep it simple.

How to optimise your Performance Max campaigns

1. Control your Feed

Your data feed is the epicentre of the success of any PMax campaign. Being strict with what you allow in and what you exclude from the campaign is the key here. Include as many attributes to each item as possible, and be strict when deciding exactly what you allow in the feed, to begin with. 

2. Consider account structure

If you’re up for the challenge, we’d recommend creating specific campaigns for specific product categories. This will take time and effort, but the end result will be a series of campaigns where you retain a lot more control. You can also create dedicated budgets for these campaigns, and target the most relevant product segments.

3. Strategise your campaign structure

Make the most of your asset groups! You can create up to 100 per campaign, meaning you can run one PMax campaign but then formulate up to 100 segments from your product catalogue, to target different audiences or categories.

Why Use Performance Max vs Other Ad Types?

Performance Max seems to be designed for anyone looking to discover untapped potential in different channels for their campaigns. 

  • Testing: if you’re trying a new keyword, demographic, or campaign strategy - see what results it can bring in.
  • Save time: it can save you hours of work through automatic campaigns rather than expecting you to manually create multiple campaigns to run alongside one another. 
  • Automation: it’s so heavily reliant on machine learning and automation that if you have a data-rich existing account, this could work really well.

Read more about other Google Ad types

New Performance Max features

Announced at Google Marketing Live 2023, Performance Max Features will now also incorporate generative AI into the campaign setup process.

A summary of Performance Max campaigns

This is new, bold, and potentially revolutionary for your ad campaigns. If you’re looking to step towards the future of PPC trust in Google’s ad algorithm to help you find the true potential of your campaigns. Performance Max could hold the key to your most successful campaigns. If you follow our advice, you’ll be off to a strong start.


*Header image sourced by work experience students. Thank you

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