Google Performance Max Campaigns for Beginners

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Performance Max is a highly automated type of Google Ads campaign that reaches your audience across multiple channels at once.

What is a Google Performance Max Campaign?

Performance Max is a highly-automated type of Google Ads campaign that uses Smart Bidding across multiple ad types to achieve your campaign objective. The primary differentiator between Performance Max and other Google campaign types is the degree of automation - this campaign type automates everything from audience targeting to ad creative in real-time. Moreover, unlike other campaign types, Performance Max uses machine learning to optimize delivery across all Google properties to ensure that users are being served the appropriate ad type & creative based on where they are in their purchase cycle. 

According to Google, Performance Max campaigns are designed to complement keyword-based search campaigns to find converting customers across all of Google’s channels - YouTube, Display, Paid Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps. Note that Shopping targeting is not currently available through Performance Max.

As a fully automated campaign type, Performance Max campaigns can be a huge time saver for advertisers and digital marketing agencies, greatly reducing campaign setup, management and optimization time.

In This Article: 

How Performance Max Campaigns Work

When setting up a Google Performance Max Campaign, you will define a marketing objective and campaign goal, in addition to setting budget, geo-targets, and ad schedule. Additionally, you will upload a variety of creative assets that the campaign can serve across multiple different types of placements. Custom audiences can also be applied as “signals” to give Google a sense of the type of user we’re trying to target. 

From there, dynamic ads will automatically serve across all google properties, optimizing in real-time based on user and placement. 

Performance Max Overview Picture-min


Ad Placements - Where Will Performance Max Ads Show Up?

Google will automate ad creation based on the assets provided by the advertiser in a manner similar to Responsive Search or Responsive Display Ads. These automated ads will conform to eligible formats across Google properties including Paid Search, Display, Discover, Gmail, and YouTube.

Ad Placements Image

What Options and Controls are Available in a Performance Max Campaign?

Objective & Goal

During setup, you will choose a campaign objective and define relevant conversion events. The following objectives are currently available for the Performance Max campaign type: Sales, Leads, or Local Store Visits and Promotions. Keep in mind that the objective and conversion goals selected at this stage will influence how your campaign serves and optimizes.

Asset Group

As an alternative to Ad Groups, Performance Max Campaigns use “Asset Groups” to subdivide campaigns. Within an Asset Group, creative assets and ad copy are provided to serve responsively based on placement & user behavior. Asset Groups differ from Ad Groups in that they only function to define creative themes. Performance Max campaigns do not have Ad Groups, and they do not allow us to define audience targeting at the Asset Group level. This means all Google users are eligible to see creative from any of our Asset Groups; however we can customize creative assets and copy from one Asset Group to the next.

Similar to other responsive ad types, it is possible to connect the following feeds to further enhance ad creative: 

  • Google My Business - This feed allows Performance Max ads to populate store locations.
  • Google Merchant Center - This feeds allows ads to dynamically populate products that users have previously interacted with on your website.
  • Business Data Feeds - This feed allows us to populate ad and extension text dynamically based on user behavior.


Custom audiences cannot be targeted directly in Performance Max Campaigns. Advertisers can apply first-party customer lists, remarketing lists, and custom audience lists at the Asset Group level - however these audiences act exclusively as “signals” to help inform the Smart Bidding algorithm as it learns. Google notes: “Your ads will automatically be shown to people who are most likely to convert for your goals. You can speed up optimization by providing audience signals.” Accordingly, Google may not even end up targeting “signal” audiences if it anticipates poor performance through them. 

Audience Targeting Image


Performance Max bidding strategies are limited to Maximize Conversions and Maximize Conversion Value, but advertisers can set Target CPA or Target ROAS thresholds as efficiency guardrails. Since Performance Max campaigns are so heavily automated, bid policy is one of the most direct ways that digital marketers can take more manual control to influence performance. 

Final URL

Performance Max has two options for Final URL setup. By default, Google will send traffic to site pages it predicts will drive the strongest performance and highest conversion volume based on an index of the entire site. That being said, there is an option to exclude web page links not relevant to the campaign objective.

The alternative is to manually select URLs that you would like to direct traffic to. Advertisers can even set up custom page feeds to define pages they would like to target under a setup comparable to DSA page feed setup.

URL Setting Image

Theoretically, even with Final URL Expansion enabled, the Smart Bidding should optimize away from irrelevant pages like FAQ and Careers pages. However, given that this is one of few elements of Performance Max setup advertisers can control manually, it is considered best practice to identify high-value and conversion-prone pages like product or lead pages to use as Final URLs in Performance Max Campaigns. 

What Reporting is Available for Performance Max? 

Highly automated campaign types generally offer less transparent reporting around performance results - and Performance Max is no exception. Advertisers can report on holistic campaign level performance - but there are significant limitations in reporting at more granular levels.

  • Available Reporting: 
  • Overall Campaign Performance
  • Location Performance
  • Ad Schedule Performance

Unfortunately, the above reports are all that are available to advertisers running Performance Max. This means that we cannot assess performance by Audiences, Demographics, Creative Assets, Keywords, Placements, or Devices.

Naturally, this also means that advertisers cannot apply adjustments or exclusions to any subsegments of our audience. Exclusions are available for locations and ad schedules - but we cannot apply bid adjustments by location or time.

Ad schedule ImageLocation Settings Image

How to Measure Performance

Performance Max campaign results should be benchmarked against holistic performance for all campaigns optimizing toward the same performance goal. Advertisers should be looking at combined efficiency across all such campaigns when setting expectations for Performance Max results.

Google recommends that advertisers give Performance Max Campaigns two weeks to learn and optimize before initiating a true “test” phase. It is also considered best practice to allow adequate time for conversion lag before assessing results - of course, this will vary based on the length of the account’s conversion window. 

Analysis Time Lag

Performance Max Campaign Checklist

Here is a checklist of things you’ll need to get started before building out and testing your first Performance Max campaign:

✓ Budgeting & Planning

Recommended campaign timeframe: 4 weeks minimum. Plan your budget and schedule your campaign so that you have at least 4 consecutive weeks to run the campaign. It is important to give the campaign enough time to complete the learning phase and begin to optimize performance.

Creative Assets

  • Text
  • Images
  • Video (Recommended, but optional)

Conversion Tracking Settings

(Recommended) Enable Enhanced Conversions for more accurate conversion measurement. The Enhanced Conversions option is a new Google Ads feature geared towards improving the accuracy of your conversion measurement. It is meant to supplement existing conversion tags by sending hashed first-party conversion data from your website to Google. User-provided data (such as email) is collected during a conversion action via your existing tag then matched back to a Google user profile. 

A beta is currently in place to amend existing tags set up via global site tag or google tag manager with only a few clicks by following the instructions within the Google Ads interface. However, code adjustments are necessary if Google is not able to easily detect the user data on your existing confirmation page. 

Enhanced Conversions Set Up

Due to the fully-automated nature of Performance Max campaigns, it is of course in your interest to establish the best possible conversion tracking before activating this type of campaign.

How to Set Up a Performance Max Campaign (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Until recently, Performance Max has only been available through an exclusive Google Beta; however, Google is now in the process of expanding access to all advertisers. If you are currently unable to run Performance Max in your account, we recommend contacting your Google account representative for more information on when it will be available to you. For advertisers who already have access to Performance Max, setup is as follows:

  1. Start by creating your new campaign and choose your campaign objective. Currently, Performance Max campaigns are available for the following marketing objectives: Sales, Leads, or Local Store Visits and Promotions.Campaign Setup 1
  2. Select the campaign type as Performance Max.Camapign Setup 2
  3. Next, similar to all other campaign set-ups, select the relevant settings for Locations, Language, and Ad Scheduling.
  4. Be sure to set the Advanced URL Options based on the amount of control you want over landing pages. By default, Google will define its own final Final URLs in Performance Max unless you specify that you would only like to send traffic to specific pages. That being said, you can exclude irrelevant pages even if you select Google’s default option.
    URL Setting Image
  5. Next, set up the Asset Group by uploading relevant assets and ad copy as required. As a reminder, you can set up multiple Asset Groups if you are running several distinct sets of creative or messaging. When setting up Asset Groups, be aware that standard policy rules apply: you cannot include animated images, and text overlays cannot cover more than 20% of an image.

    Ads will run across all available inventory and aim for scale. Accordingly, the best practice here is to use brand-safe language and imagery that could appeal to users at any stage of the purchase journey.
    Ad Setup Image
  6. Your campaign is then set up! To better inform the automated targeting, advertisers are able to input preferred “signal” Audiences at this stage of setup. As a reminder, though, we are unable to target any audience exclusively - Performance Max ads are eligible to serve to all users across Google properties, regardless of initial audience signals.Audience Targeting Image
  7. Lastly, you will want to add any relevant ad extensions. You can opt to use account-level extensions or create new extensions for the Performance Max campaign. The campaign will suggest extension formats based on your goals. For instance, if your campaign goal is Lead Generation, the campaign will suggest creating a Lead Form Extension. You can also add Structured Snippet Extensions, Price Extensions, Promotion Extensions, Callout Extensions, and Call Extensions.

Results from Performance Max Case Studies

Google has published several case studies during the Performance Max Beta period. Included below are some details on performance results from both a Google case study (MoneyMe), as well as an Effective Spend Performance Max case study.

Google Case Study - MoneyMe

This personal loan and digital credit card company cited a 22% increase in conversions and more than $800k in revenue from newly funded loans at a 20% lower CPA after launching Performance Max.

Effective Spend Case Study

Effective Spend put Google’s findings to the test by launching Performance Max in one of our own accounts during the Beta period. We found that Performance Max drove a lower CPA than all other Non-Branded Campaigns, in addition to outperforming the blended account average CPA. During this period, Performance Max drove a $185 CPA, while all other campaigns optimizing towards the same goal drove a blended $222 CPA. We also found little evidence of cannibalization of existing Display & Search Campaigns, with volume trends through these campaigns remaining well-aligned with historical averages. 

Effective Spend's Case Study Data


Final Thoughts

Google Performance Max campaigns are the ultimate in ad automation, helping you easily reach your audience across multiple different Google channels. Advertisers can save a ton of time on campaign setup, asset creation, campaign management and performance optimization with this campaign type. But, of course, with those advantages comes a major caveat: the easier Google makes things for advertisers, the more campaign control and reporting they take away from us. Before embarking on a full-on trust fall into Performance Max, make sure to set aside some budget to run a proper test on Performance Max to see if it’s the right campaign type to help you meet your digital marketing goals.

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