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The Ultimate Guide to Performance Max Campaigns

Since its launch, Performance Max — the one campaign to rule them all — has seen widespread adoption among advertisers from various verticals. This is our in-depth guide to help you learn all about Performance Max, its best practices, and how to optimize these campaigns to get the best results.

What are Performance Max Campaigns?

Performance Max campaigns are a campaign type in Google Ads in which advertisers can create one campaign and get their ads wherever users are interacting with Google’s services, whether that’s on Search, Display, YouTube, Maps, Discover, or Gmail.

It promises to simplify advertising in a world where user behavior has become more fragmented. It’s an especially appealing promise for new advertisers who may have not known where to start with Google Ads.

Where Do Performance Max Campaigns Run?

Performance Max provides the equivalent of running the following current Google Ads campaign types: Search, Display, Shopping, Video, Gmail, and Discovery. It can then place ads across Google’s vast number of pages and properties as shown below.

Source: Google

Source: Google

Performance Max campaigns for beginners

We got a chance to speak to Rodney Ip and Sagar Shah from Google about all things Performance Max campaigns: how it works and answers to some frequently asked questions on PPC Town Hall. Below is the full conversation:

The complete guide to Performance Max campaigns for beginners

Performance Max campaigns best practices

Here are some of the top tips and best practices shared by PPC experts:

  • Set clear goals and objectives: What do you want to achieve with your Performance Max campaign? Are you looking to drive online sales, lead generation, or something else? Once you know your goals, you can tailor your campaign settings and assets accordingly.
  • Provide as many assets as possible: The more assets you provide, the more options Google has to create effective ads. This includes headlines, descriptions, images, videos, and other creative elements.
  • Use audience signals: Audience signals can help Google target your ads to people who are more likely to be interested in your products or services. This can be done by uploading your customer match list, using Google Analytics data, or targeting by interest.
  • Optimize your bidding strategy: The bidding strategy you choose will affect how much you pay for each conversion. There are a number of different bidding strategies available, so you’ll need to choose one that’s right for your goals and budget.
  • Monitor your results and make adjustments: Performance Max campaigns are constantly learning and improving. So it’s important to monitor your results regularly, understand what’s working and not working, and make adjustments as needed.

Get the Most Out of Your Performance Max Campaigns

While Performance Max campaigns have great potential, they’re a black box. Managing them requires a strategic approach and a commitment to analysis and optimization.

Below are 2 detailed articles that can help you create PMax campaigns that are optimized for performance and deliver the results you need to grow your business.

Performance Max for Ecommerce & Retail

Learn how to make Performance Max work for ecommerce and retail campaigns from two of the best ecommerce experts, Mike Ryan and Menachem Ani.

How to structure your ecommerce Performance Max campaign?

Your campaign structure should be aligned with your client’s goal.

If your client has a low SKU-volume store with maybe five or ten products, you may create one campaign with one or two asset groups. If they have a larger store with hundreds or thousands of products, you could split it out a bit more into separate themes for more control over what products are taking up the bulk of the ad spend.

Mike Ryan presents the following approach.

Optmyzr Performance Max campaign structure

Source: Smarter Ecommerce

How to diagnose your Ecommerce Performance Max Campaigns?

It’s no secret that Performance Max campaigns present limitations in terms of data and insights we can pull from them. As a result, understanding the causes of their performance fluctuations can be difficult.

Cory Lindholm, Founder of Ads by Cory, created an in-depth 44-point checklist for ecommerce businesses to make accomplishing that task easier for you.

Of course, you don’t need to go through every single one of these 44 points. Just go over the ones that are relevant to your business.

Cory also discussed some of these points on PPC Town Hall with Mike Rhodes. You can watch the full video here:

Performance Max 44-point evaluation checklist for ecommerce businesses


  1. Estimated conversion reporting delay.
  2. Average days to conversion from first ad interaction (account-wide and campaign-specific).
  3. Conversion tracking and recent changes to conversion actions.
  4. What “normal” PMax performance fluctuation looks like for the account (if appl.)
  5. Recent changes to budget, bid strategy type, Asset Groups, and Listing Groups
  6. Google Merchant Center product disapprovals and warnings, account issues, and feed issues.
  7. Changes to the site (e.g. navigation/checkout, plugins, hosting, page designs)
  8. Changes to in-stock products, especially best sellers.
  9. Changes to pricing, customer shipping costs, and promotions listed or previously listed on the site.
  10. Extremely negative reviews on and off the site
  11. Google Search Console for “Failing” URLs
  12. Changes in relevant search and buying behavior via the Insights section of your PMax campaign and your account as a whole, Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, your site’s search feature (if appl.), Best Sellers section of Google Merchant Center (if appl.), and Microsoft Ads (if appl.).
  13. New competitors in the market or competitors who are changing their level of competitiveness within ad auctions you compete in.
  14. Major changes in other marketing and site traffic channels outside of Google and Microsoft Ads (e.g. Facebook Ads, email automation, affiliates, third-party remarketing channels)
  15. Major changes in on-site shopping behavior (e.g. cart abandonment, check-out abandonment, sessions with transactions)
  16. Shifts in Shopping network-specific performance for PMax.
  17. Top Bidding Signals report for optimization changes recently made by automated bidding.
  18. Performance shifts of landing pages PMax ad clicks are being sent to.
  19. Major changes made to non-PMax campaigns that may have impacted the performance of PMax.
  20. Major shifts in the performance of high-volume or high-performing search terms, geographies, devices, days, days of the week, hours, audiences, match types, or campaign types in non-PMax campaigns.
  21. Performance metric outliers for the campaign pre and post-major increases or decreases in performance.
  22. Performance metric outliers for the products advertised in the campaign - at the campaign-level and Asset Group-level.
  23. Performance metric outliers for the Listing Groups in the campaign.
  24. Asset Group assets or Ad Extensions with Eligible (Limited) or Disapproved status.
  25. Seasonality Adjustments not being added for major promotions, or for other major expected spikes or dips in conversion rates.
  26. Improperly added Data Exclusions, or for instances where Data Exclusions should have been added but were not.
  27. Scripts or Automated Rules that made changes to the account that may have had an impact on Performance Max.
  28. Account changes by other users who are not the primary account manager.
  29. Auto-applied recommendation changes made by Google.
  30. Customer match list additions, removals, or edits.
  31. Custom Experiments recently ended in the account.
  32. Value rules or conversion value adjustments were added, edited, or removed.
  33. “Best” rated assets inside top performing Asset Groups had a recent change in rating.
  34. High-performing or high-volume search categories or terms shifted away from a high-performing or high-volume Asset Group.
  35. Edits made to a Business Feed or Custom Variable that affected any non-PMax campaigns.
  36. CRM integration issues.
  37. Negative Keyword List was added to the PMax campaign being evaluated per the request of another user.
  38. Negative keywords were improperly added to a Negative Keyword List that is applied to the PMax campaign being evaluated.
  39. YouTube ads were opted out of by another user.
  40. Mobile app placements not owned and operated by Google had major increases or decreases in impressions.
  41. Mobile app category exclusions were applied at the account or campaign level.
  42. Location or Ad Schedule exclusions were added or removed for the PMax campaign being evaluated.
  43. Improperly setup Performance Max URL Exclusions.
  44. Auto-generated YouTube videos were added by Google to the PMax campaign being evaluated.

Here’s Cory’s full guide to exploring the many areas to consider when evaluating PMax campaigns.

Performance Max campaigns are close to 2 years old now…

From complete enthusiasm to staunch opposition and everything in between, we’ve all now gone through nearly 2 years of Performance Max campaigns.

Many advertisers have tested the campaign type, ran experiments with it, and learned a lot in the process.

So we brought in Menachem Ani and Andrew Lolk, two PPC experts and practitioners in the industry, to PPC Town Hall once again to understand what they’ve learned from running Performance Max campaigns for over a year.

They’ve covered a wide range of topics from structuring asset groups to attribution and negative keywords in Performance Max.

Performance Max: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I pick and choose the channels to run my Performance Max campaigns?

No. According to Google, Performance Max campaigns are goal-oriented campaigns. However, Google says that if you express the goals that matter to your business correctly, its bidding system will prioritize the channels that help reach those goals and ignore the channels that don’t.

Will Performance Max cannibalize traffic from my Search, Display, or other campaigns?

Google says when you’re running a Performance Max campaign alongside a shopping campaign for a product, the ads from the Performance Max campaign will be prioritized or shown to users instead of the ads from the Shopping Campaign. If you run search campaigns with exact match, the exact match takes priority. If you run search campaigns with broad or phrase match, the campaign with the highest ad rank takes priority. If it’s YouTube in-stream ads versus PMax, once again the campaign with the highest ad rank takes priority. 

How does Google prioritize conversions in the lower funnel versus the upper funnel?

According to Google, Performance Max is primarily a performance-driven campaign that relies on conversion goals as the target which are usually in the lower funnel.

So for KPIs that are outside performance like driving awareness or consideration, Performance Max is not really a good choice.

How can I prioritize getting new customers?

To optimize towards getting new customers, you’ll have to ensure that you’re either indicating how you value these customers so that your campaigns can bring you more of those or specifying directly that you’re interested in new customers only.

What budget settings can I optimize? In other words, can I set different monthly budgets by different channels?

No, you cannot allocate specific budgets to channels. But Google’s machine learning systems take care of your budgets dynamically in real-time across all channels. They optimize for your goals and prioritize the channels that best help it achieve those goals.

How do I make sure results from my Performance Max campaigns lead to real results in my business?

Make sure your Performance Max campaign is targeting the right conversion goals that drive results for your business. If that is a store visit or an online sale or lead generation, then make sure you’re targeting those conversion goals with Performance Max.

Plus it’s good to use values with conversion goals so that you can tell Google’s automation how important each goal is to your business and that automation can prioritize driving those high-value conversion goals over less important goals.

For lead generation advertisers, Google advises using the offline conversion upload feature to tell its automation which sort of leads are resulting in sales and generating revenue for their business. And for retailers, it advises uploading your Google Merchant Center feed to Performance Max campaigns.

When to not use Performance Max campaigns?

Google suggests not using Performance Max if your primary goal is to drive awareness or increase reach. It recommends Performance Max for campaigns that have specific conversion goals to achieve.

What is the downside to not using Performance Max campaigns?

Google’s general recommendation is to start testing this campaign type because it says there’s value to be had here in terms of delivering more conversions for your business. It generally says that you might miss out on some really valuable features that improve business value if you don’t get on board with Performance Max campaigns.

Of course, you should never give up control of your Performance Max campaign and let automation take over, which brings us to the concept of automation layering, which in simpler terms means adding a layer of your own automation over that of Google’s to safeguard your campaigns.