Full Guide to Google Ads’ Performance Max Campaigns & Their Impact on Digital Marketing Industry

For the past few years, one of Google's main goals was to bring full automation to its advertising platform.

Performance Max campaign type in Google Ads is aiming to do just that. By using machine learning, PMax (an endearing nickname) creates and optimizes automated digital ads that meet your company's unique goals and discover your customer wherever they are across Google's inventory.

Let's take a look at Google Ads Performance Max campaigns, how they work, and how they will impact the digital marketing world.

What Is Performance Max (PMax)?

Performance Max is a Google Ads campaign type that utilizes machine learning to maximize performance across all of Google's networks – YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Maps, and Gmail. Performance Max campaigns symbolize the evolution of Smart Shopping and Local Ads campaigns.

These campaigns are meant to be fully driven by your company's goals, and the automation utilizes all of the available data to create and serve ads that make the most sense for those goals.

Additionally, instead of relying on keywords, Performance Max campaigns automate ad creation based upon the creative assets you've provided. These include text assets (headlines and descriptions in a variety of character lengths), display banners, and video ads.

Is Google’s Performance Max Worth It?

If your marketing strategy involves reaching a wide audience and promoting your products or services through multiple channels, Performance Max is the perfect choice.

By leveraging Google's machine learning algorithms and real-time optimization capabilities, you can achieve higher conversion rates and maximize the impact of your campaign budgets.

One of the concerns often raised in digital advertising is PPC budget control. Performance Max allows advertisers to set budget caps, ensuring that they remain in control of their spending. Additionally, the campaign provides detailed performance insights, allowing businesses to monitor their ad campaigns in real time, make data-driven adjustments, and assess ROI effectively. And while PMax’s machine learning algorithms can optimize your ads, you still need to monitor and adjust your campaign regularly.

However, Performance Max campaigns may not be suitable for every advertiser or marketing goal.

If you have specific targeting requirements, such as focusing on a narrow audience or niche market, Performance Max may not offer the level of control you need. Also, if you have complex campaign structures or specialized campaign goals, you may find that other campaign types better suit your needs.

You may be concerned about giving up control over the creative process or uncertain about the campaign’s learning curve. Make sure to weigh the benefits against any potential drawbacks to determine if Performance Max aligns with your marketing objectives and strategy.

Our PPC Team Lead, Viara Vasileva, shares more about why you need to give PMax a try:

Benefits of Performance Max Campaigns

One of the key advantages of Performance Max is the ability to reach a larger audience across multiple channels. With Performance Max, advertisers can seamlessly advertise on Google Search, Display, YouTube, and Discover. This opens up new avenues for connecting with potential customers and driving conversions.

You will be reaching not just one, but multiple platforms with your ads.

Another benefit of Performance Max is its automated optimization capabilities. With minimal manual input required, you can leave the intricacies of ad creation and optimization to the capable hands of machine learning. Think about the hours you can save on campaign management by letting Google's algorithms do the heavy lifting for you.

You can tune your campaigns to align with your unique business goals. Performance Max adjusts its strategies to meet your business goals, no matter if you’re aiming for lead gen, e-commerce sales, or brand awareness. This tailored approach maximizes the efficiency of your advertising budget.

The beauty of machine learning is its ability to adapt and learn from data in real-time. Performance Max continually refines its ad delivery to target the most promising audiences and keywords.

You can tailor your ads to each individual user, based on their interests, demographics, and browsing behavior with Performance Max.

For businesses with a global presence or aspirations, Performance Max campaigns can help you expand internationally. Google's far-reaching network extends to audiences around the world. And you can reach potential customers in different regions and markets.

Overall, Performance Max offers advertisers several unique benefits, including:

  • Leveraging machine learning and attribution technology to improve performance and find customers at the right time with the right message
  • Steering automation and creating goal-focused campaigns that reach customers across Google's networks
  • Testing different combinations of assets and audiences to help advertisers improve their CTR and conversion metrics

Performance Max vs. Search Campaign

The goal of Google is to make PMax the go-to campaign for advertisers who wish to expand beyond Search. As you already know, PMax campaigns use machine learning to automate a huge part of the advertising process and reach a broad audience across Google properties.

On the other hand, search campaigns rely on manual keyword targeting, featuring text-based ads that appear in the search results. They are ideal for reaching high-intent users actively searching for specific products or services.

Some businesses use a combination of Performance Max and search campaigns for a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Discover more about the new ways to advertise on Google with Responsive Search Ads and Performance Max from Frederick Vallaeys in our Paris Talks Marketing podcast episode.

Performance Max vs. Smart Campaign

Smart Campaigns are simpler and goal-oriented, great for local businesses, small business-owners, newcomers to digital advertising or businesses with straightforward objectives. They prioritize ease of use but offer less customization.

Choose Performance Max for broad reach and automation. And Smart Campaigns - for local-focused goals.

Performance Max vs. Discovery Ads

Discovery Ads focus on visually rich and engaging advertising experiences in users' Discovery feeds, designed for audience discovery and brand recognition.

If you want to introduce products or services to new audiences, prioritizing engagement and brand expansion, Discovery Ads are a great choice. But if you are after multichannel automation and have diverse objectives, Performance Max is the right campaign type for you.

Performance Max empowers advertisers to achieve optimal results while saving time and resources. So why settle for traditional campaigns when you can use Performance Max?

How Do Performance Max Campaigns Work?

Performance Max starts by collecting a vast amount of data from various sources within Google's ecosystem. This includes user interactions with Google Search, YouTube, Display Network, and other properties.

The system analyzes this data to gain insights into user behavior, preferences, and intent. It considers factors such as search queries, website visits, and past engagement with ads to understand the user's journey.

Based on the data analysis, Performance Max divides the audience into segments. These segments are defined by factors like demographics, interests, and online behaviors.

Segmentation allows Performance Max to target specific audience groups with tailored ad experiences, ensuring that ads are relevant to individual users. Performance Max assembles ad creatives using the data-driven insights it has gathered. It automatically generates ad components, such as headlines, descriptions, images, and call-to-action elements to match the user's intent and preferences. Google's algorithms dynamically combine these assets to create engaging ads.

The system continually optimizes these ad creatives based on real-time data, ensuring that they resonate with the audience and drive conversions.

Performance Max employs real-time bidding to determine the optimal bid for each ad placement. This bid is based on factors like the likelihood of conversion, user behavior, and the competition for that particular ad space.

Ads are then placed across Google's extensive network, including Google Search, YouTube, Display Network, and more. This ensures maximum exposure to potential customers.

One of the most remarkable features of Performance Max is its ability to learn and adapt continuously. As it gathers more data and user feedback, it refines its targeting and ad delivery strategies.

The system adapts to changing market conditions, seasonality, and shifts in user behavior, optimizing campaigns for ongoing success.

How Performance Max Campaigns Fuel ROAS

Traditionally, PPC agencies have focused on optimization within the platform itself – selecting the right keywords and grouping them the right way, managing a good account structure, coming up with ad creatives, and doing landing pages and audience segmentation along the way.

With Google Ads' Performance Max campaigns, digital marketers will no longer need to select and manage lists of keywords. Rather, they're going to be focused on the creative assets themselves. They're still going to be testing headlines, descriptions, images, and video, but not in silos (as it currently exists), but for Performance Max as a whole.

What's important to keep in mind is that Performance Max campaigns are designed to complement standard Search campaigns, serving as a complete solution to help advertisers drive conversions and ROAS while increasing brand awareness by unifying ad inventory.

While PMax was still in beta, according to a Google case study, retailers have already experienced the rewards that this new campaign type has to offer. In fact, compared to Search campaigns, advertisers saw an 18% increase in leads at a 70% lower CPA with Performance Max.

How Does Targeting Work in Performance Max Campaigns?

When setting up a Performance Max ad campaign, advertisers are prompted to select a goal. Currently, the objectives that fit with this new model are “Sales”, “Leads”, or “Local store visits and promotions''.

Source: support.google.com

Based upon your goals, the creative assets will then activate Google’s Smart Bidding process across multiple channels.

In general, only a few of the familiar Google Ads campaign options remain for Performance Max, too. You can, for instance, decide on a budget and a bidding strategy, meaning that you can still enable Google to optimize for a certain Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) or a Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

Performance Max Audience Signals

Unlike other campaigns, however, PMax does not have ad groups with different keyword clusters. Instead, each campaign has one or more asset groups based on different sets of targeting and creatives, and your ads will automatically be shown to users who are most likely to convert for your specific goals. That said, you can still provide audience insights (i.e. audience signals) to speed up optimization and help Google identify similar users that are likely to have the same interests and behaviors.

Performance Max Audience Signals are at the heart of the campaign's success. By leveraging a wealth of data and utilizing machine learning, these signals enable precise targeting, ensuring that your ads are presented to the individuals most likely to become valuable customers.

Performance Max Reporting

Remember to also analyze your audience data to determine if you are effectively reaching your target market. In addition to demographic data, Performance Max reporting also provides information on the devices and platforms that your ads are being displayed on. This allows you to optimize your campaign for specific devices or platforms that are driving the most conversions. Also, the inclusion of the Performance Planner empowers you to project outcomes for your PMax campaigns when adjusting budgets or altering targets.

Performance Max Account Structure

It’s true that Performance Max campaigns offer automation and optimization. But understanding the account structure is essential for effective campaign management.

Performance Max operates within a single campaign structure, where you define your targeting and budget. Within this campaign, you can have multiple ad groups, each with its unique targeting settings and creative assets.

Depending on your advertising goals, you may choose to set up one Performance Max campaign or multiple campaigns. The decision should align with your business objectives and budget allocation.

Establish clear and consistent naming conventions for your campaigns to facilitate easy identification and management. Within each Performance Max campaign, create ad group clusters that represent specific themes, products, or services. This segmentation allows for more granular control and optimization.

Assign relevant keywords and audience targeting to each ad group. Ensure that keywords are tightly related to the ad group's theme to enhance ad relevance and quality score.

Performance Max campaigns excel in dynamic ad creation. Make use of dynamic ad assets to showcase your products or services based on user intent and behavior. Provide high-quality images, engaging headlines, and compelling descriptions to maximize ad effectiveness.

Experiment with different ad asset variations within each ad group. Performance Max can automatically test and optimize these assets for the best results.

Consider your bidding strategy carefully. Performance Max offers options like target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) or target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) to align with your specific conversion goals.

Performance Max Negative Keywords

Implement negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing for irrelevant search queries. This helps conserve budget and ensures your ads are only displayed to highly relevant audiences.

Use audience exclusions strategically to refine your targeting. Exclude audiences that are unlikely to convert or are not aligned with your campaign objectives.

Performance Max Specs & Asset Requirements

If you want to ensure you have optimized your ads for maximum impact, you need to be aware of the technical specifications and asset requirements.

Ad Formats

Performance Max primarily relies on responsive display ads, which are highly flexible and automatically adapt to various ad sizes and formats across the Google Display Network. These ads consist of multiple components:

  • Headlines: From 5 up to 15 headlines (up to 30 characters each) to test different messaging.
  • Descriptions: Up to 5 descriptions (up to 90 characters each) to highlight key features or benefits.
  • Images: Provide up to 15 images in different aspect ratios and dimensions. High-quality images are crucial for attracting users' attention.
  • Logos: Include your company logo (square or landscape) to reinforce brand identity.
  • Business Name: Your business or brand name (up to 25 characters).

Performance Max Asset Requirements

Image Assets:

  • Use high-resolution images that are clear and relevant to your product or service.
  • Ensure that images don't contain excessive text or overlays, as Google may limit their visibility.
  • Google recommends landscape (1.91:1), square (1:1), and vertical (4:5) image ratios for best compatibility across different placements.

Video Assets (if applicable):

  • Videos should be in MP4 or MOV format.
  • Recommended aspect ratios include 16:9, 1:1, and 9:16.
  • Videos should be engaging and relevant to your ad's message.
  • Video duration is typically between 6 and 30 seconds (Performance Max supports YouTube Shorts too).

Headlines and Descriptions:

  • Craft compelling headlines and descriptions that are concise.
  • Avoid excessive capitalization or special characters.

Ad Content:

  • Ensure that your ad content is directly relevant to the landing page you're linking to.
  • Clearly state your value proposition or what users can expect after clicking on your ad.
  • Adhere to Google's policies regarding prohibited content, which may include gambling, adult content, and misleading claims.

Ad Variations:

  • Create multiple variations of headlines, descriptions, and images to allow Performance Max to optimize for the best-performing combinations.
  • Make sure to utilize all the available number of headlines and descriptions to reach a higher optimization score.

Landing Page Quality:

  • Your landing pages should offer a seamless and relevant user experience. Focus on keyword expansion and good copy, and make sure your landing page matches the user intent.
  • Ensure fast loading times, mobile optimization, and clear calls to action.

Ad Approval:

  • After creating your ads, they must go through Google's ad approval process to ensure they comply with policies and guidelines.

Regular Updates and Optimization:

  • Continuously monitor your ad performance and make necessary updates. Performance Max leverages machine learning to optimize over time, so it's essential to feed it with fresh and relevant assets.

Remember that the flexibility and adaptability of responsive display ads allow you to experiment with different elements to find the winning combinations that drive the best results for your specific campaign objectives.

How to Optimize Your Performance Max Campaign

To make the most of Performance Max campaigns, you need to adopt a continuous optimization strategy. This includes regularly reviewing performance metrics, adjusting bidding strategies, refining audience targeting, and testing different ad variations. Here are some key steps to optimize your Performance Max campaign effectively:

  1. Regularly review campaign performance data, focusing on metrics like click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, and return on ad spend (ROAS). Identify which segments, audiences, or placements are performing well and which may need adjustments.
  2. Leverage audience signals to refine your targeting. Adjust audience demographics, interests, and behaviors to ensure your ads are reaching the most relevant users.
  3. Continue to test different ad assets, including headlines, descriptions, images, and videos. Performance Max's machine learning thrives on variety, so experimenting with various creative elements can lead to improved results.
  4. Analyze budget distribution across segments and channels. Shift budget towards high-performing areas and reallocate funds away from underperforming ones to optimize overall campaign efficiency.
  5. Monitor when your ads perform best and adjust ad scheduling accordingly. Ensure your ads are displayed during peak user activity periods.
  6. Implement and refine conversion tracking to measure the impact of your campaign accurately. Track which actions or events lead to conversions, and optimize for those outcomes.
  7. Continuously review and update negative keyword lists and audience exclusions. This helps prevent your ads from appearing in irrelevant searches or to audiences less likely to convert.
  8. Analyze where your ads are being displayed and assess the performance of different placements. Adjust bids or exclude placements that are not delivering desirable results.
  9. Fine-tune your bidding strategy based on campaign goals. Consider experimenting with different strategies like target CPA or target ROAS to align with your objectives.
  10. Ensure your landing pages and ad content align closely with user intent. Improving your Quality Score can lead to higher ad rankings and lower costs per click.
  11. Make use of ad assets (extensions), such as callouts, site link extensions, and structured snippets, to provide additional information and enhance the visibility of your ads.
  12. Keep an eye on your competitors and adjust your strategy accordingly. Analyze their ad copy, offers, and positioning to identify opportunities for differentiation.
  13. Continue to test new ad variations to uncover what resonates best with your audience. Small tweaks to ad copy or visuals can lead to significant improvements.

Mastering the Three Pillars of Digital Marketing Solutions

Performance Max is not going to replace your PPC team, however, it can definitely help your marketing department make an even bigger impact.

As this new ad campaign type begins to take over, the future digital marketing agency will likely have three main pillars of solutions – performance, data science, and creative.


Whether you’re leveraging PMax or another Google Ads campaign, having great knowledge on how to optimize the platform itself will remain a critical factor for success.

Data Science

Data science excels at extracting valuable information from data and helping digital marketers to discern the most meaningful insights.

Leveraging first-party data, as well as bringing first-party data algorithms as conversion imports, is a great way to get a deeper understanding of customer intent, behavior, and experience. This, in turn, allows marketers to enable value-based bidding and efficiently optimize their strategies to derive maximum revenue.

Performance Creative

Performance creative is what’s ultimately feeding these Performance Max campaigns. Based on this, the platform can further provide feedback on what is underperforming or overperforming and whether it’s time to refresh the ad creative.

Effectively, getting direct feedback from the platform is going to make the work of the performance creative team much more efficient.

Performance Max Best Practices

Here are our PPC team’s best practices to run Performance Max campaigns:

  • Run PMax campaigns for at least 6 weeks
  • Provide unique content and refresh it often
  • Test different audience signals, though each signal is not limited to the chosen audience. The audience signals should be a strong mix of remarketing, in-market, and custom segments.
  • In order to ensure the success of the campaign, the asset group's "ad strength" indicator should be Excellent. This is ensured by the variety of assets and the richness of the text.
  • Performance Max should be active alongside search campaigns; it's a complementary campaign in the MOF journey.
  • Avoid using branded keywords in PMax.

Putting Machine Learning to Work for Your Digital Campaigns

Google’s Performance Max and machine learning algorithms are set to fully automate all of an advertiser’s manual work with ad copy, targeting, and bidding, marking a big leap for any business looking to make the most of its digital strategy.

Combined with audience signals and high-quality creative assets, Performance Max campaigns can help you better optimize for high-value leads across the majority of Google’s channels. What’s even more, done well, PMax can reach high-intent consumer segments that you might not have been aware of before.

See more thoughts on how AI is shaping the future of marketing personalization in our blog.

Viara Vasileva

Head of Paid Media

I help companies to spend their Google Ads budget in a way that brings results. To achieve this I mix analytical thinking with a pinch of creativity.