How Do Google’s Performance Max Campaigns Work?


How Do Google’s Performance Max Campaigns Work?

What sets Performance Max apart from other types of Google Ads campaign is automation, which Google uses to produce ads based on the creative assets you provide. But how does Performance Max optimally combine these assets to maximise campaign performance?

Unlike other types of Google Ads campaign, Performance Max automates target and delivery according to the data you feed into it. It’s also differentiated from other campaign types by its eligibility to run across all of Google’s inventory, able to serve in any placement filled by Search, Display, Gmail, YouTube and Discovery campaigns.

What controls do I have with Performance Max?

When you set up your Performance Max campaign, you choose your objective depending on your goals, and have the option to connect your product feeds and store locations.

Budget and bidding

To begin you set your budget and select your bidding strategy, whose options include maximum value and maximum conversions. You can also set a maximum CPA or target value or conversion, enabling you to leverage Target CPA and Target ROAS strategies.

Location, language and scheduling

Performance Max isn’t currently supported by Google Ads Editor, so setting up its targeting is a little more fiddly than with most campaigns. If you’re looking to include multiple locations, you can hit Enter another location, which expands to include a space, then hit Advanced search, which enables you to bulk-import locations. From there you can select your languages, ad schedule and campaign run dates.

Advanced URL options

Google defines its own final URLs by default unless you toggle that option off. It’s worth noting that if you permit Google to send traffic to whatever links it sees fit, you can exclude links as well. You can also add tracking templates.

Setting up asset groups

Next you’ll be directed to set up an asset group, which is effectively an ad, and so named because it acts like an asset to all platforms. It’s similar to a responsive display asset. You can create as many asset groups as you like.

Automated targeting

Each campaign has only one set of targeting—so no ad groups. You can select audiences to give Google insight into who to target, and it will automatically show your ads to those users most likely to convert for your goals. Then you can accelerate optimisation by providing audience signals. This means your campaigns may not be delivered only to those audiences—rather, Google uses the audiences you provide to generate signals, and uses that data to identify similar customers who are also likely to exhibit the same interests and behaviours.

Ad extensions

Finally you add your extensions. You can opt to use existing account-level sitelink extensions, or instead select and create specific sitelinks for your Performance Max campaigns, which suggest extension formats based on your goals. For example, if your primary goal is lead generation, the campaign suggests you create a lead form extension. You can also add callouts, snippets, call extensions, and price and promo extensions.

What does a Performance Max campaign include?

Performance Max reporting is currently somewhat limited. Advertisers can report broadly on campaign performance as they can with any other campaign, but matters become more opaque when it comes to granular analytical breakdown.

At present there are three general types of performance you can report on:

  • top-level campaign performance
  • performance by hour of day, weekday, or hour and weekday combined
  • location performance—and if you’re advertising a chain, your store report is available based on location extensions

However, there are still several things you can’t report on. For example, while you can add multiple asset groups (ads), it’s not currently possible to report on performance by asset group. For instance, you can report on performance by responsive display ad, but you can’t break that performance down by individual asset in any meaningful way. And in fact, with Performance Max you can’t even take that initial step of breaking down performance by asset group.

Furthermore, at the moment there’s no information given on targeting. Remember, the targeting parameters provided are used as indicators to identify other potential customers in-market—so those audiences provided won’t necessarily be used as targets, but rather as a means of identifying qualifiers and indicators to find other likely prospects. That means ultimately there’s no way of knowing who actually sees your ads—no reporting on keyword, audience or demographic. It’s therefore not possible to add exclusions for these factors. You also can’t report on device performance or make exclusions accordingly.

Is Performance Max worth it?

As a marketer I have to say that some aspects of Performance Max still feel novel even now, like URL expansion and autogenerated video assets. That’s fun! Other elements feel more familiar, like responsive ads and conversion-only bidding.

In my experience Performance Max performs well, driving a lot of volume for our numerous eCommerce clients here at Pixated. On the flipside, if you’re a lead generation company then I don’t recommend Performance Max unless you’ve got sophisticated tracking in place (and have the capability in-house to use it and interpret its output).

Furthermore, Performance Max isn’t worth trying full stop unless you’re prepared to spend at least $50 a day for at least a month, although really you want to be looking more toward $100 a day. Otherwise you’re unlikely to generate enough data and learning for the format to work as it’s designed to.

For inspiration, check out a case study shared by Google outlining how online lender MoneyMe leveraged Performance Max to the max, boosting conversions by 22%, increasing revenue from newly funded loans by $800k, and reducing overall CPA by 20% across the account.

If you’re an eCommerce brand, don’t wait to find out whether Performance Max could be right for your business model—the time is now! Just be prepared to set aside an adequate budget to generate the data Google needs to learn and optimise your campaigns.


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