The best practices for Google Performance Max

Published Sep 21 2022 Last updated May 23 2023 5 minute read
Google Performance Max
  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

The new Google Performance Max is the latest campaign type to roll out from the online advertising and search giant. This new offering aims to connect marketers’ efforts throughout the Google advertising universe, maximizing overall performance and spend efficiency. 

But how do you get started, and what’s the best way to set up Performance Max campaigns?


What is Google Performance Max?

At its core, the new Google Performance Max is an approach to advertising campaigns that employs automation and machine learning to achieve the best possible performance. As with most recent product updates from Google, Performance Max likes to take in as much of your marketing data as possible, work its magic, and optimize your placements and spending based on your overall budget and goals. 

How do Performance Max campaigns work, though?

Until now, most Google campaigns have run individually on each Google product. For instance, regular keyword based search campaigns in Google Ads delivered ads on the Google SERP, while dynamic display ads were served across the Google Display Network, and Google Shopping campaigns served Shopping ads in Google Search. These campaigns were essentially running in those silos independent of each other. 

Now, Google Performance Max aims to combine all of these siloed campaigns under one roof. That means you can now set up a single campaign to run across the entire Google network. Yes, all of Google. We’re talking about Google’s SERP, the shopping SERP, YouTube, their Display Network, Google Maps, and Gmail ads. 


Google performance max

Different types of Google Ads Inventory  

Finally, marketers can create a cohesive campaign that spans all of Google’s touchpoints. 

As Alex mentions in his latest video (see above), it’s “like a huge, super powerful responsive search ad (check out our video all about RSAs here) combined with a discovery ad that you feed creatives, ad copy, and information.” The more information you feed it, the closer it can get to a marketer’s dream: delivering the right ad to the right person at the right time and in the right format. 

Who can use Performance Max campaigns?

Many marketers believe a Google Performance Max campaign best suit e-commerce businesses. And they do have a point. After all, those businesses that sell online can now integrate shopping data into their broader campaign data mix. 

However, businesses of all types can benefit from Performance Max campaigns. Take discovery campaigns, for instance. Those campaigns served ads across all Google networks except for shopping and search. Now, those two outliers are included in the ad delivery network under Performance Max. That means you can still take advantage of your campaign running across search, even if you don’t employ a shopping campaign. 

To be sure, e-commerce businesses will still receive the greatest benefits from Performance Max campaigns. Still, marketers of all business types and categories shouldn’t let that stop them from trying Performance Max out. 

Should I test Performance Max campaigns? And if so, how?

As with any new technology, it’s almost always worth trying it out on a small test run. At the very least, it may inspire you to implement new strategies into your existing campaigns. You may even start to view your campaigns across the Google network differently. 

When you’re ready to give Google Performance Max a spin, it’s important to remember what you're dealing with. 

Google is always working to improve the algorithm at the heart of its machinery. As such, artificial intelligence continuously wants more information to make better decisions while taking the manual work burden off the shoulders of marketers. 

“My advice is to give (the AI) as much information as possible,” says Alex. 

That way, it can make better decisions. While it may feel intimidating to hand over the keys of your campaigns to a machine, you can rest assured that it is designed to give you the best possible result while reducing your workload. 

That’s also a good reason to dip your toe into the water rather than diving head first into Performance Max campaigns. By running these new campaigns alongside your existing ones, you can measure whether the new Performance Max campaigns deliver greater efficiency and performance. If so, you can work to transition your older campaigns over gradually. 

How to set up Performance Max campaigns

Once you’re ready to take Google Performance Max for a test drive, you’ll need to know how to set up your first campaign. Don’t worry – we’re here to help!

Below are the best practices that we learned when we successfully tested Performance Max campaigns ourselves: 


  1. Trust the process
  2. One asset group per campaign
  3. Don’t create too many campaigns
  4. Add your first-party data



Trust the process 

As mentioned, Performance Max campaigns offer less flexibility than the normal Google campaigns. This is par for the course with the latest Google advertising products that increase machine learning capacity. The good news is that you have a powerful AI at your disposal, and the setup is fairly straightforward. 


One asset group per campaign

We recommend that you use only one asset group per campaign. Since there isn’t any visibility at the asset group level, it will be difficult to understand any difference in performance between two or more asset groups. 


Don’t create too many campaigns

Due to the lack of visibility between asset groups, you may be tempted to segment everything into individual campaigns instead. However, you could be doing yourself a disservice. If you segment too much, you constrain the AI since it benefits from the volume of grouping. Segmentation should be lagom (pronounced “law-gum,” this is the Swedish concept for achieving balance in all things in life). 


Add your first-party data

You’ve collected that data and might as well use it responsibly. Since the beginning, Google has been hard at work trying to identify people similar to your existing customers. By feeding your Performance Max campaigns with your first-party data, it can hone in on the ideal prospective customers. Of course, the data you supply will depend on how you’ve broken the campaign down and your goals. 

How to analyze the (ahem) performance of Google Performance Max

Like with all Google Ads campaigns, monitoring and analyzing the campaign performance is essential. After all, you want to optimize it and generate as many conversions as possible. 

To properly analyze and interpret the effectiveness of your Performance Max campaigns, you’ll need to recognize what you can and can’t view. 

The limitations of Performance Max 

For instance, you won’t be able to view asset-level performance. Instead, you’ll need to keep your analysis at the campaign level. 

It is also not possible (yet) to manually add negative keywords in the same way as you would with other campaigns. The best way to get that done is to reach out to Google support to add a account level negative keyword list, and add all your negative keywords to that list. 

Alex recommends that you look at your overall account performance from before and after the implementation of Performance Max. This is because the Performance Max campaign could overlap with your other campaign types and even “steal” conversions from them. 

In our case, we noticed many brand and competitor keywords in our Performance Max campaigns despite our supposedly strong exclusion list. We learned that we must be strict with our exclusions in this new campaign type. 


So, what’s the point?

One of the main takeaways from our foray into Google Performance Max was that they can be incredibly broad. So much so that they can drive spam traffic at first — until you learn how to control them for your needs. They can be powerful, though, by taking advantage of the entire Google network. 

While setting up a Performance Max campaign may not be suitable for every use case, it’s still worth giving them a test run. Just be thorough in your testing and always analyze performance metrics critically. 

Be sure to check out the video above to watch Alex walk you through everything you need to know about Google Performance Max campaigns. 

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