Everything you need to know about Performance Max campaigns in 2024

Performance Max campaigns are here for a while. It took only several months and Google's forced upgrade of Smart Shopping campaigns to begin the Performance Max dominance.
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Marek Turnhofer
January 30, 2024

Performance Max is now a must-have campaign for most businesses. But is this really a jump forward? How does it work? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of Performance Max? In this article we answer all the questions.

Tip: If you're already a pro at using Performance Max and keep up with its latest tricks, you might want to check out our Performance Max checklist. It's all about helping you get the best results from your Pmax campaign.

About Performance Max and how it works

It's not exactly an entirely new type of campaign. What Google did is merge Dynamic Search Ads along with Smart Shopping. You will provide a product feed, audiences, and a bunch of assets like headlines, videos, descriptions, and images for your Performance Max campaign. Google will mix it up and use proper combinations to deliver the desired results.

Performance Max shows ads across multiple channels

The biggest change is that Performance Max shows your ads across all available channels of the Google Ads platform: Search, Shopping, Display, YouTube, Discover, Gmail, and Maps. So, instead of creating one campaign for each channel, you create only a single Performance Max campaign. It will deliver your ads everywhere. Sounds great, right? Less work for initial setup and campaign management too. Yeah, but…

Benefits of using Performance Max

First, let's take a look at what Google said about the benefits of Performance Max before the release. According to Google, the main advantages are:

  1. Increasing conversions and value
  2. Finding new customers
  3. Gaining richer insights
  4. Working together with automation

But the truth is sometimes very different, and while some points seem like a complete fail (richer insights, really?), others could work for various advertisers.

So this is what we really think about Performance Max benefits after using it for almost 2 years now:

  1. Complexity. From one campaign you will cover various placements and strategies, including remarketing.
  2. Higher reach thanks to more Display Network impressions.
  3. Clear content structure. Grouping content, products and audiences by categories, brands and other specifics makes perfect sense.
  4. Almost no work at all. There is not much to optimize, mostly just improving content or dividing it into more detailed subdivisions.

Downsides of Performance Max

Of course, there were no downsides announced, so we had to figure them out ourselves. But since we've been using it for some time now, we've already encountered some disadvantages.

  1. Performance Max covers your brand searches too and takes credit for them. However, it is no longer a huge issue since you have tools to mitigate it.
  2. It also cannibalizes your other campaigns. Your PMax campaign could show up over your other campaigns. But Google is listening to specialists, and this is slowly getting fixed.
  3. No insights. Performance Max is a huge black box. You have no idea how the budget is allocated. Also, it only shows top signals for driving performance.
  4. Zero control over main settings. You just feed it with your content, goal, and budget, and then you've got to believe in miracles.

But it looks like better times are coming. Google is aware of the feedback, and it seems like the first two points are nearly fixed. Read below to see how Google has achieved this.

Read this before you launch your first campaign

Search and Performance Max campaign interaction schema

Search campaign cannibalization is now fixed

Google announced new ways to steer how Performance Max works on Search and Shopping inventory. Great news for all marketers as this used to be the main downside of PMAX by many marketers. This is how Google achieves that your campaign won't cannibalize on other active campaigns.

Improving the interactions between Search and Pmax campaigns 

Performance Max now respects your keyword targeting. Google has changed the rules and right now your Search Ads with keywords of any match type should be prioritized over Performance Max. If the query is not identical to an eligible Search keyword, the campaign or ad with the highest Ad Rank, which considers creative relevance and performance, will be selected.

So running a separate Brand Search campaign with your branded keywords should do the trick for Performance Max not taking credit for those easy conversions.

Account-level negative keywords

It does what it says. You will be able to exclude specific keywords on account level. By excluding certain search terms, advertisers can ensure that their ads only appear in the most relevant and brand-safe contexts. Account-level negative keywords apply to a range of campaign types, including Search, Performance Max, Shopping, Smart, and Local campaigns.

Find out more about Account-level negative keywords.

Campaign-level brand exclusions

Take control of which brands your campaign associates with, even your own, using brand exclusions at the campaign level. These brand exclusions will work for Search and Shopping traffic in Performance Max. You can set up different exclusions for each of your Performance Max campaigns or share lists across multiple campaigns.

Seasonal Sales in Performance Max

Not all PPC specialists experienced this but some did. And I am one of them. For two of my clients we have created a new Asset Groups just for Christmas campaigns. It was supposed to run for two months only and then paused. Results during the Christmas period were amazing and the performance skyrocketed.

The real problem came when the Asset Group was paused. Suddenly the campaign could not deliver the same results it did before christmas. It was far worse. Automation was suddenly very dumb and could not find converting people. So what helped? Creating a fresh new Performance Max with the same settings. It learned quickly and started delivering nice results. So remember this golden rule: 

If you are running some big seasonal sale, edit the content of your current Asset Groups or create a separate Performance Max campaign just for this purpose.

Let's set up your Performance Max campaign

We have prepared a detailed checklist of things you need to set up for launching your Performance campaign along with some tips on how to do it properly.

What inputs do you have with the Performance Max campaign?

This what Google will need you to provide to help their AI find the right customers for your goals:

  • Budget
  • Marketing goals
  • Geo and language targeting
  • Creative assets such as images, logos, headlines and videos
  • If you are running an ecommerce business, you will need to upload your product feed
  • Other feeds are optional (DSA and My Business)
  • Providing your target audiences will help a lot too. You can combine your own (remarketing lists) along with Google Audiences (search queries, interests etc.)
  • Negative and brand keywords to exclude things you do not want to bid on

Download a checklist for running a great Performance Max campaign

Discover the winning formula for launching a successful PMAX campaign with our Performance Max Checklist. This works even as a step-by-step guide to unlock the full potential of this type of campaign. Did you think that it's fully automated and you don't need to do anything? Well, you were wrong. Don't just aim high, reach new heights instead.

Performance Max is now a must-have campaign for most businesses. But is this really a jump forward? How does it work? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of Performance Max? In this article we answer all the questions.

Tip: If you're already a pro at using Performance Max and keep up with its latest tricks, you might want to check out our Performance Max checklist. It's all about helping you get the best results from your Pmax campaign.

About Performance Max and how it works

It's not exactly an entirely new type of campaign. What Google did is merge Dynamic Search Ads along with Smart Shopping. You will provide a product feed, audiences, and a bunch of assets like headlines, videos, descriptions, and images for your Performance Max campaign. Google will mix it up and use proper combinations to deliver the desired results.

Performance Max shows ads across multiple channels

The biggest change is that Performance Max shows your ads across all available channels of the Google Ads platform: Search, Shopping, Display, YouTube, Discover, Gmail, and Maps. So, instead of creating one campaign for each channel, you create only a single Performance Max campaign. It will deliver your ads everywhere. Sounds great, right? Less work for initial setup and campaign management too. Yeah, but…

Benefits of using Performance Max

First, let's take a look at what Google said about the benefits of Performance Max before the release. According to Google, the main advantages are:

  1. Increasing conversions and value
  2. Finding new customers
  3. Gaining richer insights
  4. Working together with automation

But the truth is sometimes very different, and while some points seem like a complete fail (richer insights, really?), others could work for various advertisers.

So this is what we really think about Performance Max benefits after using it for almost 2 years now:

  1. Complexity. From one campaign you will cover various placements and strategies, including remarketing.
  2. Higher reach thanks to more Display Network impressions.
  3. Clear content structure. Grouping content, products and audiences by categories, brands and other specifics makes perfect sense.
  4. Almost no work at all. There is not much to optimize, mostly just improving content or dividing it into more detailed subdivisions.

Downsides of Performance Max

Of course, there were no downsides announced, so we had to figure them out ourselves. But since we've been using it for some time now, we've already encountered some disadvantages.

  1. Performance Max covers your brand searches too and takes credit for them. However, it is no longer a huge issue since you have tools to mitigate it.
  2. It also cannibalizes your other campaigns. Your PMax campaign could show up over your other campaigns. But Google is listening to specialists, and this is slowly getting fixed.
  3. No insights. Performance Max is a huge black box. You have no idea how the budget is allocated. Also, it only shows top signals for driving performance.
  4. Zero control over main settings. You just feed it with your content, goal, and budget, and then you've got to believe in miracles.

But it looks like better times are coming. Google is aware of the feedback, and it seems like the first two points are nearly fixed. Read below to see how Google has achieved this.

Read this before you launch your first campaign

Search and Performance Max campaign interaction schema

Search campaign cannibalization is now fixed

Google announced new ways to steer how Performance Max works on Search and Shopping inventory. Great news for all marketers as this used to be the main downside of PMAX by many marketers. This is how Google achieves that your campaign won't cannibalize on other active campaigns.

Improving the interactions between Search and Pmax campaigns 

Performance Max now respects your keyword targeting. Google has changed the rules and right now your Search Ads with keywords of any match type should be prioritized over Performance Max. If the query is not identical to an eligible Search keyword, the campaign or ad with the highest Ad Rank, which considers creative relevance and performance, will be selected.

So running a separate Brand Search campaign with your branded keywords should do the trick for Performance Max not taking credit for those easy conversions.

Account-level negative keywords

It does what it says. You will be able to exclude specific keywords on account level. By excluding certain search terms, advertisers can ensure that their ads only appear in the most relevant and brand-safe contexts. Account-level negative keywords apply to a range of campaign types, including Search, Performance Max, Shopping, Smart, and Local campaigns.

Find out more about Account-level negative keywords.

Campaign-level brand exclusions

Take control of which brands your campaign associates with, even your own, using brand exclusions at the campaign level. These brand exclusions will work for Search and Shopping traffic in Performance Max. You can set up different exclusions for each of your Performance Max campaigns or share lists across multiple campaigns.

Seasonal Sales in Performance Max

Not all PPC specialists experienced this but some did. And I am one of them. For two of my clients we have created a new Asset Groups just for Christmas campaigns. It was supposed to run for two months only and then paused. Results during the Christmas period were amazing and the performance skyrocketed.

The real problem came when the Asset Group was paused. Suddenly the campaign could not deliver the same results it did before christmas. It was far worse. Automation was suddenly very dumb and could not find converting people. So what helped? Creating a fresh new Performance Max with the same settings. It learned quickly and started delivering nice results. So remember this golden rule: 

If you are running some big seasonal sale, edit the content of your current Asset Groups or create a separate Performance Max campaign just for this purpose.

Let's set up your Performance Max campaign

We have prepared a detailed checklist of things you need to set up for launching your Performance campaign along with some tips on how to do it properly.

What inputs do you have with the Performance Max campaign?

This what Google will need you to provide to help their AI find the right customers for your goals:

  • Budget
  • Marketing goals
  • Geo and language targeting
  • Creative assets such as images, logos, headlines and videos
  • If you are running an ecommerce business, you will need to upload your product feed
  • Other feeds are optional (DSA and My Business)
  • Providing your target audiences will help a lot too. You can combine your own (remarketing lists) along with Google Audiences (search queries, interests etc.)
  • Negative and brand keywords to exclude things you do not want to bid on

Download a checklist for running a great Performance Max campaign

Discover the winning formula for launching a successful PMAX campaign with our Performance Max Checklist. This works even as a step-by-step guide to unlock the full potential of this type of campaign. Did you think that it's fully automated and you don't need to do anything? Well, you were wrong. Don't just aim high, reach new heights instead.

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Marek Turnhofer
PPC specialist & Content Creator
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