PPC: The Ultimate Guide to Performance Max Campaigns | Varn


6 December 2023

PPC: The Ultimate Guide to Performance Max Campaigns

4 key benefits, 4 key challenges and 10 top tips to make your Performance Max campaigns awesome  

We have been running Performance Max campaigns for our PPC clients since 2022 and have scaled many markets including the UK, Europe, Australia and USA. We have made use of the Performance Max offering for ecommerce, lead gen and brand awareness. 

What is Performance Max?

Performance Max was introduced in 2022 and allows users to utilise Google’s various channels via one campaign to maximise sales and return. 

This includes placements on Youtube, Google Search, Gmail, Google Display Network, Google Maps, Discovery and Google Shopping. 

It uses algorithms and real-time performance data to optimise the  campaigns and make informed decisions about where to bid, who to bid on and how much to bid. 

Benefits of Performance Max 

Here are some key benefits of Performance Max campaigns:

1. Automatic Optimisation

Performance Max campaigns leverage machine learning and automation to optimise performance metrics, such as conversions, clicks, and impressions. This allows advertisers to focus on broader campaign goals instead of the smaller details.

2. Asset Testing

We provide the campaign a variety of headlines, descriptions and images and Google dynamically creates variations and ensures that the best combinations are shown to audiences. 

3. Simple Set Up

Setting up a Pmax campaign is relatively simple and user friendly. It can be quick to get a basic campaign live quickly. 

4. Cross-channel

These can leverage the full reach of Google platforms such as Display, YouTube, Shopping, Discovery and Gmail. This can help convert customers as they are seeing these ads at various touchpoints in their online purchasing journey.

Challenges of Performance Max

1. Lack of placement control

Where your ads appear relies on Google’s algorithm to control. Advertisers have very little control over this and can cause challenges for optimisation. 

2. Learning Periods

The algorithm can take some time to learn and produce the best results. As we do not feed Performance Max with keywords, it is reliant on audience data both 1st party or GA4 audience data, to fuel the targeting. 

3. Lack of visibility on placement performance

The biggest downside to this campaign is the lack of insight we have on performance and channel split. Whilst we can use external scripts such as this to help pull that data out of the campaigns, Google itself is not providing a breakdown on which channels (shopping, search etc) is performing the best. 

4. Doesn’t work for all industries

Advertising in niche markets or those needing to stay specific in terms of keyword targeting may not get the best results from performance max due to its audience targeting. You may need to evaluate whether this aligns with your advertising goals. 

Top Tips for Performance Max Campaigns 

1. Asset Group Performance

Whilst we do have limited insight into the granular data in a Performance Max campaign, one slightly hidden feature is looking at the performance of individual asset groups. Changing the view setting from summary to table can give individual asset group performance. 

2. Search Term Insights 

Search term insights are fantastic for understanding what customers are searching for and what keywords within your campaigns link to these terms. For Performance Max campaigns, search term insights can give insight into the types of queries that trigger your ads. Google has been updating the level of data we get through this to give us more insight into campaign performance. 

3. Custom Segments 

Creating a custom segment is another great option to help with audience targeting. Selecting the option for ‘People who searched for any of these terms on Google allow you to include some of the top converting keywords and phrases associated with your brand. 

You can also target ‘People who browse types of websites’ or ‘People who use types of apps’ 

4. Search Themes

A new BETA on Performance Max audience signals is Search Themes. These leverage Google’s search data to find customers who are likely to convert. These themes can influence who sees your ads and reach the right customers faster. 

5. Goals and Objectives

Define really clear objectives and KPIs before launching Performance Max. Evaluate if the Performance Max product aligns with your advertising goals and decide on which metrics are important. (conversions, clicks etc) 

6. Assets

Performance Max needs strong images and ad copy that will be dynamically mixed to create ad variations. Ideally provide as many images and video assets as possible. 

7. Audience Signals 

Since we cannot direct Performance Max with keywords, we can still guide it in the right direction and allow it to understand what your perfect customer looks like. Using audience signals, we can add in 1st party data (Customer Match Lists) and GA4/Website data to target and retarget website users. We are getting more elements to this such as search themes. 

8. Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are important to ensure your ads are showing for the right audience. Excluding irrelevant searches can focus your budget on the right type of placement. 

Whilst we cannot add negative keywords to individual performance max campaigns without reaching out to Google Ads support. We can add account wide negative keywords in the account settings which will cover Performance Max campaigns. 

9. Location Targeting

Another targeting detail hidden in a drop down is what that target is. The default and recommended option is ‘Presence or Interest’, whilst this will show your ads to those interested in the location in which you want to advertise. 

Whilst this is not a bad default, it is important to review which of these options best aligns with your business goals. Do you want to spend your budget showing ads to those out of your targeted location?

10. Shopping Feeds

One of the big elements of a Performance Max campaign is Shopping placements. In order to do this, you need to have a shopping feed connected to your Google Merchant Centre account and approved products. Ensuring these products have the required elements and attributes will really get the most out of the shopping placements.   


In conclusion, Performance Max campaigns are a really useful campaign type to use in your paid marketing. Understanding the intricacies of the set up, optimisation and limitations is key to success. 

Article by: Megan, Paid Media Manager More articles by Megan

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