Google’s Performance Max Campaign Review & Guideline

Google’s Performance Max Campaign Review & Guideline

August 14, 2021
Marketing Two Cents
Data Analysis Skills |

Active User Rate

Daily Budget

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My Experience With Performance Max

Recently, Google introduced the new Performance Max campaign, using its years-long machine learning effort to serve all Google Ads inventory in one campaign.  As a goal-based smart campaign, Performance Max is currently under beta and only open to certain advertisers. If you want to opt-in performance max campaign, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • ✓ Your account-level goal has to be leads or online sales 
  • ✓ You don't have Google Merchant Centre product feed in your account (It might change in the future)
  • ✓ You have a dedicated account manager who can help you to check your eligibility. Or submit a Performance Max application form.

This campaign type is designed to complement the keyword-based Search campaigns to help advertisers find more prospects across all Google's channels. That includes YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and even Maps. While this campaign has been beta for quite a few advertisers, I couldn't find any campaign reviews & guidelines towards performance max. In this article, I want to share my experience using the Performance Max campaign and address some FAQs to help advertisers prepare.

What Makes Performance Max So Special?

Simply put, the Performance Max is a one-size-fits-all campaign type that offers you all the Google Ads inventory and requires the least amount of work. You just need to provide up to 15 images, 5 logos, 5 headlines, 5 long headlines, 5 descriptions, and Google will do the rest. Then, its machine learning systems will automatically serve the responsive ads across those channels and using automated Smart Bidding based on the goal the advertiser sets. That means you don't need to design specialised ads for specific channels. 

What's The Difference Between Performance Max Campaign and Other Smart Campaigns

  • Audience targeting is different: Google automates the targeting and optimises the delivery based upon the audience that the advertiser provides. So it won't be the target audience anymore but a signal for Google to optimise.
  • Campaign structure is different: Instead of ad group level and ad level, Performance Max uses a slightly different setting. Campaign > Asset Group. Asset group is very similar to responsive display asset.
  • Bidding Strategies are limited to goal-based strategies: Since it's a performance-based campaign type, only Maximum Conversion, Target CPA, Maximum ROAS, and target ROAS are available. 
  • A solution for efficiency: I created some Performance Max campaigns and targeted the countries that were not performing well in search & video formats. It turns out these campaigns achieve a 20% decrease in CPA within the assigned budget.

Who Should Use Performance Max

As an all-in-one campaign type (which is in the beta program), the nature of this campaign type limits the opportunities in channel optimisation. In my option, this type of campaign is suitable for the following advertisers:

  • Advertisers that don't have time and effort to optimise for each channel.
  • Advertisers who find it challenging to optimise various campaign types for one location.
  • Advertisers who don't have much budget but want exposure to all Google Ads inventory.
  • Advertisers who have an unlimited budget and want to unlock new, unexpected customer segments.
  • Advertisers who wish to explore new Geo markets.

How To Set Up A Performance Max Campaign

If you are eligible, Performance Max will show as a campaign type selection if your marketing objective is

  • Sales
  • Leads
  • Local store visits and promotions
  • Create a campaign without a goal's guidance
How to find the performance max campaign |
source: adcore

Confirm Your Conversion Goals

Google Ads now allow you to include multiple goals in one campaign. Similar to the ""conversion set"", this new update offers more flexibility to mix&match your goals at a campaign level. By default, Google will use your account-level conversion goals under the same Conversion Source, Action Optimisation (You can find these on the Conversion tab)

An image to show you how to find performance max campaign in Google Ads |

Note: It's highly recommended choosing the right goal category (shown as the image above) to give Google the proper signal in optimisation. You'll see recommended features and settings based on your goal setting. For example, you will see more recommendations on bid strategy if you choose ""sales"". In contrast, you will see more advice on audience targeting, extensions if you choose ""Leads"". Check campaign goals in Google Ads.

Budget & Bidding Strategies

Just like the title, you need to choose your daily budget and the bidding strategy. You can select max conversions and max value. Still, you can also set a max CPA or a target value/conversion, allowing you to leverage Target CPA and Target ROAS strategies. The recommended budget is at least $10k per month and the ideal campaign timeframe is at least 4 weeks.

Note: I can't stress enough about setting your daily budget right. Now we all know Google might overspend your daily budget, but you won't pay more than your daily budget times the average number of days in a month. (Total spend = daily budget * 30.4). When you change your budget, your ad spend for the rest of the month won't exceed your new average daily budget multiplied by the remaining days in the month. Check how Google spend your budget here.

Value Rules

I must say I haven't seen this option till recent. Value rules will let advertisers differentiate conversion values based on characteristics like location, device and audience. This will allow you to customise conversion values so they align more closely with your business goals. This feature was introduced in Dec 2019, but I only see this in mid-2021.

Location, Language

Performance Max is currently not supported by Google Ads editor, so setting up the targeting is more tedious than most campaigns. Especially for location-based campaign structure, it gave me a headache when I set up 4 campaigns for 4 countries. What's more, You can't duplicate the asset group to other campaigns, which means you need to repeatedly upload creative assets. 

Note: People might argue why not just set up one campaign for multiple locations. It's okay to do that if you have a minimal budget. But you won't be able to optimise by location. My Google account manager and I agree that it's best to set up one campaign for one location for future optimisation. What's more, by further breaking down the location like country>state>city, your campaign will have the advantage to have a higher ad rank in an auction.

Advanced URL Options

This is the same as other campaign types. I personally use tracking template and custom parameters for tracking. Keep in mind this is a campaign-level setting only in Performance Max. For example, it's impossible to track asset group names using custom parameters in your tracking template.

Final URL Expansion

Think about this as a dynamic search ad. You can turn this off in campaign settings.

According to Google, your final URL may be replaced with a more relevant landing page and headline for the best performance based on customer intent. 

By the time I finish this article, I cannot locate the support article for this function. And the link in its tooltip is incorrect. 

Support Article Link in Performance Max Campaign is Incorrect |

Setting Up "Asset Groups"

Asset groups in Performance Max are essentially the combination of ad groups and ads. I will attach the assets requirement later below. My advice towards the asset group is to treat this as your search campaign ad group. This means you need to make sure each asset group have a laser-focus theme. It not only benefits your audience targeting but also A/B testing your creatives. Click "view details" to see the asset performance, just like responsive search ad asset performance report.

How to view your asset details |

Audience Targeting

As mentioned, you won't be able to target a specific customer segment in Performance Max. Instead, every audience list you add to this target will treat as signals to identify similar consumers that are likely to exhibit the same behaviours and interests:

○ First-party Audiences, incl. Re-marketing lists

○ Google Audiences, incl. custom audiences

Note: My advice here is to add customer list + Similar + Custom Audience together for a holistic signal.


You can leverage all your extensions in Performance Max. By default, Google will use account-level extensions as your campaign-level extensions. Currently, the extensions available to my Performance Max are:

  • Sitelink
  • Call
  • Lead form
  • Structured snippet
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Call-out

Asset Requirements / Formats (Beta)

Performance Max Asset Requirements
Type Asset Specifications Min Max
Text Final URL 1 1
Text Headline 30 char max; include at lease one with 15 char or less 3 5
Text Long Headline 90 char max 1 5
Text Description 90 char max; include at lease one with 60 char or less 2 5
Text Business Name 25 char max 1 1
Text Call To Action Automated by default, or select from a list 1 1
Text Display URL Path 15 char max each 0 2
Image Landscape (4:1) Recommended: 1200 x 628- Min. required: 600 x 314 1 15
Image Square (1:1) Recommended: 1200 x 1200- Min. required: 300 x 300 1
Image Portrait (4:5) Recommended: 960 x 1200- Min. required: 480 x 600 0
Image Square Logo Recommended: 1200 x 1200- Min. required: 128 x 128 1 5
Image Landscape Logo (4:1) Recommended: 1200 x 300- Min. required: 512 x 128 0
Video Video Horizontal, vertical or square. Min 10 seconds in length 0 5
Note: At least 1 landscape (1.91:1) or square (1:1) image required Note: At least 1 square logo required

Performance Max Asset Requirements |
Performance Max Asset Requirements

How Does Performance Max Perform?

Allow me to set a disclaimer here: I am grateful to be one of the beta testers for performance Max. It needs to be said that the insights I shared are purely from my own experience and does not represent the general performance. 

I set up four Performance Max campaigns for four countries and have it running for 8 days already.  I have search and video campaigns running for these countries before. These countries are new markets where my product doesn't have much market penetration, and the overall CPA is insanely high. But for Performance Max, I have to say I am very pleased with the results:

  • Overall (compare to Brand + Non-Brand), I saw a 67%, 70%, 75% and 72% decrease respectively in cost-per-conversion (CPA). Average 90% decrease in CPC.
  • Compared to non-brand campaigns, I saw a similar pattern like the above. That helps me to understand better what Performance Max strength is - it can be a great replacement for search, display and video non-brand campaigns.
  • I saw a 160%, 91%, 36% increase respectively in cost-per-conversion (CPA) compared to brand campaigns. This means Performance Max in general, cannot replace the brand campaigns. However, one of the Performance Max campaigns outperforms its brand search campaign in terms of CPA and CPC.

My best guess is Performance Max leverage a lot in display, discovery and bumper placement to lower the CPC. In the meantime, it explores more long-tail search terms with low competition based on the signals provided. With that in mind, my perfect formula for a new market is Search Brand Campaign + Display Remarketing Campaign + Performance Max.

Beyond the results of my own accounts, Google shared a case study from MoneyMe on ThinkWithGoogle. They cited a 22% increase in conversions, more than $800K in revenue from newly funded loans, and a 20% reduction in overall CPA across the account.

What Are The Cons & What's The Catch

I once encountered an error when I upload my video. I contacted Google support, and it took a few days to get a reply. In short, I found out the video asset needs to be more than 10 secs. As a Beta campaign, it's understandable for the confusing info & features. Still, the frustration persists when you encounter errors and struggle in talking to Google support constantly.

Performance Max is Not Available in Google Ads Editor

This means you have to manually create/update campaigns in Google Ads UI.

Performance Max is Not Available in Data Studio in Campaign Type

This means you won't be able to track the spend or performance in the Data Studio.

Performance Max is Not Available in Showing Asset Group Performance

This means you won't tell how the Performance Max leverages machine learning in each channel. The only reports you can pull are:

  • Top-level campaign performance
  • Location performance (and if advertising a chain, the store report is available based upon location extensions)
  • Campaign-level segmented by time, device.

Hard To Find Support Article About Performance Max When Error Occurs

This means you will have to turn to your account manager or Google support team whenever you have a problem.

--------The End

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Dean Long | Expert in Growth MarketingDean Long

Dean Long is a Sydney-based creative marketing and communication professional with expertise in paid search, paid social, affiliate and e-commerce advertising. He's also a distinct MBA Graduate from Western Sydney University.

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