4 Common Setbacks with Performance Max Campaigns and How to Solve Them

  • 4 min read

Performance Max has been out for some time now, in fact, 2020 was the year it was first being tested. 2020 was a horrible year for everybody, not just because of COVID but the release of the Performance Max campaign type being the beginning of the end for Google Ads specialists as we’d be replaced by 1 campaign type…

Luckily, that hasn’t happened, yet… So now you have the pleasure of reading this! 

For all of the flaws Performance Max has, when used well, it really can get some great results, but there are definitely some things with it that can set you back. In this blog, I’m going to cover the top 4 common setbacks seen with Performance Max and how you can avoid them.

But first…

How Performance Max works

If you’re reading about the common setbacks seen with Performance Max I’m going to hazard a guess and presume you know how it works, however, if you don’t, get ready for the fastest Performance Max run-down, you’ll likely ever see:

  1. It’s a fully automated campaign type “powered by AI” (no affiliation to Skynet)

  2. It can serve across all of Google's Inventory:

    • Search
    • Display 
    • YouTube
    • Shopping
    • Discover
    • Gmail
    • Maps

  3. Finally, it will decide who it’s going to target based on “User Signals” which can be built up from:

    • Search Themes
    • Your data signals
    • As well as interests & detailed demographic audiences

  4. It will then go out and try and cause as much havoc... perform as well possible with no regard for anything in its way and not give you much data at all on where your budget’s being spent or what’s driving the performance.


The result of AI and User Signals being the driver of the targeting here, in addition to the ability to advertise across the whole of Google's inventory, leaves the door open for mistakes to happen, but what are the most common setbacks?


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1. Artificially inflated data through Brand inclusion

If I said to you “I’m going to add in some brand ad groups into my generic search campaigns” you’d throw a milkshake all over me, or at least, I hope you would.

As we all know, brand searches are normally the most qualified types of searches with the strongest returns while more generic searches tend to see a lower return as the traffic is typically colder. 

This is something that can be seen with Performance Max, a big old mix of brand and generic blended into one. This causes your core metrics to become inflated and not honestly representative of the performance being seen.

To ensure you’re keeping performance as honest as possible to negate this, you can either:

  1. Add in all of the converting brand terms you’re seeing in the search term report from Performance Max into your search campaigns. (This will have no bearing on shopping though, keep in mind!)

  2. Add brand exclusion to your Performance Max campaign. Be prepared for your KPI to fall if you haven’t done this from the offset! 

  3. Keep reading for a script that will help you here!


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2. Bidding strategy targets hindering your other campaign types

This is a big one! People have built their search campaigns out and have added all of the core keywords thinking their Performance Max campaign for the same area will only complement the Search campaign and then a tROAS target is placed on the Search campaign

On the surface you may think “That’s fine, I’ve got the core build covered with Search” but what hasn’t been taken into account are the bid limits, the increased chances of being limited by budget, and the potential for lower Ad Rank. And on top of this, they don’t realise the keyword must match exactly for Search to be prioritised. 

This opens the door for Performance Max to change from what you thought was a complimentary campaign to fully running the show with your search campaign potentially not getting a look in at all! 

This is fine' creator reflects on 10 years of the comic meme : NPR

What you need to do to ensure this doesn’t happen:

  1. Ensure you’re not limiting your bids too aggressively
  2. Keep your ad rank as high as possible
  3. Set your Performance Max targets to be harsher than your Search targets giving Search campaigns a higher ad rank over Performance Max. 


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3. A lack of data from performance max

This is no surprise for anybody who works with Google Ads that there’s not a huge amount of data we can pull from Performance Max (as standard).

This can pose challenges like:

  • Knowing where your budget is being spent
  • Which channels are performing the best
  • Asset group level performance
  • Brand vs non-brand performance split

It’s not all bad news though, many great people including (but not limited to) Mike Rhodes, Ivan Petrov, Floris De Schrijver & Arjan Schoorl have all written scripts.

They either unveil data that isn’t accessible in the interface or can leverage data to improve your account performance through Performance Max campaigns.

These are my top 3 recommended Performance Max scripts:

Performance Max Insights Script by Mike Rhodes

The ultimate Performance Max script, find out which channel your budget is going to, which channels are performing the best, how each search category is performing & asset group insights. 

--> Learn more about the script here. 


PMax Brand Traffic Analyzer from smec

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Look at your brand vs non-brand splits through your Performance Max campaign which I mentioned earlier. This can help you identify if your Performance Max campaign is artificially inflating its performance through excessive brand bidding.

--> Learn more about the script here.


Flowboost Labilizer from Flowboost:

Perfect for all E-commerce clients, this will label your products based on performance, allowing you to set your Performance Max campaigns up to focus your budget on the best-performing products. 


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4. The myth that there’s nothing you can do to eliminate the junk!

Now, whilst it’s not as simple as it should be, you can do something about spammy placements, irrelevant keywords being targeted or terrible topics which is great news!

Because excluding these things isn’t as simple as it should be (in the interface) some Google Ads specialists aren’t aware they can exclude these things, that’s because you need to fill in a “Performance Max Campaign Modification Request Form” How annoying, right?!

Luckily, once you know about this, it is simple to do and you can unlock another level of control you may not have known about previously! All you need to do is visit the Google support page and follow the steps set out there! 

When used in addition to the reports we have available in the interface as well as the additional scripts mentioned above we can add exclusions with great precision and start to negate some of the negative things we can come across with Performance Max! 


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There you have it! Those are the 4 most common setbacks with Performance Max and the things I’d prescribe to my Performance Max campaigns if they’re running into those issues.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this, when used well Performance Max has its place and can perform really well, I just wouldn’t blindly put my trust in it and allow it to do what it wants. On top of that there are some great minds out there that have created scripts so you don’t have to be blind to what’s happening in your campaigns.

Be safe out there!


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