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Performance Max Campaigns: 9 Steps You Need To Launch

Performance Max is replacing Google Smart Shopping by the end of the third quarter of 2022. If you haven’t already upgraded your Smart campaign to Performance Max, it will convert automatically very soon. It’s high time to start learning about the possibilities of Performance Max campaigns and how you can set it up. It’s always good to be prepared.


What is Performance Max? 

The Performance Max campaign is a brand new campaign type from Google Ads. What distinguishes it from others is that it combines smart bidding and targeting features into one single goal-based campaign across the entire Google Network. The campaign reaches the full range of Google’s advertising channels: YouTube, Display, Search, Shopping, Discover feed, Gmail and Maps.


Google Network’s channels | Google

The main goal of Performance Max is to help advertisers increase their presence and conversions across the Google Network. The campaign type optimizes ad performance in real-time using AI-driven automated bidding technology called Smart bidding. Ads are presented in many different formats depending on what works best at a particular time and place.


What can Performance Max do?

Wondering how a Performance Max campaign works? Here you can find out exactly what a Performance Max campaign can do for your business.


Performance Max optimizes your ads

Your task is to upload various assets that would fit each advertising channel, like images, videos, logos, and ad copy for your brand or products. The system can also take all of this information from your Merchant Center feed. Based on that, Performance Max (Google’s machine learning) dynamically and automatically creates ads using the assets that you provide. It tests which combinations work best for a certain campaign and can help you achieve your set goals. The more assets you provide, the wider range of ad formats the campaign can generate to appear in more locations within Google’s network.


Below you can see what a Performance Max ad looks like on Display, Search and Gmail. It differs a lot.




Performance Max allows you to advertise cross-channel

Google’s machine learning technology allows Performance Max to determine when and where to show your ads across Google’s advertising Network. Google shows your Performance Max ads wherever your ideal audience tends to be most engaged. 


Performance Max automates bidding and budget strategy

Performance Max uses machine learning and automation to increase your conversions and get the most value out of your budget. Manual bidding is not an option with Performance Max. If you choose this campaign type, please be aware that you do not have control over your bids. However, you can optionally direct Google to the preferred bidding strategy and set the target CPA (or target ROAS) for your campaign.


You can choose the campaign’s focus

  • Conversion Value (where you can set the target ROAS) - if you have multiple goals with different conversion values.
  • Maximize Conversions (you can set target CPA) - if all your goals have the same value.

Performance Max automatically identifies campaign issues

Performance Max provides you with a diagnostic insights tool. You get automatic alerts every time a potential issue occurs. It can be related to your account, billing or campaign status, some policy violations, ad strength, budget, and more. The tool also gives you recommendations to troubleshoot any kind of errors. 


Performance Max vs. Smart Shopping - what is the difference? 

Since the beginning of April 2022, all advertisers who run Smart Shopping campaigns can upgrade them to Performance Max campaigns. It can be done with a one-click tool in Google Ads. If they don’t do it by the end of Q3 2022, their campaigns will be automatically converted to the new type. 


The Performance Max campaigns will be based on advertisers’ existing Smart Shopping and Local campaigns. Therefore many of the settings will stay exactly the same. The foundational features of both these campaign types are also quite the same


What is different about the Performance Max campaign is that it is a combination of smart bidding and targeting features which makes it a single goal-driven campaign. The new campaign type also gives your ads more visibility than Smart Shopping did. Apart from regular channels, it covers Google Maps and Google Discover as well.  


The Performance Max campaign structure is a bit different. There will be no ad groups, only asset groups


Ad groups

Asset groups

Ad groups consist of keywords and ads.

Asset groups consist of a collection of “creatives” that are concentrated on a theme or related to target users. They are made up of images, videos, headlines, long headlines, and descriptions - all bundled into single group


Listing groups will in turn replace product groups.


Product groups

Listing groups

Product groups are subsets of your campaign inventory that you define.

Listing groups consist of listings which include both products and collections (product groups, assets, retail data representing a category landing page on your site).

Listing groups are actually the lists of products from your pre-existing Smart Shopping campaigns.

Smart Shopping campaigns focus only on maximizing sales conversions. Setting up a Performance Max campaign you can select multiple conversion goals and give them different priorities (conversion values).


Who should run Performance Max campaigns?

The Performance Max campaign is not for everyone. It’s not the best choice if you don’t have any prior campaign history. This type of campaign is only effective if it has data to rely on. Only then the algorithm is able to adjust bids and target the right audience. 


Google also needs time to get to know your campaign and audience. You need to be ready to invest some money in your Performance Max campaign if you want to see results.


The Performance Max campaign is for you if:


  • You want to reach new customer segments

In short, more channels = higher purchase rate. Performance Max ads appear across Google's network without you having to create additional campaign setups. It's easy to run it.


  • You want to get lots of data

When you run a Performance Max campaign, you can take advantage of advanced machine learning. This allows you to gather all types of data from the campaign, audience signals, and performance metrics taken from your previous Google campaigns. Based on this data, the algorithm can determine the right bids and boost your conversions.


  • You want to achieve more than one goal with your advertising

Performance Max is ideal for you if you have multiple advertising goals, such as lead generation, sales, and brand awareness. Instead of having 3 different campaigns, this new campaign type allows you to combine these goals into a single goal-based campaign.


  • You don’t want to put much effort into strategy

It can be a great option for smaller businesses and in-house advertisers, looking for an easy way to run an effective campaign. 


How to set up your Performance Max campaign?

We've prepared a guide on how to go through the setup process for Performance Max campaigns if your primary goal is online sales. 


1. Prepare your Google Merchant Center feed

In terms of product feeds, Performance Max works in exactly the same way as Google Shopping. You need to submit your feed to the Google Merchant Center and link it to your Performance Max campaign. The system will use all the product data in your feed to create Performance Max ads.


Your data feed can have the largest impact on the performance of your Performance Max campaign. Therefore, optimizing it should be your first priority. Include as many attributes in your feed as possible: Titles, Brand, Price, Images, MPN/ SKU, Product_Category, Product_type, Custom Labels, and more.



2. Choose your advertising objective

  • Sign in to your account in Google Ads.
  • In the menu on the left, click on Campaigns.
  • Create a New Campaign by clicking the blue PLUS button
  • Choose an advertising goal (or multiple goals) for your campaign.



3. Choose your conversion goals

Your conversion goals will be pre-populated based on your default settings.


  • Confirm your goals or delete the ones you don't want or add new goals.




  • Select Performance Max as your campaign type.



  • Select your Merchant Center account.
  • Select the country/feed label where you sell your products.
  • Name your campaign and click Continue.


4. Set up your budget and bidding strategy

Now you are in the “Budget and bidding” section of the Performance Max campaign’s setup. 


  • Enter the average amount you are willing to spend for an individual campaign each day.
  • Choose your preferred bidding strategy: Maximize Conversions (set up your target CPA) or Maximize Conversion Value (set up your target ROAS). More about it here
  • Click Next




Based on your chosen performance goals, Performance Max will help to adjust bids for every auction, optimize creatives, and target the right audience.


5. Set up location and languages

You set up locations and languages you want to target on the “Campaign Settings” page. 


  • Select your preferred location under Locations.


  • Click on Enter another location, enter the name of the location you want to target. Select Target or Exclude locations


You can also target specific places within a specific location. To do it select Nearby and again select Target or Exclude.


  • Under Languages, select the language you want your Performance Max ads to appear in. You can choose different languages for different sets of customers.


6. Set up other settings


  • Choose whether you want to enable URL expansion. 


If you do that, your final URL may be replaced with a more relevant landing page on your website and the system will dynamically adjust and customize headlines for the ads to match the intent of your potential customers.


  • You can also add URL exclusions to prevent certain pages on your website from displaying in ads.


  • Click on More Settings to create an ad schedule. 


You can choose what days and hours your Performance Max ads will show. 


7. Choose your assets 

If you use a product feed, uploading creatives is OPTIONAL. Performance Max can automatically generate assets on your behalf, although you can start a campaign without uploading any assets to the asset group. However, adding assets will increase the effectiveness of your campaign across all Google Network’s channels. 


Listing groups are required. By default, a listing group includes all products submitted to your Merchant Center account.


An asset group is made of images, logos, videos, headlines, descriptions, audience signals you provide. You can use the ad preview to see possible creative asset combinations.


  • Enter the name for your asset group on the “Asset group” page.
  • Confirm Listing groups for your campaign. They allow you to select which items will appear in your Performance Max campaigns's ads. 


You can select all products from your Google Merchant Center, which is the default setting, or you can use only selected products. If you choose the second option:


  • Next to All products, click the pencil icon.
  • Select Use a selection of products in your ads.


You can filter products by Category, Brand, Product type, Item ID, Condition, Channel or Custom labels from the dropdown menu. You can also add selected products manually.


  • The product you’ve selected will appear in the column to the right. At this point, you will be able to remove some products by clicking X next to the product group.
  • Click Save.


You can find more information about building your asset group on this Google’s helppage


8. Add ad extensions

Ad extensions expand your ads and compel people to click on them. They add more useful and interesting information about your offer below your ad. These can be locations, additional links, prices, a phone number to call you and more.


  • Go to the “Extensions” page in Performance Max. There you will see a recommendation of ad extensions related to your chosen goals. Here, you can read more about specific extensions.


In Performance Max campaigns, ad extensions are associated with specific goals. Therefore, they will appear more prominently based on the campaign's goals.


9. Review the setup of your new Performance Max campaign

In the end, you will be able to see a review summary with the details of your new Performance Max campaign.


  • Select Publish campaign.



Automation in digital marketing is becoming more and more advanced. Advertisers should find a balance between leaning on automation and still maintaining a certain level of control. One thing is certain with Performance Max campaigns. They are effective, and they can help online retailers achieve great results with online advertising.

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Written by Jagoda Adamik

Jagoda is a content creator and specialist in the Scandinavian region, especially in Denmark. She loves writing, travelling and reading non-fiction books.


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