Performance Max Placements: How to Track and Block Unwanted Traffic?

  • 8 min read

Performance Max campaigns can feel like a black box at times, with automation doing the heavy lifting when it comes to campaign management and optimization. The benefits of this are low-maintenance campaigns that utilize Google’s machine learning algorithm. The drawback is lacking the ability to control certain elements yourself, such as when and where your ads are shown to users. 

To gain more control over your Performance Max campaigns, there is a way to view and download a placement report and there’s also a way to exclude placements, whether they have low relevance or don’t align with your brand. 

  • Read a refresher on how Performance Max campaigns work, along with the importance of ongoing optimization and how and why some advertisers choose shopping only Performance Max campaigns. 
  • Analyze placements using the Performance Max reporting tool to understand the placements that receive the highest number of impressions and highlight the ones that should be excluded.
  • Use the ‘Performance Max Campaign Modification Request Form’ to exclude placements from your campaign, which is an effective way to further optimize your campaign and improve performance. 
  • Further streamline your Performance Max campaign by setting up negative keyword lists and excluding keywords, along with topic exclusions, both of which will have a positive impact on your campaign’s targeting. 
  • Use custom labels in your Performance Max shopping feed to segment products and exclude certain products from your campaign, an optimization technique that increased revenue by 80% for digital marketing agency Studio Cappello.

How do Performance Max campaigns work?

As a refresher, let’s remind ourselves how Performance Max campaigns work

Being a fully automated Google Ads campaign type, Performance Max ads can appear across a range of Google’s platforms, including Search, Display, Shopping, YouTube, and Discover. This makes them unique compared to standard Google Ads campaigns.

As well as that, the ad formats themselves are versatile and Google will customize them to better suit each platform and user. Using the context, behavior and intent signals of individual users, ads are formed dynamically using the most appropriate creative elements that are most likely to lead to a conversion. 

From an optimization perspective, bid strategies and targeting parameters are also managed by Google instead of the advertiser. Google uses advanced machine learning algorithms, along with your account’s conversion data, to target people who are likely to convert.

New call-to-action Performance Max optimization is still important

While this campaign type is great for leveraging automation and machine learning to drive sales and revenue in Google Ads, it’s still vital that advertisers manage and provide their Performance Max campaigns with direction. 

It’s possible to steer and influence them by:

All of these optimization techniques should be happening on an ongoing basis to keep performance on track and get the most out of your ad spend. 

Shopping only Performance Max campaigns 

If you’re solely interested in advertising your products on Google Shopping, it’s possible to create a Performance Max campaign that only focuses on Shopping ad placements. Some of the main reasons why advertisers choose to set up a feed-only Performance Max campaign include: 

  • Having limited resources or little access to high-quality images and videos, that are required for Performance Max asset groups. 
  • Not wanting to advertise your products via Video and Display placements, which are typically higher up the funnel. Instead, a shopping-only campaign will help you prioritize Google Shopping, which is regarded as a bottom-funnel channel.
  • Advanced Google Ads Managers may choose feed-only Performance Max campaigns if they are already successfully managing other campaign types in Google Ads, such as Search, Display and YouTube. This way the advertiser retains greater control over budget distribution across the various ad placements.

To set up feed-only Performance Max campaigns, only use your data feed from the Google Merchant Center when building your campaign. Skip adding image and video assets to your asset group and this way Google will just utilize the feed and Shopping placements. 

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Where to find Performance Max placements reports?

It’s useful to first review the Performance Max placements your campaign has been serving ads on, which can be achieved by using the PMax reporting tool. Analyzing placements will help you understand the ones that are receiving the highest number of impressions and therefore help you decide which ones should be excluded.

To find this placements report, navigate to the Performance Max campaign you would like to analyze and then click on ‘Insights and reports’:


From the dropdown list, click on ‘Report editor’ and under the section When and where ads showed click on ‘Performance Max campaigns placement’:


This will generate a report showing you all of the placements your Performance Max campaign has been serving ads on, along with the number of impressions each placement has received. 

One limitation to this is not being able to add more performance metrics to the report, such as cost, clicks, CTR, CPC and conversions, however, seeing all of the placements by impression will still provide you with useful insights into where your ads are being shown. 

Use the panel on the right to explore and add additional columns to your report, which may bring even more insight. It’s also possible to filter the report in Google Ads or better still download the report into a spreadsheet, which will come in handy later on when excluding unwanted placements:


The best way to analyze the placements in a spreadsheet is by marking the ones you would like to exclude with a color, or by adding a new column along with Keep or Exclude next to each placement. This step will make excluding placements a lot easier later on.

Please note that Performance Max campaigns are audience-centric and they work by using audience signals along with your conversion data to find people who are most likely to convert. This means that while it’s certainly worthwhile excluding non-relevant or poor-quality placements, there’s no need to over-optimize by managing and excluding placements in a granular way. Google will show ads to users on placements when they are close or likely to convert. 

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How to exclude placements in Performance Max campaigns?

Now that you know where to find the placement report for Performance Max campaigns in Google Ads, let’s walk through the steps involved in blocking unwanted placements. It’s an effective optimization technique for Performance Max campaigns, which are generally quite challenging for advertisers to manually control, making it a worthwhile task. 

1. Fill out a “Performance Max Campaign Modification Request Form”

The first step is to fill out a “Performance Max Campaign Modification Request Form”, which allows advertisers to request certain changes to their campaign outside of the capabilities in the account. Without filling out this form, you cannot access these exclusion features. 

Follow this link to access the modification request form.


2. Choose to exclude Performance Max placements

There are three exclusions to choose from including keyword, topic and placement. To exclude placements, select ‘Placement exclusion’.


3. Upload your exclusions using the “pMAX: Request Template” file

Click on the link just below the type of change you are requesting and this will enable you to download your placement exclusion template. Open up the template spreadsheet and review all of the tabs, which are for all of the different types of exclusion requests,


You’ll also find instructions detailing how to fill out and submit the spreadsheet within the template. 

To exclude up to 65k placements, navigate to the ‘Placement Exclusions- URL Level’ tab and fill out the Action, Ads Account ID and Placement Exclusion URL columns. If you wish to exclude more than 65k placements, use the ‘Placement Excl List from MCC Ac’ tab instead. 


A fast and effective way to add your placement exclusion URLs is to use the placement report that you exported from your Performance Max campaign. Once all of the unwanted placements have been highlighted, copy and paste the URLs straight into the request form. 


4. Provide your final consent and submit your exclusions

Head back to the “Performance Max Campaign Modification Request Form” and the final step is to attach the completed exclusion template to the form and check the consent boxes to provide your final consent. 


Now all that’s left to do is wait for your Performance Max placement exclusions to be applied to the campaigns. Check the ‘Content’ section of your Performance Max campaign and once the exclusions have been applied, they will show up there. 

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Other Performance Max campaign exclusions to consider

Excluding placements is an effective way to optimize your performance max campaign, however, it shouldn’t end there. 

Try to apply the following three types of campaign exclusions to further streamline your campaign and the targeting, which should lead to further increases in performance. 

Exclude keywords from Performance Max 

For Performance Max campaigns, it’s not possible to choose the keywords you would like to target in the same way you can for Search campaigns. This is taken care of by Google as part of the automation. However, as we have now discovered it is possible to exclude keywords by adding them as Performance Max negatives.

Using keyword exclusions can have a significant impact on the performance of your Performance Max campaign. By excluding certain keywords that are irrelevant or don’t align with your campaign objectives, you’ll improve the quality of traffic as well as reduce the amount of budget that’s wasted.

Analyze the Search Terms report under the ‘Insights’ section of your Performance Max campaign, which will provide you with insight into the types of searches your ads are showing for. Make sure you select your desired date range and for an easier way to decipher through all of the search terms, click on ‘View detailed report’ and export all of the search terms into a spreadsheet. Find unwanted search terms and add them as negative keywords to your Performance Max campaign. 


Keyword exclusions can be achieved by using the same form to request placement exclusions. The most effective way to add negative keywords to your Performance Max campaign is by setting up a new negative keyword list. 

To do this, use the tab named ‘Keyword List’ in the ‘pMAX_  Implementation Request Template’ and fill out all of the columns:

Once this has been submitted and applied to your campaign, it’s then possible to continue adding negative keywords on an ongoing basis, without submitting new requests. This is a PMax optimization best practice so it is worth getting this applied, along with Performance Max placement exclusions. 

Your new negative keyword list can be found under ‘Tools and settings’ and by clicking on ‘Negative keyword lists’, you can review, add and remove navigate keywords as and when you need. 


The list will also show up in the ‘Content’ section within your Performance Max campaign:

Exclude topics from Performance Max 

Another optimization technique that’s often overlooked is Performance Max topic exclusions. It’s the same logic as using keyword and placement exclusions in that they can prevent your ads from showing up to non-relevant audiences and therefore improve your targeting. 

To add topic exclusions to your Performance Max campaign, follow the same steps involved in excluding placements and keywords, using the Google request form and submitting the completed spreadsheet template along with the attached form. 


Topic exclusions will then be visible in the Content section of your Performance Max campaign, along with any other exclusions that have been applied. 

Exclude products from your PMax shopping feed

Finally, for advertisers that are using product feeds in their Performance Max campaigns, consider using product exclusions as one of the many feed optimizations that you can implement for better Performance Max campaigns

This is a particularly impactful strategy for retailers that are dealing with a large inventory of products and want to streamline their budget. It enables you to stop spending on poor-performing, low-margin or non-strategic products and instead focus your ad spend on products that generate the highest return and profit, resulting in stronger results. 

To achieve this, use a product feed management solution like DataFeedWatch to quickly and effectively add custom labels to your products. Custom labels provide an opportunity to organize products into various categories based on any criteria that you would like to use. Common ways to use custom labels for this purpose are to categorize based on seasonality, stock levels, profit margin or top sellers - anything that makes sense for your business.  


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The labels can also be used in a more granular way and broken down into levels, such as low-margin, medium-margin and high-margin products. When used in this way, Google Ads campaign budget allocation can be optimized by increasing spend for the high-margin campaign and reducing spend (or stopping spend entirely) for low-margin products. 


In a recent case study, using this strategy increased Performance Max revenue by 80% for the digital marketing agency Studio Cappello. This was achieved by using custom labels for products to segment them into Performance Max campaigns, based on the following categories:

  • Campaign 1: Top Performance products
  • Campaign 2: High-Performance products
  • Campaign 3: Middle-Performance products
  • Campaign 4: Low-Performance products

A larger share of the budget was then allocated to “Top” and “High” performance products, resulting in an 80% increase in revenue. 

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It’s certainly worth taking advantage of the powerful automation used by Google in Performance Max campaigns, an established campaign type that offers a low-maintenance solution compared to standard campaigns. However, rather than ‘setting and forgetting’, it is important to adopt optimization techniques that provide your campaign with greater direction. 

Excluding Performance Max placements, along with keywords, topics and products, is Performance Max best practice and a proven way to streamline your campaign and boost performance. Not all advertisers know about these Performance Max optimizations, so use them to gain an edge over the competition. 

Another vital part of Performance Max campaigns is both the audience signals that you are using for targeting, along with the creative assets in your asset group. For the latter, get inspiration from some top Performance Max ad examples in 2024. 


About DataFeedWatch

DataFeedWatch by is the top-rated global product feed management platform that enables eCommerce brands, retailers, and digital agencies to drive multichannel growth. Merchants on both custom solutions and popular shopping carts, like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento (among others), can choose from 2000+ integrated shopping channels, affiliate networks, and marketplaces in 60 countries (such as Google, Facebook, Criteo, Amazon, and more). Major global brands like adidas, Decathlon, and KENZO have used DataFeedWatch to improve product performance across channels and expand to new markets. Sign up for a free trial today and receive guided onboarding to get started.

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