What is Performance Max in Google Ads and How to Use It?

Learn everything you need to know about Performance Max and how to use it to launch profitable Google Ads campaigns.

What is Performance Max in Google Ads and How to Use It?

Google Ads can help any website gain instant traction in terms of visibility and conversions. However, ad campaigns take an immense amount of planning and attention to detail in order to be profitable. 

That is usually the case — especially if you don't use Performance Max.

This post tackles everything you need to know about Performance Max and how to use it to launch lucrative ad campaigns. 

Let's jump right in.

What is Google Ads Performance Max?

Google Performance Max is designed around one simple vision — to help brands successfully advertise across all of Google's advertising channels in one campaign. It uses AI to create automated workflows for important areas of your strategy, including audience targeting and bidding.

Performance Max covers a range of Google's advertising platforms and channels, including:

  • Search and shopping ads
  • Display ads
  • Discovery ads
  • Local ads
  • Google products (e.g., Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps)

Benefits of Performance Max

Below is a quick rundown of Performance Max's benefits:

  • Advertise through multiple channels while managing only one campaign. There's no need to switch between multiple campaigns or navigate several pages to leverage different advertising channels. With Performance Max, you can take full advantage of Google's paid advertising platforms with just one campaign. 
  • Automated optimization of your ad campaigns. You don't have to engross yourself in hundreds of rows of data or tweak through dozens of options to get measurable results with your ad campaign. With Performance Max, most of the heavy lifting will be done by AI and machine learning (ML) to get your campaign off to a running start. 
  • Skip the tedious audience research and targeting steps. Another advantage of Performance Max is the automated targeting. When creating a new campaign, Google automatically discovers lucrative audience segments for you based on intent and preference data. 
  • Account-level negative keywords. To keep automated optimization suggestions relevant, Performance Max allows you to specify "negative keywords" on an account level. This prevents your ads from showing to users who are from areas you don't serve or are looking for products you don't offer (including competitor products).
  • Campaign-level brand exclusions. Another way to prevent Performance Max from showing ads to the wrong users is through brand exclusions. This will keep your ads from showing in queries that mention other brands on Google Search and Shopping.

Overview of Google Performance Max Features

Got your attention?

Google Performance Max is perfect for startups, solo brands, and budding businesses that don't have the experience and technical know-how in paid advertising. 

To help you reap its full benefits, let's take a closer look at its core features.

Automated Bidding

Performance Max will automatically configure your ad bidding strategy based on your conversion priority and customer acquisition objectives. 

You can choose between getting more conversions or maximizing their value, depending on your short-term and long-term business goals. Performance Max also lets you target new potential customers with a single click. 

And, if you want to avoid overspending, feel free to set a target Cost Per Action (CPA) for your Performance Max campaign.

Use Auto-Generated Assets

Another feature you'll find useful in Performance Max is asset generation. 

As long as your website is:

  • Not related to a sensitive product category 
  • Using English
  • Not created recently

Google's generative AI can supply your Performance Max campaign with unique images, create text-based copy, or improve existing assets without additional inputs. This is a great way to keep your automated campaign in high gear while you (or your content team) focus on other tasks. 

Automatically Test Asset Combinations

With Performance Max, you can create asset groups that contain headlines, descriptions, images, logos, sitelinks, videos, and CTAs. Google AI will automatically test different combinations throughout the course of your campaign — tracking performance and making iterations based on your goals.

Audience Signals 

Performance Max lets you breeze through the complexities of audience targeting. Just specify words or phrases — AKA "search themes" — that customers use when searching for your products or services. 

You can also import first-party audience data from YouTube or Google Analytics 4. This ensures your ads will show to users who are already familiar with your brand.

You can also use traditional targeting settings to control how Performance Max rolls out your ads. Some examples are in-market segments, personal interests, household income, age groups, and more. 

AI-Based Scoring and Projections

To help guide your budgeting and ad optimization decisions, Performance Max provides an "optimization score" based on the configuration of your campaign settings. 

Of course, you shouldn't expect your optimization score to be 100% accurate. But it should give you an idea of how profitable Performance Max campaigns are designed. 

As a rule of thumb, apply one adjustment at a time and check your updated optimization score (this is refreshed in real-time). You can also inspect the weekly estimates section for a projection of your campaign's performance. 

Personalized Campaign Recommendations

Performance Max sprinkles the entire setup experience with generative AI tools along with optimization recommendations to ensure you make the most out of your campaign. 

To make sure you don't miss out on optimization opportunities, Google includes a list of recommendations on the summary page — just before you publish your campaign. 

How to Use Performance Max

Ready to start your Performance Max campaign? 

Before you begin, remember that you need two things to use Performance Max: an active Google Ads account and conversion tracking set up on your website. 

The first requirement is pretty easy to nail. 

After all, creating a Google Ads account is free. Just provide your business information, create your first campaign, enter your payment details, and you're all set. 

You can also skip through the initial campaign creation process and head straight to your dashboard. Once there, you'll have full access to all Google Ads tools, including the campaign creator. 

Setting up conversion tracking, on the other hand, requires a little bit of work. 

In a nutshell, you need to set the specific conversion actions you want to track and add a Google tag code to your website.

To create a conversion action, log in to your Google Ads dashboard, go to 'Goals,' and click 'New conversion action.' 

Next, select the conversion type you wish to track from the available options, like:

  • Website — Subscriptions, purchases, clicks, and page views. 
  • App — App installs, in-app purchases, and in-app interactions.
  • Phone calls — Calls to a number on your website or directly through ads. 
  • Import data — Third-party conversion data from Salesforce, Google Analytics 4, offline lead campaigns, etc.

If you selected anything other than the "Website" conversion type, you need to set up the appropriate data source. Some examples are Google Play, Google Analytics 4, and CRM platforms. 

But if you need to track conversion actions on your website, that's when you might get your hands a little dirty. 

Existing Google Analytics 4 users are lucky since you can easily import conversion data from your website analytics into Google Ads. Otherwise, you'll have to manually set up conversion actions.

When creating a conversion action without Google Analytics 4, you need to tinker with a handful of settings to get started: 

  • Goal and action optimization — Specify the goal category for this conversion action. This could either be under the sales category (e.g., add to cart, purchase, and subscribe) or the lead generation category (e.g., opt-ins and contact form submissions).
  • Value — Assign a monetary value for each conversion action. This is useful for tracking campaign KPIs like Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).
  • Count — Determine how the conversion action is counted. Google Ads can track every single conversion action for a lead or just the first one (useful for conversion actions like subscriptions in which only the first interaction matters). 
  • Conversion windows — Set the time limit for interactions to be attributed to your tracked conversion action. You can set conversion windows individually for click-throughs, view-throughs, and engaged views. 
  • Attribution model — Choose the attribution model you want to use when tracking conversions. The available options include (but are not limited to) data-driven, linear, last click, and position-based. 

After setting up conversion actions, the next step is to add a Google tag to your website. If you want to do it DIY-style, your first option is to generate the Google tag, which you're supposed to manually insert into all your website's pages.

The good news is, WordPress-powered websites can use plugins like the official Google Site Kit or GTM Kit to simplify this process. WIth these plugins, simply paste your Google tag on a single form field and it'll be automatically inserted into all pages. 

Another way to add your Google tag to your website is to use Google Tag Manager — a consolidated tag management system designed to let you deploy tags over multiple web properties from one location. 

Finally, if you have someone in-house who handles your website's code, simply choose 'Email instructions to your webmaster,' enter their email, and click 'Send.' 

Google Ads will test if your Google tag is deployed properly. Once conversion tracking is successfully enabled, you're ready to create Performance Max campaigns. 

To do this, go to 'Campaigns' from your Google Ads dashboard and click 'New campaign.' 

From the list of pre-defined campaign goals, select 'Create a campaign without a goal's guidance.' This will enable the "Performance Max" campaign type option. 

Continue preparing your campaign as usual (setting conversion goals, specifying the destination URL of your ads, and naming your campaign).

That's it — you'll now be able to use Performance Max's core features. This includes automated bidding, asset management, and audience targeting. 

Tips to Maximize Conversion Rate with Performance Max

Before you start your Performance Max campaign, allow us to send you off with the following must-know tips for higher conversion rates:

  • Go for long-term campaigns. Performance Max relies on AI and machine learning to analyze and fine-tune campaign parameters over time. That said, it's recommended to set a campaign duration of around six weeks to get the most returns. 
  • Help audience signals as much as possible. Although Performance Max is undoubtedly effective in automating important aspects of ad campaigns, it still requires some human input to get substantial results. When setting up audience signals, use first-party audience whenever possible to steer your campaign in the right direction. 
  • Fill up your asset groups with original content. Upload original assets (e.g., images, videos, headlines, and logos) to create asset groups. Only rely on generative AI if you have no assets to fill gaps in your library. 
  • Monitor your budget. Frequently review your Performance Max campaign's budget. Make incremental changes to gauge whether or not increasing your budget leads to measurable returns.

Finally, remember to track your campaign's performance data over time to spot inefficiencies and other opportunities to scale your advertising efforts. 

Polymer is the perfect complement to Performance Max campaigns. It is a Business Intelligence (BI) and data visualization platform that converts real-time Google Ads data into more digestible reports — enabling you to make swift and agile data-driven decisions. 

Here's a quick look at some of Polymer's best features for Google Ads reporting:

  • Ready-to-use Google Ads data connector. Using Polymer's data manager, you don't need plugins or code to seamlessly link your Google Ads data with your dashboard. The built-in Google Ads data connector streamlines the integration process — you just need to sign in to your account and grant the required permissions. 
  • Drag-and-drop dashboard builder. Polymer lets you create a range of data visualizations to present your data. Within minutes, you can create graphs, correlation charts, pivot tables, heatmaps, and more. 
  • Leverage AI to instantly extract insights. Polymer is equipped with a handful of AI tools that will speed up your data analysis. Get AI-driven suggestions or use the PolyAI chatbot to get answers to your questions in the form of interactive charts. 

Optimize Performance Max Campaigns with Polymer

Polymer is a modern, enterprise-level BI solution without the enterprise-level price tag. 

Whether you're running a Google Ads campaign or managing an entire ecommerce business, Polymer will equip you with the tools needed to convert data into actionable decisions.

Get started today with a free, 7-day trial to Polymer.

Posted on
June 4, 2024
under Blog
June 4, 2024
Written by
Saif Akhtar
Growth Manager @ Polymer Search. Passionate about all things Startup, RevOps, and Go-to-Market. Ex-VC and startup accelerator who loves hacking MVPs.

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