Jason Martin - Paid Search & Training Specialist

Jason Martin

24th November 2022

Performance Max – Setup, Running & Measuring Google’s Newest PPC Campaign Type

This article will talk you through the origins of Performance Max, how to set up your first Performance Max campaign and how to measure its success once it is generating traffic. Unsure if Performance Max is right for you? Read our accompanying blog: Is Google’s Performance Max Campaign Right For Me?

What Is Performance Max?

Launched in 2021, Performance Max is Google’s newest campaign format that aims to consolidate the best of Google’s various campaign types into a single campaign. Or, as Google defines it: 

“Performance Max is a new goal-based campaign type that allows performance advertisers to access all of their Google Ads inventory from a single campaign. It's designed to complement your keyword-based Search campaigns to help you find more converting customers across all of Google's channels like YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps.” 

Performance Max can serve ads across all Google networks and platforms: 

  • Google Search 
  • Google Display Network 
  • Google Maps 
  • Gmail 
  • YouTube 
  • Google Discover 

Where you would traditionally need at least four different campaign types to reach all networks, Performance Max allows you to target them all.  

The inputs to the campaign reflect this – text, images, logos, videos and product feeds are all used to create responsive ads in the right format to fit each ad placement on Google’s various networks and platforms. The logic is that once you have set your targeting criteria, Google will be able to reach them across all networks in a single campaign. 

The audience targeting criteria has been revamped too. Instead of keyword targeting or specific audience targeting, the new Audience Signals feature uses a combination of custom segments, your audience data and Google’s audience data to create a defined set of user characteristics that Google will use to serve your ads. 

Creating A Performance Max Campaign

So now that you know what Performance Max is, we’ll walk you through the process of creating your first campaign. The sections below cover the following: 

Performance Max Campaign Settings


Your goals are the conversions you want to focus on - you may only want to focus your campaign on specific actions. For example, if you are a retailer tracking multiple conversion types, you may want to focus on the Purchase conversion, and not the “Account Sign-Up" or “Calls From Ads” conversions. 

If you were to select them all, and Google found that the most cost-effective conversion to gain was the “Account Sign-Up", then its algorithms and targeting may focus heavily on reaching audiences that will sign up for an account at the expense of those most likely to purchase. The flipside is that Performance Max works best when it has conversion data to work with. So it may be that you want to provide multiple conversion types to ensure that you generate a high number of conversions for Google’s algorithms to operate at their best. It can be a trade-off and may require some testing.


This is your campaign budget, the average amount you are willing to spend per day for your Performance Max campaign. Google will use this budget amount, along with your bidding strategy, to distribute ads across Google’s Search and Display networks to reach your specified target audience. 

Bidding Strategy

Be aware that, unlike other campaign formats, you can’t set different bids at lower levels – the target you set at the campaign level will be the target that your entire Performance Max campaign and its various asset groups will work towards.  

If your product or service areas require different Target CPA/Target ROAS to be successful, then consider segmenting these into separate Performance Max campaigns.

Linking Accounts and Profiles

If you have linked any Google Merchant Centre accounts – or Google My Business profiles for physical locations – in your Google Ads account, you can select these in your campaign settings. 

Adding a product feed will allow your products to be pulled into ads and enables the Listing Group feature for you to decide which products to focus on in each Asset Group. 

Adding a Google My Business profile will enable location extensions, or assets, as well as allowing your ads to appear in local map listing results and use location-based actions such as “Get Directions” as conversions.


These are your geographical target areas. This could be as broad as the United Kingdom, United States, even Worldwide, or as refined as specific postcode areas and radius targets – whatever works for you.


In most cases this will be covered by your location targeting, but you can select the languages you would like to ads to show for – typically English in our case, but you could manage international campaigns with other languages or even select All Languages.

Final URL Expansion

This is an important setting as it gives your Performance Max campaign the flexibility to use an ad URL that differs from your set Final URL in the user experience, if it feels that changing the URL destination could improve the user journey and help you reach your campaign goals. If you need control over your Final URL, for a specific page or a sales category, then you can switch this setting off, otherwise you can leave it on and assess your campaign performance to determine if the approach is working.

Audience Signals

Audience Signals are effectively your targeting criteria for your Asset Group – Google uses these signals to find the right types of users for your business’s products or services. You can create multiple signals in your Google Ads account, but you can only assign one Audience Signal per Asset Group. 

The section below covers the targeting options available in Audience Signals. Don’t worry if you feel like you have exhausted your options though, as Google stipulates that “Performance Max will go beyond your selections to find new conversions based on your goals”.

Signal Name

This is self-explanatory and is simply the name of your Audience Signal. It doesn’t affect anything, so call it something that nicely summarises the targeting criteria you have set out in the signal.

Custom Segments

You can create Custom Segments in the Google Ads Audience Manager. 

In the absence of keyword targeting, this is a great way to enter search terms and phrases as another form of targeting using an audience, to give Performance Max an idea of who to target. 

Consider using a Custom Audience Segment for your Competitor Websites, too. By selecting the “People who browse websites similar to” option in the Custom Segment creation and entering three to five of your main competitors, you will be able to target users who frequent relevant websites in your industry and could help you find the right customers to target with your ads.

Your Data

This section covers your remarketing lists and customer match audience lists, allowing you to add customer lists and audience lists for actions such as “All Users”, “All Converters” and any other useful audiences you have created for Google Ads use. 

Your audience lists can be used to retarget previous users to increase customer lifetime value, as well as being a reference point to find other prospective customers that share similar characteristics to your current website users or customers.

Interests & Detailed Demographics

In-Market Audiences

This section is one of the most useful for targeting criteria, allowing you to target lower funnel users ready to act. 

If you predominantly run search campaigns and have a feel of your in-market audiences from the available selections, then we urge you to use the search function in this section of the audience signals. This is because there is a selection of audiences called In-Market: Other which aren’t available in Search campaigns, typically used in Display and Video, and you might just find your next perfect audience to target in there. 

If you'd like more insight into what your audience could involve, you can hover over the selection and use the dropdown to see the types of search terms that fall under each audience. This could help you to qualify or disqualify audiences.

Affinity Audiences

These are more upper-funnel selections based on the lifestyles, characteristics and values of your customer base rather than what they are actively searching for. 

For example, if you sell hand tools, you could choose the affinity audience “Do It Yourselfers” to reach those most likely to buy tools themselves rather than hiring a tradesman. Another example could be targeting “Motor Sport Enthusiasts” for your business that offers racetrack experience days.  

As with all the audiences, take a look through the options to find a relevant set or wait until your campaign starts running for further performance insights from the Performance Max campaign.

Life Events

These are the specific types of targeting criteria that are typically only available for Display and Video campaigns. They include: 

  • Business Creation 
  • Home Renovation 
  • Job Change 
  • Marriage 
  • Moving 
  • New Pet 
  • Purchasing A Home 
  • Retirement 
  • University Graduation 

For example, the “New Pet” targeting could be useful for advertisers offering pet insurance, pet products, training classes and more. “Purchasing a home” could be useful for moving companies, home insurance providers and even furniture companies.

Detailed Demographics

As with Life Events, these are the specific types of demographics that are typically only available for Display and Video campaigns. They include: 

  • Parental Status 
  • Marital Status 
  • Education 
  • Home-Ownership Status 
  • Employment 

Depending on your offering, these could help you to refine your target audience in an efficient way. For example, if you are selling baby products, you could target parents. If you are selling home insurance, you could target homeowners.  

Unsure which to choose? Not to worry – Performance Max’s insights will help you to find out which audiences are interacting with your ads, and you can adjust your targeting from there.


The demographic options are the same as those in the standard Search and Shopping campaigns: 

  • Age 
  • Gender 
  • Parental Status 
  • Household Income % (US Only) 

Google recommends having them all available to give the campaign the best chance of reaching the right audiences, but realistically if you know that your products or services are better suited to a certain audience (particularly age) then this is where you can refine your targeting.

Asset Groups

If your Audience Signals define who you will be showing your ads to, then the Asset Groups define what you are showing them. With that in mind, ensure that your ad assets are tailored to the audience criteria you have selected for a positive user experience. 

Within an Asset Group, your assets are typically as follows: 

  • Final URL 
  • 5 Short Headlines - 30 Characters Each 
  • 5 Long Headlines - 90 Characters Each 
  • 1 Short Description - 60 Characters 
  • 4 Long Descriptions - 90 Characters Each 
  • Images - Up To 20 
  • Logos - Up To 5 
  • Videos - Up To 5 
  • Call To Action Button 
  • Business Name 

In addition to this your Other Assets, formerly known as Ad Extensions, are as follows: 

  • Sitelinks 
  • Callouts 
  • Promotions 
  • Structured Snippets 
  • Lead Forms 

and more! You can see the full specifications for each field, including images and videos, in the Google Help Centre.

Listing Groups

Listing Groups are used for retailers that have linked Google Ads to Google Merchant Centre with an available product feed for use in ads. This works in the same way as the listing groups in Shopping campaigns, allowing you to add or exclude different target products. 

Best practice is to theme your Listing Groups and Asset Groups together - make sure that the assets you are using in your ads are related to the products that will be shown alongside them. 

Having a catch-all Listing Group with a catch-all Asset Group could also be useful – but it would need to be its own campaign with a stricter Target ROAS/Target CPA to your other Performance Max campaigns.

Automatically Upgrading Smart Shopping Campaigns To Performance Max Campaigns

Starting in July 2022, following the deprecation of the Smart Shopping campaign format, existing Google Ads Smart Shopping campaigns were automatically upgraded to Performance Max campaigns.  

The upgrade process moved the existing product listing groups over to ensure that your campaigns were still targeting the same products. However, the asset groups and audience signals will be empty by default. 

In short, the campaigns will work but there will be plenty of optimisation opportunities for advertisers in the Performance Max campaign setup, so make sure to review your upgraded campaigns to get them in the best shape possible to meet your campaign goals.

Measuring Performance

Once your Performance Max campaign is set up and running, the learning phase is complete and your traffic is building up, your next step will be to measure your performance. Performance Max differs from your traditional campaign interface and reporting, and this section explains what type of data is available for advertisers to analyse.


Within the Performance Max campaign, there is an Insights tab that provides the breakdown of performance. Before you begin, be aware that the campaign’s date range only shows the last seven days or last 28 days, as all the metrics are comparisons. Beyond this, you would have to use the top-level campaign metrics such as clicks, spend and conversions to assess the performance of your Performance Max campaign.

Search Term Insight

The search term insights are grouped together by "search categories”. One category could contain as many as 20 different search terms, and the metrics provided are search volume and conversions or conversion value depending on your business and campaign goals – typically ecommerce versus lead generation. 

There is a conversion value total for the search term category as a whole, as well as for individual search terms within the category. That is as far as the detail for Performance Max search terms currently go, but the Google Ads platform is evolving all the time and will likely improve in future.

Audience Insight

This table shows which audiences your ads are being optimised for in terms of clicks and impressions, using Share of Clicks and Index metrics supplied by Google. 

Google’s definitions of both metrics are as follows: 

  • Share of Clicks - “Share of your clicks coming from a given audience segment. People can be in multiple segments.” 
  • Index - “Index is the share of your clicks coming from an audience segment divided by the share of the general population from the audience segment. A higher index means that a given audience segment is more unique for you.” 

By default, your top audiences are sorted by the highest index score first, and a green “optimised” tag shows that Google is optimising your ad delivery for these campaigns as it deems them the best audiences to target.

Asset Insight

You can use this section to cycle through your top audiences and discover which ad assets are resonating best. This is done by taking the average click through rate (CTR) of the ad asset and dividing it by the average CTR of all assets to get the difference. For example, the index could show that one ad text resonates 1.3x better with a certain audience than compared to all audiences. 

This insight can help you to understand which messaging works well in your ads, and if you need to consider splitting your audiences into different audience signals to better tailor ad text to the users for an improved user experience and CTR.

Auction Insight

This is a form of the Search Auction Insights report that you may already be familiar with from other campaigns. The Auction insight section shows your top competitors in Search and Shopping results, how you are stacking up against them in terms of search visibility and how that has changed over a seven-day or 28-day period. There is also a graph to visualise the trends over the last seven days or 28 days based on the metric you have selected.

Product Insights

On the grey left hand side menu, you can click on Products to see the list of products in your campaign alongside more traditional metrics such as clicks, cost, conversions, revenue and more. Whilst there are limited insights as to how your asset groups are performing, at the very least you can see which of your products are generating sales for the Performance Max campaign.


Performance Max Campaigns Placement Report

This report is tucked away in the Reports section of Google Ads, rather than in the Performance Max campaign, but is useful all the same. Click on Reports at the top of Google Ads, hover over Pre-defined Reports (Dimensions), go down to Other and select Performance Max campaigns placement. 

In this report, you can get an idea of which websites are showing the display ads created by your Performance Max campaign. Currently the report only offers the Impressions metric and most of which is hidden behind the “Google Owned & Operated” placement, suggesting potentially YouTube and Gmail, but hopefully the transparency will be improved further in future. 

Google Analytics and GA4 Reporting

Don’t forget that you can also use Google Analytics to assess your Performance Max campaign with additional metrics to delve into more detail. 

In Universal Analytics, the best place to look will be under Acquisition -> Google Ads -> Campaigns to see how your Performance Max campaign is doing, with metrics such as bounce rate and pages per session offering useful insights in addition to the conversion and ecommerce metrics. 

In GA4’s default channel grouping reports, Performance Max will come in as a new grouping called Cross-Platform rather than sitting underneath the Paid Search grouping seen in Universal Analytics. 

We hope this blog helps to introduce you to the rather complex world of Performance Max campaigns! Need further guidance? Read our next piece to find out when you should and shouldn’t use Performance Max campaigns for your Google Ads strategy. 

Want a second opinion on your PPC marketing setup, strategy and performance? Contact us online today or call us on 01536 316100 – our friendly specialists are here to help.

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