Performance Max: the campaign of the future?

9 August 2022

Performance Max: a new campaign type launched by Google in 2021 that uses automation (i.e. automated bid strategy, real-time bidding…), makes Google Ads campaigns perform even better and saves the advertiser some time. Too good to be true? Based on our experience, we have summed up the most important aspects of Performance Max.

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Changing needs

The needs and the behaviour of the customer have changed drastically in 2020 and 2021. People are embracing the digital transformation, which increases the importance of your online presence more than ever. Companies that don’t participate in this digital chapter will always be a few steps behind. The same goes for advertisers: you always need to be aware of the needs and behaviour of the customer. It’s the only way to set up efficient and relevant campaigns. If you don’t have any insight into these aspects of the customer journey, you could lose out on potential sales and traffic.

70% of consumers buys more products online than they did before the pandemic (Google Ads Performance Max, Global, 2021.pdf)

What is Performance Max?

In 2021, a new campaign type was launched by Google – Performance Max. It allows performance marketeers to target various channels in the same campaign. There are two types of Performance Max campaigns: those with shopping products and those without. The latter is also called Performance Max for leads.

Where do the ads show up?

The ads are shown on the following channels:

  • YouTube

  • Display

  • Google Search

  • Discovery

  • Gmail

  • Maps

Google_channels | iO
(_Google Ads Performance Max, Global, 2021.pdf)

A few important benefits Google mentions:

  • You can find more converting customers for the goals you have set.

  • You get achieve more on a budget.

  • You can collect transparent data.

  • You get the best of Google Ads automation.

A number of benefits for the advertiser:

  • You can reach the same people more easily with a consistent message.

  • You can test channels and determine where you should invest more in specific campaigns.

  • You can discover new target audiences that perform well.

Given the consumer’s changing needs, Performance Max can help advertisers. The campaign uses the goals you set and responds to the ever-changing demands of the consumer thanks to automation.

To do that, the campaign collects signals from Google products (data collected from people using the products) and/or data from a company’s CRM system (such as a client list). Based on that, AI predicts who needs something and when they need it. In other words, the campaigns move with the consumer’s demands. This was all possible before, it was just way more difficult.

Which assets do you need?

To set up a Performance Max campaign, you need copy, images, videos and a call to action. If you need a Performance Max with shopping products, you also need a shopping feed (and a merchant center connection).

Shopping feed

If you go from a smart shopping campaign to a Performance Max campaign, the ad account already has a shopping feed. You need that feed to set up your Performance Max campaign.

Don’t have a shopping feed yet? You’ll have to create one, import it into Google Merchant Center, and then link that to your Google Ads account.


Because Performance Max offers various kinds of advertisements, such as Display ads, you need images to complete your ads. You’ll need 5 logos and 20 images tops. But take into account that there is also a required number of formats for images. This means that Google expects at least 1 square and 1 landscape logo and at least 2 to 3 images in the same formats.


Besides a shopping feed and images, you need copy to complete your ad. Very much like Search and Discovery ads, a Performance Max advertisement requires headlines and descriptions. The main difference lies in the number of headlines. Search ads allow you to create 15 headlines of 30 characters each, while Discovery permits 5 of 40 characters each.

Don’t forget to mix it up a little and don’t choose 5 synonyms. Google will use these to build RSAs, but you can’t pin them anymore. So, too many synonyms will give you ads like these:

Headline 1 = Buy products now
Headline 2 = Buy products online
Headline 3 = Order products

As for the descriptions, the limit is set at 4 descriptions of 90 characters each. Don’t forget to add these descriptions, because Google will create them for you if you don’t.

A Performance Max campaign allows you to add 5 short headlines (30 characters), 5 long headlines (90 characters), 1 description of 60 characters and 4 of 90 characters.


In a final instance, you need videos to complete your Performance Max campaign. Here, too, you can add a maximum of 5 videos to the ads. We advise you to add your own videos so Google can optimise them within the campaign. The formats of the videos are the same as those for YouTube campaigns.

overview assets pmax


Always add video assets to the Performance Max campaign. If you don’t, Google will do it for you. It will create 3 different videos by mixing, among others, your logos, images and copy together and adding a piece of generic music to it. Those aren’t exactly high-quality or even suitable videos to increase your brand’s prominence.

You cannot remove these videos from your campaign, either. The good news is that you can add videos you – or a creative studio – have made at any given time.

So, it’s important for you to create your own videos – or have them created – and add them to the campaign. Don’t forget the following best practices:

  • Introduce your message or company in the first 5 seconds of your video.

  • Provide an audio you have selected.

  • Get the attention of users/viewers by incorporating images or other eye-catching aspects in your video. This will keep your video top-of-mind for a longer time, which can lead to conversions in the long run.

  • Make people experience a common emotion with your video.

  • Tip: create your own template for videos so you can quickly create new videos with the same look and feel later. That increases the recognisability of your brand.

A couple of handy tips

To ensure that the Performance Max works properly, we have a couple of tips for you:

  1. Add as many different assets as possible.

  2. Add ad extensions.

  3. Add as many signals (of target audiences) as possible to get the right target audience to convert. Focus on owned data (client lists, remarketing data) instead of Google Audiences.

Is that it for all other campaigns?

Those who think that all other campaigns are to be replaced now can breathe – that’s not happening (just yet). For instance, the campaigns cannot be used to replace a search campaign, which makes Performance Max complementary to the search campaigns you set up. That means that within Performance Max campaigns, there is no possibility to implement a real keyword list yet – something you can do with search campaigns. You can use custom audiences and keywords, which will give you a similar effect. But combining both campaigns in your Google Ads account will give you a strong mix.

What does the future hold?

The switch to Performance Max campaigns from Smart Shopping campaigns will happen in the autumn of 2022. As of April 2022, the one-click tool is available to convert your smart shopping campaigns with just a single click. For the local campaigns, the one-click tool is available as of June 2022. These stages have already been completed.

From July to September 2022, Google will automatically upgrade the Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max campaigns. But try to convert your campaigns yourself before that happens. That gives you the control over your assets and helps you avoid missing assets (videos, long headlines…) when you transition. For the local campaigns, the upgrade to Performance Max will happen somewhere in August or September.

As soon as the automatic upgrade of existing campaigns to the new Performance Max campaigns happens, it won’t be possible to set up new smart shopping or local campaigns anymore. The standard shopping campaigns will be an option, but it could be less effective than Performance Max.

Written by Inte Smets, Xander Horvath and Joris Jans.



  • Google Ads: introducing Performance Max campaigns (slides: Google Ads Performance Max, Global, 2021)


Inte Smets | iO
About the author
Inte Smets
Digital Advertising Specialist - iO

Advertising expert Inte loves data because there is always at least one lesson to learn: what to do next. A strong advocate for a pragmatic approach – she is invariably the first to propose one last A/B test.

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