A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up Performance Max in Google Ads

In September 2022, Google completed rolling out Performance Max, a new type of Ad campaign that replaced most Smart Shopping and Local campaigns.

If you were running Smart Shopping and/or Local campaigns before this change, then these will have been automatically updated.

What is Performance Max?

Performance Max – or PMax – is a Shopping Ads campaign that makes use of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to run the best ads based on your goals. It also aims to simplify your advertising by eliminating the need to create a new campaign for each different platform you want to advertise on (e.g. YouTube, Search and Display).

You provide Google with a number of assets such as image, video, and text, and Google then creates ads from these across their platforms. Assets will be mixed and matched depending on the platform and the search.

How to set up Performance Max

If you were already using Smart Shopping or Local campaigns before PMax started rolling out, then these will have been automatically upgraded. Unless you’ve paused these campaigns, this means you’re currently running Performance Max ads.

If this is the case, take a look at my guide for making changes to upgraded campaigns.

If you are new to Google Ads or don’t yet have any Performance Max ads running, you can set up campaigns from scratch.

1. Set up an account

If you haven’t already, set up an account with Google Ads. You won’t be charged anything until you start running ads.

2. Create a new Performance Max campaign

Selecting Performance Max in Google Ads

From the dashboard, select Create a new campaign (or select the blue ‘+’ symbol), then Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.

From the next options, select Performance Max.

3. Select goals

Goal selection on Performance Max Campaign in Google Ads

Google will automatically select some goals, but you should make sure only to keep those that are vital to your campaign. You can remove goals by selecting the three buttons next to them and deleting.

Select Add Goals if you want to add more to your list.

If you would like to create additional goals, you will have to navigate away from campaign creation to do so. Don’t worry, your work so far will be saved as a draft.

Read how to create goals.

When selecting your campaign goals, remember to consider what your aim is for this specific campaign. Google Max works best for conversion goals, where a user is actually making a purchase.

Select Continue once you’ve finalised your goals.

4. Connect Merchant Centre

If you want to advertise products on your website and have a Merchant Centre account, connect this to your campaign. All products from the account will then be available to advertise within the campaign. You can select specific feeds if you don’t want to advertise all products.

Further reading:

5. Name your campaign

Give your Campaign a name that will help you identify your goals. Then select Continue.

6. Budget and bidding 

Budget and bidding options on Performance Max Campaign in Google Ads

You have to choose a daily budget for Performance Max campaigns. This is then averaged out for the entire month, so you may spend more one day, and less another day. But over the month, you will spend your daily budget multiplied by the number of days in that month.

You need to select a daily budget that is suitable for your campaign and conversion value. Too little and you may receive little to no conversions. Too high and you could find yourself spending more than you’re making.

It’s worth experimenting with budget, but you need to give each option several weeks to run in order to make useful comparisons.

You also have two options to focus your bidding on:

  • Conversions will aim to get as many conversions as possible for your budget 
  • Conversion value will aim to get more higher-value conversions for your budget

Unless you have multiple conversion goals set up with different conversion values, you should select the Conversions option.

7. Customer acquisition

You can select whether to Optimise campaign for acquiring new customers.

Choose this option if you want to use the campaign to target new customers rather than existing customers. If selected, you can either advertise only to new customers, or you can place a higher bid for new customers, while still reaching existing customers too. In either case, you will need to provide a list of at least 1,000 existing customers.

Remember that number of conversions will probably be lower using this option. You will be reaching cold leads at the start of the sales funnel who are less likely to covert.

8. Campaign settings

Selecting ads location by radius on Performance Max Campaign in Google Ads

If you want to target users in particular locations or speaking particular languages, this is where you make that selection.

Opt for the default location, or select Enter another location to expand your reach and make use of additional options such as excluding certain places and selecting a location by radius.

Language selections will be offered depending on your choice of location(s).

The settings here also allow you to add a schedule for your adverts. This is useful if you know when your customers are likely to browse and/or purchase, or if you want to limit the time your campaign runs.

Once done, select Next.

9. Create a listing group

If you connected a Merchant Centre account earlier, then you can now create a listing group. Select the pencil symbol to choose which products to display.

10. Asset groups

Select asset group on Performance Max Campaign in Google Ads

Your asset group includes any images, text and video that will be used within your ads. Ideally you want several of each category to ensure the best optimisation across all channels.

If you don’t add videos, then Google will automatically generate some when they’re needed on platforms such as YouTube. You cannot opt out of video advertisements so, if you have the ability, it would be beneficial to create at least one video yourself. Simple videos can be created through platforms such as Director Mix and Canva.

Google will pull assets from other ads if you have them, making it easier to complete this section.

If you have already connected a Merchant Centre account, don’t upload the same images that are used there. Google will automatically pull these into your ads. Instead, consider adding lifestyle images of your products being worn or used.

The Final URL is where you want your user to end up when they click through the ad – i.e., a specific page on your website.

Be careful to look through all the available assets and add as much information as possible.

11. Audience signal

Creating an audience signal on Performance Max Campaign in Google Ads

An audience signal tells Google the type of people that you want to reach. It includes audience segments, remarketing audiences, and interests and demographics that you upload to your campaign.

This is optional but, if you have the data, will help Google’s automation more quickly target the right kind of users.

Remember that an audience signal is used only as a suggestion. Your campaign won’t necessarily target users on that list, but the information will help Google start to learn about your audience. This should theoretically mean better results more quickly.


If you’ve already used Google Ads, there will be some elements of Performance Max that are already familiar. The main loss from the new campaign type is control, but for beginners this can be a good thing. PMax allows you to set up effective ads quickly and easily, although a more in-depth knowledge will help you optimise to get even better results.

Further reading:

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