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 changed. Read on to find out how to optimise these updated campaigns or – if you’re completely new to them – how to start using Performance Max.

What is Performance Max?

Homepage of Google Ads

Performance Max – or pMax – is a type of 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 its platforms. Assets will be mixed and matched depending on the platform and the search.

Pros and Cons of Performance Max

Like any type of campaign, there are advantages and disadvantages to Performance Max. Here are the main things to look out for.

Performance Max Pros

Less time-consuming: Performance Max campaigns should be less time-consuming to set up and manage. Most of the work and optimisation is done automatically by Google, and you only have to create one campaign in order to advertise in multiple locations. Previously you’d have to create a new campaign for each location.

Continuous optimisation: Thanks to the AI technology used, pMax campaigns are continually optimised. So the more views, clicks and conversions you get, the better your ads should perform.

Improved targeting: While you don’t get as much control as you would on other campaign types, you do get to utilise Google’s knowledge of audience behaviours. This is so vast that no individual company could ever hope to get near it with their own data. So your campaigns can be targeted based on Google’s expansive data, not your own limited information.

Performance Max Cons

Potential poor performance: If you’ve just let your old campaigns automatically roll onto pMax without making any changes, there’s a good chance you’ve seen worsening results. I go into this in more detail below, but you should be aware that you’ll need to spend some time on updates if you haven’t already done so.

Less control: There are fewer opportunities to manually tweak pMax ads, which means you can’t experiment to find what works best, or make changes to better suit your strategy and audience. While, theoretically, Google will do all this for you instead, it’s not a perfect system and Google’s automation has been known to be poor at times.

Automation isn’t always best: Although you may think you can set off a pMax campaign and sit back while it brings you loads of leads, this isn’t necessarily the case. Like with any ad, you can end up wasting a lot of money if you don’t set up and run campaigns effectively. You still need to keep an eye on any Performance Max campaigns to make sure you continue to see the best results.

How to set up Performance Max

Set up Performance Max from Smart Shopping and Local campaigns

Performance Max completed rolling out in September 2022, replacing the now-defunct Smart Shopping and Local campaigns. If you were running these kinds of campaigns and didn’t change them yourself, they would have automatically updated by September.

If you haven’t done anything with them since the change, make sure to take a look at what you’ll need to do to ensure the upgraded ads are optimised

1. Locate your Performance Max campaigns

Open your Google Ads account and select Campaigns. Look for a campaign that includes a symbol that looks like a zig-zag with a small star above it:

Symbol for Performance Max campaigns

Select the pMax campaign and select Assets from the right side menu.

2. Add more assets

Many elements of your old upgraded campaign will have been automatically transferred over to the Smart Shopping campaign. That includes historical information gathered about performance, budget, assets and conversion goals.

You will, however, need to add more assets (images, video and text) to your new campaign.

Ads in a Performance Max campaign will display over multiple platforms. Each of these platforms have different asset requirements. For example, an ad on YouTube would require a video, and the dimensions of a Search Ad image would be different to those on the Display Network.

In particular, you probably won’t have any video assets in your campaign. And, while Google will automatically create these for you if you don’t, their videos aren’t particularly impressive.

You can instead – for both video and image – create your own assets on Canva, which is a free and easy-to-use tool.

Google recommends you include as many different assets as possible, with the following as a minimum:

  • 4 headlines
  • 5 descriptions
  • 5 images of different dimensions (including one at 1200 x 1200)

As mentioned above, you should also seriously consider including at least one video.

3. Identify issues

Insights provided by Google Ads will point you in the right direction if something isn’t set up correctly. Keep an eye on these and make adjustments as necessary to improve your results.

What happened to old campaigns?

Historic data from Google Ads Smart Shopping campaign

Once your campaign was upgraded to Performance Max, you will have lost the ability to edit or reactivate the original. You will, however, be able to still access historical data, which is useful for comparisons and analysis.

Set up Performance Max campaigns from scratch

If you are completely 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 done so, 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 set of 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 be sure to only 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 don’t see the option, you can create additional goals. To do this, you’ll need to navigate away from campaign creation. 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. Performance Max works best for conversion goals, where a user is actually making a purchase.

Select Continue once you’ve finalised your 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 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.

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 therefore 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 specific locations or those who speak 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 location exclusions and 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, such as adverts on 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 copy 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 on 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.The more assets you provide, the better Google can mix-and-match to find the most successful combinations.

11. Audience signals

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 familiar. The main loss from the new campaign type is control, but for beginners this can be a good thing. Performance Max 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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