Google's Performance Max: A Beginner's Guide

Google's new Performance Max campaign types open up new ways for your business to reach prospective customers. Learn more about how you can get started.


Google introduced Performance Max ad campaigns in November 2021, initially giving access to only a small group of advertisers. This access was expanded to everyone worldwide in July 2022. Performance Max campaigns continue to replace the Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns as Google continues to push forward with Performance Max as the default for any new ad campaigns.

These updates are for good reason. These new Performance Max campaigns provide advertisers with new features and design improvements that can significantly boost a business trying to advertise within the Google ecosystem.

What is Performance Max?

Performance Max is a new Google Ads campaign type that allows advertisers to display ads across all of Google's ad spaces and set specific performance goals for these ads.

Performance Max brings value to your ad campaigns through features like Smart Bidding, where your performance can be optimized in real time. Google's AI also works to perfect nearly every aspect of your ad campaigns to ensure your business meets and exceeds well beyond your advertising goals.

Where do Performance Max campaign ads show?

Performance Max is intended to bring your business's ads across all of Google's platforms, including Display, YouTube, Discovery, Gmail, Maps, and Shopping.

Display Ad Example

1 Display Ads through Performance Max.

YouTube Ad Example

2 YouTube Ads through Performance Max.


Discovery Ad Example
Discovery Ads through Performance Max.
Gmail Ads Examples
Gmail Ads through Performance Max.
Maps Ads Example
Maps Ad through Performance Max.
Shopping Ads Example
6 Display Ads through Performance Max.

The ability for your business's ads to be viewed across all of Google's display network creates the exceptional potential to achieve your goals of e-commerce sales, lead generation, store visits, etc. This availability means that users will have every opportunity to interact with your ads, and retargeting can build on the interest of every user.

Who sees my Performance Max campaign ads?

One of the most unique aspects of Performance Max is what goes into deciding how the ads are served. Performance Max campaigns leverage audience signals to tailor ad experiences to every individual. 

Essentially, users are likely to be served an ad for your business if they have searched for similar products and services or otherwise indicated interest to Google. Content adjacency does not mean your products or offers show up alongside targeted content. In fact, signals that Google has captured based on your behavior how and where ads show up across the web, regardless of website content.

For your business, this will translate to a much leaner demographic receiving your ads that are also more likely to convert.

Local Search

Local search is a subset of search that combines the awareness generation of online ads with the fulfillment of a local storefront. This was initially noticed as a trend of users attaching Near Me to a given search term. It soon presented the opportunity for advertisers to leverage interest from people within their local area.

Although this search category may seem narrow, looking at its usage over time, we can quickly see how prominent local search has become over the past decade. In response to this growth, Google has developed different ad categories tailored to the nuances of local search.

Local Inventory Ads

Launching in the fall of 2013 Local Inventory Ads or LIAs for short, allow brick-and-mortar businesses to provide Google with daily inventories of their products. Users searching for a product nearby are offered ads from local stores that list the item as in stock. For more details about Local Inventory Ads, check out our overview of how they can support your business.

LIAs also allow a variety of annotations to indicate attractive options such as curbside pickup and in-store availability.

Local Campaigns

Local Campaigns launched at the end of 2020 and were designed to help businesses drive foot traffic to physical locations. They use machine learning technology to automatically target the right people with the right message at the right time.

With local campaigns, businesses can list local-specific promotions, discounts, or events that can be shown to nearby users conducting relevant searches. Understanding how these campaigns can drive traffic to your storefront can significantly maximize the benefits Performance Max will bring to your business.

Vehicle Listing Ads

Google made Vehicle Listing Ads - or VLAs - available in early 2022 as a performance-focused ad format to reach online car shoppers, allowing dealers to promote inventory and grow qualified leads and store visits.

Vehicle Listings Ads are a sub-category of Local Inventory Ads tailored to help auto dealers better advertise their vehicles through Google Ads. These ads incorporate auto-specific terms like make, model, and mileage to show vehicles that better match what the user is looking for. Learn more about auto ads in our how-to guide for Google's Vehicle Listing Ads.

For more information about Local Search, check out our Near Me Webinar, where industry experts cover the topic and explain how it fits into Performance Max.

How do I get started with Performance Max?

Performance Max campaigns require a few steps to get started, which Google outlines well in their related Google Ads Help article. However, there are a few things we think are good to keep in mind as you tackle setting up these campaigns:

  • Be prepared to set up your campaigns fully. Performance Max campaigns automate nearly every aspect of your business's advertising. Not setting up certain elements of your campaigns or limiting the assets you provide will hinder your campaign's success.
  • Be patient. When starting out, your campaigns may take 1-3 days to normalize traffic. This results from Google's AI taking time to learn how to optimize your ads. If there is little traffic after three days, follow Google's guidance for troubleshooting your campaign.
  • Carefully consider your advertising goals. Performance Max offers options for specific advertising goals; take time to ensure the priorities you set for your campaign are accurate to your business's priorities.
  • Seek outside help if needed. If your team is struggling to find success with your campaigns or cannot manage them in addition to daily business, consider bringing in external help.

dbaPlatform has helped hundreds of thousands of locations become locally competitive by managing and optimizing their local search. If you are interested in dbaPlatform managing your advertising campaigns, our industry experts would love to discuss our success with Performance Max. Contact our sales team to set up an appointment today.


Similar posts

Join Our Newsletter

Stay ahead of the competition and receive cutting-edge, comprehensive news straight to your inbox.

Learn More