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The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up a Successful Performance Max Campaign (2024)

By Tom Davies 8 January, 2024, 8 mins read

So, you want to make money using Google Ads?

Well then you’ve come to the right place.

But before we get started, let me introduce myself.

I’m Tom — but you might know me as “Tom from Google”. Somehow, the nickname’s stuck…

I often get asked, are Google Ads for everyone? 

No, they’re not, and that’s okay.

But if you…

  • Have a great website 
  • Have Search volume for your product 
  • Have strong points of difference and persuasive reviews 
  • Are an established brand
  • And can generate interest but could use help pushing customers over the line.

Then you’re on the right track.

If you spoke to a bunch of Google experts, you’d hear a lot of fancy buzzwords thrown around:

  1. Brand terms
  2. Negative keywords
  3. Performance Max
  4. Segmented campaigns.
  5. And a whole lot more

I know – it can be overwhelming. To be totally honest, there are a lot of intricacies to a profitable Google Ads campaign. Take a step back though, and Google Ads can be pretty simple.

It’s all about connecting the right product or service with the right audience. 

But I want to share a little (not-so-well-kept) secret to help you squeeze the most cash out of every Google Ads marketing strategy.

Two words.

Performance Max.

What’s Performance Max?

Performance Max is a Google Ads campaign type that allows you to give control of your advertising budget to the machine. Performance Max campaigns are automated and driven by powerful machine learning technology, meaning they can optimise themselves for maximum performance on their own.

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, I’m giving away my budget? How does Performance Max know what to do?”

The Performance Max algorithm is designed to focus on your target ROI, by increasing your budget in the most profitable areas – while cutting out any waste. Performance Max campaigns can sense changes in customer behaviour and respond accordingly with automated bidding techniques that increase or decrease bids based on this data. 

And it works 24/7 – so you don’t have to.

Let’s say there’s a company that sells pet food and wants to reach more people who own dogs. They create an ad for their new line of dog food and give it to Google Performance Max. They also tell Google that they want to target people who are interested in dogs, and who live in a certain area.

Google Performance Max then uses its machine learning algorithms to find the best places to show the ad to those people. It may show the ad on Google Search when someone searches for “best dog food,” on YouTube when someone watches a dog training video, or on other websites and apps that the target audience is likely to visit using the Google Display network.

This allows the pet food company to reach more potential customers with their ad without having to manually manage multiple advertising campaigns. Make sense?

So, now that Performance Max has piqued your interest, let’s look at how to set up a Performance Max campaign.

The setup process is pretty straightforward — you can do it yourself with 7 steps:

But first — make sure to get your Google Ads account set up.

  1. Decide your objective.
  2. Select your campaign type
  3. Choose your bidding strategy
  4. Turn OFF Final URL Extension
  5. Choose your products and assets
  6. Create an Audience Signal
  7. Set your budget

7 easy steps to set up a Performance Max campaign

1 – Decide your objectives.

If you’re an e-com business, we want to be driving sales. If you’re a service-based business, you’ll probably want to be driving leads. For this example, I’ll go with “Sales”.

Image 5

If that’s the case, our goal is going to be “purchases” (as opposed to leads). In the screenshot below, this is the conversion action that has already been set up. 


2 – Select your campaign type

This one is straightforward enough…

Just choose Performance Max!

For an ecommerce business, we’re trying to drive sales. So don’t forget to double-check that your campaign is connected to the Merchant Center (relevant usually only to e-commerce businesses).


Remember, Google’s Performance Max is an advertising tool that helps companies show their ads to the right people in lots of different places on the internet. It uses machine learning to find the best places to show ads — effectively taking out the guesswork and experimentation from your end.

It’s a great way to save a lot of time and effort on managing different campaigns on different platforms.


3  – Choose your bidding strategy

When we’re focusing on ecommerce brands, for example, we want to select “conversion value”.

Why? Because we want higher-value conversions, not just bottom-of-the-barrel customers. This is because we’re thinking about our AOV and LTV. Drop me a line here [insert contact form?] and I’ll explain what those mean.

We don’t set a target return on ad spend for the first two weeks because we need to let the campaign build its own data. Let the algorithm work its magic.

Usually, I’ll then break it down by state so that we can make more high-value optimisations later on. So we could do things like exclude particular states.

Why would we exclude areas? Well, for example, if we’re running ads for, say, a bikini brand, maybe we wouldn’t want to show ads in Tasmania where it’s a bit colder compared to New South Wales and Queensland.

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4 – Turn OFF Final URL Extension

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This next section is small, but it can make a BIG difference.

When we get to the Final URL Extension toggle, I turn this off.

I’ll tell you why in a second.

But first, what is it?

This is basically a choice between two options:

  1. Google chooses to which website page traffic (viewers) is sent.
  2. You provide a specific webpage (URL) as the end destination. If you were running a Shopping only campaign, focusing on selling just one particular product, this is most revalent.

So why do we do this?

Essentially, you want to make sure you’re sending people to the product pages of the products they’re showing in shopping. You don’t want a disconnect between the ad and the landing page.

5 – Choose your products and assets

Image 3

Next up, this is where the magic happens.

This section is where we’ll pick our products!

Remember, we’re just focusing on one product type. This is where you would update your URL.

If you’re doing a Shopping campaign, that’s it – URL then set and forget.

If you’re doing an assets campaign, any guesses?

Yep, that’s when you would then need to go in and add in all the assets.

It’s super helpful if you have everything prepared in advance, that way you’re able to efficiently upload — and we all love efficiency.

Which assets should you have prepared in advance?

  • High-quality images
  • Videos
  • Logos
  • Headlines that are proven to convert (hot tip: choose one of our 42 most successful Google headline templates to get yourself better results faster)
  • Call to actions

I personally prefer to upload assets for Shopping only, and then build out separate campaigns for YouTube, Display, Search and Discover afterward. Why? Pretty simply, because then I have more control over where the budget goes.

Let’s say I have $20. I don’t get to pick where that $20 goes if I don’t segment. But if I have, for example, three separate campaigns, a YouTube, Display, and Shopping, I can choose to put $10 towardsShopping, and $5 towards the other two. 

6 – Create an Audience Signal

Image 4

Think of this as your “perfect buyer”. This is where you’ll craft your ideal customer avatar, adding in elements like demographics, interests, previous interactions, downloaded apps, and behaviours.

The great thing about Performance Max is that it takes care of a lot of the hard work for you — we just need to give it hints as to who our ideal customer is.

7 – Set your budget

Image 5

Alright, time to put our money where our mouth is.

My golden tip here is to start small, at around $5 a day. Then, once the data starts to roll in and you start to see the wins, then you can throw more money at it.

But Tom, my Google marketing budget is WAY MORE than $5 a day.

I get it, but there’s a very good reason why you start small. After you’ve launched your Performance Max campaign, Performance Max enters its LEARNING phase. This is when it’s time to sit back and let machine learning do its thing. It takes a couple of weeks for Google to get meaningful data.

Starting small gives you the opportunity to refine your targeting and experiment with different options to find the most effective audience for your product or service. By doing so, you’re giving Google the green light to do whatever it needs to find the winning formula — then and only then do you scale, which will ultimately help you save money in the long run.

It allows you to test the waters and get a feel for how your campaign is performing without risking a lot of money upfront. Think of it as dipping your toe in the water before diving in headfirst.

Cool, you’ve set up your Performance Max campaign. Now what?

With that in mind, here are our 5 steps to get you the most sales possible with Google:

  1. Identify what specific metric needs to be fixed to move the needle the most – this could be your bids, conversion rate, or average order value.
  2. Make strategic shifts in targeting and where we send traffic to improve that metric.
  3. Use headlines and assets that are PROVEN to work (use one of our 42 Google headline templates for a head start).
  4. Identify ways to double down on the winning campaigns – or segment the campaign type that is most effectively capturing traffic (that might be Performance Max, search, display, or shopping).
  5. Find the sweet spot with the correct bidding strategy and then look to scale as much as possible.

Be our next success story.