What is Google Performance Max? Ad Upgrades in 2022


You might have seen mention of Google Performance Max, which was first mentioned by the search giant in early 2021. As always, plenty of changes are coming to how Google Ads manages your ad campaigns.

And, as is often the case, Google is looking to streamline and optimise the way you run your ads.

So, what changes are on the cards? Is Google Performance Max going to change the way you run your ad campaigns? And do you even need to do anything?

What is Google Performance Max?

The aim behind Google Performance Max is to allow advertisers to run ads across all of Google’s inventory from a single campaign. This is done automatically, and the theory is that it will optimise the results of your ads by targeting the areas most likely to deliver a result.

This essentially means that you’ll be able to let Google decide where your ad displays. If you’ve provided the right information, your ad could display on YouTube or Google Maps, in paid search results, or on the Display Network.

Google Performance Max is, basically, a new and improved version of Smart Campaigns.

So, what sets it apart from the previous iterations?

The inclusion of search.

Performance Max allows advertisers to set up a campaign in a similar manner to Smart and Discovery campaigns.

Yes, it will be replacing the Smart Campaigns. But the option for the search giant’s marquee service, paid search, will remain – so it’ll be an either/or situation, not instead of.

As with any other Google Smart Campaigns, advertisers will still choose their campaign goal. For example, you might be looking for sales, traffic, leads, or in-store visits.

Performance Max will leverage the power of Google’s huge reach to deliver the optimum results based on several clever algorithms and workings. And all of this in real time.

When does Google Performance Max go live?

Google rolled out Performance Max in November 2021. In December 2021, it was rolled out fully to all customers.

From April 2022, Performance Max will be added to Google Smart Shopping campaigns, and the service will be rolled out for Local Ads Campaigns in June 2022.

As a Google Ads user, you won’t need to do anything extra to access Performance Max campaigns. It will simply be the new way that Google sets up your ‘smart’ campaigns.

Why Performance Max?

When setting up your Google Ads campaigns, you’ll be asked to provide extra material, such as images, logos, and text.

As we saw in the 2021 Google Marketing Livestream, Google has noticed that we use the internet more and in different ways. So, the theory behind Performance Max is to take the guesswork out of ad optimization and allow the all-seeing algorithms to make your ads work harder.

Of course, this sounds like a great idea. Give Google the raw materials for your ads, and they’ll do the legwork of presenting your ads to relevant audiences across their huge reach.

But if you’ve been paying attention to some of the developments with online tracking, you might be aware that this is also a factor that is open to change.

Google themselves have addressed the changes to third-party cookies and tracking online users in their proposed (and now delayed) move to FLoC.

And with recent legal action in the European Union targeting the IAB’s Transparency and Consent Framework, what does all this mean for targeting traffic on Google Ads?

The problems with ad targeting

PPC ads have come a long way. Today, the tools available, including the new Google Performance Max, are far from what many marketers used even five or ten years ago.

Getting the best return on investment (ROI) has always been a challenge with PPC ads on all platforms.

And although the new Performance Max might help you to automate much of your ad targeting, it remains to be seen how effective it could be. We’ve already seen a number of abandoned measures, such as the proposed cohorts (designed to improve anonymity but widely criticised as more of the same).

Fake traffic

The growing threat of digital ad fraud is an ongoing problem for the online marketing industry.

Fake impressions and clicks on PPC ads cost marketers at least $35 billion each year. And that’s just in the impact on ad revenue.

Once these fake users have been targeted, there is the problem that they are then retargeted by the same algorithms that delivered these ads, effectively misspending the advertisers’ budget multiple times.

And although Google, Facebook, and the big platforms are all promising to reduce the endemic click fraud out there, the truth is that not much has happened.

Even with the measures employed by Google to reduce fake traffic on ads, we still block, on average, around 15% of all clicks as non-genuine.

Read more about click fraud in our full guide.

Put simply, Performance Max might be a useful tool to trigger your ad across multiple Google channels.

But will your ads still be viewed or clicked by fake users, click farms, and bots?

Short answer: yes.

Automated and non-genuine ad traffic is not a problem tackled by Google Performance Max. And with this automation comes a greater chance of displaying your ads to bad traffic sources.

Can you block bad traffic on Performance Max campaigns?

In a word, at the moment – No.

Google does not allow third-party software to monitor or manage Performance Max or Smart Campaigns. So, if you are worried about fake traffic on your ads (and yes, you should be), then you’ll need to consider a different approach.

Although Performance Max and Smart Campaigns have some benefits, especially their easy user experience, not blocking bad traffic might be a major problem for some advertisers.


By blocking bots and other known sources of poor-quality traffic, marketers can improve their ad reach and their return on ad spend.

This is why click fraud prevention tools such as CHEQ Essentials have become an essential addition for advertisers online.

Using AI analysis and real-time fraud detection and blocking tools, CHEQ massively reduces the impact of these problem traffic sources. In fact, the vast majority of our customers see a big improvement in their ad performance.

  • IP addresses are analysed and added to your exclusion list in real time
  • Known sources of fraud don’t even get to click your ads
  • Suspicious behaviour is flagged up for you to review on your dashboard
  • Clicks that fall outside of your Google Ads filters are flagged/blocked – including out-of-geo clicks

In short, your ad traffic is optimized using methods that Google doesn’t use.

And although Performance Max might help you to improve your ad reach, it won’t stop bots, click farms, and malicious clicks. And for now, you can’t even use CHEQ Essentials with it.

If you’re running Original Flavor Google Ads and you’re thinking of running Performance Max/Smart Campaigns, check your traffic first.

You can run a free traffic audit on your non-Performance Max Google Ads campaigns with our free trial.

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