Performance Max campaign setup issues

If your Performance Max campaign isn’t performing as expected, it may be due to specific problems with your bidding, targeting, conversion tracking, or campaign settings. This article will help you troubleshoot your campaign in the following scenarios:

Before you begin

You can create Performance Max campaigns to advertise with little setup or creative input. These goal-based campaigns use machine learning and experimentation to successfully meet your objectives and optimize performance on channels like Discover feed, Display, Gmail, Google Maps, Google partner websites, Google Search, and YouTube. Learn more about how to create a Performance Max campaign

When it’s time to review a campaign’s performance, keep the following in mind:

  • Change takes time: To receive accurate results, wait for a short period after you’ve made changes to your campaign before analyzing the results.
  • Review the right metrics: When you use any Smart Bidding bid strategies, you should confirm that your success metrics match the goals of your campaign.

Troubleshooting steps: Errors during campaign setup

Steps to take if you receive an error during the setup process for a Performance Max campaign.

Steps to check error root causes

  1. Check the asset group setup and determine if any limits have been exceeded.
  2. For advertisers with a Merchant Center feed attached, ensure the Final URL matches the one attached in the Merchant Center.
    • The URLs must match in order for the Performance Max campaign to be created.
  3. For other setup issues, contact support to troubleshoot further.

Troubleshooting steps: Campaign not spending full budget or performance fluctuations

Campaign isn't live

To ensure your campaign is launched and can serve, first check that your campaign is live.

  1. Sign into your Google Ads account.
  2. Click Campaigns and find your Performance Max campaign.
  3. Check that the status is “Eligible”. If it’s “Paused” you can use the pause icon Pause icon for ad campaigns to select “Enabled”.
  4. Check that your campaign has started again.

Automation is evaluating data

Performance Max campaigns are powered by machine learning models. These models train and adapt based on the data you provide through audience signals and the performance data in your campaign and account. This means performance optimization can take time. Typically, this learning process takes 1 to 2 weeks. A report of low performance may be an indication that the model is still learning. If your campaign is still performing lower than expected after 2 weeks, contact support to troubleshoot further.

Asset groups are under review (policy issues)

Before your ads can be served, they'll undergo a policy review to ensure they’re aligned with Google Ads policies. Performance Max campaigns comply with all Google Ads policies. If your assets don’t align with these policies, your asset group may be restricted from serving on some networks, which will affect your campaign’s performance. If your ad is under review for more than 2 full business days, contact us for information.

To check the status of your asset group and edit or appeal a decision:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Go to the navigation menu and click All campaigns.
  3. Select Performance Max campaign from the list of campaigns.
  4. Click on the name of the campaign.
  5. From the page menu, click on the Asset groups tab.
  6. Check your asset group’s status to ensure it’s not under review, or that there are other policy issues.
  7. If the status is "Disapproved" or "Approved (Limited)", hover over the status to understand specific policy issues. If you understand the violation, you can click Edit Assets to correct the issue.
  8. If you think your assets have been wrongly disapproved, you can appeal this decision by:
    • Navigate to the “Asset groups” page.
    • Hover over the status of a “Disapproved” or “Approved (Limited)” asset group.
    • Click Appeal and select the reason you feel it was wrongly disapproved.
  9. If you’d like to review the approval status per asset, you can:
    • Navigate to the “Asset groups” page.
    • Click View Details. You can find the policy approval status in the "Status" column.
    • For assets that are in “Disapproved” or “Approved (Limited)” status, follow the steps listed in step 8.

Any time you make modifications to your asset group, your new assets will need to go through this review process again before they can start running.

Learn more about Google Ads policy, Text ad requirements, Video ad requirements, Personalized advertising policies, Image ad requirements, and Image quality requirements.

Assets pending

If you’ve noticed your assets show the “Pending” status under the performance column, this may be because there isn’t enough data to compute a performance label. This is simply a label and will not prohibit assets from serving. Learn more about asset reporting in Performance Max

Restrictive location targeting

If the location targeting for your campaign is too restrictive (for example, targeting user groups only within a 2-mile radius of a specific zip code), it may not serve. Consider widening your geographic target in order to determine if it will allow your campaign to serve. Learn more about location targeting

Budget too low

Ensure that your budget is high enough to get the most reach from Performance Max. Generally, your Performance Max campaign budget should be consistent with other well-performing performance campaigns in your account. If your budget is low compared to your typical average cost per conversion, you may notice a slower ramp up since there will be fewer conversions each day.

Performance fluctuations

Fluctuations in performance are often driven by changes to the campaign like updating assets, changing the campaign’s bid strategy, or external factors like seasonality or competition. In the case of large fluctuations, it’s important to first consider whether recent changes have been made to the campaign. Significant adjustments made to the bid strategy, budget, conversion goals, audience signals, location, language, and ad schedule can cause performance to fluctuate as the system adjusts and optimizes. It’s recommended to make incremental changes over time following Smart Bidding best practices. Generally, it’s recommended to wait 1 to 2 weeks after a significant change is made before judging performance.

Learn more about Performance Max campaign performance fluctuations

Troubleshooting steps: Other campaign serving issues

Campaign is serving on unexpected or unsuitable landing pages

If you've noticed your ads are serving landing pages that you didn’t intend for the campaign, this may be because Final URL Expansion is turned on. When Final URL expansion is on, Google dynamically generates a headline, description, and other assets to match user search intent. Learn more about Final URL expansion with Performance Max

If you don’t want Google to automatically select alternate landing pages, you can opt out of the Final URL expansion feature by following the steps below:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. On the left page menu, select Campaigns.
  3. Choose the Performance Max campaign that you want to edit.
  4. On the left page menu, click Settings.
  5. Under “Additional settings”, expand the “Final URL expansion” section.
  6. Choose to turn it off.
  7. Click Save.

Ads serving on irrelevant or undesirable placements

With placement exclusions, you can exclude your ads from serving on placements for specific pages, sites, mobile apps, and videos where you don't want your ads to show. This feature may negatively impact your campaign’s performance as it limits serving, and should only be used for brand safety purposes. In particular, you might exclude websites and mobile apps that aren’t appropriate for your brand. Performance Max campaigns will respect all account-level and MCC-level placement exclusions. Campaign-level placement exclusions aren’t yet available. Learn more about how to exclude placements at the account level

Ads serving in unintended locations

Once your campaign is live, you can view the locations of users being served ads both on the “Overview” page map view and by clicking the “Locations” tab. In addition to targeting users in the specified locations, Performance Max may also target users that are located outside, but are interested in those locations. It’s expected to receive some traffic from outside the specific targeted locations.

If you notice unwanted serving from non-targeted locations, you may add these locations as exclusions within the campaign’s settings.

  1. Sign into your Google Ads account.
  2. On the campaign’s “Settings” page, select the location to target under “Locations”.
  3. Select Enter another location.
  4. Enter the name of the place you want to exclude, then select Exclude.

Troubleshooting steps: Poor lead quality

Performance Max campaigns are optimized based on your bid strategy, how the campaign is performing, and other campaign performances across your account. If you’re noticing low quality leads in your campaign, you may need to feed information about what a good quality lead looks like into the system so your campaign can optimize accordingly.

Leverage Offline Conversion Import (OCI) to improve lead quality

If you’re noticing low quality leads, the first step to mitigate is to leverage Offline Conversion Import (OCI) as conversion data from offline events to drive optimal optimization via automation. Here are some tips for using OCI:

  • If you’re using Google lead form, GCLIDs should be available via CSV download, or you can export to CRM and then back into Google Ads.
  • Zapier can be connected to existing CRM systems (for example, Salesforce) to help with the offline import into Google Ads.
  • GCLIDless OCI will be available in beta in Q3 including integration with a lead form that will selectively fire a lightweight conversion or assign values to further verify lead quality beyond form submission.

Use conversion value rules

If you’re unable to leverage OCI and optimize towards offline conversions, then you can leverage conversion value rules to assign values to specific types of customers by their likelihood of converting to their desired business outcome (for example, final sale). Conversion value rules can be set by user location, device, or audience.

For example, if your leads from mobile devices are less likely to convert (for example, final sale), then you can assign a lesser value to such leads. Similarly, if you believe that leads from certain audiences, like website visitors, are more likely to convert, then you can assign a higher value to such leads.

Note that conversion value rules are only compatible with a maximum conversion value or tROAS campaigns. Learn more about conversion values and how to set conversion values.

Use qualifying questions within lead forms

  • If you’re using Google lead form, select qualifying questions to help further qualify your lead before they submit the form. Note that this action may result in an increase in CPL.
  • Google lead form offers a predefined or pre-approved set of more than 70 qualifying questions.

Use lightweight signals within web forms

Here are some examples of signals based on your conversion action:

  • [Site] Time spent on the site or bounce rate
  • [Site] Pages visited during session duration
  • [Form] Length of free-form response

Introduce friction in the web form

Add friction to the web forms to further verify lead quality, for example:

  • Leverage CAPTCHA to avoid spam.
  • Implement longer forms, specific questions, or free form text.

Troubleshooting steps: For advertisers with a Merchant Center feed

To troubleshoot campaigns with a Merchant Center feed, keep in mind the following reminders:

  • Performance Max campaigns will be prioritized over existing Shopping campaigns that run the same products in the same Google Ads account, so when you start to run Performance Max, spend in those Shopping campaigns may decrease (even if Performance Max has a lower budget than the Shopping campaigns) and Performance Max will ramp up in its place.
  • To minimize performance impact, we recommend that advertisers set similar budgets for Performance Max as their existing Shopping campaigns for the same products.
  • Your Performance Max campaign may take 2 to 3 days to ramp up. Once your Performance Max campaign is up and running, you should pause your Shopping campaign. If your Shopping campaign and Performance Max campaigns continue to run at the same time, the Shopping campaign may continue spending on some surfaces and not allow Performance Max to optimize fully.
  • Listing group setup guidance: When setting up asset groups for your retail Performance Max campaign, ideally, you shouldn’t have an overlap in products targeted between asset groups (for example, Asset Group 1 and Asset Group 2 shouldn’t target both Products A to Z ; Asset Group 1 should only target Products A to L and Asset Group 2 should only target Products M to Z).

Campaign is serving ads to users outside of intended locations

There are 2 types of location targeting and exclusions in Performance Max:

  • Presence: Location targeting and exclusions based on the user’s current location
  • Interest: Location targeting and exclusions based on a location that the user has expressed interest in
Example: If a campaign targets users in the United States based on "Presence", it will show ads only to users located in the United States. If a campaign targets users in the United States based on "Presence or interest", it will show ads to both users located in the United States and those who have expressed interest in the United States.

If you find that your campaign is serving ads to users outside of an intended location, you can change this in the settings of your existing Performance Max campaign:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Go to the navigation menu and select a Performance Max campaign.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Go to the Locations section.
  5. Click the Location options dropdown.
  6. Choose to target “Presence or interest” or “Presence” only.
Note: Exclusions based on “Presence or interest” are only available for advertisers who have a Google Merchant Center account linked to their Performance Max campaign.
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