About search themes in Performance Max campaigns (Beta)

Search themes in Performance Max allow you to provide Google AI with valuable information about what your customers are searching for and which topics lead to conversions for your business.

Here are a few examples where search themes can be especially helpful if you have knowledge about your business or customers that AI can’t easily or quickly learn:

  • Your landing page doesn’t have complete details or the latest updates about the products and services you offer.
  • You’ve just expanded into a new market or launched a new product or service where your campaigns don’t have extensive performance history.
  • You are launching a new promotion or sale for the holiday season where you don’t have extensive performance history.
  • You want to expand your reach within Performance Max—including on Search inventory in Performance Max—and ensure you have comprehensive coverage on important business themes.
  • You want to provide important information to help your campaign ramp up and optimize performance faster.


Follow these steps to apply search themes to an existing campaign:

  1. In your Google Ads account, go to the left side navigation panel and select your Performance Max campaign.
  2. Select Campaigns, then select Asset group.
  3. Click the pencil icon Pencil icon / edit icon next to "Signals" on the right side of the asset group card to edit signals.
  4. On the “Signals” card, select Search themes.
  5. Add up to 25 unique search themes. For example, avoid “car” and “automobile,” as they’ll reach the same audience.
    • As you enter the search themes, they become chips in the input area.
  6. Click Save.
  • If the search themes aren’t eligible, policy errors are shown when you hover over the interface.
  • Search themes respect brand exclusions rules.

Validation errors

Validation errors remind you to enter search themes in the correct format. You can view the errors by hovering over the red search themes.

Validation errors may occur due to the following reasons:

  • Copying and pasting search themes that aren’t separated by either a comma or a line break
  • Pasting too many search themes (more than 25)
  • Adding search themes that are too long (limit 80 characters)
  • Adding duplicate search themes

You can correct validation errors by clicking the chip and editing the search themes.

All search themes are allowed to be used as long as they follow the Google Ads Policies.

Note: After you remove the excess chips if you've entered in more than 25 search themes, the error around the input disappears.


Will search themes limit Performance Max traffic?

No, it may help identify new or incremental traffic that drives improved performance when that traffic can’t be found with keywordless AI technology through the final URL expansion feature.

For example, let’s say you manage ads for a museum that has a great outdoors space for kids, but you have limited resources to develop separate ads landing pages for each benefit. You can add “activities for children” and “outdoor recreation” as search themes, to ensure you reach customers across channels (in both Google Search and YouTube search results) that are interested in those offerings.

What's the maximum number of search themes that I can add?

You can add up to 25 search themes per asset group.

Are search themes required to use with Performance Max campaigns?

No. Search themes are an optional input you can use to drive better performance.

Can I turn off search themes after using it?

Yes. You can remove the search themes you don’t want to include in your Performance Max asset group at any time.

Can I copy and paste search themes into the field?

Yes. Use commas to separate each search theme you want to add.

What happens if I delete search themes?

Traffic derived from that search theme may stop serving.

Can I enter competitor brands or product names as search themes?

Yes, competitor brands and keywords can work as search themes, but you’re responsible for complying with local laws and regulations. Assuming there’s nothing preventing you from using these terms, these themes can be helpful, especially when the alternative products are different enough that Performance Max may not automatically recognize them as relevant traffic.

Do search themes impact how keyword prioritization works within a Google Ads account?

Yes. Search themes act as the equivalent to phrase or broad match keywords that are identical to the search query. Learn more About keyword prioritization within a Google Ads account.

How do I measure the impact of search themes?

To understand how search themes impact campaign-level performance, you can compare campaign-level performance before and after adding search themes.
To find which new search terms you're reaching based on the themes you’ve added, view your search term insights report.

How are search themes different from custom segments on Search keywords?

Custom segments allow you to define an audience by specifying custom intent (the keywords these audiences typically search for), custom affinities or interests, apps, and URLs to help you reach your ideal audience. Custom segments are used on non-Search inventory to reach people who have searched for the inputted (or related) keywords in the past.
Search themes allow you to share your unique insights, based on your businesses or specific products, to your Performance Max campaigns. You can add up to 25 search themes that could work well in any channel, not just as an audience, but also as search placements. Search themes are used on non-Search and Search inventory to reach people who are either currently searching for or have in the past searched for the inputted (or related) search themes.

When should I use custom segments on Search keywords versus search themes for my Performance Max campaigns?

Search themes help generate conversion across all channels in Performance Max. Search themes can do everything that custom segments do in Performance Max and more.

Can I still use custom segments in Performance Max?

Custom segments based on custom intent will be upgraded to search themes in early 2024. Custom segments based on custom intent that are already part of your saved audience segments or existing Performance Max campaigns will continue to serve as normal in addition to your search themes.
Custom segments based on custom affinities or interests, apps, and URLs are now available under "Interests & detailed demographics” and will continue to exist in Performance Max.

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