Unlock new relevant traffic on Performance Max with search themes

October 26, 2023

We’ve heard you want more ways to share your expertise with Google AI. A new beta called “search themes” in Performance Max does just that—it provides you with an easy way to guide Performance Max to serve on placements that you may not be reaching yet.

Performance Max currently looks at your assets, feeds, and landing pages to predict which placements, including search queries, will perform well for your campaign. Now with the search themes beta, you can fill in gaps by adding information about your business that you expect to perform well. By combining your expertise with Google AI you’ll be able to expand your reach on all channels, including Search. 

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.

When you add search themes, you’re telling Google AI you want to reach that traffic in your Performance Max campaign across all Google Ads inventory including Search, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, Maps, and Display. Search themes also help you find audiences across channels based on users’ search behavior.

On Search inventory specifically, search themes in Performance Max campaigns will have the same prioritization as your phrase match and broad match keywords in Search campaigns. Exact match keywords that are identical to the search queries will continue to be prioritized over search themes and other keywords. Keep in mind that search themes are optional. You’ll also have access to tools like brand exclusions to help control the types of search traffic that Performance Max serves on.

Gif of search themes in the Google Ads UI
You can add up to 25 search themes in your Performance Max campaign

Let’s say you’re running a Performance Max campaign to drive ticket sales for a museum with great outdoors space for kids and you have limited resources to develop new landing pages that highlight this benefit. Since Performance Max uses your website as an important source to help find relevant search queries, you might have limited coverage and not show up on these valuable themes. That’s where search themes come in—you can add “activities for children” and “outdoor recreation” as search themes, to ensure you reach customers across channels that are interested in those offerings—when they’re searching for them on Search or YouTube, browsing blogs or articles related to fun activities for kids, and more. You’ll ideally want your assets to complement the search themes you input, and you’ll also benefit from following Performance Max best practices, such as enabling automatically created assets. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Search themes let you indicate queries that you know your customers are looking for. They are optional and are additive to what queries Performance Max would match you to using your URLs, assets, and more.
  • You can add up to 25 search themes per asset group.
  • Search themes will respect brand exclusions in Performance Max and account-level negative keywords.
  • Results driven from search themes will bring your customers to the landing pages you’ve indicated via your Final URL expansion, page feeds, and URL contains settings.
  • Search themes will have the same prioritization as your phrase match and broad match keywords in your Search campaigns.
  • You’ll be able to see the search categories that your ads matched to in your search terms insights at both the campaign and account levels, and associated conversion performance. You can now view search term insights for custom date ranges, download your data, and access it via the API.


In early 2024, we’ll automatically upgrade your existing custom segments based on search activity to search themes. With the release of search themes, you will no longer be able to add or edit custom segments based on past search activity in Performance Max. Custom segments based on interests will still be available. Learn more here.

Based on initial feedback from pilot testers, improved search terms insights and guidance around search themes is coming in early 2024 so you can understand the results and impacts of search themes you’ve added. 


Will search themes limit Performance Max traffic?

No. Search themes 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.

How will search themes affect my keywords in Search campaigns?

Search themes will have the same prioritization as your phrase match and broad match keywords in your Search campaigns and the one with the highest Ad Rank will be prioritized. 

Are search themes required for Performance Max?

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

Can I remove search themes after using them?

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

If you have additional questions, check out our full FAQ on the Help Center. We look forward to hearing your continued feedback on this beta and how we can continue to build helpful controls and steering levers into Performance Max that allow you to share what’s important to your business.

Posted by Brandon Ervin and Tal Akabas, Directors of Product Management, Google Ads


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