Google Performance Max vs. Demand Gen

Google ad campaigns are constantly evolving and it can be difficult to identify which campaign type will help you not only hit your paid media goals but also hit your business goals. In this blog, we will cover the key differences between these campaign types and the best use cases for each. 

What's the Difference?

Before we can get into when it makes more sense to use either Performance Max or Demand Gen, it's important to understand what are the key differences between these two campaign types and where there is overlap. 

In the diagram below, you will see the main differences between each campaign type a:

At a high level the biggest difference between the campaign types is the placements offered and the targeting options. Demand Gen gives you more control over your targeting, ad placements, and reporting insights - while PMAX leans heavy into AI giving Google more control over who sees your ads and when/where ads are served.

When Does it Make Sense to Use Performance Max?

This campaign type is a more full funnel approach, where users are engaged at all funnel stages from awareness to conversion. This is due to the large variety of networks that ads are served on for PMAX.

Performance Max is a great option if you are looking for a campaign that does a lot of the work for you. All you need to do is feed the campaign creative, copy, and your audience signals and PMAX takes it from there. 

This is a great option if you are struggling to scale your search campaigns and are looking for a campaign type that can act as a supplement to your search efforts.

Performance Max is also a great option if you are trying to expand your reach to different networks such as Display, Shopping, and Google Maps. This campaign type typically drives efficient CPLs but quality can sometimes be an issue. So if you run PMAX make sure you are using UTMs to track lead quality in your CRM.

[PRO TIP] PMAX can be very limiting when it comes to targeting control and reporting insights. Reach out to Google Support and supply them with a negative keyword list to avoid your PMAX search ads showing for keywords that are irrelevant (you cannot set negative keywords for PMAX in Google Ads at this time) 

You can also install Google Ad scripts that give you insight into a search query report and other performance metrics that Google doesn't show you within their platform.

When Does it Make Sense to Use Demand Gen?

Demand Gen is a top and mid funnel campaign type, where users are targeted at the awareness and interest stages in their purchasing journey.

Despite being more top to mid funnel focused, Demand Gen is a great option if you are focused more on quality control rather than rapidly scaling your paid media efforts. 

The biggest differentiating factor between the two campaign types is that Demand Gen does offer more audience targeting controls, rather than giving the reins over to Google's AI. The drawback to Demand Gen is that you won't have as large of a reach than PMAX since ads are served on less networks. 

So What Should I Use?

To sum things up simply:

Performance Max: #1 Priority is to scale your reach and conversion volume - quality Is less of a concern as you will rely on the engine to find your placements.

Demand Gen: #1 Priority is targeting control and pushing users down the funnel to the conversion stage - lead quality and campaign control is a top priority since you have more ability to review targets/placements. 

Both of these are newer campaign types: PMAX leans into automation more than Demand Gen. However, given their relative strengths in different funnel-stages, it makes sense to use them where most appropriate to your business goals.




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David Lacamera
David Lacamera
Sr. Manager, Paid Media