Performance Max is on the move again with a new feature to run alongside Asset Group Audience Signals. In Google’s words it provides you with an easy way to guide Performance Max to serve on placements that you may not be reaching yet.

Interpretation of Google’s Search Theme’s launch article

Important notes taken from Google’s announcement, with our interpretation and next steps.

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.


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.

Note: According to this post by Thomas Eccel Search Themes now only work for Google Search, so you can still go on with Custom Segment (search terms) targeting. YouTube, Display etc will be added later. Nevertheless they are highly relevant to the products being advertised, and don’t add too many right out of the gate. Max 25, but start with 3-5, and expand if necessary.

You’ll also have access to tools like brand exclusions to help control the types of search traffic that Performance Max serves on.

Note: Monitor search terms in use using pMax search terms script by Mike Rhodes and add brand exclusions when necessary

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.

Note: This is an interesting update for those who liked the flexibility of adding there own custom segments to Performance Max campaigns. So in some areas Google is still removing control for marketers.

How to select Search Themes

The selection of Search Themes is currently the main feature and optimisation point of the Performance Max Search Themes beta so you should look to apply the same amount of care in selecting these as your keywords.

Initially, if you have comparable Search campaigns to the Performance Max campaigns you are applying Search Themes to, this will be your first reference point to what themes to choose. Select your Best performing Keywords according to your account KPI and apply these to the Performance Max campaign through Search Themes and you will have a quick and easy test to run using the Search Themes Beta.

Additionally, consider your Target Categories or your Aspirational Keywords for Search Themes. As this is not keyword targeting but using the overall user intent you should use broad categories as your Search Themes. For example, if you are a clothes wear brand you may not bid on “Sweatshirts” or “Cotton Sweatpants” due to the broad nature not being profitable but through Performance Max Search Themes we can guide Google with those phrases as themes whilst the overall bidding strategy controls our CPA or ROAS.

As always we should consider the basics, Keyword Research can for now be treated as Search Theme Research. If you use the Google Keyword Planner to start with ideas or scrape ideas from your own website/webpage you’ll start to generate Search Theme Ideas quickly. Paying attention to Monthly Search Volumes alongside the relevancy of your keyword will be crucial, for Search Themes we suggest going broad rather than niching down into long tail keywords.


However promising a new Google Ads feature might sound you won’t know exactly how positive the impact is until you’ve tested it across a number of accounts.

Like any setting in the account start small and build up incrementally, avoiding wasted ad spend at all costs. We suggest treating Search Themes similar to Broad Match Keywords and using your existing keywords in your account as a launching pad to test within your Performance Max campaigns.

Another promising development that has come from initial feedback is the announcement of improved search terms insights and guidance around search themes coming in early 2024.

When first launched Performance Max was incredibly frustrating to many people involved in the day to day management of ad accounts. But over time with consistent updates the tool is becoming a lot more effective.

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