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The Problem With Performance Max

Analytics Unify Nov 15, 2022 3 min read
A photo of a clickfarm.
Digital Marketing

Performance Max is a powerful new tool that uses machine learning and audience signals to run your Google Ads campaigns across the entire Google Cross Network. However, it has shown itself to have certain vulnerabilities, severely limiting its practicality. It is particularly susceptible to spam leads and fraudulent traffic from click farms which significantly impact its usefulness and viability. Depending on your business, whether you are driving sales or generating leads, it may be wasting your time and resources. You may need to start looking for alternatives.


How Performance Max works

Performance Max is the newest campaign type within Google Ads. It takes a goal-oriented approach as opposed to a target-oriented one. Performance Max has access to all the Google ads campaign formats to try and meet your goal in the most effective way possible. What makes it unique and effective is that it gets the advertiser to enter a few copy variations and image/video assets, then proceed to automate many of the traditional ‘targeting’ processes. It learns to optimise your campaign in a variety of ways.


Firstly, it optimises your spending by automating the process of budgeting and bidding, making your campaign run more efficiently. It’s also good at finding new audience segments in addition to the ones you start with. This is thanks to the search engine’s understanding of consumer intent which helps suggest your campaign to groups that could find it appealing. Performance Max provides deeper data insights with clear information about which image combinations and audience segments are bringing you the best results. It even helps with creative aspects of the campaign by using a combination of the knowledge you have of your audience and the assets you upload to make suggestions for future creative. Through utilising machine learning, Performance Max has streamlined many aspects of the Google campaign process, making it easier and more effective. So what is causing the problems?


Fraudulent traffic from click farms

Click farms are operations run for the purpose of affecting internet traffic. They involve real people using many computers or phones to drive fake traffic en masse. This is often done to falsely bolster traffic numbers so that a person or company can inflate their perceived value. It is also done to mess with competitor campaigns. Google’s automated filtering can block most bots trying to generate fake traffic, but click farms are harder to filter out. This is because actual humans are behind the clicks, and their online behaviour is recognised as human, allowing them to escape being tagged as bots. They can create a high volume of spam like a bot would, but it won’t get recognised as such until much later.


Click farms are only problematic for non-ecommerce campaigns. They are able to affect lead generation campaigns by taking conversion actions. These need to be quick and easy, such as filling out fake details on a lead form. These count as conversions and cause Performance Max to focus on them as leads. Ecommerce campaigns only count genuine purchases as conversions, and click farms are not willing to spend money for this purpose.


If you are trying to use Google Ads data in order to execute a marketing strategy, it will be affected by this fraudulent traffic and skewed in the wrong direction. When click farms click on your ads and convert on their website, Google’s algorithm starts to focus more on these people, as it has no way of knowing they are not genuine customers. This is particularly damaging if you have an ‘open’ budget that is controlled by a Target CPA. Google will see the conversions coming through at a low CPA and raise spending levels to try and capture this increase in demand, wasting thousands in ad spend on fraudulent results. Click farms present a unique challenge and have really thrown a wrench into the exceptional potential of Performance Max.



Performance Max is great at generating large amounts of traffic, but that has become an opportunity for fraudulent traffic. As of the moment, there is no clear or easy fix for these problems around Performance Max. Making a higher requirement for fake traffic, like a form or a survey with a high number of required fields, can help, but it also drives away a lot of potential real leads due to requiring more effort to submit your enquiry form. These issues will persist until Google has a way of addressing them directly. If you are using Performance Max for an ecommerce campaign, you don’t have much to worry about. Google is able to see who is buying, just the same, so fake traffic isn’t much of an issue. However, if you are using it for lead generation, then it would be a good idea to find an alternative as soon as you can. Given the impact the traffic is going to have on your data, it is a waste of time, effort and resources to continue using it until a method of filtering out click farms arises. For now, the best option is using the less exciting but more reliable options on Google Ads that preceded Performance Max.  Hopefully, these problems are rectified in the near future, and Performance Max once again becomes a viable option.


To learn more about all things digital marketing, check out our blog.

Written by
Analytics Unify The Agency

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