Google Empowers Brands with Search Themes for Performance Max

Google recently launched a new “Search Themes” feature for its automated Performance Max campaigns. This innovative addition empowers advertisers with a powerful tool to guide the AI-powered system, unlocking significant potential for improved campaign performance.

With Search Themes, advertisers can now provide valuable context and signals to Google’s AI, influencing its targeting capabilities across Search, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, Maps, and Display. This unique approach leverages the combined power of Google’s artificial intelligence and advertisers’ deep understanding of their target audience, leading to a more refined and effective advertising experience.

The introduction of Search Themes represents a significant leap forward for Performance Max campaigns, enabling advertisers to:

  • Fine-tune targeting: By specifying search themes related to their products or services, advertisers can ensure their ads reach the most relevant users across Google’s vast network.
  • Reach new audiences: Search Themes unlock opportunities to connect with potential customers who might not have been captured by traditional targeting methods.
  • Optimise campaign performance: By providing valuable insights to the AI, advertisers can optimise their campaigns for maximum reach and conversions.

Ultimately, Search Themes empower advertisers to become collaborators with Google’s AI. This exciting development marks a significant step forward for the future of automated advertising, paving the way for a more collaborative and results-driven experience for advertisers of all sizes.

How Search Themes Enhance Performance Max

While Performance Max leverages your budget, assets, feeds, and landing pages to identify potentially valuable placements, it lacks a crucial element: specific brand context.

Search Themes bridge this gap by allowing you to inject categories or topics directly relevant to your business. This provides the AI system with additional guidance, going beyond what it can glean from the provided assets and feeds.

Imagine it like this: Performance Max is a map explorer, while Search Themes are your map annotations. You point out specific landmarks and points of interest, guiding the explorer towards areas most relevant to your goals.

This additional context helps Performance Max in several key ways:

  • Improved targeting: Define your target audience by specifying relevant themes, ensuring your ads reach the right users.
  • Enhanced relevance: Ensure ad placements resonate with your target audience by focusing on topics directly related to your business.
  • Greater control: Influence where your ads appear by providing clear signals to the AI system.
  • Uncover new opportunities: Discover potential customers who might not have been identified through traditional targeting methods.

Ultimately, Search Themes act as a powerful tool, empowering you to collaborate with Performance Max’s AI and optimise your campaigns for maximum reach and impact.

Power of Search Themes: Benefits and Uses

Google’s new Search Themes feature empowers Performance Max campaigns to capture valuable search traffic that might otherwise be missed. This innovative tool is specifically designed for situations where the AI struggles to extract complex or nuanced information from existing campaign data.

Here are some ideal use cases for Search Themes:

1. Incomplete or Outdated Product/Service Information:

If your landing page lacks complete or current information about your products or services, the AI might misinterpret its relevance and miss valuable advertising opportunities. Search Themes enable you to directly feed relevant categories or topics, ensuring accurate targeting and reaching the right audience.

2. Expanding into New Markets:

When entering new markets, Performance Max lacks historical campaign data to guide its targeting decisions. Search Themes provide crucial context by allowing you to specify the relevant categories and topics within the new market, ensuring your ads reach the most receptive audience.

3. Promoting New Holiday Promotions:

Launching holiday promotions often presents a challenge as there’s no historical data for AI to analyse. Search Themes circumvent this hurdle by letting you directly feed relevant holiday themes, guaranteeing your ads reach users actively seeking holiday offerings.

4. Achieving Comprehensive Coverage on Business Themes:

Ensuring your ads appear across all relevant searches related to your business can be difficult. Search Themes allow you to define comprehensive themes encompassing the entirety of your offerings, ensuring your ads reach potential customers regardless of their specific search terms.

For search results specifically, search themes in Performance Max campaigns will hold the same weight as your phrase and broad match keywords in regular search campaigns. However, exact match keywords that perfectly match the search query will still take precedence over search themes and other keywords.

Remember, using search themes is entirely optional. You can utilise tools like brand exclusions to refine the types of search traffic Performance Max targets.

How Google Performance Max Gets Smarter with Search Themes

How it Works:

  • Advertisers can specify up to 25 search themes per ad group, providing valuable context for the AI.
  • These themes are treated like broad match keywords, expanding reach to relevant terms and placements.
  • The AI then uses this information to optimise targeting and improve campaign performance.


  • Enhanced Targeting: Reach the right audience by explicitly guiding the AI towards relevant themes.
  • New Opportunities: Discover previously untapped potential and reach new customers beyond AI-driven predictions.
  • Improved Performance: Gain greater control over campaign performance and optimise for specific business goals.
  • Simplified Management: Easily manage themes at the ad group level for efficient campaign optimization.

Unlocking Performance Max: Top 3 Questions Answered

Will search themes restrict Performance Max traffic?

No. Search themes can actually unlock new and relevant traffic that your campaigns might miss with keywordless AI technology alone. This is especially true for long-tail keywords or emerging trends that haven't yet been picked up by the system.

How will search themes interact with my existing keywords?

Search themes will share the same priority as phrase and broad match keywords in your Search campaigns. The ad with the highest Ad Rank will ultimately win the auction and be displayed.

Can I remove search themes later on?

Absolutely. You have complete flexibility to remove any search theme you no longer want to target within your Performance Max asset group.

Early Feedback and Future Development

Initial feedback from pilot testers has been positive, highlighting the value of increased control and improved targeting. In 2024, Google plans to further enhance Search Themes by adding features like robust search term insights and more comprehensive guidance on utilising themes effectively.

Overall, Search Themes mark a significant step forward for Performance Max, empowering advertisers to collaborate with Google’s AI and achieve even greater results.

Need a fresh perspective? Let’s talk.

At 360 OM, we specialise in helping businesses take their marketing efforts to the next level. Our team stays on top of industry trends, uses data-informed decisions to maximise your ROI, and provides full transparency through comprehensive reports.

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