When to use Search, Demand Gen, and Performance Max campaigns in Google Ads

When to use Search, Demand Gen, and Performance Max campaigns in Google Ads
Search vs Demand Gen vs Performance Max

Search, Demand Gen, and Performance Max are right now the prominent campaigns in Google Ads platform. Know when to use each one.

Use to

Search: Maximize performance across Google Search.
Performance Max: Maximize performance across all of Google’s channels and surfaces.
Demand Gen: Generate demand and deliver business results on Google’s most visual, entertaining surfaces.


Search: Target IS; Clicks; Conversions; Conversion Value.
Performance Max: Conversions; Conversion Value.
Demand Gen: Clicks; Conversions; Conversion Value.


Search: Search audiences enable advertisers to combine their 1P data with Google signals to achieve a variety of marketing objectives.
Performance Max: Steer AI with NCA goals, value rules, and audience signals. (No hard targeting).
Demand Gen: Enable audience customization with the ability to target unique audience segments (like Lookalike segments).


Search: Reach customers on Search + Search Partners (AFS).
Performance Max: Drive performance across all Google channels and inventory. (Search, YouTube including Shorts, Discover, Gmail, Display)
Demand Gen: Create campaigns specifically for Google and YouTube’s most visual, entertaining ad surfaces. (YouTube Shorts, YouTube in-feed, Discover, Gmail).

Creative assets

Search: Image (Landscape 1.91:1, Logo 1:1, 4:1, Portrait 4:5, Square 1:1) Text (Headline, long headline, description, final URL or URL path, business name, CTA, sitelink descriptions).
Performance Max: Image (Landscape 1.91:1, Logo 1:1, 4:1, Portrait 4:5, Square 1:1) Text (Headline, long headline, description, final URL or URL path, business name, CTA) Video (horizontal, square, vertical).
Demand Gen: Image (Landscape 1.91:1, Logo 1:1, Portrait 4:5, Square 1:1) Text (Headline, description, final URL, business name, CTA) Video (Landscape, portrait, square, vertical) Carousel ad (Headline, description, final URL, business name, CTA, logo 1:1, 2-10 image cards: Landscape 1.91:1, Portrait 4:5, Square 1:1 Product feeds.

We also wrote about the differences between Performance Max and Demand Gen.

Ideal applications for Search, Demand Gen, and Performance Max campaigns

Search Campaigns

  • Core Functionality: Trigger ads based on relevant keyword searches. Targets users actively seeking information or solutions.
  • When to Use: Perfect for driving targeted traffic, capturing leads from high-intent audiences, and promoting specific products or services.
  • Pros: Granular keyword control, high conversion potential, measurable results.
  • Cons: Requires ongoing keyword research and management, limited reach beyond users actively searching.

Demand Gen Campaigns

  • Core Functionality: Utilize Google's data and machine learning to reach users exhibiting purchase intent across various Google properties (Search, YouTube, Gmail, Discover Network).
  • When to Use: Ideal for building brand awareness, generating leads, and nurturing prospects in the middle of the sales funnel.
  • Pros: Broad reach, automated audience targeting, visual ad formats.
  • Cons: Limited control over targeting, performance relies heavily on Google's algorithm.

Performance Max Campaigns

  • Core Functionality: Leverages Google's AI to automatically display ads across all available channels (Search, Display, YouTube, Discovery, Gmail, Maps) based on your goals and assets.
  • When to Use: Best for maximizing reach and conversions beyond keyword targeting, testing new audiences, and driving overall campaign performance.
  • Pros: Highly automated, maximizes reach and campaign potential, leverages diverse formats.
  • Cons: Limited transparency and control, requires high-quality assets, results heavily reliant on Google's algorithm.

Ultimately, the best campaign isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. By understanding the strengths and limitations of each option, you can make informed decisions to achieve your marketing goals within the dynamic Google Ads landscape.

Experimentation is key. Test different campaign types and monitor their performance to see what resonates with your audience.

Consider budget allocation. Depending on your resources, you might opt for a single campaign type or a combination for a more holistic approach.

Stay updated. Google Ads is constantly evolving, so make sure to keep yourself informed about new features and best practices.

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