Why do Performance Max (Pmax) campaigns get fake leads?

March 3, 2023 ∙ 3 minute read

In this article we explain why Performance Max ad campaigns get fake leads, and what you can do about it.

What is Performance Max?

Performance Max is a type of Google Ads shopping campaign, where your products are advertised across the entire Google Ads network, such as Search, Discovery, Display, YouTube, Gmail, and more.

One of the main features of Performance Max is how Google Ads manages the entire process for you, and limits your ability to control where your ads are displayed, or who sees them. A side effect of this is your ads are shown on scam Display websites, which exposes your ads to click fraud.

What is click fraud?

Click fraud is an online scam which steals billions of dollars from advertisers every year. It works like this:

  1. Criminals create legitimate looking websites, and monetise the content using an audience network like Google Display.
  2. The criminals create bots, and program them to visit their scam websites to click on the ads.
  3. For each of these fake clicks, the advertisers pay fees to Google Ads, and the money is then shared with the scammers.

To read more about a common click fraud technique seen on Google Ads, please see our article What is retargeting click fraud?.

Google Ads makes some effort to detect click fraud, however the criminals are able to get away with their scam if they program their bots to simulate real people.

For example, if the scammers create their bots using Puppeteer-Extra and its stealth plugin, route its traffic through a residential proxy service so every fake click has a unique IP address, and use anti-fingerprint technology so the clicks appear to come from individual devices, the clicks will be considered valid, and advertisers will be charged.

Additionally, scammers can further enhance the stealthiness of their bots by occasionally generating fake conversions after clicking on advertisements.

What is conversion fraud?

Since each bot generates thousands of fake clicks every day, their fraud will be noticed by Google if the clicks never lead to sales or conversions. To get around this problem, the bots are programmed to occasionally generate fake conversions after clicking on ads, such as creating accounts, adding items to shopping carts, or submitting spam leads. All of these conversions are free of charge, and do not require the scammers to purchase anything.

Spam leads are the most common form of conversion fraud. The scammers’ bots are often programmed to use real people's contact information, which is why the leads either don't respond to your calls and e-mails, or have no idea who you are.

How to prevent spam leads?

We know spam leads are a form of conversion fraud. We also know conversion fraud is a side-effect of click fraud. Therefore, if we want to prevent spam leads, we need to prevent click fraud.

Polygraph makes it easy to detect and prevent click fraud. We help you remove your ad keywords which are being targeted by bots, we show you how to block your ads from appearing on scam Display websites, and we give you the details of every fake click so you can get refunds from Google Ads.

Unfortunately, Performance Max doesn't allow you to remove ad keywords, nor does it allow you to block scam Display websites. That means if you continue using Performance Max, you'll continue wasting your money on click fraud, and spend time dealing with fake conversions.

Therefore, if you want to prevent click fraud and spam leads, you need to stop using Performance Max, and use one of the other campaign types instead, such as a Standard Shopping campaign. You can then use Polygraph to prevent click fraud and conversion fraud, and stop giving your marketing budget to scammers.


Spam leads are the result of conversion fraud, which is a trick click fraud scammers use to legitimise their fake clicks.

Unfortunately, Performance Max forces you to show your ads on scam Display websites, and doesn't allow you to opt-out of their click fraud, so you need to avoid Performance Max and stick to a Standard Shopping campaign. You can then use Polygraph to prevent click fraud and conversion fraud on your Standard Shopping campaigns.

Try Polygraph today, free of charge, and protect your ad budget from click fraud.