The Google Ads Optimization Score – How to use (and not use) this new report

There have been a lot of changes going on inside of Google Ads lately (And yes, in case you missed the news, AdWords is now Google Ads).

One of the new additions to the Ads interface is the optimization score. The Google Ads optimization score is Google’s way of telling you how well your account is doing, and what you need to do to improve your results.

But is this score beneficial? Or is it just Google’s way of pushing us to spend more money on advertising, disguised as help?

Google Ads optimization score

Source: https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/9095477

In this video and guide, we are going to dissect the Google Ads optimization score. We’ll look at how Google calculates this score. Then we’ll break down Google’s optimization recommendations. We’ll determine which suggestions are useful, and which recommendations you might be better off ignoring.

Follow along to learn how to use (and not use) the Ads optimization score.

How does optimization work in Google Ads?

Before we break down the Ads optimization score, let’s talk about what optimization means and how we make optimizations in Googe Ads.

Optimization is defined as the action of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource.

Of course, for most online marketing efforts, there is no such thing as best. But there is better. And within Google Ads, there are always opportunities to make your advertising more cost-effective.

Let’s review some of the areas where we can make improvements to our Ads account, and then we will analyze Google’s optimization recommendations.

Types of Google Ads Optimization

Bid optimization – Increase CTR or lower CPA

Bid optimization involves adjusting your bids to maximize your results. Often advertisers will raise their bids to improve their Ad Rank, which in turn will increase their click-through rate (CTR), and potentially increase conversions. Or an advertiser will lower their bid in an attempt to reduce their cost per conversion, and increase their profit margins.

keyword level bid optimization

Ad copy optimization – Automatic rotation vs. even rotation

Ad groups exist to allow you to test and improve your ad copy. One of the simplest ways to optimize your ad copy is through ad rotation. By default, Google always wants to enter the ad that gets the most clicks in the ad auction. But if you change your ad rotation settings so that your ads are displayed evenly, you can get more complete data about all your ads. Then, you can choose your best ads based on cost and conversions, as opposed to clicks.

Ad copy optimization

Landing page optimization – Better landing page experience = more conversions

Landing page optimization is one of the most overlooked adjustments an advertiser can make. Creating unique landing pages for each ad group allows advertisers to match their landing page copy to their ads and keywords. Matching your landing page copy to your ads and keywords will increase your Quality Score, which will lower your CPC and improve your ad rank.

Landing page experience score

Also, enhancing your users’ landing page experience is one of the best ways to increase your conversion rate. If your ads are getting clicks, you can almost always get better results by upgrading your landing pages.

Keyword match type optimization – Match types for each stage of the keyword life cycle

Keywords are the fuel that powers Google Ads. But finding cost-effective keywords to advertise on can be hard. One of the best ways to optimize your keywords selection is to test match types. When you identify new keywords to test, you want to use broad and broad match modified keywords so you can accumulate enough data to learn to from your results. But as you refine your ad groups, you can use phrase and exact match keywords to help reduce spending on wasted ad clicks.

Optimizing keyword match types

Search term optimization (and negative keywords)

Running ads on broad and broad modified match keywords will feed a lot of data into your search query report. You can optimize your keywords by mining this report. You can pull out the best keyword variations and build new ad groups around them. And you can add the search terms that are leading to wasted clicks to your negative keyword lists.

Quality Score Optimization

Many of the other optimization techniques we’ve discussed will help you improve your Quality Score. Higher Quality Scores lead to higher Ad Rank, at a lower cost. And if you’re a conspiracy theorist like I am, then you might believe that earning good keyword Quality Scores can impact your mythical (but potentially real) Google Ads Account Quality Score.

Quality Score optimization

Profit optimization – The most important metric isn’t in the Ads interface

It’s easy to get focused on all the metrics in the Ads interface. After all, there’s so many to choose from, clicks, CTR, average CPA, ROAS, etc. But, you know which metric you won’t find inside of Google Ads? The most important metric, PROFIT. Unless you’re a big budget advertiser running a branding campaign, you should always focus on profit. So when you evaluate your optimization score keep your ROI in mind. All the optimizations in the world are useless if they don’t increase your ability to earn a profit using Google Ads.

Google Ads budget calculator

Campaign and ad group optimization – Why SKAGS work

The key to better results from your campaigns and ad groups is granularity. The reason to build granular ad groups and different campaigns for different audience sets is not to create more work for ourselves. But rather to see better data in our accounts. When you can directly match your results to your actions, you can make better decisions. So, for example, if you are using single keyword ad groups (skags), you can tie your results directly to your specific keywords and their match types. But if you jumble a bunch of similar keywords into the same ad group, you may have trouble identifying which keywords or keyword match types are responsible for your results.

One Ad Group, three match types

Building targeted campaigns and well-organized ad groups is one of the best ways to optimize your account structure and get better results.

Budget optimization – Small adjustments are the key to big results

Budget optimization is all about getting the most out of your budget given your cost constraints. How can you get more out of the $1000 a month, approximately $30 a day? Where should you place your bets? Sometimes you can get higher value clicks by adjusting when your ads display. Other times you can maximize your CPC by improving your location or demographic targeting. We all have budget limitations. Making small changes to your bids, ad rotation, and targeting can help you maximize the volume of clicks or the quality of clicks your budget can buy.

Account Optimization – The work of a PPC pro is never done!

We all want our advertising to be successful, and Google will reward you if you optimize your account. If you’re logging into your Ads account, checking your recommendations, and making small changes every day, the results will follow.

Conversion optimization –  The results that matter

Optimizing for conversions may be the most important thing you can do in the ads interface. Getting results, opt-ins, sign-ups, downloads, and sales is what drives our advertising. And, as with everything else in the Google Ads ecosystem, winning conversions has a compounding effect. Google wants to show the ads that get results. So optimizing for conversions will often lead to more conversions.

Conversion optimization in google ads

One score to quantify all your optimization opportunities?

Until recently, there wasn’t a reliable and unbiased indicator to tell you which adjustments to your account are likely to have the most significant impact.

You could use third-party tools like Wordstream to grade your account.

Wordstream ads account score

But no single, native Google Ads metric explained how your account was performing overall.

Until now…

What is the Adwords optimization Score?

Oops, I meant to write Google Ads optimization score there.

Your optimization score is an account performance grade ranging from 0 to 100%. The score is calculated based on the results you’ve earned, your settings, and your status as an advertiser. The score factors in how well your account matches Google’s recommendations. And it also measures how much of an impact fully adopting Google’s automated suggestions would have on the results Google values.

Now, as helpful as this score sounds, we don’t want to follow Google’s machine-generated advice blindly. So let’s go inside my account, take a look at my score and see how we can use this information.

Account optimization score

As you can see, my optimization score is front and center in my recommendations tab. And it’s not all that impressive – a 77.3%. If Google were handing out letter grades, I’d be getting a C+.

But if you have taken any of my PPC training courses before, then you know that I don’t always follow Google’s recommendations. And that’s because Google’s objectives are not always the same as mine. Google wants me to maximize my bids, and I want to maximize my profit. Sometimes those objectives work in harmony and sometimes they don’t.

Google Ads Optimization Score

Campaign level optimization score

There are a couple of other important things to note about this feature. You can also get an optimization score at a campaign level. Campaign level optimization score

Adjusting your optimization score

You can improve your optimization score by dismissing Google’s recommendations. But, if you’re going to reject Google’s suggestions, be prepared to answer for your decision! Google isn’t going to let you off the hook without knowing why you don’t like their advice.

Dismissing optimization score recommendations

Interpreting your optimization score

Let’s take another look at my account optimization score and see what improvements Google thinks I should make.

Google Ads Optimization Score bid and budget reccomendations

Investigating bid and budget recommendations

The most significant proposal in my optimization score is that I increase my budget. Now, I have my budget capped at a pretty low amount because I use this account to test out techniques and create training videos (like the one in this article) for my courses.

Google ads optimization score bid adjustments

Should you raise your budget?

In this case, Google’s budget advice appears to be pretty spot-on. Google’s telling me that if I raise my bids $.03, and spend about $10 more a week, I’ll get 18 more clicks. That sounds reasonable. And if I want, I can apply this recommendation with one click.

Google Ads bid recommendation analysis

But when I take a look at the budget increase I’ll be authorizing if I accept this suggestion, I see a different picture. Google wants me to raise my daily budget from $.50 to $5.00 a day. This bid adjustment has the potential to change my monthly budget from $15 to $150. That’s a 1000% increase in spending. Google makes this recommendation look enticing in their “pretty” suggestion box. But there’s more going on here than we can see in this neatly formatted recommendation widget.

One-click “Apply” vs. keyword level adjustments

A better course of action would be to evaluate the specific keywords and ads that are limited by budget. Then, if need be, I can increase my bids at a keyword level and monitor the impact my budget increase has on my performance and overall budget.

Although I agree with Google’s suggestion that I should increase my spending, I don’t agree with Google’s tactics for increasing my bids. Accepting Google’s budget suggestion might not be detrimental in a small test account. But authorizing a 1000% budget increase could be disastrous for a large advertiser with a big budget.

Enhanced CPC bidding recommendation (but where’s the data?)

Another one of Google’s budget-related proposals is that I move to enhanced CPC bidding. This suggestion doesn’t provide any data about how enhanced CPC is expected to impact my results. So, I am disinclined to approve this suggestion without further analysis.

Google Ads optimization enhanced cpc recommendation

Don’t forget about structured snippets!

Google’s recommendation that I add structured snippets is pretty much a no-brainer. I should be using structured snippets with my ads. I should be using as many extensions as I can reasonably enable with my ads. However, putting these extensions in place requires configuration. Unfortunately, there’s no one-click “Apply” option for this optimization.

Google ads optimization score structured snippet recommendation

Keyword optimization recommendations

Google’s keyword recommendations are not exactly straightforward. They want me to remove the redundant keywords from my ad groups. It’s important to remember that Google’s artificial intelligence technology generates these suggestions. So although your optimization score provides quantifiable ways to improve your account, there will be circumstances where the suggested changes lack context. My keywords suggestions appear to be one of those scenarios.

Google ads optimization score keyword recommendation

Redundant keywords or match type confusion?

I am using the phrase match keyword “google advertising training.” And Google is telling me that “google ads training” is a close variant that I should remove from my ad group. But I want to look at my search query report and keyword level CPC data before I apply this change. Testing close variants can be a great way to find new keywords, as long as your match type settings are not causing wasted clicks. If these keywords are set to phrase and exact match, there shouldn’t be much redundancy.

Google Ads optimization score keyword recommendations

Responsive search ads are here – we should use them!

This recommendation is on my to-do list. So as soon as I get time, I’ll go into my account and test Google’s new responsive search ad options.

Google Ads optimization score responsive search ads recommendation

Automatic ad rotation (probably not)

Google wants to be able to select my best performing ads for the ad auction. Ad rotation is one recommendation I will be ignoring completely. If I adopt this suggestion, Google’s likely to select my ad rotation based on clicks. But, I prefer to set my ad rotation evenly, so that I get a chance to see how my ads perform and I can optimize my ad rotation for conversions.

Google ads optimization score and automatic ad rotation

Scoring the Ads optimization score

Overall, I would say the optimization score is a great new feature. This score helps you get an idea of how your account measures up to Google’s suggested best practices. And the percentage improvement scores are a quick way to see which changes are predicted to have the biggest impact on your results. Also, if you want to follow Google’s guidance, it’s easy to apply the suggested changes.

Just keep in mind, it’s a good idea to be discerning about Google’s advice. Google’s objectives are not always the same as yours. And Google can’t factor your most important metric – profit – into their optimization score.

Let’s wrap this up by reviewing what we learned about the optimization score.

Reviewing Google’s optimization recommendations

  • Many of the recommendations in this score are spot-on

The majority of the recommendations that make up my optimization score are not overly biased in Google’s favor. And implementing these optimizations is likely to help my account performance. However, I’d avoid using the one-click “Apply” feature for bid adjustments and keyword selection. This feature has the potential to make changes to your account on a larger scale than you might want. Instead, I’d advise making adjustments at the keyword level in the Ads interface or using AdWords Editor.

  • Much like passing the Google Ads exam, a 100% score may not be achievable (or desirable)

A 100% optimization score should not be your end goal. Maybe 90% is a pretty good target? As we discussed, embracing all of Google’s suggestions might not help you achieve your objectives.

  • Focus on results, not on arbitrary scores

The optimization score is a fun new tool. But stay focused on deploying the tactics that will help earn the results you need. Use the optimization score to find opportunities that have synergy with your advertising strategy.

  • You have nothing to lose by checking your score today!

Evaluating your optimization score can only help you learn more about how to improve your advertising. This score should be available in your account. Go check it out today!

What is your optimization score? – Leave a comment with your score.

What’s your optimization score? Did you beat mine? Leave a comment with your score below. And if you’re unsure about how to act on the recommendations in your account, feel free to leave a question in the comments. We’ll try to help you figure out if Google’s giving you sound advice, or if you need to do little more investigation before applying Google’s recommendations.

  • September 12, 2018
  • Blog, PPC

About the Author

Jeff Sauer is an independent Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Teacher based out of a suitcase somewhere in the world. Formerly of Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA.