What is Your Google Ads Optimisation Score, And Does it Matter?

20 January, 2020
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Looks like your Google Ads Optimization Score is going to matter much more in 2020. Google is making a big update to their Google Partners scheme. One of these states that your status as a Google Partner will soon depend on whether or not you adopt Google's Optimization score recommendations.

As SearchEngineJournal puts it...

Up until now, performance has been based on a company’s growth in overall revenue and number of advertisers, as well as revenue growth and retention of a company’s clients. As of June 2020, performance will simply be based on whether a company follows Google’s optimization score recommendations.

Have you visited the Recommendations tab in the Google Ads interface lately?

If you have, you’ll have seen your Google Ads Optimisation Score. This is a percentage figure which purportedly measures the overall health of your Google Ads account.

Scoring something as nuanced as a Google Ads account with a number might sound like an oversimplification, but Google is serious about your Optimisation Score. Should you be too?

What is your Google Ads Optimisation Score?

According to the Google Ads interface...

Your optimisation score is an estimate of how well your account is set to perform. Apply the recommendations below to help your campaigns perform better and raise your score.

Further to that, they also say…

Optimisation score is calculated in real-time, based on the statistics, settings and the status of your account and campaigns, the relevant impact of available recommendations and recent recommendations history.

This sounds marvellous in theory, but how does it work? And how is Google able to summarise the overall performance of your Google Ads account with a single number?

To find out, let’s have a closer look at some of these recommendations.

What does Google make recommendations on?

Google’s Optimisation Score recommendations are split into four main categories:

  • Repairs
  • Bids & Budgets
  • Keywords & Targeting
  • Ads & Extensions

Each of these is given a rating and contributes towards your overall Optimisation Score. In theory, by addressing the issues in each of these categories, your score goes up along with your Google Ads performance... At least that's the idea.

Will these recommendations actually help improve your account performance? Let's look at some examples.

Google Ads Repairs

These are arguably the most important recommendations, and you should definitely check these regularly and address any that pop up here. These refer to components of your account that are broken, incorrectly set up, or in need of immediate changes before they can work the way they are intended to.

Repairs could include the following:

  • You have active ad groups containing no eligible ads
  • You have active ad groups with no keywords
  • Your ads have invalid destination URLs
  • Your ads have been disapproved due to an editorial policy violation
  • Your conversion tracking tag is invalid or not working correctly

Google Ads Bid & Budget Recommendations

The recommendations under bids and budgets are less clear and, unlike repairs, require interpretation. You may encounter the following bid and budget recommendations:

  • “Bid more efficiently with {insert smart bidding strategy here}
  • Change your device bid adjustments for more ROI
  • Set audience bid adjustments
  • Raise your budgets to get more clicks
  • Use Additional Features

Many of these recommendations are based on the following assumption.

If it’s working, spend more and it will work even better!

In reality, things aren’t that simple.

Smart Bidding Recommendations

Smart bidding is being pushed heavily by Google right now, and it is almost always offered as a way to improve either conversion volume, or cost-effectiveness.

The default position here is that a smart bidding strategy is automatically the better choice over a manual or even enhanced CPC bidding strategy.

Google Recommendations may give you an extra 5% on your optimisation score for adopting smart bidding strategies immediately.

As tempting as that might be, there is a better way to implement smart bidding with existing campaigns!

Improve Optimisation Score by Raising Bids?

Another tempting “quick win” that Google’s Recommendations might suggest is increasing bids where performance is strong. This could be your keyword bids, device, location or audience list modifiers.

But context is key when increasing bids…

  • What is your top of page/absolute top impression share? If your keyword is performing well and sitting comfortably at or near the top of the page, further bid increases might just inflate your CPC.
  • Is your budget sufficient to deal with the increased volume? If you are boosting bids for strong performing keywords, you can expect an increase in clicks. If you are working with a strict budget, increasing bids according to Google Recommendations might not be feasible.

Use Additional Features

Have you dried Google Display Network? Have you tried YouTube? Search Partners? There are many additional features and platforms linked to Google Ads that almost always come recommended, whether they are right for your campaigns or not.

Take Google Search Partners, for example:

You're seeing this recommendation because some of your Search Network or Shopping campaigns can drive additional traffic by expanding to Google search partners. Note that if you’re limited by budget, you may need to increase your budget to fully benefit from this recommendation.

This feature is all about increasing traffic and, ultimately, spending more. Google Search Partners are a handy way to scale up your traffic if you feel that volume has plateaued under your existing targeting criteria.

If keeping conversion rates and cost-per-action under control is top of your list of priorities, then Google Search Partners may not work with your goals.

This is something your optimisation score does not take into account.

Increase Your Budgets

It isn’t wholly surprising that Google wants to encourage growth in spend - after all, that’s how the web giant generates most of its revenue.

And true enough, increasing your budgets (and spending more) can make a huge difference in overall performance, especially if you are running out of budget early or limiting your impression share for strategic search terms.

But what if you’re managing an account where budgets are tight and spending more isn’t an option? This is a key piece of context which is ignored in this recommendation.

Streamline your optimisation score by ignoring irrelevant points

If you like the idea of having an optimisation score and wish to use it as a basis for account health and maintenance, you can make it more relevant to you by telling Google which areas are useful and which are not.

If you decide that a recommendation is not relevant to you, you can select DISMISS or DISMISS ALL, which will remove the recommendations from the list.

This will disregard this point from your optimisation score. If a recommendation worth 5% is not relevant, dismissing it will return that 5% to your optimisation score.

If optimisation scores are to be useful, this is a good way to bring it into line with your actual targets.

Do Google Recommendations & Optimisation Scores Matter?

Please see the latest update at the start of this blog.

In short, yes, Google Recommendations can be extremely useful, offering tips to help you optimise your Google Ads account in a number of areas you may not have noticed yourself.

Google Recommendations will help you identify errors in account structure, keywords which are below 1st page bid, and many more areas where you can improve the efficiency of your Google Ads account.

As for Optimisation Score - there is no harm in trying to increase it, providing each recommendation is tested and considered within the context of the account you are working on.

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Last updated 14th February 2020

Written by Tom

Tom cites his key strengths as communication, writing and presenting. He enjoys working in digital due to the way it satisfies both the creative and logical sides of the brain.

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