Written by Shire Lyon on Jan 24 , 2023

Ready to improve your Google Ads performance? Let us introduce you to Google Ads Optimization Scores. Here’s how (and how not) to use it. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • What a Google Ads Optimization Score is
  • The benefits of the Optimization Score metric
  • The drawbacks of the Optimization Score 
  • Best practices to ensure you get the most value from it

If you’re running Google Ads (Google AdWords), you may be perplexed by the changes rolled out on a regular basis. Luckily, the Google Ads Optimization Score gives us access to improvement suggestions directly from Google’s machine learning brain. 

You’re probably wondering how important this Optimization Score is. You may even be asking yourself, “Can I trust Google’s recommendations?” Does it really benefit your campaigns, or is it a way for Google to get you to splash more cash on your advertising? 

Read on to find out. 

What is the Google Ads Optimization Score?

HawkSEM: Google Ads 2020

You can view your Google Ads optimization score from your mobile device. (via Google)

Optimization score can be found under the Recommendations tab in your Google Ads account. You can use the Optimization Score to gauge your ad performance and help you understand your account’s performance. This score is presented as a percentage, ranging from 0 to 100.

Your Optimization Score is available at three different levels:

  • Campaign
  • Account
  • Manager Account

Currently, scores are given for these campaign types:

  • Display
  • Search
  • Performance max
  • Shopping
  • Discovery
  • Video action
  • App

Your Optimization Score is more than just a number. It measures how well your account will perform based on statistics and settings. Completing the recommended improvements will (according to Google) boost your campaign or account’s performance. 

Google will tell you exactly how much the score will be impacted if you implement the recommended change.

How is the Optimization Score calculated?

Google’s Optimization Score is not an arbitrary number. Google has spent more on developing AI (artificial intelligence) than any other major tech company. As of 2020, the number sat at $3.9 billion. Impressive and advanced technology powers the Optimization Score, and data is sourced from numerous areas of your account to calculate your score. 

The hands of a female accountant are using a calculator to calculate taxes.

Data is sourced from numerous areas of your account to calculate your score. (Image: Adobe).

According to Google, “Optimization 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.

Optimization score and available recommendations can change based on many factors, ranging from your settings to trends in the ads ecosystem. You may see a different score and a new set of recommendations when these changes happen.”

Let’s break down what this means. From our experience with the Google Ads recommendations system, we can infer that the Optimization Score is based on the following. 

1. Real-time 

It’s calculated based on your current budget, settings, and information from the auctions. As you implement recommendations, your Optimization Score immediately updates.

2. Statistics

Google collects data from your account and others to determine the best ways to meet your goals. Your account trends and those of your peers are analyzed to better understand the current bidding environment.

3. Your settings

Scores and recommendations are impacted by your settings. If you want your optimization focus to align with your goals, you should set your campaign business objectives. 

4. Campaign and account status

Recommendations are only given for currently active campaigns. When your campaign stops running, you won’t receive any recommendations. This helps you focus on your active campaigns, see what will have the biggest impact, and not get overwhelmed by too much going on on your dashboard.

5. Impact of your recommendations

Recommendations are weighted based on their perceived impact on your account. The bigger the number associated with the recommendation, the greater its impact.

6. Recent recommendations 

This element is a bit more difficult to decipher at the moment. We would guess that it refers to giving a preference within your recommendations based on which other settings you’ve applied. For example, if you don’t use smart bidding, it won’t recommend you change your CPA.

7. Trends

Google Trends is a handy tool that has been helping marketers stay on top of what’s trending and how it changes for some time now. Google has recently started to add some of the insights from Google Trends directly within the Google Ads UI (user interface).

So, a lot goes into your Google Optimization Score and its recommendations. 

What types of suggestions will I receive?

Google Ads gives many different suggestions through the Recommendations tab. These tackle everything from conversion tracking to search terms. In fact, there are so many possible optimizations that we won’t be able to cover them all here.

1. Bidding & budgets

Under this umbrella, you’ll find recommendations for bid strategies and ad budgets. Bid strategy suggestions are designed to help you bid more efficiently and choose strategies that fit your business goals and data. For instance, Google may tell you to implement maximize conversion value with target ROAS, or if you focus on leads, target CPA. 

person online shopping with credit card

Bid strategy suggestions are designed to help you bid more efficiently and choose strategies that fit your business goals and data. (Image via Unsplash)

Budget recommendations will tell you where your budget is limited and what kind of campaign performance (increase in clicks, conversion value, etc.) you can expect if you raise it. You’ll also see when Google sees future trends where you’ll need more budget. In addition to these, you’ll receive notifications about unused budgets and the best campaigns to put them in.  

2. Ads and ad extensions (assets)

Under this heading, you’ll find recommendations related to adding new assets, adding new ad copy, fixing disapprovals, improving ad strength, using optimized ad rotation, and improving ads. Some examples include adding:

  • Image assets
  • More assets to your responsive search ads
  • Products to your video ads
  • Responsive search or responsive display ads
  • Price assets

Google might also tell you to do things like “enable automatically created assets.” These recommendations aim to help you improve your click-through rate (CTR) or optimize ad performance.

3. Automated campaigns

An “automated campaign” recommendation is when the system tells to create a Performance Max campaign to streamline campaign management. Google also feels that you’ll see an appreciable performance improvement by doing so.

4. Keywords and targeting

As the heading suggests, these recommendations relate to keywords and targeting. They also address possible improvements related to negative keywords and keyword match types. The optimization suggestions you’ll see here help you target the right people and get in front of more potential customers. You can expect to see things like:

  • Add new keywords
  • “Expand your reach with Google search partners”
  • “Remove non-serving keywords”
  • “Remove redundant keywords”
  • “Upload customer lists”

The list of possibilities is quite extensive compared to the other categories.

5. Repairs

Repairs are different from the other recommendations. These are fixes for problems Google sees in your account. These optimizations focus on account health and make corrections to campaign settings and elements that may be broken or ineffective. For instance, you may be prompted to adjust CPA targets that Google feels restrict the account or fix disapproved assets.

There’s also a separate recommendation to try the Google Ads mobile app, just in case you want to monitor your campaigns from your phone.

Optimizations you complete through the Recommendations tab should result in an improved conversion rate, better ROAS, and hitting your marketing goals. 

What’s exciting is that you are likely to see your CPC, ad rank, and quality scores improve as quickly after instituting changes you find under this tab. PPC is quicker than SEO, but it’s rare that we see a payoff for our work as fast as we’d like.

Why should I use Google’s Optimization Score & Recommendations?

We asked one of our stellar SEM managers, Ian Dawson, to elaborate on how he uses Optimization Scores. He explained, “Overall, Google’s Optimization Scores are great. They are helpful reminders to ensure an account is firing on all cylinders. They also help to uncover potential issues in the account. 

Each recommendation should be implemented or dismissed but reviewed to know if it is in the client’s best interests. Based on experience, I might dismiss a recommendation or table it until more data is available.”

Google Optimization Score is a powerful tool, and there are numerous benefits it can bring to your ad campaigns. Here are just a few.

1. Guide your campaign strategy

Google Ads is a complex platform powered by extensive AI. The insights that the Optimization Score gives you are based on more data than your team could review in a lifetime. These expert tips can help you optimize your campaign and improve your strategy. When thoughtfully used, the recommendations from Google can become a powerful asset to guide your advertising efforts.

2. Identify campaign issues

Your Optimization Score makes it simple for you to identify problems in your Google Ads campaigns. When managing multiple campaigns and multiple marketing channels, it’s possible that you might miss something. The Optimization Score can help reassure you that if you’ve overlooked some element of your campaign, it will quickly draw your attention to it.

3. Accurate forecasts of progress

Your recommendations also show the estimated impact of implementing them – and this is an accurate projection. Any marketing leader will agree it’s handy to have the possibility to chart the future progress of your ads. 

For example, if your recommendation says you will gain 5% in your score, you can be sure that your score will, in fact, go up by 5% if you have implemented the change.

Are there any drawbacks to using Google’s recommendations?

There are obviously many benefits to using Google’s Optimization Score. However, like any tool, it’s not foolproof and has some drawbacks. 

Too much automation 

Automation can be great. It saves time and increases efficiency. But there are pitfalls too. Algorithms are not human; sometimes, things don’t make sense even though the data analysis says something should be done. Digital marketing is all about deciding what should be automated and what needs human input.

By relying totally on automation, you could miss out on good opportunities. Even if you use the Optimization Score recommendations, you should also keep an eye on your keyword bids to maximize your ROI.

Tunnel-Vision

The Optimization Score can be a helpful tool, but it alone is not enough to keep your campaigns on track. This metric does not tell you the whole story of your ad campaigns. It doesn’t include insights on some of your campaign’s critical KPIs (key performance indicators). Only focusing on the score can lead to tunnel vision and make you lose sight of your campaign’s goals. 

What is a good Optimization Score for Google Ads?

The higher the score, the better your ads are optimized, right? So that means that 100% is the best Optimization Score. Well, it’s not that simple. There is no hard and fast rule for what makes a “good” Optimization Score.

Google Ads AdWords app icon on smartphone screen close-up. Google is the biggest Internet search engine in the world. Moscow, Russia - May 20, 2018

There is no hard and fast rule for what makes a “good” Optimization Score. 

Generally, you want it to be as high as you can make it. But as with any rule, there are exceptions. Sometimes the recommendations will not align with your wider marketing goals or be the best route for your ad strategy. In those cases, you should remember that your business goals should always come before a high Optimization Score.  

On a side note, it is worth remembering that to become a Google Ads Premiere Partner, like HawkSEM, Google requires you to maintain a 70% Optimization Score to keep your Partner status. 

We asked Dawson how he felt about achieving a score of 100% and, as an expert, what he feels is acceptable.

He told us, “Google Ads requires a minimum score of 70% for Google Partners status, but using best practices will almost always give your account a higher score. Any score above 80% is an acceptable score, but attaining 90%-100% is very easy when actively reviewing and optimizing the account. I shoot for 100%, but I will use the ‘dismiss’ option for some recommendations if it is not in my client’s best interests. Most of my scores are in the 90%-100% range.”

Where can I find my Optimization Score?

Google Ads is a powerful platform, but it’s also complex. A common problem that new users have is trying to locate the information they are searching for. Luckily, the Optimization Score is relatively easy to find.

Once you are in your Google Ads campaign, you can go to the left-hand menu and click “Recommendations.” Here you will find your score.

In addition, with version V1.3 of Google Ads Editor, you can see your score within the editor. 

Google Ads Optimization Score tips

To get the most out of your recommendations, you can follow these tips.

1. Focus on results, not scores

Optimization Score is a fun tool. However, getting caught up in the game of trying to get the highest score can be easy. Instead, stay focused on implementing the recommendation that will get you the results your business needs. Use the Optimization Score to find opportunities and help guide your strategy but don’t make it your only tool.

You can also use additional tools, such as our ConversionIQ, to gain deeper insights into your Google Ads campaigns and improve your ROI.

2. Don’t forget your structured snippets

Structured snippets are an essential tool for advertisers. When Google recommends you add these, you should. Having structured snippets on your ads is a no-brainer. You should be using as many extensions as you reasonably can.

Unlike some of the other recommendations that Google gives, this one is not a one-click “Apply.” You often need additional configuration to add some structured snippets so this optimization can take more time – but it’s usually worth it. 

3. Watch out for the keyword optimization recommendations

Google’s keyword recommendations are not always easy to follow. You have to have a clear understanding of the keywords your business is targeting, their value, and also the different types of keywords in Google Ads (negative, redundant) before you can use these recommendations. 

“Like with most marketing efforts, I would tell them to test everything. Google’s Optimization Score recommendations are often helpful, especially for a new Google Ads user. Note the recommended changes and determine if the optimization recommendation has a positive impact on your results. If you find that the recommendation is not applicable, dismiss it and note the dismissal. You could come to a point in the future where that recommendation becomes relevant for implementation,” recommends Dawson.

Google’s AI technology generates keyword suggestions, and it’s important to remember that an AI is not a person. Although some of these recommendations will be spot on, you may find that others are not what your campaign needs. There will be circumstances where the suggested changes lack context, and the keywords will not be optimal for your campaign.

The takeaway 

Optimization Scores are Google’s way of giving you advice on how to set up successful campaigns, which will help your account reach its full potential. The score gives you a good big-picture view of how well your account is performing, and the recommendations can help you more consistently enact best practices in your campaigns. 

You should always use tools like Optimization Score as a guide and never implement anything on autopilot.

If you need an expert hand to manage your account and skyrocket your profit, contact HawkSEM to learn more about what we can do for you.

Shire Lyon

Shire Lyon

Shire is a passionate writer and marketer with over eight years of experience as a writer and digital marketer. She's well-versed in SEO, PPC, and social media, helping businesses both big and small grow and scale. On her downtime, she enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, reading, and sailing.

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