Google Ads Optimization Score: What is it Worth?

If you’ve spent time in your Google Ads account within the past couple of years, you’ve almost certainly noticed the “Optimization Score” metric next to any active campaign or at the account level as a whole.  If not, it’s simply a score from 0 – 100% which Google defines as “An estimate of how well your Google Ads account is set to perform.”  If you click on the score, you are brought to a page providing you with a list of recommended “optimizations” that you can implement to improve that number, but are these suggested changes aligned with the goals you have for your account?

More often than not, we find that the recommendations for improving Optimization Score seem to be a means of only expanding reach, as if simply getting in front of more users should be an advertiser’s primary goal.  Some examples you might see are “Raise Your Budget”, “Add New Keywords”, or “Target All Eligible Shopping Products”.  Along with these suggested changes, Google gives the list of keywords it recommends adding, and products in your data feed not targeted in Shopping campaigns, etc.  Any of these recommendations can be worth testing in a campaign if you haven’t done so already to gauge impact. However, when the goal is not to increase brand awareness or traffic, but rather improve sales or profitability, we regularly see the net result is poorer performance relative to these KPIs.  Assuming an advertiser then reverts these recommended changes back to what they were originally using in order to increase profitability, they will soon see that Google is once again recommending the exact same “optimizations”.

Herein lies the problem.  Google is clearly not learning at an individual account level whether suggestions it is making are working or not.  Some of the recommendations are clearly tailored to the particular account based on its history, but many are simply blanket optimization methods it sees as having potential for driving growth.  Not to mention the fact that the optimization score is a moving target, and a campaign with a 90% optimization score might see new suggestions a week later bringing that score down to 50% or lower. The mistake then would be to think that the Google Optimization Score directly correlates with how well an advertiser should expect their campaign or account to perform, and it’s simply not true.  Each unique business is highly nuanced, and so are the objectives they have for their PPC program.

This is not to say that all these optimization recommendations should be immediately dismissed. Reviewing them can uncover opportunities that will help to improve performance if one takes the time to do so carefully.  Some examples include gaining insight into keyword redundancies in the account or missing product information in the data feed that could improve visibility if added.  We also see recommendations for testing a particular automated bidding strategy within a campaign quite frequently.  Sometimes the implementation of that bidding method simply leads to increased cost without improved sales, but occasionally, we see a sizable improvement in both sales and profitability.

Continuous testing is a key part in any successful PPC program, and leveraging Google’s tools can help in that. There is a proper way to approach testing however, one that is strategic and allows for clear analysis on the subsequent impact of any changes.  By simply accepting any recommendation made by Google in order to achieve a perfect optimization score, advertisers will likely see an overall decline in performance, while also missing out on uncovering the select changes that would have been beneficial.

In summary, Google’s recommendations for improving their “optimization score” should be reviewed regularly to make sure nothing is being overlooked in the account, but in no way should this score be confused with how well optimized the account truly is relative to your goals.