March 30, 2021
Paid Search Audit Checklist – 11 Steps to Grow an Account
Last year, Google released a new “Recommendations” tab in the Google Ads interface, which houses a new metric called “optimization score.” Google’s optimization score is an estimate of how well Google believes your account is currently performing. This scale ranges from 0% to 100%, with 100% being the maximum optimization score. The lower the score, the more potential opportunities you have to test new features and improve account performance.
Before you get concerned about seeing low optimization scores in your account, it’s important to note that scores are very dependent on adoption of Google algorithms and features, and not all features are going to be aligned with your current account goals. A 70% score does not necessarily mean your account is set up poorly; it might just indicate that there is room to increase coverage on smart bidding or new ad types.
From the moment you create your campaign, Google’s algorithms are calculating your baseline optimization score. Google will then provide various recommendations on how you can improve your score.
Now, the important question: which recommendations should you use? The answer: it depends. You could easily apply all recommendations Google provides to skyrocket your optimization score to close to 100%, but you don’t necessarily want to do that. There are many outside factors deciding which of the recommendations you should use. For example, Google always recommends testing smart bidding, no matter how long the campaign has been active or how much conversion volume a campaign has. Oftentimes, there might be reasons you want to hold off on immediately activating smart bidding, such as budget limitations or concerns about optimizing toward back-end metrics — so even though Google recommends smart bidding, you may not want to enable it right away just to improve your optimization score.
When you go through the list of recommendations Google provides, you’ll want to focus on the suggestions you know are easy to implement, have direct control over, and are enhancing your campaigns based on your account and business needs, not based on Google’s desire for you to adopt new features. Examples of quick win adjustments include adding new “Observation” audiences, fixing negative keyword conflicts, fixing ad groups with no keywords or ads, fixing ad disapprovals, adjusting campaign settings, and adding ad extensions.
As for the recommendations that don’t align with your current account goals, make sure to dismiss them by clicking on the three dots at the top right of each Recommendation box. Removing them will prevent irrelevant recommendations from bringing down your total optimization score.
While optimization scores are a helpful gauge to see how your campaigns align with Google’s recommended best practices, there are some intricacies to be aware of. Optimization scores vary on the type of campaign; whether it’s Search, Display, Shopping, or Youtube, each campaign type has different sets of criteria for Google’s optimization score. For example, all Smart campaigns default to a 100% optimization score (as long as budget is not limited), since these campaigns are letting Google take full control over bids and optimizations. Again, this does not mean Smart campaigns will always perform better than a campaign with a lower optimization score. There are many instances where a campaign with a lower optimization score will perform better than a campaign with an optimization score of 100% based on your business goals.
So, if Google’s optimization score is so dependent on other factors, what should you use it for? Like many of the other insights and metrics we receive as digital marketers, optimization score should be a directional tool. We are not just looking for the best optimization score; we are looking for opportunities to improve our accounts. The optimization score and recommendations tool Google provides are great resources for finding new opportunities to grow or make your accounts better. While a 100% optimization score is not the ultimate goal you should strive for, improving optimization scores should be a key aspect of any digital marketer’s ability to brainstorm new ideas and drive strong performance in their accounts.