Understanding the New Google Ads Optimization Score Requirements

Since Google Ads first announced changes coming to its Partners badge program, there has understandably been some backlash to the new requirements. Starting in 2021, new criteria must be met for company performance, spend, and certifications in order to acquire or maintain the Google Ads Partner status. While Google says this is to maintain high standards for the program, many digital marketers agree that these changes prioritize Google’s bottom line over that of the advertisers that spend their money with Google Ads.

One change, in particular, has brought about a lot of discussion: the optimization score requirement.

As part of meeting the company performance criteria, Partners must meet a minimum 70% optimization score. This score is determined based on various settings, the status of your account and campaigns, and machine learning recommendations.

Advertisers have voiced their frustrations over this requirement and how it seems to discount the work of digital marketing experts who prioritize their client’s business over gaining status from the Partner badge. While this push towards machine learning recommendations does seem forceful by Google Ads, our team decided to dive in and see what kind of recommendations were made, evaluate how relevant and useful these recommendations are, and how applying or dismissing them affects accounts.

At first glance, you see an optimization score of 76.6% and several recommendations, including creating dynamic search ads and using Maximize conversions. While our team knows that these strategies are not the best for this account, Google Ads wants us to try them. It appears that the only way to see immediate increases in an optimization score is to apply the machine learning recommendations. Google Ads does not indicate that ignoring the recommendations is an option – even if those recommendations do not help or might even hurt the account.

However, once you click on the three dots in the upper right corner of one of the recommendations, a small menu will appear with the options to download the recommendations or to dismiss them all.

Google Ads Recommendations Dashboard
Open the individual recommendation’s menu to download or dismiss.

When you click “Dismiss all”, you are then asked to explain why you would like to dismiss the recommendations. Our team prefers to include a reason in order to help improve the recommendations and as a way to check our reasoning before moving on.

Dismissing Google Ads Recommendations
A short survey appears after dismissing to help improve recommendations.

Once you choose a reason and dismiss the recommendations, you can see that the optimization score is raised to 80.3%. While this didn’t dramatically increase the score, the 3.7% raise suggests that accounts are not penalized for dismissing the recommendations like many advertisers are being led to believe.

Google Ads Recommendations Dashboard
The Google Ads Recommendations Dashboard after dismissing one recommendation.

While this process seemed burdensome and annoying to our team in the beginning, we’ve learned that the recommendations actually have some benefits.

Several of our account managers have found that the recommendations can help them catch disapproved extensions, which you otherwise aren’t alerted to unless you specifically look at them in the account. The recommendations to add call extensions prompts you to double-check the Ads & Extensions tab and review your extensions. Recently, one of our account managers encountered this scenario, checked the extensions, and learned that the call extension in one of the campaigns had been disapproved. The recommendation allowed her to find and correct the error much more quickly since she could not rely on a notification.

Our team has also come to appreciate how these recommendations help us think critically about accounts and how these suggestions might be applied to other accounts more suited for the changes. Pauline Jakober (CEO of Group Twenty Seven) shared a similar exercise earlier this year. She broke down each recommendation for an account and explained why they would or would not apply the change. In many cases, it wasn’t a matter of not applying the recommendation at all, but rather analyzing how that might impact the account and making changes or staying the course based on that analysis.

Change is almost never fun, but we recommend giving the Google Ads Optimization Score recommendations another look. You might just find some new keywords to test, catch a disapproved extension, or generate new strategy ideas to use. If nothing looks promising though, be sure to follow the steps we outlined above to dismiss the recommendations, and stay ahead of the Google Partner requirements.

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