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What’s the score? Our in-house pundits take another look at Quality Score and Optimisation Score.

The Euros are well underway now, and we’ve seen some fantastic, exciting, free-flowing football… just unfortunately not from England, so far.

This was surely the one where it comes home though. Talent across every position, including the Premier League’s best player, La Liga’s best player, and the Bundesliga’s top scorer. A whole nation united, pushing aside any election differences, poised ready to back their team like never before.

But for whatever reason, it just hasn’t clicked yet. Lack of energy in midfield? Lack of left-footed LB? Foden playing out of position? Kane carrying a back injury? Poor quality pitches? Substitutions too late? Playing too defensively and deep? It seems there are 101 potential reasons. Pundits, journalists, fans, marketeers, anyone across the country really (and evidently including Southgate…) can’t seem to pin-point why.

But should we really be so critical, when really all that matters at the end of the day, is the result? We’ve topped our group, made it through the last 16, and have our eyes set on a quarter final match against Switzerland.

Yes, we’ve been subjected to some pretty painful viewing, but ALL that matters in these matches is the score.

Much like with Google, really. The most important thing is the score – to be specific, Quality Score and Optimisation Score – right?

 

So what are Quality Score and Optimisation Score?

 

Quality Score – the G.O.A.T

 

As my colleague Dan explained in his recent excellent blog examining Quality Score:

“Quality Score is a value assigned to a keyword, between 1 and 10, and is based on three factors: Landing Page Experience, Ad Relevance, and Expected Clickthrough Rate (CTR).

Quality Score is essentially multiplied by your bid in the ad auction, so if you doubled your Quality Score you would essentially double your competitiveness in the auction. This is why Quality Score is such a key metric, and why we want it as high as possible.”

We do have a more back-to-basics style blog on Quality Score right here, if you’re wanting a refresher on the 3 different factors. The solid back 3, if you will.

Now, while there are some potential flaws or unknowns with how to improve certain aspects of your Quality Score, it still remains one of the most (if not the most) important metric in a Google Ads/Paid Search account.

It provides a window into where and how improvements can be made to your campaign performance, which is becoming increasingly rare given Google’s general trend towards a black-box approach to managing Google Ads. The important takeaway being: if you do improve your Quality Score, you are likely to see improvements in results.

Note: be more fox in the box, less black box.

 

Optimization Score

 

On the other hand, Optimisation Score is:

“An estimate of how well your Google Ads account is set to perform. Scores run from 0–100%, with 100% meaning that your account can perform at its full potential.

Along with the score, you’ll see a list of recommendations that can help you optimise each campaign. Each recommendation shows how much your optimisation score will be impacted (in percentages) when you apply that recommendation.”

The idea here is that Google will expect a number of settings and features to be applied to your campaigns (based on your chosen objective) and so will give you a score to show how well you have adopted those settings. It will then show you recommendations on what other settings and features to apply to improve your score. You can then choose to review and apply these changes at the click of a button.

Some suggestions may include:

  • Add dynamic images to your ads automatically
  • Remove redundant keywords
  • Remove conflicting negative keywords
  • Review x number of ad groups’ missing ads

These are all arguably sensible suggestions that can be automatically applied. Even just flagging that some RSAs could be improved by including more headlines, and offering some AI-generated options, can be a helpful time-saver (if still reviewed before applying).

Seems fairly simple, somewhat helpful, and certainly harmless. But just remember, it’s a game of two halves…

The issue comes more with recommendations such as:

  • Add broad match keywords
  • Expand your reach with Google Search Partners
  • Use Display Expansion
  • Create a Performance Max campaign
  • Raise your budgets (!)

You’ll notice all suggestions that appear say something along the lines of ‘get more conversions’ or ‘more potential customers’, and often include a tagline ‘This recommendation is an AI Essential’.


To an inexperienced advertiser, that seems like an obvious change to make? Of course, I’d like more conversions and customers.

But here lies the issue. From our experience, these suggestions are seldom best for actually improving your results – they generally only increase your costs. That’s not to say using broad keywords or PMax campaigns can work, but generally they need to be well considered and applied and tested appropriately. Not applied on a whim, at a click of a button because an automated system says to.

In the above examples (and what we generally find is) the suggestions don’t consider any context about the advertiser either, whether they can actually afford to increase their CPA an extra £2.26, or even if they have more budget available.

 

Do I need to be concerned about my Optimisation Score?

In most cases, no. You should not be optimising campaigns solely according to your Opti-Score.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, there can be some good recommendations. At minimum, we still suggest reviewing the ‘Recommendations’ tab every few weeks, to see if there are any noteworthy potential optimisations. Occasionally we find some quick wins or elements missing from accounts that we may have overlooked. But you need to:

a) Not get carried away with trying to improve your score for the sake of it.
b) Take any recommendations with a pinch of salt. Carefully consider whether they will benefit your account/campaigns.

The only case where Optimisation Score can matter, though, is as an agency, if you are a Google Partner. This is because Google Partners must maintain an Optimisation Score (measured as an average across their whole MCC) above 70%, as one of their requirements to remain a Partner.

Sometimes if you want to be a big game player, you have to follow the rules…

 

Why does my Google say I need to improve it? (I detect match-fixing!)

If Google are promoting a big shiny box that says CLICK HERE TO IMPROVE THIS, yet many of the improvements only lead to higher costs and not necessarily to better results – our cynical reaction is a fairly obvious one. It’s designed (at least in part) for Google to make more money.

It’s suspicious that most Google ‘Account Strategists’ are technically working on behalf of their sales department, and their advice is usually to enable auto-apply on the in-account recommendations. For advertisers blindly following their advice, we can maybe call this an own goal.

It should be noted you can still improve your Optimisation Score by simply dismissing the suggestions too – you don’t have to apply them. However, given it’s quite hidden and the fact it literally makes no difference whether you apply the feature or not, it still feels quite deceptive.

As another aside, you might be interested to know that Meta have also introduced a similar metric in the last few months, called ‘Opportunity Score’. It’s essentially the same thing – equally optimistic (and gimmicky) sounding, and potentially equally likely to encourage you just to spend more.

Don’t get caught sleeping. Be cautious when optimising!

 

Are Quality Score and Optimisation Score related in any way?

In short, no. I should firstly caveat however, that Google make clear:

“Quality Score isn’t an input in the ad auction. It’s a diagnostic tool to identify how ads that show for certain keywords affect the user experience.”

That being said, Quality Score still has its basis in actual performance data. Generally, better set-up campaigns lead to better Quality Scores, which generally lead to better results. It has a real-world implication on your day-to-day as a Paid Search advertiser.

As Dan also said in his blog, “you should care about your Quality Score, and you should put time aside to try and improve it as much as possible”.

On the flip-side, your Optimisation Score does not have any bearing on your actual results. Yes it can provide some interesting recommendations and offer guidelines, but it can mislead advertisers just as much. It simply is a vanity metric.

And in an age where we’re all stats-focussed, be it pass-completion %, expected goals/xG, or expected CTR (maybe I should call it xCTR), as marketers we want the data that matters to help us make informed decisions.

 

So that’s full time – what’s the verdict? Is all that matters the score?

To sum up, I think it would be helpful to quickly jump back to the definition of Optimisation Score.

“With 100% […] your account can perform at its full potential”

The important part here is ‘potential’. It’s like saying (bear with me…) given how much potential Theo Walcott* had, we should’ve already won a Euros years ago. The ‘potential’ is merely an estimation of what may or may not happen if you follow some of their guidelines. Whereas all that matters are the actual stats (like Quality score) when it comes to optimising campaigns.

 

*Jude Bellingham stepping up by scoring an overhead kick goal in the 95th minute to send us through to the Quarters? That’s not potential. That’s the real deal.

And while Google might be losing fans amongst the chaos of their anti-trust trials, no amount of poor performances will stop us from losing faith when it comes to England playing in tournament football.

Let’s follow the footsteps of our Lionesses, and bring it home, boys.

 

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