Google Ads Search Certification: Cheat Sheet (Part 3/3!) + Certification Tips

(The final installment!)

Welcome back to the final installment of getting Google Ads Search certified! Hopefully you’ve been following parts 1 & 2 and feel ready to get certified yourself! Today we’ll be covering the final three modules. These are “reach valued customers with search audiences”, “boost performance with optimization score”, and “increase conversions with performance planner”. Also, at the end of this blog will be my experience taking the certification test! So, without further ado, let’s jump on into it!

Reach Valued Customers with Search Audiences

What”s her intent when shopping? To get deals or cute stuff regardless of price?

So, this section is all about your audience; or more likely, audiences. For Google ads, Google offers Search Audiences. This is essentially an audience-grouping feature. It’ll allow you to create audience lists and pair them with your ad groups (Skillshop, 2019). This would allow you to take the audience’s intent (ex. interested in sales) and pair them with insights about that customer group (Skillshop, 2019). From this, you can make more informed decisions about ad bidding and tailoring the ad to the customer (Skillshop, 2019). This is super helpful because customers want easy and relevant experiences so make it easy and relevant for them!

This layered audience is also good because it creates variable bidding. This means you can change your bid based on different variables. In this case, the variable is your audiences. You could increase and decrease the bids on certain audiences (Skillshop, 2019). Creating ads groups also allows you to expand your active keywords. In example, you could set generic keywords for all audiences, and then specific ones for certain audience groups (Skillshop, 2019). Lastly, having audience groups is good because you can change-up your creative strategy to fit the audience (Skillshop, 2019)! This would make ads more interesting and relevant.

 Remember: ABR! Always Be Relevant!

How the Right Audience will Help You Reach your Marketing Goals

Firstly, having the right audience (and knowing your audience!) is always important. Not just for Google Ads, but all business. This is because your audience is who you’re selling to! Understanding their intents will help you understand how to sell to them. If you’re confused about your audience, I’d recommend creating some personas (you can read my blog about it here!). Google’s audience-tracking is based off three things, signals, surveys, and scale. Essentially, signals and scale are general tracking of your behaviour online. Surveys is just data from surveys you’ve taken for Google. Using this info, Search Audiences will help you meet your marketing goals in these ways.

Marketing Goal: Awareness

Look how aware he is!
  • Detailed Demographics. This lets you reach people based off more in-depth demographics like marital status and home ownership. For examples, if you know someone’s martial status is “engaged”, you could set this as the audience. Layering this on top of your campaign would make it so when someone in this audience searches for a product (ex. jewelry), it’ll show targeted ads (ex. wedding rings or love-themed items).
  • Affinity Audiences. This helps target folks who seem very interested in a topic. For example, you might say a makeup enthusiast would be someone who: watches makeup reviews on YouTube, searches for makeup inspiration on Google Images and downloaded the Sephora app on their phone. By layering this affinity onto your target campaign, you’ll only be targeting these enthusiasts. This keeps the content super relevant.  
    (Skillshop, 2019)

Marketing Goal: Drive Consideration

She’s considering your business!
  • In-Market Audiences. This is essentially creating an audience out of people who’ve actively been doing research. This indicates they’re in the market to buy. For example, if you have a pet shelter, you would want to target those ready to adopt. This way, if someone in this audience searches for something like “dogs in my area”, you could deliver an ad for your shelter!
  •  Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). You’re reaching out to folks who’ve interacted with you in the past. You could separate this even further! For example, audiences that are new, have been on your site before, and have abandoned their shopping carts. This is just another level of targeting that helps give a tailored message!
  • Similar Audience for Search. This is for finding a new audience based on your current audience’s behaviours/characteristics.
    (Skillshop, 2019)

Marketing Goal: Increase Purchases & Loyalty

  • Customer Match. This is a feature where you upload your own customer data and Google will help you determine customer loyalty. This is essentially deep diving into your CRM data. This is helpful for categorizing your customers into different groups. For example, loyal, haven’t seen in a while, frequent shopper, etc. Using that data, you can customize and target ads more specifically.   
  • RLSA. You can set this feature to reach out to customers who’ve made a purchase (post-purchase customer service).
    (Skillshop, 2019)
Increase loyalty and win the hearts of your customers

Some more examples of RLSA remarketing Lists:

  • “Visited her site in past 28 days but didn’t convert”
  • “Visited her site in past 7 days but didn’t convert”
  • “Added an item to the shopping basket but didn’t convert”
  • “Reached “Thank You” page (converted)”
    (Skillshop, 2019)

Note: “Remarketing lists must have at least 1,000 users on it before it can be used” (Skillshop, 2019).

Remember: Don’t forget about your touchpoints! Every interaction can leave a lasting impression on the customer. Therefore, it’s integral you treat every interaction with care. This could push your customer from consideration to converted!

Boost Performance with Optimization Score

Firstly, what even is an optimization score? Essentially, it’s a predicted performance score for your search campaigns (Skillshop, 2019). These range from 0% to 100% potential with 100 being the best. So, the benefits of the optimization score are instant feedback, customized and recommendation help (Skillshop, 2019). Personally, I think the instant feedback is great because you won’t fully finish an ad, only to have it tell you it has 0% potential! Real-time feedback allows you to see exactly how changes affect the potential.  

Very dissatisfied? More like no ad potential!

With all this talk of ad potential, you may be wondering how optimization scores are even calculated! Well, an algorithm considers all (key) aspects of your account to determine what a “fully optimized” campaign would look like (Skillshop, 2019). These key aspects include industry trends, current stats, etc. (Skillshop, 2019). Recommendations and scores will change based off changes in these key aspects (Skillshop, 2019).

Note: Recommendations are ordered by most impactful! Also, your score can involve over 50 recommendations (Skillshop, 2019)! So, consider the ones at the top more heavily for sure!  

Blue Circle: Your score || Black Circle: Recommendations || Red Circle: Filters

Increase Conversions with Performance Planner

Santa planned his vacation in summer because it’s his off-season!

Planning is important for many reasons. Firstly, it allows you to bring consistency to your business, it gives you time to prepare for things to go wrong, and more. It is recommended that your Google Ads are budgeted on a monthly basis (Skillshop, 2019). This is to help ensure:

  • Understanding future spend potential & make budgeting decisions
  • Plan for seasonality (ex. holidays!!)
  • Set optimal budgets for each campaign
  • Find new opportunities not yet known in previous months
    (Skillshop, 2019)

To help you plan, Google offers Performance Planner. This isn’t really a planner, but a forecasting tool. It uses AI to find opportunities in upcoming budgets to help maximize the investment (Skillshop, 2019). This is through determining optimal bids and average daily budgets (Skillshop, 2019).

Forecasting takes past and cureent info to make assumptions about the future

Forecasting is based on four criteria: forecasting, simulation, machine learning, and validation (Skillshop, 2019). Forecasting is based off Google’s data; searches. Simulation is essentially a test where the ad is “tested” in this simulated environment. This is to theoretically see how it’d do in the real world. Machine learning takes this information and learns from it for the next forecast. Lastly, validation checks to see how accurate the prediction was! By using machine learning, overtime predictions should become more and more accurate. This will help you make more effective decisions.

Remember: This is a forecasting tool for planning. This means, unexpected factors may lead to discrepancies in the recommendations! Make sure you monitor this tool and it performance! A self-driving car still needs a human with eyes on the road!

So, how do you even use the performance planner? Well, Google states it happens in four steps.

  1. Learn. Create a new budget plan and set budgets for each campaign. Remember to drive incremental conversions
  2. Explore. Look at optimization and forecast recommendations
  3. Do. Implement the recommended changes!
  4. Repeat Monthly. Things change so don’t forget to check once a month!
    (Skillshop, 2019)

Additionally, you may be wondering what the benefits even are. Besides the ones mentioned (like being prepared), Skillshop calls out four specifically! Also, yes, I’ve also noticed this trend with groups of fours. Anyhow, here are some examples for how Performance Planner will drive conversions.

  • Finding additional conversions with the same budget (current budget, slightly more conversions)
  • Maintaining your current CPA at your current budget without diminished return (slightly higher budget, more conversions)
  • Achieving your desired CPA while remaining profitable (maximum budget spent, increased conversions)
  • Additional spend on scenarios higher than the target CPA (reduce profitability, high increase conversion)
    (Skillshop, 2019)

Note: According to Google Ads data, the Performance Planner increased conversion by an average of 43% with the same investment (Skillshop, 2019).

Performance Planner Pro Tips:

  • Create separate plans for each marketing objective. Each goal is different, so conversion goals are also different!
  • Set bids and budgets using non-last click conversions. This id for allocating budgets for incremental conversions.
  • Check back regularly. Remember, forecasting is always improving! Some key factors to watch include seasonality, market share, and growth.
  • Your Performance Planner should include: the target date, campaigns, budget, target conversion volume, target CPA for upcoming periods.
  • Use performance targets feature. This helps monitor targets set in the Performance Planner. This is ideal due to unexpected external factors causing issues.
  • Use your optimization score in the recommendations page to improve your campaigns. This will help account for future periods even more. Don’t let campaigns be set-back by your budget!
    (Skillshop, 2019)

So, how many recommendations will Performance Planner even give you? One of three (surprise, not four!). They are:

  • Search manual cost-per-click (CPC) or enhance CPC campaigns. This will give you a recommended average daily budget and campaign bid scaling
  • Search maximize clicks or maximize conversion campaign. This will give you a recommended average daily budget
  • Search target CPA or target return on ad spend (ROAS) campaign. This will give a recommended average daily budget, campaign-level target CPA or ROAS
    (Skillshop, 2019)


In conclusion, reaching the right people at the right time is integral. It may seem obvious, but that’s why it’s so easy to forget! It’s important to consider your marketing goals in reference to your audience because marketing objectives drive the campaign. Without them, your campaign has no purpose. To help optimize your campaign, use tools like Optimization Score and Performance Planner to aid in these tasks. Optimization Score will help determine your ad’s potential while Performance Planner helps planning through forecasting. For an example of how these work together, it’s like quizzes. By doing practice quizzes, you get to see your potential for how you’d do on the test and make changes based on this. Additionally, you get to base your final test score off your previous quiz scores (forecasting!).   

Get the A+
Study for the test

Speaking of tests, this is it, y’all. The big conclusions we all were waiting for, the actual certification test! Hopefully it won’t be too hard, but I’ll write my results and recommendations after. Wish me luck!

Legal note: I won’t be sharing any answers of questions (obviously) to the certification. Just will pass on some tips for when you get certified!

I passed!! Wow, taking tests never gets less nerve-wracking. Not the best, but I’m happy with it. Here are some tips for when you take the certification!

  1. Obviously, you can’t have any notes. It’s a test! Due to this, I’d recommend reviewing the other modules (like I did) before taking this test! Check out my other blog posts part 1 and part 2 !
  2. There’s 50 questions and it has 75 mins allocated. 50 questions seem daunting by the over-an-hour time limit helps ease nervousness.
  3. If you take this certification during the COVID-19 pandemic, close the blue banner at the top of the test! It hides the timer so I spent half the quiz scared I would run out of time.
  4. You can’t go back! Once you click submit it’s locked-in forever
  5. Believe in yourself! If you read all the modules, it shouldn’t be too hard. Worse case scenario, you just retake it one day later.
Good Luck!

Good luck! Leave a comment down below if you got certified!


Skillshop. (2019, September 7). Google Ads Search Certification . Retrieved from Skillshop:

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