Gd-doped ZnO thin films were prepared using pulsed laser deposition at different oxygen pressures and varied Gd concentrations. The effects of oxygen deficiency-related defects on the Gd incorporation, optical and structural properties, were explored by studying the impact of oxygen pressure during deposition and post-growth thermal annealing in vacuum. Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry revealed that the Gd concentration increases with increasing oxygen pressure for samples grown with the same Gd-doped ZnO target. Unexpectedly, the c-lattice parameter of the samples tends to decrease with increasing Gd concentration, suggesting that Gd-defect complexes play an important role in the structural properties. Using low-temperature photoluminescence(PL), Raman measurements and density functional theory calculations, we identified oxygen vacancies as the dominant intrinsic point defects. PL spectra show a defect band related to oxygen vacancies for samples grown at oxygen deficiency.