Quality Score (QS) is a metric that Google came up with for anyone who wants to advertise on its platform. By its definition quality score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions. It is a value that ranges 1 – 10, where by 1 is a very low QS and 10 is a higher one.
All major pay per click companies have their own ways of making sure that the ads the end user sees are relevant. Bing and Google use quality score, Facebook uses Relevancy Score.
One of the biggest fears that Google, being in the tech space, has is that it being replaced. It is unlikely that people may consider Google can be replaced but the same thing happened to the companies it replaced. For example Yahoo and AOL were the biggest search engine before Google. Then Google came and took over.
To prevent another company coming to take over from them, they have to make sure that their users are satisfied with the services they provide.
The benefits of high quality scores for Google:
- The ads being served to users are of high quality, relevant and targeted.
- They are able to filter which ads should be on top fairly.
- Google can see how people use your site.
Benefits of high QS to advertisers
- This leads to paying lower for CPC and getting better ad positions
- This lets advertisers with smaller budgets to compete with larger ones
- An indication that your ads, and website is doing well.
- It saves money in the long run, as high QS is rewarded to ads that perform well for a while.
- Lower CPC costs means a higher return on investment(ROI)
- You can use it to determine how much you will pay in the ad auction
- It can be used as a tool to trouble shoot the problems with your ad campaigns. This way you can find out what isn’t working and why it’s not working.
- It also determines which position an ad will be.
Ad Rank = CPC bid × Quality Score
Ad Rank = Display Network bid × Quality Score
Determining quality score
QS is determined by 3 factors according to Google
- Expected click through rate (CTR) – How likely is someone to click your ad when Google serves it for the keyword they type in?
- Ad relevance – Does the ad make sense to appear when someone searches for a particular keyword?
- Landing page experience – Does the information on the landing page correspond to what the ad is offering, and vice versa?
Other factors that determine QS and aren’t expressly mentioned are:
- Relevant keywords
- User experience
Types of Quality Score
There are different types of QS that are used in determining how to rate your ads. They are:
Account-Level Quality Score
This is one of the most contentious type of QS because the largest search engine itself denies that it exists. Although many digital marketers have come to the conclusion that it is there and affects all accounts.
Account level QS is the result of the historical performance of all ads and keywords in an account.
To prove that this type of QS exists, let’s imagine that there is an account with low QS words, low CTR and poor performing ads. The total QS will be very low and it will be harder to introduce new keywords.
These keywords will be added to the account but they won’t be used in the ad auction even if the right search is triggered. If they are allowed they are also given an automatic low QS. In such cases, many online marketers agree that is better to start a new account. Google also doesn’t like starting new accounts to advertise the same products.
If you find yourself in this position where you have low QS and you are looking for ways to improve it, then you would be required to take some time to completely overhaul your account. This only matters if you don’t want to start a new account.
Account level Qs brings into the conversation that Google prefers older accounts as opposed to newer ones. Old accounts that perform well are given preference and are awarded high QS
Ad Group Quality Score
Ad Group QS is another type of QS that Google uses to analyse the performance of your account. This metric like the account level QS can’t be found on the Google Ads dashboard. Although it can be calculated by finding out the average QS of all the keywords in each ad group.
By doing this you will find some ad groups that have a higher collective mean QS (7 and above) and others with lower. This would be an indication to you as the marketer to work on the lower performing ad group.
Quick ways of improving ad group QS is further breaking down the ad groups in to smaller ad groups making the keywords more targeted. More ads could be added to improve the CTR and ads that have lower CTR should be paused and better performing ones should be run.
It is also wise to mention that historical QS will be preserved even though the ad groups will be changed.
Keyword-Level Quality Score
Unlike the other two types of quality score, keyword level quality score is the one that is known by most people. QS is measured by the performance of search queries that exactly match your keyword.
Google takes the performance of your keyword QS over a significant number of searches. It then gives you a score of 1 through 10 as to how it has performed. This is why you could have keywords on your account that don’t have a quality score yet and it’s because there haven’t been a good number of searches. The significant number of searches is referred to as impressions threshold.
When you are looking at your keyword’s QS you will be presented with the following
- Quality Score – How relevant the keyword, ads and landing pager are to those viewing an ad.
- Ad Relevance – How closely related keywords are to ad copy.
- Landing page experience – How useful the landing page is to users viewing the page.
- Expected CTR – Based on past performance, the chances that an ad will be clicked when shown.
- Quality Score (historic) – The last known quality score in the reporting time frame.
- Ad Relevance (historic) – The last known ad relevance in the reporting time frame.
- Landing page Experience (historic) – The last known landing page experience score in the reporting time frame.
- Expected CTR (historic) – The last known expected click-thru-rate in the reporting time frame.
To improve QS before it has been awarded you have to look at the impression share data – the percentage of times that your ads were shown out of the total available impressions for which your ads were eligible to appear. This would mean increasing your daily budget, CPC to rank higher and encourage more clicks.
There are times you will be required to switch from exact match to phrase or broad match so that your keywords can appear in more searches. This will increase the chances of you getting a quick QS score.
If your ads are having a good CTR then you are bound to be rewarded with a high QS and the opposite is true. A bad CTR on the search network is less than 1.5%.
Ad-Level Quality Score
We have just discussed how low CTR can affect your QS, as such ads should written in ways that improve CTR. In cases where the ads aren’t performing as well as they should, then they should be paused.
Google offers a suite of tools to advertisers to increase their CTR by either using extensions, using functions, dynamic Keyword Insertion etc. The CTR will determine both the QS of the keywords as well as that of the Ads.
Also this another metric that can’t be found on the Google dashboard but it has proven to affect how ads are placed on the auction when everything is held constant.
Landing Page Quality Score
Landing page quality is one of the three things that factor in determining quality scores. In the past there used to written material on landing page quality score but they have been removed by Google. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, but you as a marketer should be aware of it.
Landing pages make a big difference in the success of any online campaign. This is where users are sent to when they click on the ads. This is also where it makes or breaks the digital marketing.
Google evaluates landing pages through their bots and time to time they send actual users to look at landing pages to make sure the bots didn’t miss anything. Google encourages advertisers to create good landing pages because it is considered relevant and useful. Keeping it on the top of all other search engines.
Google knows the importance of the landing page and it has factors that help it to determine if the page is good or not. The main factors are:
Your landing page should be relevant to whatever product or service you are selling. It should provide the same information your ads and keywords are doing. This forms a natural flow from the search to search results to landing page to conversion.
If you have many products and you are using one landing page, then the landing page should be flexible enough to accommodate most of what you are selling.
Landing pages should load below 2.5 seconds. In this day and age people don’t have the patience to wait for certain pages to load. If it takes longer to load it could be the difference between making a sale or a user bouncing of the page.
Speed is important especially if you are to consider that people have different connection speeds. This naturally would affect the QS.
When a user comes to your landing page, they should be able to move around easily to get to where they want. It is said that better web pages are written in an F format as that is the way people skim through sites. If users struggle to find what they are looking for they will hit the dreaded back button and continue with their search. This will be an indication to google that your landing page is not good enough. Making you end up with a low QS.
Display Network Quality Score
Display network QS works differently from the search network’s quality score. Google determines the QS by looking at the ad’s historical performance on the sites you are running on. When determining the display network quality score, Ad, keyword relevance and landing page quality are factored in.
To make things more interesting the display network quality score is affected by the bidding options. There are two types of bidding options in display network and they are CPM and CPC models. When using CPM, QS is determine on the landing page quality. When using CPC, QS is determined by using historical CTR and Landing page quality
In determine display network QS, CTR plays a big factor. More important to the CTR is relative click through rate. Relative CTR is a simple calculation of the GDN campaign’s CTR divided by the CTR of the other ads running in the same places. Naturally having a low relative CTR will lead to lower QS.
There are times when image ads will perform better than responsive ads depending on the sites. This should be reviewed often to see which works with what to improve CTR and thus QS. When using the display network, you have to factor in placements, demographics, interests and topics to ensure ad success.
To improve display network quality score the following can be done:
Placements are the first place to go to when you are looking at display performance. Here you will see where your ads have been featured. Then you will exclude all the sites in which your site hasn’t been performing well.
Different ad formats perform differently depending on the sites. The ads could image or responsive ads. The ad layout, images, colour combination, branding and call to action could all provide different level of performance
As quality score is affected a lot by CTR, special attention should be given to the relative CTR. To improve the CTR, potential site exclusions, negative keywords should be added. Changing the ads and increase targeting by choosing the right topics.
Mobile Quality Score
Lastly there is mobile quality score which is taken into account when google calculates the distance between the users and business location. They do this by using location and location extension data.
Google denies that there is a difference in QS when it comes to device targeting but when separate device campaigns are created it is noted that the QS changes. Mobile QS is affected by how the ads perform on mobile. If your site is slow on mobile devices it means that the QS will be lower.
Google is pushing for mobile first ads as more and more people are using their phones more than ever before. How the ads ran over there is a big factor the success of the company.
Quality Score Misconceptions
QS has been there for a quite a while but there some advertisers who still get confused on what it is and how it affects the campaigns. Here are some few quality score misconceptions:
Match Types Affects Quality Score
Google calculates the quality score of a keyword depending on how it will perform on the searches. Google uses the exact match type of the keyword. Many advertisers think that they can switch it from, broad, phrase to broad modifier match and it will lead to QS being changed.
As an example [red shoes] will have the same QS as “red shoes”
QS Suffers when Ads or Keywords are paused
When keywords and ads are paused they aren’t involved in the ad auction anymore and can’t affect their QS. There are some who believe their keywords and ads have a bad QS because of pausing them. Others also believe that if the QS is low, the keywords can paused and it would later go up.
QS is affected by pausing or enabling the keywords and ads.
Search QS affects Display Network QS
There are times when advertisers use both the search and display network in one campaign. They also believe that how the keywords are performing in the search network will affect how they will perform on the display network
QS is calculated differently on the search network and in the display network. Hence they can’t interfere with each other.
QS is improved by higher position
When you want to have a higher CTR it is better to bid for higher positions. Since Google also knows this and doesn’t want you to game the system, it factors in the position in its formula in calculating QS. It does this to prevent the self-reinforcing nature of the higher position
Deleting Low QS keywords and Ads Erases Their History
Deleting poor performing keywords and ads will erase their history. You are advised to pause and remove low performing keywords to improve the QS. This still improves the QS but the keywords and ads will forever be part of history of the account.
The historical influence on the QS will be less and less as time goes by if your account is improving in performance but the data will always be on your account. This is the reason why people think about starting new accounts.
How To improve Quality Score
There are so many factor that affect how the QS will be determined. There is no one or two quick fixes to improve the QS. Although, when the following things are done all at the same time the QS will improve:
When it comes to campaign creation a lot of time should be spent at the beginning part. More time should be spent in structuring the campaign in order to have as many ad groups with each having a few keywords. This will save a lot of time when the campaign is running and towards the end.
The ad groups should have 1 -10 keywords and they should be relevant to each other. The keywords should have the same meaning, logical, match could have the different match types and should be relevant to the ads.
In the past it was recommended to have 15 – 20 keywords per ad group but this has turned out to be not the best advice. It is hard to have ads that would properly addressing each keyword. Fewer keywords have been encouraged per ad group. There are advertisers who go as far as having a single ad group per keyword properly known as SKAG.
By doing this there will be a lot of relevancy between the keywords, ads and search term used. Making the user easily find what s/he is looking for and eventually convert.
All this is done to have a well-organized campaign which will increase your QS, CTR and Performance.
Example of ad groups
Keywords are the ones that determine whether an ad would appear if it is searched upon. This makes keywords very important. Before the keywords should be used in any ad group, and campaign, there has to be a lot of thought put into it.
You will have to figure out which keywords match your products well and if they have the same meaning. For example Paris Hilton could be easily be confused as the celebrity and the Hotel in France.
This leads to a lot of research to be done, based on relevancy, volume and meaning. Luckily Google has a free tool called Keyword planner to help out with this.
Quality score is a combination of the keyword used and the ad being displayed. When these two match then the higher chance of having a high QS for example
When some searches for Kenya safari this should appear
As you can see the keyword matches the headline making it easier for the user to click on the ad and get what s/he is looking for.
As with the example above, increase keyword QS can be done by putting the keyword in the headline. Another way of doing it is through dynamic Keyword Insertion. Although, you have to be careful so that the ad doesn’t lose meaning.
Ads are the first contact with your potential clients. If the ads are providing the right information this will prompt the user to click on the ad and move on to the website or landing page. Since the ads are very important, they weigh in on determining the quality score.
High quality ads should be written to address the problem the web user is having. Most people when they are online they are trying to solve a problem quickly. For example when someone keys in “Find a plumber near me” this is a person who is having a plumbing emergency and needs help now.
The best ad that would address this would be
This ad addresses the urgency of an emergency plumber in the first line. Anyone looking at this ad would click on it as it provides the information that is needed.
Effectiveness of ads are measured by the click through rate. A higher CTR shows that many people find the ads are relevant and focused while a lower CTR shows that they are the opposite. Higher CTR means higher QS
To improve ads the following should be done:
Ensure that the main keywords are prominently featured in the ad copy. When someone searches for plumber like the example above, the word is written in bold – plumber. This makes potential clients click on the ads as they feel their issue has been addressed. Increasing your CTR and QS.
When writing ads, the message should match what the keyword being used. The ads should expand on the services being offered in relation to the keywords.
Site links provide extra information about the ads, take up more real estate and increase the likelihood of higher CTR.
Landing pages should have the following qualities for them to be deemed as good landing pages:
- Fast loading
- Easy to navigate
Landing pages are the biggest determinant to see whether your ad campaigns are good or bad. They are referred to as bad when a user comes to the site and can’t easily find what they are looking and they hit the dreaded back button. Increasing your bounce rate and lowering your quality score.
QS can be improved by ensuring the web page is accurate and relevant to what the ads had proposed. For example if some searches for “football shoes” and they are taken to a page that has nothing to do with shoes, the user will go back and search for a better site. On the other hand if they find a landing page with football shoes they will be happy. The page will provide all needed information about football shoes and how to buy them. Google will reward you with a good QS.
When designing a landing page you will want your title, headline, subheadings, met description and Meta keywords to match the keywords being used in the searches. It is sometimes impractical to come up with different landing pages for all the keywords and ad groups. This is because it’s a waste of time and management will be a nightmare. One way around this is by using dynamic text replacement. With this technique you can create one landing page and the headline would change depending on the keyword used. For example, the headline will change from Football shoes to Football cleats, Football attire depending on the keyword used.
The landing page should load in less than 2.5 seconds according to Google. Any longer would mean losing 50% of your users every addition second. Here are some factor that determine landing page load time Meta refreshes; slow redirects; multiple redirects; interstitial pages; slow server and large page size
Easy to Navigate
Your landing page should provide information in an easy to read manner with appropriate image placements. You would be required to use short paragraphs as well as bulleted points to quickly highlight the features of your product or service. This will give your visitors a chance to quickly skim through your page.
Negative keywords are the opposite of the normal keywords you would use. These keywords are the ones in which you don’t want your ads to appear when they are searched upon.
This directly increases your CTR as your searches are more relevant and more targeted. With increasing CTR it leads to increasing QS.
Using our “Football Shoes” keyword as an example, negative keywords would be words like free shoes, used shoes, luxury boots. As these keywords won’t help with sale of shoes and they show that the users have different motivation then they are deemed as negative keywords.
Other examples of negative keywords that are applicable in most accounts are: download, tutorial, dashboard, inexpensive etc.
The negative keywords vary according industry and type of business and they should be chosen carefully as well.
To improve the negative keywords list, the search terms report should be looked at every day or every other day to find potential negative keywords.
Ad extensions have no direct effect on the QS but they affect the CTR and thus QS. Having Ad extensions increases CTR as they provide more information to the users and they are more inclined to click on the ads. There are several types of extensions:
- Structured snippet
You may have all these extensions added but not all of them will be used. The usage of them depends on device being used and more importantly on Google’s Ads system. They are also mostly used in you are position 1.
This is the only option where it takes a lot of time and consistent management. When Google sees that you have been running ads for a long time and the ads have been properly managed, they increase the QS.
Google encourages good ads management and reward their partners with higher QS for the keywords. Also when new keywords are being added they are automatically given a high QS.
Quality score is here to stay and if we want to make the most of our advertising then it’s time we looked into it.
If you need help with Quality Score Contact Us to help improve it.