Extracting the most performance from your AdWords account can be a full-time job, even for the most seasoned of pay per click managers. Therefore it’s important to keep on top of and monitor your key account metrics.
When it comes to your Google AdWords account Quality Score is one of the most critical metrics to understand and nurture.
So what is quality score?
Google’s description of Quality Score (QS for short) reads, “Quality Score is calculated in real-time, every time your keyword matches a search query” – essentially, every time your keyword has the potential to trigger an ad.
Quality Score is used in several different ways, including influencing your keywords’ actual cost-per-click (CPC) and estimating the first page bids that you see in your account. It also partly determines if a keyword is eligible to enter the ad auction that occurs when a user enters a search query and, if it is, how high the ad will be ranked.
Your Ad Groups Quality Score is a combination of the QS of each keyword you target. This score changes constantly, the following elements are used to calculate the Quality Score:
- Keyword click-through rate
- The relevance of the keyword within its ad group
- The relevance of the keyword
- Your account history
- The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
- Your landing page experience
- Landing page load times
- Device and location bias
- Ad extensions already factored in to CTR
All being said, 2/3’s of QS is still down to your CTR.
Click-through Rate (CTR) of the keyword
Click-through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown (impressions) via Google search only.
The keyword click-through rate is also the number one factor for determining your Quality Score.
Your ads and keywords each have their own CTRs, unique to your own campaign performance.
Click-through rate is the most significant component of Quality Score because it directly indicates which ads are most relevant to our users. For example, a well targeted keyword that shows a similarly targeted ad is more likely to have a higher CTR than a general keyword with non-specific ad text. The more your keywords and ads relate to each other and to your business, the more likely a user is to click on your ad after searching on your keyword phrase.
The relevance of the keyword to the ad copy
The keywords in your ad group must be relevant to your ads. Where possible your ad group keywords should be repeated in the ad, there are of course times where this isn’t possible.
The relevance of the keyword and ad to the Search Query
The keyword that a potential visitor searches for (the search query) needs to be relevant to the keywords in your ad group and the ad itself. It’s important to note that match type is not taken into account when Google calculates QS.
Your account CTR history
This often takes people by surprise but Google takes your entire history into account when determining CTR. Don’t be fooled in to thinking this means you should limit the changes your make to your account. Google favours the recent account history and so lends itself to advertisers making constant improvements to their accounts.
In fact the Google AdWords Agency blog is cited saying “A few bad days of test performance will not ruin your Quality Scores. In order to optimize your clients’ accounts, we encourage you to run targeted tests on your bids, creatives, and keywords.”
Moral of the story – don’t fear change, keep testing and improving as you go.
The historical CTR of display URLs
This QS measurement refers to the URL that is displayed in the ad, not the destination URL that the visitor is directed to after clicking the ad. It goes without saying this should be relevant to the keywords in your Ad Group.
The quality of your landing page
Google notes that the three main components of a quality website are relevant and original content, transparency, and navigability. It should be said that relevance takes priority in that visitors should be able to easily find what your ad promotes i.e. the page content is specific to the ad copy.
Google periodically spiders your landing pages to calculate these and other usability factors.
Landing page load times
Decrease your landing page load times, that’s a must. Landing page load times, as with Organic Search rankings, are an important consideration when calculating Quality Score. The simplest route to improving load times is to host your website in the location you serve people, in other words if your customers are predominantly UK based don’t host your website in the US.
As you can see the term ‘relevance’ appears a lot here, and that’s key. Your keyword should relate to your ad title, your ad copy, your display url and finally the page of your website that is targeted by your advert.
Quality Scores should be checked on a regular basis, broadly speaking you should aim for a QS of 7 or better and if you see a QS of sub 3 you have serious problems that need addressing.
So what’s a good Quality Score?
Starting at 1 through to 3, these are bottom of the score sheets and expensive territory. In fact with a score of 1 and 2 your ads likely won’t display, or at least impressions will be extremely hobbled.
The Google benchmark for the average is around the 5 mark.
So therefore, ‘good’ is considered above average, or 6+.
Whereas 9 to 10 are pretty much perfect, as illustrated below:
Is that it? Not so fast …
We’ve run through quality score, what it is, how it works – but don’t get too transfixed on quality score.
Quality score impacts your Ad Rank, your Ad Rank impacts your Cost per Click (CPC), but crucially it’s your Cost per Acquisition (CPA) that you need to focus on.
Yes of course we should care about quality score, but ultimately, CPA is what makes your business either work with AdWords, or not.
Frequently asked Quality Score questions
Q: Will paused keywords affect Quality Score?
Yes – paused keywords do impact your Ad Group’s quality score, because they had an impact on the historical performance. Deleting them won’t fix this either.
It will however, with time, improve as the historical data has less impact on today’s score.
Q: When and how frequently are Quality Scores calculated in AdWords?
Google calculates your actual score every time an auction runs, based on data available at that moment in time.
The score you see within you AdWords account is an estimate (blended) value.
Q: How can the quality score for geographically targeted keywords be improved?
The simplest method is to include location, area and even postcodes in your search terms. Of course you should introduce your location in to your ad copy and landing page too.
I’d trial an Ad Group dedicated to broad modified keywords, where you plus your primary word and leave your location broad. For example “+grocery +store leicester“. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
Q: Does creating a landing page with keywords the same as ad text and ad group improve QS?
Congruence plays an important part; changing titles and text on your landing page will certainly help in the short term, it won’t help if people don’t click on your ads over time.
Improve your keyword/ad CTR and monitor your landing page performance in Analytics – aim to please humans first, Google second.
Q: Is it possible to know a competitor’s AdWords quality score?
Unfortunately not, that would be an unfair advantage. You could ask them… but they’d probably tell you to p*ss off!
You can compare your performance using Google AdWords Auction Insights, which gives you an idea of how you perform in the bidding war versus your nearest rivals.
Q: How long does it take for Quality Score to go back up after a new campaign is started?
It takes both [a little] time and around 1,000 ad impressions for a single keyword to normalise. Until this point your scores are highly volatile and arguably irrelevant. A little patience is in order!
Q: If the top ad has the best Quality, why not just copy their advert to get a higher score?
Because it could be down to a high bid and higher Ad Rank, not just a high QS! Moral objections to one side, don’t mimic your competitor – be different – write a better advert and create a more compelling landing page.
Also optimise your ad extensions and constantly look for ways to improve them by adding value. Ad extensions can attract a significant number of clicks and lift in your overall Click-through Rate.
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