How is AdWords Quality Score Calculated?

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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
  • The quality of your landing page
  • Landing page load times

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.

Ed Leake

Author: Ed Leake

Ed is the director of Midas Media and has served in the technology industry for just shy of twenty years. Ed believes in the constant development, improvement and the maturing of ideas. Outside of work Ed enjoys motorsport, yet more fresh coffee and doughnuts.

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