Don’t you just love how we can call almost anything a “hack” these days?
Most of the “hacks” I see on the Internet are just tips, but calling them hacks makes it feel like you’re getting away with something. And whatever makes work more fun, I’m all for it.
So let’s talk Quality Score. We’ve harped on and on about the importance of Quality Score. It can save you up to 50% on cost per click  (CPC), and those savings at the level of the click translate into savings of up to 80% on CPA , or cost per conversion. In other words, optimizing for Quality Score is basically a way to optimize for costs.
So how do you actually increase your Quality Scores? Google’s exact formula for calculating Quality Score is famously mysterious, like the recipe for Coke. But we do know that click-through rate is the single most important factor. That’s because CTR is the most obvious measure of relevance to users – they wouldn’t consistently be clicking your ads if your ads didn’t speak to their needs. Google wants to keep users happy so they keep clicking ads – therefore, the easiest way to improve your Quality Scores is to get your click-through rates up higher.
None of these methods will work overnight – it takes time to increase your Quality Scores. But these three sneaky “hacks” are the easiest ways to improve CTR and, consequently, Quality Score across your account.
Quality Score Hack #1: Use Site Extensions & PLA’s
If the three rules of real estate are location, location, location, the three rules of Google ads are extensions, extensions, extensions. Ad extensions are free to use and pretty much guaranteed to increase your click-through rates.
Which extension you should use depends on what your goals are, so check out our Ad Extensions Cheat Sheet  for more info, and remember that you can combine multiple extensions. Here are some of the big ones:
Sitelinks give searchers more options on where to click – instead of picking one destination landing page, you can pick 5 or more.
Call extensions are especially key for mobile ads, allowing people to call you with one click and get what they need right when they want it. (Time to conversion is faster on mobile devices !)
Add map information, address and phone number to your ad without taking up the space you need to communicate your value prop and call to action. These are obviously more crucial for local, brick-and-mortar businesses.
And if you’re running an e-commerce account, definitely definitely use Product Listing Ads. They look like this:
For specific product searches, PLA’s have a ton of advantages:
- Images make them extra clickable
- They match up really well with searcher intent
- They don’t necessarily look like ads
- They include price information, so they pre-qualify clicks
This is why PLA’s suck up all the intent on the SERP  for those end-of-funnel queries. You’re bound to get better CTR with a PLA than a plain-flavor text ad, so add them to your arsenal.
Quality Score Hack #2: Bid on Brand Terms
There are a number of good reasons to bid on branded terms  in AdWords. Two of them are all about saving you $$$:
- Branded terms are dirt cheap due to low competition.
- Branded terms get super-duper high CTR’s and Quality Scores, so they lift your account-wide average, saving you even more money.
You’re also highly likely to rank in the top position for brand terms, which means your sitelinks will display. Branded terms seem to be especially favored when it comes to the new Enhanced Sitelinks :
When you combine the Enhanced Sitelinks with the #1 organic result, Barneys basically has 12 results above the fold. #crazy
Quality Score Hack #3: Put an Exclamation Point in Every Ad
Google only allows you to use one exclamation point in your ad, but dadgumit, make sure you use your allotted exclamation point! Something about a vertical line and a dot just makes people more likely to click your ad. It’s almost like people can actually hear your ad shouting louder than the other ones.
Test it out for yourself – run two ads that are exactly the same except for a single punctuation mark, one with an exclamation point and one without. I bet you $10 the one with the exclamation point gets a higher CTR.
It’s possible that there are exceptions to this rule – like maybe you don’t want to exclaim anything too enthusiastically if you’re writing ads for a funeral parlor? But for 95% of advertisers, adding exclamation points to all your ads is probably the easiest CTR hack there is.
Along similar lines, use the word “free” freely – if you are actually pushing a free offer (like a free trial), that is. Check out this ad from russianbrides.com – they’re rocking the exclamation point, the word “free” and sitelinks for individual mail-order brides.
Or maybe they have whole sections of brides named “Irina” that you can browse? I’m afraid to check.
Remember, people like free stuff, but you obviously don’t want to straight-up lie in your ad. If you’re a luxury retailer, probably don’t say you’re giving away free Louboutins . You’ll just end up paying for clicks that don’t convert.
Bonus Pseudo-Hack: Don’t Focus on Negatives for Quality Score
Negative keywords  are really important for cost containment, but – little known fact! – they won’t affect your Quality Scores. Common sense tells you that any tactic that reduces irrelevant impressions will raise your click-through rates and therefore improve your Quality Scores. But Google only takes CTR for exact match keywords into account when calculating Quality Score. Negative keywords filter out impressions for the more permissive match types, like broad and phrase match, but they don’t affect your exact-match keywords. So yes, we recommend doing negative keyword research on a regular basis – just don’t call it a Quality Score hack.