Improving Quality Score Part 2: How Quality Score Works

June 13, 2019

For the rest of the week, we'll be posting excerpts from our new free white paper, "Improving Quality Score: The Value of Being More Relevant." To download the full white paper (you'll only get about half of it here), fill out the form below.

In a nutshell, Quality Score is a Google-devised system that measures advertising quality (or relevancy), which in turn helps determine if your ad is eligible to be displayed in the search results for a given query. Beyond that, if your ad is deemed relevant, the position of your ad and the cost you pay each time it’s clicked are also partially determined by your Quality Score.

The factors that determine Quality Score, as outlined by Google, include:

  • The historical click-through rate (CTR) of your account and your specific keywords.
  • The relevance of the keywords you’re bidding on to each other and to the ads you create.
  • The relevance of destination URLs that you’re sending customers to (in relation to your keywords and ad copy).
  • User-experience metrics such as page loading time.
  • And the catch-all, mystery meat “other factors.”

The variables that comprise Quality Score are detailed in Figure 1:


What Is Quality Score?


Figure 1: Quality Score is a measurement of the relevance of an ad group’s keywords, ad text and destination URL to one another, plus additional user experience variables.

The Quality Score relevancy ranking system aims to make sure that the user search experience is as efficient as possible, even in the sponsored search results. It ensures that users find what they are searching for easily (a hallmark of good user experience), and that advertisers produce high-quality ads that are appealing and relevant to searchers.

According to Google, a high-quality ad is one that:

  • Is relevant to the search query
  • Accurately describes the product
  • Is relevant to an organized landing page

Google programmatically evaluates these and other factors on an ongoing basis and assigns you a Quality Score – a numerical value from 1 to 10 – for each of the keywords that you’re bidding on in AdWords. The more relevant your ad, the higher your Quality Score.

What Is the Purpose of Quality Score?

Quality Score helps Google satisfy each of the three parts of its advertising circle: the customers, the advertisers, and of course, Google itself.

  • The customers want to see relevant results when they search for a keyword.
  • The advertisers want qualified leads and high rankings for low costs.
  • Google wants both parties to be satisfied so the money keeps rolling in.

Quality Score is a series of algorithms that allow Google to achieve this three-way synergy:


Google as intermediary

Figure 2: Google is an intermediary between advertisers and users. By enforcing Quality Score, Google ensures that both parties are satisfied with the results.

Before the introduction of Quality Score, it was possible for advertisers to make offers that had little to do with what users were searching for, often referred to as “bait and switch” tactics. While users clicked on the ads and Google made money, Google recognized that this was not a sustainable model due to the decreased value inherent in poor user experience. In order to create a sustainable model, Google needed to find a way to reward quality advertising that improved the search experience. Quality Score was instituted as a solution to this problem.

Quality Score provides a better search experience for the customer, because the sponsored ads are more closely related to what they are looking for. It also prevents advertisers from gaming the system, and it forces them – and provides a good incentive – to create specific, relevant ads and an easy customer experience. Relevant ads are rewarded with:

  • The opportunity to be displayed
  • Lower costs
  • Better placement

Because Google’s Quality Score is so effective in structuring a good user search experience, both Yahoo and Bing now use their own versions of Quality Score (known as Quality Index in the Yahoo platform). Because Google is the largest search engine, we’ll focus on their model.


Get the Free White Paper:

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Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.