Quality Score FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Quality Score

April 3, 2015

Below you'll find answers to some common and not-so-common questions about Quality Score, courtesy of our in-house PPC experts. Have a question that's not answered here? Leave it in the comments and we'll respond!

Is there a way to check our AdWords Quality Score? Where do I find my Quality Score?

Yes, you can view your Quality Score in AdWords right now. This recent post explains how to find your Quality Score in both Google and Yahoo.

Is Quality Score specific to campaign or ad group?

According to Google, neither. You have Quality Scores at the account, keyword, and ad level, but not for campaigns or ad groups.

How fast can we improve Quality Score?

Unfortunately Quality Score isn’t something that you can necessarily right overnight if you’ve had poor account performance for a significant period of time. However, more relevant ad text and negative keywords are the only way to turn around Quality Score in a timely fashion. What we recommend is completely restructuring accounts that have poor Quality Scores with extremely relevant groupings and ad text. This will in turn increase click-through rate (CTR) significantly, getting you well on your way to higher Quality Scores. Creating that good foundation is critical to putting yourself on a path for success with AdWords.

Does having the keyword in the display or destination URL have any effect on QS?

The only real impact here is as it relates to CTR. There may be some incremental bump in your relevance score, but the main impact this will have is in whether it compels more searchers to click. My experience has been that generally speaking it does help, but has a significantly lower impact than things like headlines, calls to action, and benefit statements.

How useful is dynamic keyword insertion in improving Quality Score? Does appending a dynamic keyword to the URL help improve QS?

Dynamic keyword insertion is generally very helpful in raising CTR and subsequently Quality Score (again, they don’t give you a boost in and of themselves, but click-through rate is the biggest single Quality Score factor, and DKI has a significant impact on CTR). This holds true for dynamic keywords in the URL, and as I say above including dynamic keywords in the URL has a marginal impact – in our experience – on click-through rate.

We have a guide to dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) that might be helpful if you want to learn more.

Do keywords with zero impressions lower your Quality Score at the account level?

How can a keyword that does not receive impressions hurt your Quality Score?  Logistically it can’t, however Google is using several gauges to determine not only how a keyword is  performing but also how a keyword could potentially performThis is where keywords with no impressions can negatively affect an account. If there is no new data to suggest to Google that a keyword could perform well, then it will not give it the benefit of the doubt. Also, these keywords tend to cause clutter and confusion; it's better to have small, tight-knit groups that are clean.

Is it best to pause those keywords with low Quality Scores (3 and below) while you get your parameters modified to help bump up their QS?

It’s important to think of the two different levels of Quality Score, the first being the account level and the second being the keyword level. So if we have a lot of keywords in the account that have 7 Quality Scores and only a few with 3 Quality Scores, then our account level overall has good performance so it will be easier to turn those keywords around. However if you have mostly keywords with 3 Quality Scores, then we’ll have a poor overall account-level score meaning, these keywords will be more difficult to turn around. Pausing and activating keywords should really be based more on performance; if there is a poor Quality Score then there must be a way to turn it around.

What is your advice for a customer that has a relevant keyword, has ad copy with that keyword, a rocking landing page relevant to the ad and keyword, but a QS of 1? Negatives are well defined too.

There are four possibilities:

  1. You don’t mention your CTR, which is the most important part of QS. If everything is “rocking” but you have low CTR, tweak your ad text to make your ad more compelling so that more people will click on it.
  2. You may be suffering from poor history at some level – the ad group, campaign, account, display URL, and possibly even your whole industry’s experience with those keywords.
  3. Your keywords may not be as relevant as you think they are. Is your group all about “golf”? Or all about “golf club sets”?
  4. It may be that Google is punishing you for your business tactics. Are you upfront about how and when you charge customers and use their personal information?

Why does Google give me a low Quality Score of 3-4 on a keyword even though that specific keyword is my most highly converting keyword in the ad group?

Google doesn’t actually know anything about most advertisers' conversion rates. So conversion rate is not a factor in determining Quality Score.

Is 7/10 a good enough Quality Score?

Sure, maybe, no. The answer is, it depends! Is our CPA too high on this keyword? Then 7/10 isn’t cutting it. Is the CPA low and making the keyword extremely profitable? Then the answer is it’s OK. With the ability to reach 10/10 I would never recommend to a client that 7/10 is what they should settle for; however 7 is a Quality Score that will maintain account performance. 10 Quality Scores should definitely be the goals of most PPC accounts, but it usually takes a back seat to cost per conversion, which makes sense. The real answer is – there is always room for improvement.

How do long-tail terms with next to zero impressions effect QS on a campaign as a whole?

It depends on the terms and on the account. Google has two ways of dealing with low volume keywords:

  • In Aggregate – They can look at a basket of keywords that are related and sum that score to figure out the performance of the keyword niche in question.
  • Extrapolating from Head Terms – They can take a broader variation of a term and apply its performance to lower search volume terms to create a best guess at relevance.

Which option they use depends on the data in your account, so the advice is really to avoid adding these keywords, and in the event that you do, make sure you have a means for clustering and measuring the keywords in aggregate, and monitor account-wide Quality Scores closely.

If you enter a very low starting bid will this affect the QS and is it better to do a higher bid to start with?

Starting with a higher bid can be risky because you’ll appear in more auctions and build history more quickly. If you build good history, that’s a good thing. If you build bad history, it’s not.

How will bulk changes affect your QS? Any warnings around rapid changes? Should you pace out changes over time?

Yes! If you are going to restructure an account then always go at a slower pace. Why? Because everything is algorithmically based—Google needs large sample sizes, so if you replace existing structure with new structure, there will be a period of time where the algorithm “resets,” using that term loosely. You’re better off going campaign by campaign, pausing the old structure when importing the new structure.

Any recommended reading relevant to PPC and Quality Score management?

Glad you asked! We offer several relevant free white papers, including one on Improving Quality Score and one on PPC Best Practices.

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

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

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