3 Reasons Your Keyword Has a Low Quality Score


When Larry Page and Sergey Brin first launched the Google search engine in January of 1996, no one, including the creators, realized the gold mine that they had just designed. By May 2011, Google had surpassed 1 billion unique visitors per month and had expanded to much more than just a search engine. Now with Google+, Gmail, Maps, Drive, Chrome, Shopping, News, YouTube and perhaps a self-operating automobile in the near future, Google has revolutionized the internet and, whether we like it or not, our lives as well.

Despite of the impact that Google has had on both our professional and personal lives, operating and understanding their advertising system can be a frustrating and tiresome process. As a Customer Success Specialist here at WordStream I get all sorts of questions; however the most frequent questions almost always concern Google's Quality Score.

In case you’re not familiar with Quality Score here’s a quick summary. In every AdWords account Google assigns a Quality Score to your keywords, ad groups, campaigns, site links, and ads. This number (1-10) is based on a number of different metrics including (but not limited to) click-through rate, quality of your landing page, keyword/ad relevance, keyword/search relevance, geographic performance, ad’s performance on a site, and your targeted devices.

Ad Level Quality Score

While Google assigns a Quality Score to a number of areas in your account, some of the most vital are your keyword Quality Scores. Now, there are a number of reasons why you may have a low keyword Quality Score; in this blog post I will highlight three. However it’s important to first understand that Quality Score (whether at the keyword level or elsewhere) is industry dependent. Therefore, accounts that advertise in fields like insurance, software technology, loans, and mortgages tend to have lower Quality Scores because there is more competition. Yet if you eliminate the competitiveness of the field from the equation, Quality Score is calculated in the same way for all advertisers.  Here are the three mains reasons why you may have a low KEYWORD Quality Score: 

Keyword Level Quality Score

Reason #1: Your CTR stinks.

The main determinant in a good Quality Score is a high click-through rate. A high CTR for a particular keyword means that users are clicking on your ad when their search query matches with one of your keywords. If you have a low CTR there’s a good chance that Google is going to give you a bad Quality Score, which can end up costing you money in the long run.

Here are some posts to help improve your keyword CTR:

Reason #2: Lack of Relevancy and Cohesion

Many advertisers get horrible keyword quality scores because their campaigns and ad groups are unorganized. Make sure that you keep your ad groups to about 15-25 (you can do less!) related keywords advertising for one specific item. For example, if you sell pens, don’t have an ad group with both “blue pens” and “red pens.” Split these out!

The advantage of splitting out this ad groups is that it allows you to put your high-volume keywords in your ads and on your landing page. For example, if you sell bathroom mirrors we strongly advise that you have the keyword “Bathroom Mirrors” in the title of your ad and in the headline of your landing page.

Keyword Ad Relevance

In addition, it’s always a good idea to use dynamic keyword insertion whenever you can,

Reason #3: Short Tail = Quality Score Fail

If you use all short-tail keywords like “red pens” it’s pretty likely that your overall CTR is low (less than 2%). Adding long-tail keywords like “red metal office pens” is a great way to boost both CTR and conversions.

Here’s a trick that I use for finding good long tail keywords: Monitor your search query report. Using WordStream’s QueryStream feature (or Google’s Search Query Report) you can sort your search queries by conversion. By doing this you will find exactly what the user typed into Google.com which then led to a conversion on your website.

Filter Queries by Conversions

If these queries are longer keywords that you are not currently bidding on, we highly recommend that you add them to your account on either phrase or exact match.

Add New Keywords

Since these keywords have already converted for you there is a higher chance that they will convert for you again the next time someone searches for that query. By bidding on them you may obtain an advantage over your competition, because you can dictate what the market value of that keyword is going to be. In addition, it gives you the opportunity to monitor your ad’s average position for that query so you may ensure it always shows in the top spot.

AdWords CTR

Lastly, if your keyword level average position is above 4.0 the chances that you attract the type of traffic from AdWords that you would like are much higher. Often times it’s just a matter of raising the keyword’s Max. CPC bid.

AdWords Average Position

You can use Google’s Bid Simulator tool to get a better idea of how you should be bidding on your keyword.

Bid Simulator

Don’t be afraid to bid aggressively.  Remember, your keywords are only going to cost you as much as your ad group daily budget so go after it if you feel like you have a really good keyword.

If you have any questions about this blog please let me know in the comments. Good luck!


Originally from Needham, MA, Drew Roy graduated with a degree in English from Gettysburg College in May 2012. Prior to that he managed a PPC account for The Pulse Network and helped facilitate the digital marketing for The Inbound Marketing Summit. Drew joined WordStream in June of 2012 as a Customer Success Specialist but has since transitioned to his current position as a Quality Assurance Associate. While most of his day involves testing the software he still maintains relationships with a number of clients in order to keep his PPC knowledge fresh and up-to-date.


Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


John Bathias
Mar 06, 2013

I know this may sound basic to some people, but forethought and organization are key to success. Think about the reasons behind everything he says in this article and why it works vs. following it blindly. It will help you make better decisions in the future.

Marc Pearson
Mar 07, 2013

Great article for someone who is new to PPC. The CTR and Relevancy are pretty obvious factors but Short Tail keywords are not something that a beginner would think that would be hurting their quality score. 

Mar 14, 2013

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand.............THAT would be ME!I read, I learn; hours on end, I read and I learn. The benefits have been two fold; Domains and for the next step in my online retail expansion plans. Thank you all,TB

Virtual assistant
Mar 08, 2013

This information is quite useful for running a successful Adwords campaign.  Splitting keywords is such a cool idea, apart from that we can also implement semantic keywords for that particular keywords. In that way we'll get low competition and it is more affordable if you running some kind campaign like PPC.

Martin Ferienhaus
Mar 08, 2013

Great article, we are going to use your tips!

Mar 09, 2013

Never thought about splitting keywords. The one thing I have noticed in my business, is that I will put up a price for an ad and will be at the top of the page. Then within 5 minutes another company will be on top, I go in and add the amount of the bid and then within 5 minutes that same company is above me. There must be something in the AD Word Dashboard that you can increase your bid depending upon what the last bid was of the competitor. If you know anything about this, I would appreciate any information you can provide. I am getting clicks to the ad, but I haven't seen any ROI.

Drew Roy
Mar 11, 2013

Hi Everyone,First of all thank you for reading and for commenting. I'm glad that you all have found my blog post interesting and I hope that it has helped you further optimize your PPC campaigns. I'd like to address Rudee's question about the realtionship between ad position and bid. It's important to understand that Google determines the position of your ad based on Ad Rank, not just your individual keyword bid. Google has a lot of good information on Ad Rank on their support site (http://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1752122?hl=en), but the highlights are that the main components of Ad Rank are your bids and the Quality Score of your keywords, ads and website. So, since your ads position is determined by your bid and Quality Score it's possible for your competition's ad to show up in a better position than yours, even if you have a higher bid. Also, it's important to note that your Ad Rank is recalculated each time your ad is eligible to appear, so your ad position can fluctuate each time depending on your competition at that particular moment.One other small tidbit of advice: I wouldn't worry too much about showing up in position two versus the top spot. Generally speaking positions two and three have just as good (if not better) performance as the top position.Hope this helps!Drew 

Mar 12, 2013

Thank you. That helped. I have given up on being on the top. I also agree with you, th number one spot is not always the best as people like to see what else is out there and may forget to come back to your site.

Raleigh Internet Marketing
Mar 20, 2013

Your article has been super helpful. This is definitely going to help me optimize my PPC campaigns. Thanks so much!

anna mawrick
Mar 23, 2013

CTR is really important. Through VTR we can measure success of a keyword for a particular website therefor it helps us to decide whether we are going right or wrong.

Apr 17, 2013

Hi, Great post but I didn't understand this paragraph "Lastly, if your keyword level average position is above 4.0 the chances that you attract the type of traffic from AdWords that you would like are much LOWER. Often times it’s just a matter of raising the keyword’s Max. CPC bid."   To my mind it would be "the chances that you attract the type of traffic from AdWords that you would like are much HIGHER " not "lower" wouldn't it?  Could someone please explain this more. Thanks  

Elisa Gabbert
Apr 17, 2013

Whoops, I thnk that was a typo! Your version is correct. I've updated the post.

Leave a comment