The Mystery of Quality Score

April 3, 2015

Mystery of Quality Score

Quality score can be confusing, there’s no doubt about it. Many different factors can affect it, and it can be difficult to determine how to influence it. It’s also in a state of constant evolution, so every time you think you have it down pat, think again. There’s no need to pull your hair out though – I am going to show you what you need to focus on to start seeing more 10’s in your account!

(More: Revisiting the Economics of Quality Score: Why QS Is Up to 200% More Valuable in 2013)

Google defines its Quality Score using the following components:

  • Past click-through rate (CTR) of a keyword
  • Past CTR of a display URL
  • Account history (overall CTR for ads and keywords)
  • Landing page quality
  • Relevance of keywords to ads
  • Relevance of keywords to search queries
  • Geographic performance
  • Performance of an ad on a particular website (this only applies to the Display Network)
  • Performance of an ad based on targeted device

Quality score can affect a number of elements of your account, including:

  • Ad auction eligibility
  • Actual cost per click (CPC) for a keyword
  • First page bid estimate for a keyword
  • Top of page bid estimate for a keyword
  • Ad position

Quality score is calculated every single time an ad is eligible to appear. This could mean thousands upon thousands of quality score calculations per day! Keep in mind that, when you check your campaign performance, the quality score you see for a campaign, ad group, keyword, or ad is actually an overall average. Also, the average quality score you see is only updated every 4-6 weeks or so. If you make changes to your account to make it stronger, Google is going to wait until it rewards you with a better quality score. Think of it as a “proof of concept” model.

While Google has not specifically defined how each of the components is weighted in determining quality score, there are ways of determining how great of an impact they can have. In my opinion, relevance in the absolute, most important factor of quality score. Relevance is the key strategy point for any paid search campaign, and quality score takes that heavily into account.

You need to ensure your keywords are relevant to your ad text, your ad text is relevant to the content of your landing page, and your keywords are relevant to what a user is searching for. You also want to make sure the keywords are highly relevant to the theme of your ad groups (noticing a pattern yet?) and that the theme of your ad groups is relevant to the theme of your campaigns. There is a method to this madness though. Google puts such an emphasis on relevance because it wants to be known as a well-respected, trustworthy, reliable source for finding information. Google wants you to be able to find exactly what you are looking for, at the exact moment you are looking for it.

Click-through rate is a really good indicator of relevance. If your ad is relevant to a searcher’s query, they are more likely click on your ads, visit your website, and potentially convert.

Consider these examples: which of these ads would you be more likely to click on if you wanted to buy a Boston Bruins player jersey?

Quality Score Ads

It’s pretty clear which of these ads makes is more relevant and compelling to a user searching for custom-made Boston Bruins jerseys. The ad on the left is extremely keyword-rich, with quality keywords in the headline, text lines, and even the display URL. With the ad on the right, a user would be uncertain what type of Boston Bruins apparel is being sold, and the ad doesn’t engage the user with a strong call-to-action like the ad on the left.

You want to be as specific and relevant as you possibly can, and Google will reward you for it. Remember, the higher the quality score, the lower your CPC, first page bid estimate, and top of page bid estimate will be. We all want to have our ad appear in those precious, premium positions, and we want to pay as little as possible for them. Your ad rank (what position your ad appears in) is comprised of two things: your max CPC and your quality score. So while your competition may be bidding more than you, your ad can potentially appear in a better position thanks in part to a strong quality score. You’ll pay less, and your ad will appear in a better position – how can you go wrong?

(Read on: How Higher Quality Scores Improve CPC)

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