The logic of search advertising is that ads will appear for selected keywords if the advertiser is willing to pay for the resulting clicks. With so many advertisers, however, competing for top rankings on the same keywords, there must be something more to it, right? This is where the Google Ads Quality Score comes into play.
What is Quality Score?
In your efforts to master PPC, especially Google Ads, you will need a solid understanding of the Quality Score, since it has an enormous influence over the cost and effectiveness of your paid search campaigns.
Quality score is Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of your keywords and pay-per-click ads. This is a numerical value between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest score. Google uses this rating to estimate your cost per click (CPC), which is then multiplied by your maximum bid to determine how high your ad ranks in the ad auction process. Multiple factors determine your Quality Score, some of which include:
- Your click-through rate (CTR)
- The relevance of each keyword to its ad group.
- Landing page relevance and quality
- The relevance of your ad text
- Your historical Google Ads performance
These are the essential Quality Score components, but no one outside of Google knows for sure how much each factor weighs in the algorithm. What we do know is that click-through rate is the most crucial component. The more people click on your ad, the more Google will recognize it as relevant and helpful to users and reward you with higher ad rankings and lower costs. Since Google depends on revenue from advertising, they offer significant incentives to make sure users find ads useful. Let’s break down these incentives by the Quality Score an ad might get:
- If your score is 10 your CPC is discounted by 50%
- If your score is 9 your CPC is discounted by 44.2%
- If your score is 8 your CPC is discounted by 37.5%
- If your score is 7 your CPC is discounted by 28.6%
- If your score is 6 your CPC is increased by 16.7%
- Quality Score 5 – Google Benchmark
- If your score is 4 your CPC is increased by 25%
- If your score is 3 your CPC is increased by 67.3%
- If your score is 2 your CPC is increased by 150%
- If your score is 1 your CPC is increased by 400%
Furthermore, according to Adalysis, Landing Page Experience and CTR have a slightly higher impact on the Quality Score than Ad Relevance does. We suggest that you do not optimize toward Quality Score. Instead, it is better to use a Quality Score to determine which areas need improvement.
What is the Google Ads Quality Score formula?
Google has plenty of data about how users interact with search results. They use that data with machine learning techniques to come up with a measure of the expected relevance of every ad, keyword, and landing page relative to every search. Their algorithm monitors what users interact with on the search results page and makes predictions about future interactions. We could say that Quality Score is a predicted click-through rate.
Before the Quality Score was introduced, they used CTR to determine if keywords were of low relevance and should be disabled, or if you should pay more to get a good position in the ad auction. As machine learning improved, more factors were taken into consideration, and thus came the Quality Score as we know it. The exact algorithm was not revealed since Google has stated that they reserve the right to adjust their ranking methodologies continually.
Why Quality Score Matters?
This is very simple, so let’s state the obvious:
- Improving your Quality Score lowers your cost per click.
- Lowering your cost per click reduces your cost per conversion.
- Lowering your cost per conversion earns you more money.
The Quality Score is essential for advertisers because it is one of the factors that decides which ads are eligible to enter the ad auction, how eligible ads are ranked, and how much the advertiser needs to pay per click on their ad.
The auction – Since Google charges advertisers for clicks on their ads, if an advertiser sets an unreasonably high bid to get a higher position on the page with an irrelevant ad, that ad wouldn’t be clicked on and Google wouldn’t make any money. So, when Google predicts a particular keyword is irrelevant and gives the campaign a low-Quality Score, that ad may not even enter the auction.
Ad ranking – When Google selects the keywords and ads that it estimates to be relevant, they are entered into the auction. This auction is done in split-seconds. The ads are evaluated by their bidding (max CPC), relevance (Quality Score), and other factors that may give a boost to your CTR, like ad extensions. Each ad then gets a score, and the results determine who gets their ad shown in the top slot of the search results page, and who misses the first page altogether. Ads in higher positions tend to get more clicks, which means more possible leads and chances to make a sale.
CPC discounts – The price an advertiser needs to pay for each click is calculated based on the conversion per click they would need to maintain a higher rank from the next ad in the auction. These discounts are the reason why most advertisers have an average CPC that is lower than their maximum CPC. Advertisers benefit from a higher Quality Score because that means they will pay less to keep their position against their next competitor.
Benefits of Improving your Google Quality Score
As we already know by now, the Quality Score has a direct correlation on your success with Google Ads. Since higher Quality Score correlates with a lower cost per conversion, by optimizing it, you are setting yourself for a higher return on investment (ROI). Cost per conversion is different from the cost per click. Cost per conversion is how much you pay when someone takes action, whether it’s signing up for a free trial or making a product purchase. Cost per conversion is higher than the cost per click since not every click brings a conversion. A higher Quality Score lowers both your cost per click and cost per conversion.
How to increase Quality Score?
If you want to better your rankings, you will need to work consistently on your account. There are several critical areas on which you should focus your efforts:
- Keyword research – Focus on discovering new, highly relevant keywords that you can add to your campaigns, including long-tail keywords that can increase your overall traffic.
- Keyword organization – You want to split your keywords into organized groups that you can more effectively tie to individual ad campaigns.
- Refining ad text – Make your PPC ad copy more precisely targeted to your ad groups. More effective ads get higher CTR, which is one of the best ways to improve the Quality Score.
- Optimizing landing pages – Your landing pages need to connect directly with your ad groups and provide a cohesive experience for your visitors, starting with the keywords and ending with the conversion.
- Adding negative keywords – Identify and exclude irrelevant search terms that are draining your budget.
- Dynamic headlines – Include both expanded text and responsive search ads in your ad groups. This way, you will put yourself in the position to achieve the highest click-through rate possible. Google has insisted on responsive search ads for quite some time, so including them in your ad groups will bring you a higher optimization score. Responsive search ads allow you to create up to 15 headlines and four descriptions. Google will then use machine learning to select the most relevant combination to display.
- Location insertion – Location insertion includes the viewer’s nearest city, state, or country, thus increasing the ad relevance.
- Countdown – Countdowns are great for running special sales or offers with an expiry date. By including a countdown, you can increase the urgency with your users, increasing the CTR as well.
- Ad extensions – While ad extensions don’t directly increase Quality Score, they increase the amount of real estate your ad takes up on the SERP driving more traffic to your landing pages.
- Increase the speed of your website – Fast-loading websites positively affect user experience, which leads to higher Quality Scores.
- Destination URLs – You should regularly review your destination URLs to ensure none are broken and that they all lead to high-quality landing pages.
- Low-performing ads – Make sure to rewrite all of your ads with a click-through rate lower than 1.5%.
As you can see, improving the Quality Score is all about structuring your PPC campaigns into small and well-organized groups of keywords. Proper keyword research and organization bring more quality and specificity to your ads and website content, allowing you to target the audience that is most likely to be searching for your offerings.
A low-Quality Score is most often the result of a disconnect between keywords, ad groups, ad text, and landing page content. While there is no magic formula that will guarantee a high-Quality Score, it will come naturally if your account contains well-organized keywords in appropriate keyword groups, ad text that correlates with certain ad groups, and landing pages that connect with the ad text’s offer.
The Chief Economist at Google, Hal Varian, said that CTR is as much as 60% of the Quality Score. However, CTRs are subjective and relative to each keyword. Google takes into consideration the history of that keyword and the current competition levels, so a keyword with a 2% CTR might have a score of 8, while a keyword with a 10% CTR has a score of 4.
Ad Copy Relevance
Google has revealed that the relevance of the ad copy to the keyword is one of the factors that determine the Quality Score, so we can assume that ads with ad copy that contains the keyword will have a higher Quality Score than those that don’t.
Keyword to Ad Ratio
The more keywords you have in an ad group, the more likely you are to rarefy the chances of a connection between the keyword and ad, which will lead to lower click-through-rates and a lower Quality Score. You can restructure ad groups with low-Quality Score keywords by analyzing your Quality Score on the ad group level. Since the history of calculations regarding the Quality Score remains in Google servers even when the visible history is erased, it could be a better option to pause keywords than delete them, so Google wouldn’t see the latter addition of the keyword as a duplicate.
Search Term to Keyword Ratio
Depending on the keyword match types you use, you may find that the keyword you are bidding on is not really what you’re paying for. The discrepancies vary among certain keywords and match types, which can easily lead to lower CTR than expected. Once you tighten up the ratio, you will find your CTR improving.
Bounce rate and time on site are metrics that you can find in Google Ads when you are linked to Analytics. Quick bounces and a short time spent on your site can count as low-quality visits, which will go to your landing page experience portion of the Quality Score. There is a silver lining to that notion though. Those two metrics can be useful in finding the keywords that are not relevant to your users, which helps you in the long run.
Landing page experience
Over the last couple of years, the landing page experience has become a huge factor in calculating Quality Scores. Since the design of a landing page is directly related to user experience, you have to be aware that this category can be highly subjective. The most important things to care about are the following:
- Your content must be original and unique.
- Your landing page should contain enough information for you to be considered trustworthy, such as your business address, phone number, and your social media profile links. This is extremely important for advertisers promoting sites in fields of medicine, health, IT support, etc.
- Your site should be easy to navigate to find information and to convert.
- Your landing page should allow Google bot to easily crawl your text.
Landing Page Load Time
This is also part of the landing page experience. Load times vary greatly depending on the region where your ads are shown, but the regional average plus three seconds is considered a slow load time which can hurt your Quality Score.
Long-Tail keyword usage
The more long-tail keywords you use, the greater your chances are for getting higher click-through-rates. By bidding on short-tail keywords, you are risking the potential that a Google search will show a wide variety of results, and that is not something that will help your CTR. On the other hand, bidding on long-tail keywords will narrow down search results and your ads will be shown to people that find it useful. You shouldn’t just add keywords to your ad group though. You need to make sure your ad copy and landing page match too.
Your Quality Score isn’t the direct reflection of the keyword you are bidding on. It is based on the search term that exactly matches your keyword. This means that your keyword match types don’t affect your Quality Score.
Account History Performance
The age of Google Ads account doesn’t affect your Quality Score, but the length of high-performance streaks does. Although this has never been confirmed in Google’s official documents, we can see that erasing low-performing keywords doesn’t remove your Quality Score history. Your history remains in the account together with Google’s logs of performance compared to your competitors.
Display URL’s Past CTR
Google revealed that your display URL is an official component of the Quality Score. This means that your root domain and all of the display URLs you have in your account have their past click performance kept in a log. Having a specific display URL will not automatically improve your Quality Score, but it may help increase your CTR, which will affect your Quality Score.
The Quality Score of your ad can vary depending on how well your ad has been performing on different devices (Mobile, desktop, tablet). There can also be a difference based on the type of mobile devices and operating systems, but the Quality Scores on different devices do not affect each other.
If you are a new advertiser, Google takes into consideration the historic performance of the keywords you are bidding on. Each time you enter a new keyword into your account, Google will look at the keyword history outside of your account and also your historical CTR for the account and how well it has been performing. With this in mind, we could conclude that historical performance plays a bigger role in the beginning until you have accumulated enough impressions and performance data.
Here are a couple of ways to boost impressions:
- Add more broad match keywords to have a less restrictive pool for which your ads are shown.
- Add more broad themes to assist with adding in more broad match keywords.
- Examine Impression Share data (the percentage of times an ad shows out of total impressions available).
Besides keyword history and account history CTR, Google also uses expected CTR to determine your Quality Score potential. But once your account and keywords have enough history the metric is no longer utilized.
Just like devices you are targeting have their Quality Score metrics, so do the cities, regions, and countries. There is no way for you to see these metrics in your Google Ads account, but you can run tests by splitting up campaigns by geographical criteria and tracking the difference in performance. Although there might be more competitors and higher bid prices in different regions, ad performance varies greatly and therefore affects the Quality Score.
Time of Day and Day of Week Performance
As an official part of Google’s Quality Score docs, the time of day and day of the week do impact CTR and your Quality Score. You could split up a few of your campaigns into different time ranges and see how that affects your Quality Scores and cost per click.
Common misconceptions about Quality Score
We’ve recently researched which tactics users employ to increase Quality Scores and came across a few questionable tactics with no solid foundation. So, before we wrap up, let’s clear the air by highlighting some of the most common misconceptions about Quality Score:
- Changing match types affect Quality Score: Switching to another match type is not known to affect the quality score. Google calculates Quality Score based on the exact match phrase within a search, so no matter the match type you choose, the Quality Score remains the same.
- Pausing ads or keywords lowers Quality Score: Quality Score is based on how your ads and keywords perform. Once you pause them, they don’t enter the auction, and the Quality Score is not calculated at all.
- Display network and search network Quality Scores influence each other: The criteria for calculating these Quality Scores are different. They are separate and don’t have an impact on each other.
- A higher search position increases Quality Score: This is a common one that might seem relevant at first glance. However, Quality Score is adjusted to compensate for differences in ad positions. People over at Google are aware that the higher the position, the higher the click-through rate, so metrics adjust the formula to break up the reverb effect from higher positions.
As experienced PPC marketers, we know that your bid and Quality Score are a major part of how Google decides how to rank ads. A good Quality Score brings many benefits since even ads with low bids can outrank those of higher-paying competitors by having better relevance. This makes PPC advertising through Google very appealing. Always do your best in monitoring your Quality Score and follow the best optimization practices that our PPC agency in Chicago has talked about if things go south. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to run an efficient business that makes a meaningful connection with new prospects and offers solutions to their problems.