Why Quality Scores Matter

What is a Quality Score and why is it so important to your paid search advertising campaigns.

byJeff Cooper

Today we are talking about quality scores. If you’ve done any amount of paid search advertising, you’ve probably heard of quality score. Quality score is a very important metric when it comes to paid search advertising. In this article, we are going to break down what it is, the different factors that contribute to quality score, why it’s important, and how you can optimize your account using this metric.

What is Quality Score?

Google Quality Scores explained

Quality Score is Google’s rating that tells you about your ad relevance as well as the quality of your user experience. They calculate this metric at a keyword level, and it’s ranked on a scale of 1 to 10. Typically, we want to try to aim for a 7 quality score that would be considered good. If we have quality scores that are down in the 1 to 3 range, we probably have a problem and need to pay attention to those terms. Quality score is sometimes not calculated until you have several impressions. So, in your account, you might see no quality score on a certain keyword. That just means that Google doesn’t have enough data to give that keyword a rating yet.

Factors contributing to Quality Score

Let’s break down the components of quality score, and what makes up that metric. Your keyword quality score is calculated based on three factors:

  1. The first factor is your ad relevance. How relevant is the text of your paid search ad to the actual search queries that you’re triggering that ad for?
  2. The second factor that Google looks at is the ad click-through rate or the expected click-through rate of your paid search ad, depending on the rank that your paid search ad is showing.
  3. The third factor that goes into your quality score is the landing page user experience. Google is looking at how users engage with the content once they’ve actually clicked on your advertisement.

These three factors together, ad click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page user experience are used to calculate this quality score metric.

Why is Quality Score Important

Let’s break down why it’s so important to pay attention to this number. There are two reasons why a quality score is so important:

How ranking potential effects click cost

  1. If you’re familiar with how the auction system and Google advertising works, your ad rank is determined by taking your keywords quality score and multiplying it by your cost-per-click bid. The higher your quality score is, the higher your rank is going to be, even if you have the same bid across the board. For example, if you have a 2 out of 10 quality score on a keyword with a $5 cost-per-click bid, you’re going to perform half as well as if you had a 4 out of 10 quality score on that same keyword.
  2. The second reason that quality score is so important is Google uses that metric to determine your actual click costs. When you get a click on your advertisement and must pay Google, your click cost is calculated by the ad rank of the competitor beneath you in the auction and that ad rank is divided by your quality score. Google adds a penny to the end of that calculation to determine the cost-per-click that you’re going to pay for that particular click.

As you can see, quality score is a double whammy. First, it helps you rank higher with lower bids, and second, it helps to keep your click costs down when you get traffic for your target keywords.

How to Optimize your Account

Ad Relevance

In this next section, we’re going to break down how you can optimize for the different components of quality score to improve your paid search campaign. When it comes to optimizing your quality score, the first thing we’ll talk about is ad relevance. That’s probably the easiest component of quality score for you to optimize quickly. And there are really two things you need to pay attention to:

How to optimize quality score in search queries

  • The first one is straightforward: Does your ad copy say and use the same words that you’re targeting with your search queries? This seems obvious, but if you’re using different kinds of match types, such as broad match targeting, you might not have a good alignment between those two elements.
  • The second thing you want to look for when improving ad relevance is the specificity and grouping of your keyword targets in your different ad groups. Sometimes you might have a situation where you have so many different keywords in one ad group that it’s impossible to optimize your quality score for every single keyword in that ad group. When that happens, we suggest breaking up that ad group into many different specific ad groups. This will allow you to copyright better ads that match the intent of those search queries.

Ad Copy

When it comes to optimizing for your ad’s click-through rate, this can be a little more complicated. You want to make sure that you don’t break the optimization that you just did when you’re optimizing for ad relevance. To make sure any changes you do here maintain the keyword targets that you’re targeting with your keywords in your ad copy, there are a few things we suggest you do:

How to optimize quality scores using ad copy

  1. First, check out the competitive ad copy when you Google your keyword targets and see if they are using certain language, promotions, or offers that could help you improve the click-through rate of those ads.
  2. The second thing you should do is make use of ad extensions. Google allows you to add a lot of different things to your basic paid search unit like site link extensions, or call extensions, that can improve the amount of real estate your ad takes up on the search results pages. The larger your footprint is, the better your click-through rates will be.
  3. And the last thing I suggest is testing your ad copy. Google will let you put several different ads into an ad group. Right now, the current best practice is to have at least three in rotation, and you can use those different copy variants to test different messaging and offers. Try to improve the click-through rate of your ad group at a level that will help the quality score of all the different keywords in that group.

Landing Page Experience

Finally, when it comes to optimizing landing page experience, this can be the hardest part of quality score. A lot of the things you might think about from an SEO perspective can apply here. Make sure your landing page is relevant to the keywords you’re using.
How to optimize quality score using landing pages
Try to avoid doing things like using pop-ups or really spammy messaging and avoid redirects. In fact, not only does that affect the quality score, but your ad might get disapproved entirely if you send users to a landing page that immediately redirects the users to a different landing page. When it comes to landing page experience, make sure you look for several different best practices such as being very clear with your messaging and making sure you have a way for people to fill out forms or buy your products, such as a call to action, or a web form above the fold. Also, one thing that’s counterintuitive is to make sure you have some basic navigation. It used to be popular to use something we called squeeze pages, where you have no navigation on the page whatsoever, and you force your user to take the action you want them to take. Nowadays, that’s not as effective of a tactic. Users are a little savvier, and they tend to feel uncomfortable if you’ve limited the number of options they have on a landing page. It’s okay to have basic navigation on your landing page and if your users do not bounce right away, meaning they don’t get to that landing page and immediately go back to Google search, you’re going to do much better than if you force them into a squeeze page and their only option is to buy from you or leave the website.

In this article, we’ve broken down the three factors that impact your quality score and told you how you can optimize around that metric today. Definitely go test this out and see if you can get a better quality score in your paid search campaigns. You’re going to improve your click costs, your user experience, and your conversion rates. In fact, I might say it’s the most important metric in your paid search account. Pay attention to quality score. And if you’re not, go look at your account, read through this article, and do the things we suggested. I promise it’s going to help your performance.

If you need help with your web services—including PPC and SEO—contact us to see how we can help. I hope you found this article helpful and remember to always be optimizing.

Jeff Cooper

Founder & President, Saltbox Solutions

Pay-per-Click Advertising

We help clients build, manage, and optimize paid search and retargeting campaigns to enable consistent profitable lead acquisition.

Learn more →