Quality Score is a metric that AdWords uses to help keep the paid search results relevant to searchers. It is also used to determine the ranked order of ads that appear for any given search result. Ads that are highly relevant to searchers’ intent are assigned higher Quality Scores.
In effect, quality score is an estimate of how relevant your keyword, landing page and ad are to a person searching for a particular product or service that your ad has shown up for. Having a high quality score means that the AdWords system thinks your ad, keyword, and landing page are all highly relevant and useful to someone who is shown your ad in response to their search query.
Quality score plays a vital role in ad performance and has more impact on your account’s performance than any other factor. Essentially, if you can increase your quality score, you can pay less for clicks than your competitors, and increase your ad’s visibility by having it shown higher in the search results. However, it is also the hardest number to try to affect across your entire AdWords account.
Quality Score is tied to the keyword, not to the campaign or to the ad group. Thus, every keyword in the account has a Quality Score that affects where your ad will show on the page, how much you will pay, and whether or not your ad qualifies for ad extensions or a position in the premium top ad slots above the organic results. Note that a keyword always maintains its Quality Score history. Even if you move it around from one campaign to another, as long as it’s still in your account it maintains that Quality Score history.
Quality Scores can vary by device too. If an ad’s CTR is poor when it’s served on desktop computers but high when served on mobile phones, then it will have a higher score in an auction that calls for ads to be served on a mobile phone. If you’re using display ad placements, then there is nothing such as a keyword based click-through rate. So, for display ads, the quality score is based on the click-through rate of the ad itself, as well as the landing page.
Understanding the Mechanics of Quality Score
According to Google, Quality Score is an estimate of how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing page are to a person viewing your ad. It is worked out on a score of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. Any score above 5 is considered “good”.
Having a high quality score for a particular keyword means that Google thinks your ad, keyword, and landing page are all relevant and useful to users searching for that particular keyword in your ad group or a close variant of it.
If your core keyword in a particular ad group appears in the title, copy and display URL of an ad, the ad is considered highly relevant to that keyword and ad group, more so if the same keywords appear prominently on your landing page.
Conversely, having a low Quality Score means that your ad, keyword, and landing page probably aren’t as relevant or useful to potential customers you are targeting with your ad. In fact if Google deems that your ad doesn’t not meet a certain threshold, your quality score will suffer and your ad will not be part of the auction. If it is not part of the auction, it will not be shown, no matter how much you’re willing to pay.
Quality score is calculated everytime an auction occurs, and it could vary each time the score is recalculated.
According to Google: “Every time someone does a search that triggers your ad, we calculate a quality score”.
Your ad is triggered when a broad, phrase or exact match keyword in your ad group is found to be relevant to the keywords a searcher uses.
Factors That Determine Quality Score:
CTR (Click through rate)
Click-through rate is the single most important factor in determining your Quality Score. The higher your CTR, the higher your Quality Score usually is for each keyword. At the most basic level, the higher your click-through rate, the higher your Quality Score can be for each keyword. Click-through rate is calculated by dividing the number of clicks by number of impressions.
For example, if 200 people see your ad, and 10 people click the ad, your click through rate is: 10/200 X 100 = 5%.
If you are advertising on multiple sites on the display network, the CTR of your ad for each display network site will be combined with the CTR on Google.com to come up with your final score. However, when ads are shown on the Google search network, only the CTR of the Google search network is used. Conversely, when your ad is shown on search partner sites, such as Ask.com or AOL .com, the CTR of your ad on those partner sites are used along with your CTR on Google.com.
Ad position is determined by ad rank. Ad rank is calculated by multiplying your max CPC bid by your quality score and factoring in the expected impact of ad extensions. Every time your ad is shown, the ad is given an ad rank number. The higher your ad rank, the higher the position in which your ad will appear.
To increase your ad rank, you can either increase the quality score of your keyword, or increase your bid. However, it is often more profitable for you to increase your quality score, rather than increasing your bid.
Google explains Ad rank as follows:
We combine your Quality Score, the max. CPC bid, and the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats to determine Ad Rank. When estimating the expected impact of extensions and ad formats, we consider such factors as the relevance, clickthrough rates, and the prominence of the extensions or ad formats on the search results page. Each advertiser’s Ad Rank is then used to determine where the ad appears and what types of extensions and other ad formats will show with the ad (or whether the ad or ad format will appear at all).
Click-Through Rate of Display URL
Google tracks the CTR of the display URLs used within your ad group. It looks to see how often you received clicks with your display URL. The higher the CTR of your display URL, the higher your Quality Score can become.
Keyword/Ad Relevance: Relevance of Keyword to Ad Copy
Relevance is Google’s most important mantra word, and this word takes on a special significance in your ad copy. How closely does your ad copy describe and reflect your keyword? For example, the words “dogs” and “Pitbull terrier” are closely related. If the keyword is “buy a pet dog” and it triggers an ad copy about buying Pitbull terriers, these are closely related terms, as pit bulls are a type of dog. A searcher may search for the word “buy a pet dog,” but really want to buy a Pitbull.
On the other hand however, the keywords “property” and “mortgage” are very different. When looking for property, the location, price, and number of bedrooms are pieces of the same puzzle. While most people looking to buy a house will need a mortgage, the search process is very different. A user looking for a mortgage is more interested in financial information than the number of bedrooms a house contains. In this instance, the ad copy will have a low relevance score as it is not helping someone arrive at the answers to their search query.
Although you do not have to use the actual keyword in the ad copy, doing so will increase relevancy scores for the ad to the keyword being searched. So, including core keywords that are being searched for in your ad copy is highly recommended. Furthermore, if you want to increase the Quality Score of a low performing keyword, it would be best to use the actual keyword that is currently in your ad group, in your ad. This would increase the relevance of the keyword to the ad.
Landing Page Experience.
Landing page experience (LPE) is a term that is generally defined as the user’s experience from the moment he lands on a landing page after clicking an ad. How relevant are your landing pages to the keyword the user is searching for?
You do not have to have the actual keyword on the landing page; but the landing page must be thematically related to the keyword, and having the core keyword featured in the page title, description and landing page copy would increase the relevance of the landing page to the keyword. Google values the user experience of its users and wants to ensure that the sites it sends its users to will provide its users with a positive user experience.
Thus, Google takes into account the relevance and quality of the landing page and the site that is linked to from the ad. It looks at the bounce rate of previous searchers of related keywords who are clicking through to the page from the same ad. If this figure is high, it means the page is not very relevant to the ad copy.
This is why you need to make sure that the theme and copy on your landing page is contextually relevant to the ad and keywords you are bidding on. If you have an ecommerce site with lots of different products, you may run into problems with relevance. The Google recommended way to fix this is to create a specific landing page for each ad group with ads that all link to the same landing page.
Landing page load time.
This comes under the umbrella of landing page experience. The site should also be quick to load, because the speed at which your landing page loads for the user is a key factor in determining Quality Score. When Google determines whether your page loads fast enough to be considered acceptable to the user, it is basically looking to see if the HTML of your page loads as fast as the other pages hosted in that same geography.
The customer should also be able to navigate your site quickly and easily, and have plenty of options to get to the products and/or services that you promised they would get in your ad. Make sure the visitor has clear menus and navigation so they can learn whatever they need to know about you. Note that “landing page performance” is the exact same factor as “landing page load time.”
Account performance in geographic regions where your ad will be shown.
This factor has more influence on your ad’s actual position than the displayed number in your account. Google examines the different geographies where your keyword and ad are being shown. If a pattern emerges where your ad receives a higher CTR in one geographical location over another, that keyword will have a higher quality score in that area, and your ad will be shown more in the geography with the higher CTR and usually have a higher position in that location (assuming the completion and other bids are relatively similar).
For example, if you have chosen to display your ad in the United States and the UK, if you have a higher conversion rate in the UK, but in the U.S. you have a higher CTR, Google will show your ad more in the US with the higher CTR. This also means that you could lose out on conversions. This is another reason why you should create separate ads to serve different countries so you can test where your ad is more likely to be successful.
Google examines the entire account, both the keywords and the ad copy, to determine how the account has done overall. Your overall account history is used when determining quality score. And it doesn’t matter if you delete an account with poor quality scores and setup a new account. As long as you are using the same destination URL tied to low quality scores, those low quality scores will carry over to the new account.