The first few times someone tried to discuss Quality Score with me, I think I looked like this:
My Face When
Quite frankly, the explanations offered online were never that clear. But this article comes from much research and personal experience with Quality Score.
I’ll go over what this oh-so-complicated metric is. We’ll also discuss how the factors neatly fit together and how you can improve your Quality Score to make more money.
To start with the basics…
What is the Google Ads Quality Score?
The Quality Score is many things. But at its most basic principle definition, the Google Ads Quality Score is a number. It’s a number between 1 and 10 that’s assigned to each keyword you’re bidding on. The highest score is 10, and the lowest score is 1.
The score is rated out of the highest possible number and presented as a fraction.
You may be thinking, “Wait, Quality Score is placed on your…keyword? Not your ad?” Well, yes. The Quality Score assigned to your keyword is the value of how relevant Google thinks your keyword is in association with your ad and your landing page.
There are several factors that go into the makeup of the Quality Score, and I’ll go over those a just a little later when we talk strategy.
Why Quality Score Matters
Google has a mission of showing only the highest quality of search results to its users. By ensuring the quality of results are high, Google can maintain its spot as the most used search engine. As ads show up with normal search results, Google needs to work with the advertisers to ensure the ads are also of high quality.
Of course, if Google can’t assume that its advertisers automatically know how relevant their ads are. That’s why Google gives out Quality Scores. There’s no guessing here about what Google thinks about your ad.
Let’s say your keyword is “fishing pole”, your ad talks about cake recipes, and your landing page is about spaceships, your Quality Score is going to be very low. For good reason, too. It’s beneficial for you, your customers, and Google to have everything matching up. So if you’re selling ski boots, make sure your landing page, ad, and keywords are about ski boots.
So what does this mean for you? It means that you and Google have the same goal when it comes to your ads; achieve a high Quality Score so your customers don’t feel tricked or confused.
However, there’s more to the importance of Quality Score besides customer satisfaction, Quality Score influences how much you pay.
Quality Score’s Influence on Your Cost Per Click
Yep, that’s right. Your Google Quality Score will directly affect how much you pay per click.
(Quick Side Note: This doesn’t necessarily affect your cost per conversion. However, the lower your cost per click is, the less you pay for a conversion, so your Quality Score can affect your end game.)
WordStream has a breakdown of the Quality Score’s relationship with your CPC.
Wordstream’s Quality Score Breakdown
If we take a look at this, we can see that the higher your Quality Score is, the less you can pay. Pretty great, right? I mean, a 10/10 Quality Score can discount your cost per click by 50%.
But if you’re not taking Quality Score seriously and you’re okay with a 3, get ready to be okay with paying more per click. I think that yellow frowny-face sums up everyone’s feelings about paying more.
Lastly, Quality Score directly affects your Ad Rank, which is how high your ad places in the Google Search Results. Quality Score and Ad Rank seem to go hand-in-hand, and although they’re similar, they’re not the same. Here’s a quick breakdown on the two.
Quality Score vs. Ad Rank
Remember that Quality Score is that number ranking the relevancy of your ad and landing page to the keyword you’re bidding on.
But Ad Rank is a combination of factors, including Quality Score, that determines where your ad places on the page. Here’s a breakdown of the factors that make up Ad Rank:
Bid – Your bid (not your CPC) is where you tell Google how much you’re willing to pay per click for a keyword.
The Highest Bid Doesn’t Always Win
You may think, “great, if I outbid my competitors, my ad is sure to rank the highest and outperform everyone!” But that’s just not so. If the highest bid always won in a Google auction, the ads would be dominated by companies with bottomless pockets.
Quality Score – It should be pretty common sense that the higher your Quality Score, the higher your Ad Rank is going to be. Imagine a cupcake bakery that’s bidding against your computer software company. (Don’t ask me why.) Even if they bid super, super high, they shouldn’t be able to place higher than you, right? Google agrees, which is why Quality Score has quite an impact on how an ad ranks.
Ad Formats – Your Ad Format is how varied your ad formats are. Simply put, are you using ad extensions. If the term ad extension leaves you scratching your head, check here. Having more information on your ad like callout extensions, sitelink extensions, etc. will take up more space on the search results and draw more attention to your ad.
The Ad Rank Calculation in Real-Time
It’s no secret that when someone searches something in Google, the math behind what appears is intense. But for advertisers, we’re given key metrics to strive towards. After all, we want our ads to appear on the page and place well. Let’s take a look at the process of Ad Ranking and how Quality Score ties into it in real time.
Let’s say a search is entered in Google for “quick draw set”. Once Google’s decided to show ads for this search term, it trolls through all ad accounts to find relevant ads. Once it finds relevant ads, it picks all the eligible ads based on location, approval, etc. Then it picks ads based on the Ad Rank – which is where the fun happens.
First, Google looks at the bids. If you’re bidding $3.00 on a $50.00 keyword, you probably won’t even be in the running for this.
For ads that are relevant, eligible, and bidding properly, Google then looks at everyone’s Quality Score. After ranking them high to low, Google will lastly check on the ad format impact. It ranks your ad format impact from low (no ad formats available) to high (lots of ad extensions).
From there, Google determines which ad goes in which position. Even if your bid isn’t the highest, if your Quality and Ad Formats are good, your ad as a great chance of appearing in top position.
How to Check Your Quality Score
There are two ways to check your Quality Score. You can check it directly from the account, or you can review it in a report.
Making a Quality Score Report
One under-utilized feature of Google Ads is their Reports. By taking a moment to set up a Quality Score report, you can easily compare your scores across the account, in different periods of time, or share your findings in a heartbeat.
You’ll start by going to Reports in the upper-right hand side of your Google Ads account. In the drop-down of Reports, you’ll click Reports, where you’ll be taken to a new screen.
Where To Find Reports
You’ll click on Custom and start to build out your report. I recommend starting with adding Campaign, Ad group, Search keyword, and Quality Score. If you want to add in any other information to look at, the more, the merrier.
Accessing Your Quality Score from Your Account
In your Google Ads account, pop open your keywords. You can view your keywords on an account level, campaign level, or ad group level. You’ll just click on the second-from-the-left column option of Keywords.
Look At Your Keywords
From there, you’ll want to check the Status column of your keywords. The Status column will tell you if that keyword is eligible to run ads, or if it has any at-a-glance problems like low search volume, below the first-page bid, paused, etc.
Keyword Status Options
Each keyword has a status assigned to it. You can hover your mouse over any of the statuses to read more about it. For eligible keywords, you’ll find a quality score! It’ll look like this, and it even tells you what factors are affecting the score.
See Your Quality Score By Hovering Over The Eligible
Speaking of those factors…let’s break down what they are.
The Specifics of the Google Ads Quality Score
There are three big factors that directly influence the number you get for your Quality Score. You might be thinking, “Wow, only three?! Quality Score is so easy!”
You Don’t Even Know Yet
You’ll want to wait until the end of this article to draw conclusions like that. Just like poor Simba had no idea about Scar’s true nature, you have no idea about the Quality Score’s true nature…yet.
The Official Factors of the Quality Score
Here are the factors that Google says affect your Quality Score. These are direct causation on your Quality Score.
Straight From Google
Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Your expected CTR is Google’s prediction of how many people will click on your ad when they see it. Google uses past keyword history to predict what it thinks your future CTR will be. Google uses the history of that keyword’s performance in all accounts. It also looks at your account’s CTR performance to draw conclusions on how this keyword will perform.
This is where Google examines the ad copy you’ve written to determine how relevant it will be to a search term. I believe this is why a lot of advertisers will stuff the keyword into their ad copy. After all, it makes sense; if the ad copy has the keyword in it, isn’t it automatically relevant to the search term? I’ll discuss this tactic later.
Landing Page Experience
You might ask yourself, “What does my landing page have to do with my Google keyword?” Answer – everything. Google doesn’t actually have the answers to anything; it just knows where to find those answers. If someone searches for one thing but gets sent to a landing page that’s irrelevant, their trust in Google (and the owner of the landing page) gets demolished. There are three things Google says they look for in a landing page. Is the content relevant and original, is it easy to navigate, and does it clearly show who your business is?
The Unofficial Factors of the Quality Score
Now that we’ve seen what Google says will affect your Quality Score, let’s look at what influences those three factors. Take a deep breath, because there are quite a number to go through. Let’s dive in.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of people clicking on your ad out of the total people who have seen your ad.
While the official word in your Google Account says that the expected click-through rate a key determining factor in your quality score, your actual CTR has a massive impact.
Remember that the expected CTR was in part calculated on the keyword’s overall history, and your history is included in this. If you can raise your CTR, chances are, your Quality Score will raise as well.
Ways to improve that CTR includes writing better serach ads and including a strong call to action.
Historical CTR Performance
This is different than your click-through rate for a specific keyword. Your historical CTR performance is your account’s historical CTR as a whole.
Let’s say you’ve been running ads for 2 years and generally have a high CTR. Your ads are strong, they’re paired to relevant keywords, and people tend to click on your ads most of the time.
Then you want to perform some keyword expansion. After you add the keyword, make its ad, and submit it, Google will take a look at your account. It will analyze the overall CTR history of your account and include that in its expected CTR score.
As a note here, your historical data is permanent. That means that if you had a keyword with horrible CTR, pausing or deleting it won’t accomplish anything. Google will still know about it, and it will still be calculated into your historical CTR performance.
Using Long-Tail Keywords
It’s fairly well-known that longer tail keywords have higher CTR. Their impression share may be much smaller compared to shorter keywords, but people searching for those longer-tail keywords are more specific in what they’re looking for.
Let’s say you’re bidding on the word “furnace”. It might not be a great idea for a strong Quality Score. For instance, you’ll probably have a good number of keywords coming through for furnaces, including:
Not All of These Search Terms Are Relevant
And more. If you’re a furnace repair company, these results won’t be very helpful to you. The term furnace is also so vague that people searching it will have a plethora of intents. It’ll also drive your CTR way, way down.
Having longer tail keywords that are more specific to your business and what you’re offering is the way to go. Instead of bidding on furnace, try bidding on “furnace repair” or “furnace installation”, etc.
Time of Day & Day of Week
One of the last factors that can directly influence your CTR will be time. If you’re running ads 24/7, you might notice that there are certain times of the day and days of the week that are getting worse CTRs than others.
It’s natural to monitor your time of day and day of week performance in regards to conversions, but have you considered looking at your CTR too? You’d be surprised that there may be times that your ads are being shown, a lot, but they’re just not getting clicks.
That drop in CTR can influence and bring down your overall CTR for your ads. You can try testing different time of days and days of weeks to see if the improvement in CTR will also bring up your Quality Score as well.
Moving nicely along, we’ll get to the landing page experience factor. Because a landing page isn’t centered in your Google Ads account, there are a lot of factors that contribute to the overall landing page experience.
The first one we’ll discuss is the bounce rate. A bounce rate is how often someone clicks your ad and then hits the back button almost immediately to go back to the search results. Now no one can control mistakes and misclicks, but those should only make up a small percentage of the clicks your ad gets.
You can see your bounce rate by combining your Google Analytics with your Google Ads account. Google also knows and calculates bounce rates as part of the overall landing page experience.
If your bounce rate is really high, you’ll need to examine a few things about your landing page. You’ll want to make sure it’s not broken, and you’ll want to check that there are no discrepancies between the ad text and your landing page. You’ll need to make sure your landing page is quality so your customers are spending time on it and actually converting on it too.
Load Time of the Landing Page
Have you ever clicked on a link, and waited…and waited for the page to load? Hopefully, you haven’t had to wait since the early 2000s, right?
Waiting For Pages To Load Like
Google knows that people expect their webpages to load instantly. In fact, Google says, “2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under half a second.”
While load time isn’t 100% on you (factors like internet speed and location can affect it.), anything you can do on your end to speed up the load time will go a long way. Faster load time will boost your overall landing page experience and your quality score.
To test your website’s load time, enter your URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Understandability of the Landing Page
People enjoy knowing what comes next. When they’re looking at a new landing page, they prefer to be able to easily navigate and understand it.
When they’re looking at their landing page, they’ll want to be able to easily find information. Organize your webpage in a logical manner and run it by other people to make sure they can easily navigate it.
Make sure information about what you’re offering is present on the webpage. I know it sounds silly, but forgetting to add details and information can lead to poor user experience.
Google uses both computers and people to review landing pages, so make sure yours is easy to use and understandable.
Links on the Landing Page
When someone navigates to your landing page for the first time, they may not know anything about you. Google knows this and asks their advertisers to add links onto their webpages. They’re encouraging you to be transparent and trustworthy by including links to key information.
Key information that you’ll want to have linked onto your landing page include where to find your business, phone numbers, social media profiles, etc. Anything you can link in the bottom of your landing page to prove your authenticity is encouraged.
Here’s the footer that Instapage uses with the proper navigation links:
As you can see, they clearly show options you can navigate to, where you can access their contact page, and their social media links.
This is encouraged so strongly, in fact, that it does play into your landing page experience and overall Quality Score.
Landing Page Text Crawlability
As mentioned, Google uses a combination of bots and humans to examine landing pages. Bots go to the webpage that you provide to read the content on there.
It makes note of the information on your webpage. It’ll make sure your website is relevant to the keyword and ad. The main thing you’ll want to make sure it to remove all programming that prevents bots from crawling your webpage.
If Google can easily crawl your page, you’ll have a much easier time of getting that better landing page experience.
Did you know that your ads can perform differently on different devices? You can check the performance of your ads on mobile, desktop, and tablets by going into your Google Ads account and clicking on the devices section of a campaign or ad group.
Performance Differs Across Devices
Depending on the performance of your ads and landing pages on each of the devices, your Quality Score could be different. While the Quality Score on each device may be different, they don’t directly affect each other.
With that being said, you’ll want to keep an eye on each device’s performance to see if there are any devices that are bringing down your overall performance. Especially consider any devices that are specifically affecting your CTR. If you notice one campaign just isn’t getting clicks on tablets, consider lowering bid adjustments on that device to reduce the impressions.
Factors That Do Not Affect Your Quality Score
With all the information out there about what may or may not affect your Quality Score, it’s common to see some misconceptions. For the record, here are some things that do not affect your Quality Score.
As mentioned earlier in the section covering Ad Rank, your bid affects your ad rank. However, it does not, in any way, shape, or form affect your Quality Score.
Thankfully, Google keeps bidding separately from the Quality Score. Imagine if all you had to do to raise your Quality Score was to raise your bid. That wouldn’t seem very…quality, would it? It might seem a bit like being able to bribe Google.
This also encourages companies to spend time making sure their ads are quality. Nope, a low Quality Score is not something you can just throw money at to make it go away.
Keyword Match Types
First, let me clarify a point on Quality Score. Quality Score is indeed placed on your keyword. It does rank your keyword, ad, and landing page’s relevancy. But relevancy to what? How relevant all three of those factors are to search terms.
That means that no matter what keyword match type you use, your Quality Score won’t be affected. As long as you keep up on maintenance and optimization, your keywords should remain relevant to the search terms.
Some people have considered the strategy of using nothing but exact match keywords, and I suppose I understand their logic. After all, how can you be more relevant than having your keyword be the exact search term?
As with all things in life, I have to say that balance is king here. For some high-intent search terms, running it as an exact match only keyword may improve your CTR and Quality Score. But if that’s all you run and focus on, your account just may not grow. You may find yourself limited.
Pausing & Deleting Poor Keywords
Remember how expected CTR is in-part calculated by your account’s past CTR? Let’s say you’ve had some keywords that just never performed well. You couldn’t get their CTR up no matter what you did.
Maybe they were too broad, maybe the search intent was wrong, maybe a lot of things. Either way, you ended up pausing the underperforming keyword. Problem solved, right? Well, that keyword may be out of its low performing misery, but the rest of your account still suffers.
Google will still include that keyword’s CTR in its overall analysis of your account’s historical CTR.
So then you think, “Well fine, I’ll just delete it then!” Ok, well that’s some deceitful villain-like thought processes right there. And thankfully, Google doesn’t stand for it.
Yep, paused and deleted keywords will keep their CTR memory. Google will continue to use it when calculating your expected CTR. The only way you can overcome your dreadful CTR past is by improving more keywords’ CTR.
I’m not sure how the idea that adding negative keywords will directly affect your Quality Score, but it just isn’t true. Now, you can add negative keywords to avoid having your ads show for poor quality search terms.
Chances are, these poor quality search terms are ones that trigger the ads without getting clicks. Adding them as negative keywords can increase the number of times your ad will be triggered for high-quality search terms.
This can improve your CTR and indirectly, your Quality Score. But to clarify, just adding negative keywords will not directly affect your Quality Score.
Landing Page Keywords
When a visitor happens upon your landing page, you want the landing page to be relevant to their search term. Your visitor and Google both also want the landing page to be relevant. However, a strategy that should never be used to try to improve relevancy is keyword stuffing. Just don’t do it. Google’s bots will know what you’re doing, and your human visitors will know too.
Wouldn’t it be nice if high conversion rates automatically improved your Quality Score as well? Wouldn’t it be such a win-win?
A beautiful thing about Google Ads is that they can track any conversion you’d like. If you’d like to optimize your ads for phone calls, Google can track that. If you’d like to optimize for form submissions or payments, Google Can track that too. However, any conversions that are completed are a perk for you.
Google doesn’t really care how many conversions you get. I mean, we know they want us to grow while using them, but they’re not going to count our conversions as wins for them. Plus, your conversion may not be the same as your competitors. Actually, conversions vary greatly from industry to industry.
Considering that the Quality Score is built as a measuring tool to be used for all of its accounts, Google simply can’t take into account conversion rates. Also, there are codes that can show Google a 100% conversion rate, and letting that be a factor in Quality Score would just be ridiculous.
Number of Ads Per Keyword
If you’ve ever talked to a Google Ads Rep, they’ll insist that you have at least two (now three, I believe) ads running against each other. And at Linear, we also like having at least two ads always running to A/B test.
But actually isn’t any way that having more ads per keyword improves your Quality Score. For some companies this can be nice; they don’t have to put in extra effort to make an additional ad just for the sake of Quality Score. Although if that company became our client, we certainly would start ad testing for them.
Strategies for Improving Your Google Ads Quality Score
When it comes to improving your Google Ads Quality Score, there are a few ways to raise it.
Of course, you can (and should) work on things that directly affect your Quality Score. A few basic items will include fixing your landing page experience, ensuring your ads are relevant to your keywords, and monitoring your CTR performance.
However, did you know that a huge underlying factor of your Quality Score is your account structure? I know it seems bizarre, but your account structure is the supporting base for your account’s performance (including Quality Score).
A Bit of Account Grooming Goes A Long Way
Here are some account changes you can make to will raise your Quality Score and your performance.
Lower Your Keyword to Ad Ratio
In an ad group, you have your ads, and you have your keywords. They’re chosen and written separately, which means that for any of your keywords in that ad group, any of the ads in there can be chosen to show up.
Keeping this in mind, it should be logical to conclude that the more keywords you have in an ad group, the vaguer your ads need to be. This applies especially if your keywords start to differentiate in intent or subject.
Let’s say someone searches for something very specific, like a baseball cap. They come across your ad which was written for the variety of caps you sell in your hat ad group. Your ad might not be explicit in that you can sell what they’re looking for. So it has a higher chance of getting skipped over and losing that click. Fewer clicks mean a lower CTR, and a lower CTR means a lower Quality Score.
Don’t be afraid to have more ad groups and campaigns in your account. The more relevant to a user’s search term you can make your ads, the better. And the easiest way of doing this just by having fewer keywords in an ad group. You’ll always know the ads in that ad group are super relevant to the keywords and search terms.
Reduce Your Search Term to Keyword Ratio
When you look through your Google Ads account, think about what you’re paying for. You may think, “Well, I’m paying for a keyword to get clicked on!” But you’d be wrong. Yes, you’re bidding on a keyword.
But ultimately, you’re paying for search terms. Sometimes one keyword will have a hundred or more search terms come through that you’re not looking at. Chances are very high that one keyword is not possibly relevant to a hundred search terms.
Me When Someone Says They Never Check Their Search Term Report
Because those search terms are ultimately what you’re paying for, they can drain your budget very quickly if left unchecked.
In your weekly optimization, pop open that search term report. Depending on the keyword match types you’re using, there will be a variety in the diversity of search terms per keyword coming through.
As you’re looking through the report, scan for crappy keywords that you don’t want to pay for. And look for keywords that have a lot of impressions but very few clicks; those are dragging down your CTR.
As you keep your search terms relevant to your keywords, you’ll see your CTR and Quality Score improve over time.
Consider Geographic Campaigns
Remember how I mentioned that devices have different levels of performance and therefore can carry different Quality Scores? The same goes for geographic locations.
While you can certainly target and adjust bids for geographic locations in your Google Ads, you won’t be able to see at a glance what the Quality Score is for each of the locations.
However, geographic locations can perform very differently from each other. Sometimes that requires you to split your campaigns up to more closely monitor the locations. You’ll learn that what works in your ads for Utah may not work for Mississippi.
When you have your campaigns split into locations, you can learn what needs to be adjusted. Adjusting specifics on a location-by-location basis can improve your overall account performance and Quality Scores.
Dynamic Keyword Insertion
Using Dynamic Keyword Insertion is more of an ad strategy than an account strategy. Dynamic Keyword Insertion is a bit of code you add into your ads to insert the keyword triggered by the search term. This can make your ads more relevant to the user’s search term.
You’ll need to keep in mind that the code inserts a keyword, not a search term. You’ll have to be pretty on top of your search term to keyword ratio game here. You’ll also need to make sure your keywords are very relevant to your ads and make sense in context.
This strategy won’t directly affect your Quality Score; it doesn’t work that way. It can improve your CTR which then improves your Quality Score, but it’ll be in that order of effect.
Always Use Single Keyword Ad Groups
I left the most important for last. This organization technique for your account is what every single one of Linear’s accounts is set up as. Single. Keyword. Ad. Groups. A.K.A. – SKAGs.
If you’ve never heard of SKAGs, buckle up. It’s learning time. A single keyword ad group is exactly as the name says. It’s when you have a single keyword per each ad group. That keyword in question can have up to three match types.
Ad Group Name: Auto Belay Device
- +auto +belay +device
- “auto belay device”
- [auto belay device]
And that’s it. “Belay device” will be in another ad group. “Auto locking belay device” will be in yet another ad group. Nothing else but those three keywords will be in that ad group.
This makes your ads that you write for this ad group as specific as possible. You know you won’t be writing about climbing harnesses in your auto belay device ad group. It would make no sense. You’ll also be sending all your traffic for this ad group to the…you guessed it, the auto belay device landing page.
Since your ads, your keywords, and your landing page will all be very specific to the search terms coming through, they will be considered relevant. Google will appreciate that relevancy and you’ll see your Quality Scores improve drastically. That’s right, just this re-organization will improve your Quality Scores by miles.
Google Quality Score’s Big But
After covering all of the facts about Quality Score, you may be mentally prepping yourself. You probably think that you want to really impress Google and get the highest Quality Score possible. But a word of warning.
Let’s go back to the very beginning of when you opened a Google Ads account. I promise you that you weren’t thinking about your Quality Score. Your reason for running ads is the same as my clients. You want to make money.
Quality Score has nothing to do with whether or not you’re making money. It does not foretell the success of your marketing. Quality Score is a tool to determine if your ads and keywords are relevant. That’s it.
No matter what you do, don’t obsess over your Quality Score. Sure, you can look at it and monitor it; we encourage that! But remember that your ultimate goal is to make money. To determine if you’re making money, you’ll need to obsess over your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
KPIs include conversion rates, conversion values, return on ad spend, lifetime values, etc. Quality Score is not on the list of KPIs, and it never will be. (Sorry, QS.) Remember what’s important.
All this telling you to remember makes me feel like Mufasa.
A Final Note on Quality Scores
This seems to be everyone’s reaction to a high Quality Score:
Stop that. Remember that a good Quality Score is well, good, but it’s not a determining factor in your performance.
But because it is good for your Google Ads account performance, we hope you were able to have takeaways.
After reading this, do you better understand the Google Quality Score? Are there any changes you’d suggest? Let us know if anything was missed in the comments!