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What is the Google Quality Score?

Jon Bennion

Jon Bennion | December 15, 2020 |

25 min read

If you’re investing in pay per click campaigns, there’s one thing you need to nail for success: Google Quality Score. 

Tons of advertisers are vying for top ad positions in Google for the same keywords. So how does Google decide which ads rank where, in what position and at what price?

That’s where Google Quality Score comes into play.

Quality score is the one thing that has the final word on where your ads will be positioned and what you’ll spend compared to competitors. Get this right and you can create winning Google Ad campaigns with a higher ROI and lower cost per conversion. 

Why does Google use Quality Score, how do they work out the score, and how can you improve your Google Ads Quality Score?

Let’s dive in.

What is the Google Quality Score?

Quality Score is Google’s rating system for ads. They score quality of your ad campaign from 1 to 10 based on three major factors:

  • Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR): How likely is a searcher to click on your ad when it’s shown for the keyword they search for?

  • Ad Relevance: How well does the ad match your keywords? 

  • Landing Page Experience: Does the landing page match the ad, and is it easy to use? 

A quality score of 1 represents low ad relevance and quality, while a quality score of 10 represents the highest ad relevance and quality.

Quality Score is an evolution from the days when Google would use click through rate to determine if a keyword was low relevance, or if advertisers should pay more for a keyword to get a good ad rank.

Now, it uses machine learning to rate ad relevance and landing page experience when determining the expected click through rate. Expected CTR is Google’s estimation of the rate viewers will click through from your ads to your landing page. It's a prediction - not the same as the actual click-through rates shown in the "CTR" column of your Google Ads account.

In calculating Expected CTR, Google scores how well your keyword has performed historically, based on your ad position. Your keyword can be assigned a rating of above average, average or below average, using only the exact match keyword.

The good news?

You can influence all of these factors to boost your quality scores, improve your CTR, and improve your campaigns' performance.

How Google ad auctions work

To get the best results from your ad campaign and drive down your cost per click, you need to understand how the Google ad auction works.

Google doesn't rely on Quality Score alone to rank your ads. There are three factors:

  • Ad Rank

  • Maximum Bid

  • Quality Score

It uses your quality score alongside your maximum bid, which is the most you are willing to spend per click for each keyword,  to determine how often an ad shows, position on the page, and what you pay per click.

Just to confuse things, the cost per click you pay is influenced by your closest competitor’s ad rank, maximum bid for each keyword, and Quality Score. So if they have a good ad rank and Quality Score, yours needs to be even better.

Why Quality Score matters

Three words: return on investment.

Google rewards its advertisers with high Quality Scores by giving them lower costs and better ad rank. The reason is simple - Google wants to ensure its users have the best experience. That means showing them the most relevant and useful results, right down to your ad and landing page.

Using the Quality Score helps them make sure they deliver on their mission, so they reward those advertisers who get it right.

Advertisers with high quality scores can bid lower than their competitors with low quality scores and get higher ad positions in the search engine results pages.

So, you can actually get ahead of your competitors even if they have a bigger ad account and can bid more for keywords.

Here's another reason focusing on your Quality Score is essential: it helps you drive serious revenue results through search ads.

Your ad’s Quality Score has a direct impact on your campaign ROI.

The higher your Quality Score, the more people will see your ads and the more people who will click through - giving you a higher CTR but for a lower cost per click. Simple!

Image credit: AdEspresso
 

Focus your efforts on improving your ads and landing pages, boost your Quality Scores, and significantly improve your cost per click.

How to check your Quality Score?

  1. Go to your Google Ads account

  2. In your account, select the campaign you want to check.

  3. Click on Keywords > Columns > Modify columns > Qual. Score

  4. Select the measurements you want to see in your statistics table i.e. Landing Page Exper, Exp, CTR Measures, and Ad Relevance. 

  5. Click Save

In your account, you should see something like this:

Image Credit: Google

Why is relevancy so important?

Relevancy is really the most important factor in your Google Ads Quality Score. The better your keywords and copy match in your ads and landing pages, the higher your Quality Scores.

There are two big reasons relevancy is important to Google.

1) They want to show people the most relevant and useful results when they search for specific keywords, which means quality ads.

2) They want to drive their own revenue through advertising. The better the advertisers do, the more likely they will spend big dollars on Google Ads.

For Google, a higher quality score indicates an alignment between consumers and marketers. It shows the search engine that you've done your research, you know whom you want to talk to, and you're speaking to them in the exact way they search on Google.

How to improve Quality Score

Improving your Quality Score means you need to improve the relevancy and quality of your ads, keywords and landing page experience. The steps below can take time and you may need to bring in some expert help, but it's worth the investment when you consider what your campaign's performance means for your ROI.

Use this actionable checklist:

Keep keyword ad groups small and hyper-relevant

Your aim is to deliver the ad that’s relevant to the keyword used - that's it! This means every ad group you create should have a hyper-targeted theme, and every keyword you choose needs to be relevant to the ad group.

What you don’t want is a huge list of keywords that you try to apply to all ads across. Each ad group contains a keyword list focusing on that product or service. So, if you see one keyword that deviates from the theme, create a specific ad group for it. Simple as that.

Image credit: Google
 

Keywords, ads and landing pages all work together. Your aim is to only deliver the ad that’s relevant to the keyword searched. The more specific the keyword, the more specific the ad copy must be to attain a high Google Ads Quality Score.

Optimize landing pages to deliver an exceptional experience

When it comes to your quality score, landing page experience is key. Why? Because user experience is one of Google’s top priorities. So if your landing page gives a low quality experience, Google gives it a low Quality Score.

Even if you take time to  craft the best campaign ever, if your landing page is low quality and gives a poor user experience, you can't expect a high quality score. That ultimately means your campaign performance will suffer too.

The most important things for landing page quality are making sure:

  • The landing page is relevant

  • The page is easy to navigate

  • Performance is smooth on both mobile and desktop

  • The page load time is fast

When it comes to relevancy, the main thing you need to spend time on is for your landing page to match the search term - it must be an exact match. Include the search term in all the right places on the page, including the headline, intro, and at least once more in the landing page copy.

These are the basics of SEO, but many marketers overlook them because they’re paying for ads. SEO is still important even with paid ads if you want higher quality scores.

Need another reason to focus on your landing page? If your landing page isn't delivering value to visitors, they won't convert. And ads without conversions means you're simply throwing money away.

Design a landing page that's engaging and easy to use, and your cost per conversion will drop, giving you a better ROI for your search ad campaigns.

Customize landing pages for specific ad groups

Match your landing page to a specific ad group. This ensures every landing page is highly relevant to the keywords and ads, which gives users a better landing page experience when they click your ad.

Higher Quality Score, here you come!

You know by now that relevance is one of the essential factors to ensure a high score. Tailoring your landing pages to match appropriate ad groups ensures relevance.

In customizing a landing page, focus on keyword and message matching. In other words, make sure the landing page delivers exactly what the ad says it will.

Increase your click-through rate (CTR)

CTR measures how often your ad is clicked on in the search results. The more compelling your ad and the more relevant it is to the search query, the higher chance it will be clicked. If your clickthrough rate is high, Google uses this to factor into your quality score.

If it’s a small subset of ads with a low quality score, you should look to improve your CTR first and foremost. This could simply mean pulling the keywords out of the ad group, creating a new ad group for them, and testing a more relevant ad. If you try this and it still doesn’t work over time, Google might have determined that the keyword is irrelevant completely, which means all advertisers are impacted, not just you. 

Another tactic to improve your CTR for a new account is to leave a brand term campaign running for a few weeks. This will help build a historically high CTR on your account ready for new campaigns.  

Customize ad text for specific ad groups

Make sure your ad text is an exact match to the ad groups and the keywords you're bidding on. Include the keywords in the headline and ad messaging - like this example:

See how relevant all the ads are to the keywords? And the one that scores the top spot is the ad with a headline that directly matches the search phrase. 

Having tighter ad groups will help you write better ad copy, as you can be more specific. 

The good news is when you create ad copy, you can set up a rotation schedule. This means your ads will switch over automatically and you can get deeper insights into how they are performing.

Use this as a test to see which ad group and ad copy performs better. The better the ad performs, the better your Google Ads Quality Score.

Over to you

Google Ads Quality Score is a major factor in how Google decides which ads to show, where to rank them and at what price.

A good Google Ads Quality Score can give you the winning edge over your competition, even if they've got a bigger budget. Remember, Google doesn't score your budget, it scores the quality of your ad. The better the quality of your ads, the higher your Google Ads Quality Score.

A word of caution - Quality Score won't change overnight. You can do all the things we've listed above but you still need to give it time. Remember, Google looks at your account's historical performance when calculating Quality Scores, so it will take some time before you see a real difference.

Not sure if you have a good quality score? Need help to improve your ad campaign performance and drive a stronger ROI? Start with a FREE Digital Audit.

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