What You Need To Understand About Google’s Quality Score

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Google Adwords Quality Scores

Google just announced improvements to its Quality Score reporting – yay! Wait. You are using your Quality Score data aren’t you? You know, monitoring how it changes and what makes it change, and doing what you can to nudge it upward? You’re doing that, right?

Despite all the details Google’s been willing to give us, the mechanics of Google’s Quality Score still remain a mystery to lots of folks. We’ve outlined the basic factors that go into computing Quality Score, but while reading through this, keep in mind that Quality Scores are in place to keep the peace – to minimize bad results and keep a lid on the spammers.

There are a lot of factors that affect Quality Score.

In fact, Google’s own help page lists 9 factors:

  1. keyword CTR
  2. display URL CTR (notice that says display URL, not destination URL)
  3. account history
  4. landing page experience (also known as user experience)
  5. keyword relevance to the ad
  6. keyword relevance to the search query
  7. geographic performance (how successful the account is in the regions you target)
  8. performance on targeted devices
  9. performance on a site (for display ads)

In this week’s post, the editors of Inside Adwords today advised that improvements for QS reporting are forthcoming, but also re-empasized that the factors used to compute Quality Score are not changing – but the change seems to be that the numbers we see in our Adwords interface will now relate “more closely to its three key sub factors — expected clickthrough ratead relevance, and landing page experience.”

When you see a quality score drop or rise, it’s often hard to tell just what might have affected your score – did you alter ad text? Did you add or remove additional keywords with poor quality scores? Did you enable your ad on additional devices? Or was it some outside factor you have no direct control over, like a competitor throwing out a lucrative offer in their ads, dragging your ad CTR down by attrition?

This change in score reporting won’t take all the mystery out of QS – it will still be akin to alchemy for a lot of people. But the more transparent Google makes the process, the easier it will become for PPC managers to determine how the changes they make affect this aspect of the PPC account.

9 Factors Affecting Google Adwords Quality Score


With clarification in mind, here’s a short list of things every PPC manager needs to remember (and explain to the boss) about Google’s Quality Score:

  • Your ad position does not affect Quality Score. “While we do use clickthrough rate (CTR) to help determine score, a higher ad position will not actually help you get a higher Quality Score. As you might have seen, ads in high positions typically earn better CTR than those in low positions, because ads in high positions are more visible to users. Therefore, to calculate the most accurate Quality Scores, it’s important that the influence of ad position on CTR be taken into account and removed from the Quality Score.” In other words, you don’t have to bid up in order to attain a good quality score because Google removes the effect that ad position has on CTR.
  • You can’t game the system by bidding for #1 with an irrelevant keyword or meaningless ad. From Google’s own help article: “For ads in top positions above Google search results, we use the same Ad Rank formula, based on your Quality Score and CPC bid. However, only ads that exceed a certain Quality Score and CPC bid threshold are eligible to appear in these positions. The CPC bid threshold for these positions is determined by the matched keyword’s Quality Score. The higher the Quality Score, the lower the CPC threshold. This ensures that quality plays an even more important role in determining the ads that show above search results.”
  • Furthermore, Google isn’t as desperate to show ads as you think… “In order to be consistent with our philosophy of showing the right ad to the right user at the right time, we’d rather show no ads on a page than show low-quality ads.”
  • Your ad conversion rate has absolutely no effect on your quality score.  “Some advertisers using AdWords conversion tracking mistakenly believe that they should set an easy conversion event on their landing pages to artificially boost their conversion rates. In reality, this will not have any effect on your Quality Scores. Feel free to use conversion tracking responsibly, and don’t worry about its impact on your Quality Scores.”
  • Additionally, a well-built but non-converting campaign won’t tank your Quality Score. This is a really important thing to remember when putting together brand awareness campaigns – you want to maximize the Quality score with highly relevant keywords, exceptionally relevant ads, and the best keyword-to-ad-to-landing page user exeperience you can provide in order to max out your QS – why? That keeps your cost down. Awareness campaign clicks will generally have a very low conversion rate because, well, they’re for awareness, not lead generation. You want the cost per click on a non-converting campaign to be as low as possible because it has almost no ROI. Conversely, you may never see a conversion, but Google only measures up to the click – not past it. Low conversion rates won’t drop your quality score.
  • Failed landing page experiements have no lasting effect on Quality Score. “While there may be some delay between times when Google crawls your landing page, we only use the latest crawl of your page to determine your Quality Score.”

Ultimately, Quality Score evens the playing field – you don’t have to bid up, you just have to choose your keywords wisely, write good ad copy and land people on useful pages that correctly address their search queries. A good Quality Score lowers your CPC and enables you to compete against people with deeper pockets who pay more for clicks but pay less attention to their audience. Check and monitor your QS regularly so you can use it to your own advantage.





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Michelle has worked on the Internet (sometimes, literally) since before it had pictures, learned web development in HTML before it was iterated, worked in SEO when there were 12 search engines, watched Digg become the grandfather of social media, worked as a Google page rater, and predicted today's holistic online marketing environment back when MySpace was a thing. And she makes kick-ass fajitas.

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