At the base level, the concept is relatively straightforward; quality score is Google’s way of assigning a numeric value to the relevance and cohesiveness of your PPC campaign.
The score looks at the full spectrum of Google Ads activity, too, from keywords and ad groups to the copy searchers see when your ad pops up on the screen. It also includes your landing page and the match between search terms and intent.
Below, we’ll take a look at what all goes into determining quality score and how you can improve yours in a few simple steps.
How Does the Scoring System Work?
It should come as no surprise, but Google has tons of data on how people interact with the ads it displays in the SERP, and as such, they’ve come up with machine-learning techniques designed to score the expected relevance of all ads, keywords, and landing pages on a scale of one to ten.
The algorithm monitors which ads users interact with, using historical data to make predictions about how likely searchers are to click on future ads. At its core, Google’s quality score is a metric that aims to predict click-through rates (CTR) using a handful of ranking signals to make this determination.
Where things may get a bit confusing is that Google issues scores at the keyword level, landing page level, and ad level. Here’s a quick summary of what that actually means–and how they fit together.
Ad Level Quality Score
Each ad will have a different click-through rate, though Google will look at your average performance to determine where to set your bids. If you have a lot of low performers in the mix, it could spell trouble for your account-level Quality Score.
That said, clicks aren’t the most reliable metric. If you’re getting a lot of clicks and few conversions, your ads aren’t very effective. Strangely, Google doesn’t use conversions as a Quality Score factor, so it may be better to pause campaigns with a high-quality score and low conversions to maintain a better average score.
Landing Page Quality Score
Landing page quality depends on a few things–quality, relevance, and usability.
Google’s primary goal is to make sure that users find the platform relevant and useful. If searchers continually get served useless content, they’ll stop using the platform.
Following Google’s landing page recommendations is likely to help advertisers create a more predictable ad performance. When searchers land on a page that reflects exactly what they were searching for, those people are more likely to become customers.
Keyword Level Quality Score
Google really doesn’t want to show irrelevant ads. They make their advertising dollars based on the fact that they charge advertisers for clicks. And, if people aren’t clicking on ads featuring a specific keyword, Google will charge more to deter advertisers from bidding on irrelevant terms.
Keyword quality is less about your account performance and more about giving users a sense of which keywords are most and least likely to show up when someone types them into the search bar.
If you’ve ever set up a Google Ads campaign, you’ve probably seen the following show up alongside some of the keywords on your list.
Google bases its keyword scores by the performance of search queries that match the keyword listed. This means the keyword Quality Score remains the same regardless of match type used.
Why Does Quality Score Matter?
Quality score doesn’t get as much press as bidding strategies or ad copy in the paid marketing circuit, but it’s actually a really important metric that impacts everything from your placement in the SERPs to how much you pay per click.
From Google’s point of view, Quality Score matters because it represents the relevance of your ad in the context of searchers’ queries. If you have a poor quality score, your ad either won’t show up when someone types in the keyword or you’ll be paying a lot for placement.If you have a poor quality score, your ad either won’t show up when someone types in the keyword or you’ll be paying a lot for placement. Click To Tweet
For advertisers, Quality Score determines whether a keyword is even eligible to enter an auction, which of course determines whether your ad will show at all. It’s Quality Score, combined with your CPC bid that determines ad rank.
A good quality score may be just as beneficial as a high bid, allowing you to beat out higher paying competitors by creating more relevant ads. While quality score isn’t the most important metric to track, a high score can help you get more mileage out of your ad spend and get in front of the exact right audience.
In this next section, we’ll tackle some ways you can improve your score.
So, How Do You Improve Your Quality Score?
Improve Ad Copy
We’ll say this, no one clicks on a text ad because it looked exciting.
Typically, people click ads when they believe they’ve found the item or information they were searching.
As such, one of the most effective ways to improve your performance is by thinking about the user and what they hope to accomplish as they enter a particular search term. With that searcher goal in mind, try to write your ad in a way that lets people know exactly how you can help them solve a problem. Be sure to include the keyword inside the headline and prioritize clarity over any attempts at being clever.
Like any other marketing strategy that needs improvement, leveling up your ad copy also means testing your ads. Try out a couple of options for each ad group to see what kind of messaging works best with those keywords.
Rework Your Landing Pages
One of the core areas you’ll want to address here is your landing pages. You should spend some time making sure that your landing pages are fast loading, visually appealing, and have an excellent overall user experience.
Landing pages might seem like a throwaway effort, but it would be a huge waste if you spend the time and money running an ad campaign only to have users leave due to a poor on-page experience.
Not only do you lose a conversion, but those bounces are also factored into your quality score. Google’s primary role is to be useful to its users. So, when they see a large number of users quickly bouncing away, the algorithm picks up on it, noting that something is causing these searchers to have a poor experience.
Google’s Help Center outlines a whole list of landing page best practices. Many of them seem like no-brainers, but worth highlighting anyway.
Landing pages should be:
- Relevant–Keywords and offer match up with the keywords used in the ad and the searcher’s intent.
- Trustworthy–Don’t make claims you can’t back up, be clear about what your business does, and if you collect personal information, be sure to let your audience know how you plan to use it.
- Easy–Make sure messaging gets straight to the point. Use large CTA buttons, headers and bullet points for easy scanning, and be sure the navigation is straightforward.
Maintain More Control Over Ad Groups
You’ll want to keep things really tight when it comes to keywords. Google recommends setting up ad groups in a structure that looks like this:
Google recommends using ad groups with up to 15 to 20 keywords. That makes it hard to track performance, especially if you apply broad match or phrase match to any of these terms. And therefore, makes it harder to improve your quality score.
Notice how, in this example, none of the search queries users entered actually matched the keyword in the ad group?
The broad match type means that the advertiser is getting clicks for bankruptcy attorneys in specific areas–while the keyword is “file for bankruptcy.” We don’t know what the advertiser is promoting, but it’s clear that casting a wide net means that searchers have a wide range of intents–all sending them to the same place.
The closer the match, the more relevant your ads–and by extension, the better your quality score.
Based on our experience, using a strategy called SKAGs, or single keyword ad groups is a great way to exercise some control over your Ads.
We just ran a post on this, but the idea is each ad group contains only one keyword. This way, when you set up a landing page and write your ad copy, both items focus on that one keyword.
So, instead of trying to match the intent to the “iceberg” of variables you’ll get from a large ad group–you have the opportunity to focus on crafting one clear message.
Use Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are the search terms that you add to a campaign or ad group so that Google will not show your ad if someone searches a specific term. The goal here is to eliminate any instances of irrelevant searches that lead to unqualified leads and wasted ad spend.
Negative keywords operate behind the scenes to ensure that your keywords don’t show up to the wrong audience. If you’re in a situation where you’re targeting the right keywords, but few people are converting, take a look at the negative keywords associated with each account.
Use Ad Extensions
Ad extensions might also help you boost quality scores. They offer users more information about what’s on the other side of the click, and they make your text-based ads take up more space in the search results. Extensions have been shown to increase CTRs, which, as mentioned, factor into your quality score.
Try Dynamic Keyword Insertion
We’re actually going to stick a big asterisk next to this one, as automated bidding strategies aren’t always the magic bullet Google promises and if you’re not careful, may increase ad spend.
Bottom Line: Quality Score is Nothing Without Conversions
When you have high-quality scores of 8-10, you’re more likely to pay less for clicks and will see better placement in general. So, there’s no doubt that Quality Score plays a huge role in Ad Rank.
That said, PPC success depends on so many different factors and it’s certainly not the only metric advertisers should focus on.
For example, you might spend a great deal of time working on your Quality Score using the methods outlined above. That will land you a higher CTR, but if your visitors aren’t converting, that’s bad news for your ROI.
Your best bet is using small, controlled ad groups, each with their own landing page and ad copy that capitalizes on intent. If you do that, you’ll get your high Quality Score and higher conversions, too.