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April 25, 2011

What’s All This About Google’s Quality Score?

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Much has been written about Google’s “Quality Score” — how it’s calculated, how it works (or doesn’t work), which segments of your marketing efforts are affected by it, what are the myths, who’s happy and who’s not, what’s relevant, etc. Trying to sort through all the information can be a dizzying endeavor.

2007 Scoreboard Woodside Mills Baseball Park, Simpsonville, SC

Quality score is increasingly important in Google AdWords. The Quality Score is used to assess the relevance of an ad to searchers based on ad click-through rate, engagement with the site and a measurement of the relevancy of the ad and landing page compared to the keyword associated to the search query.

So, if you’re managing your own pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and want to improve on your ad position and Quality Score, you need to go straight to the source – Google itself, to view its current definition for Quality Score.

Improving Your Keywords’ Quality Score

Google’s recommendation for improving your keywords’ Quality Scores is to optimize the account. This involves making sure that each of the ad groups contained within your campaigns have ads that are closely tied to the same product or service that you are promoting, and that each keyword within the ad group closely relates to the ads (relevancy); therefore, organizing the ad group by topic, theme or silo is a highly recommended best practice.

A Quality Score is calculated every time a keyword matches a search query — that is, every time a keyword has the potential to trigger an ad. Quality score is used in several different ways, including influencing the keywords’ actual cost-per-clicks (CPCs) and estimating the first page bids seen in the account.

It also partly determines if a keyword is eligible to enter the ad auction that occurs when a user enters a search query and, if it is, how high the ad will be ranked. In general, the higher the Quality Score, the lower the costs and the better the ad position.

Quality score ratings can be viewed in account statistics as well as the keyword reports. Quality Score can also be viewed through the keyword diagnosis (listed under the “Status” column, mouse over the speech bubble of the Keywords tab) which reveals Quality Score details.

Quality score formulas vary by network (search and display — CPC or CPM bidding variables). The three most salient components of the Quality Score calculations are:

  • Click-through rate (CTR): Higher CTR and Quality Score can lead to lower costs and higher ad position. As clicks occur, these help decide which ads best match search queries.
  • Relevancy: Refers to the effectiveness of information to the users. How easy is it to find what the ad promises? Therefore, relevancy of the keywords to the ad text is important, as well as the landing page. The greater the match between the three, the higher the relevancy. The outcome of the match can impact the result of the ad performance and costs.
  • Landing page quality: The three main components of a high-quality landing page and/or website are:
  1. Relevant and original content: Relevancy already explained above. Original content refers to content that is unique and can’t be found on another site and provides substantial information.
  2. Transparency: Refers to the nature of your business, how your site interacts with a visitor’s computer and how you intend to use a visitor’s personal information, if you request it.
  3. Navigability: making it easy for users to find what they’re looking for.

Load time, or site speed/performance, impacts your landing page quality, vis-à-vis Quality Score. Therefore:

  • Review your load times and look for these main culprits such as interstitial pages, multiple redirects (from bid management or tracking tools), excessively slow servers and heavy pages.
  • Try optimizing your load times to speed up page download.
  • Review your load-time evaluation published by Google.

Other relevancy factors may include the bounce rate of the landing page; so pages that don’t engage well relative to competitors will rate less high. You can lower bounce rates by tailoring landing pages to their associated ads and referral links and placing a clear call-to-action on each landing page.

The following table shows the Quality Score formula matrix:
Quality Score Matrix

Quality Score Rating Scale

The number depicted under the Quality Score column (once enabled), when you’re looking at your keywords or when you perform keyword diagnosis is the Quality Score detail.

This is a breakdown of Google’s standard quality scale of “poor,” “OK and “great.” On this scale, one is the lowest rating, while 10 is the highest.

The number is displayed as “X” out of 10, since 10 is the maximum. For instance, a Quality Score detail of 7 would be shown as 7/10.

The Impact of the Quality Score

Quality score can have a large impact on the performance of your account, when it comes to garnering additional market share and controlling costs. So it’s important to understand its impact and how to improve the Quality Score results.

Within the search network, Quality Scores can impact:

  • Costs: The higher a keyword’s Quality Score, the lower the price you pay for each click (this means a diminished cost-per-click).
  • The ad eligibility to show: Keywords that have been designated with a higher Quality Score will be eligible to enter the auction easier and at a reduced cost.
  • Ad position (rank): The ad’s ranking on the page is based on the keyword’s Quality Score and CPC bid.

Within the display network, a high Quality Score can:

  • Decrease your keywords’ cost-per-clicks.
  • Increase your keyword-targeted ads’ position on the content network.
  • Improve the chances that your ads will win a position on your targeted placements.

Quality Score: The Takeaways

Quality scores measures the relevancy of the keyword, ad group, and Web page in relation to a user’s search. It aids in determining when and where the ads should appear. When compliance to these guidelines is adhered to, the result and the reward is a higher keyword Quality Score, a better ad position and a lower cost-per-click. Remember:

  • Build your paid search strategy around delivering relevance through targeted ads and landing pages which match searchers needs
  • Strive continuously to improve your Quality Score by updating ad copy.
  • Understand the factors that influence the Quality Score that determines relevance of an ad to a user and controls your position in the search results.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest innovations and act on the latest changes to the Quality Score criterion.

So if the account has a poor Quality Score, ad rank is suffering and you’re paying too much, it’s time for a tune up. Roll up your sleeves, pull up your socks, look under the hood and determine what’s causing the problem and make modifications. Look at your ad copy, landing pages and keywords; reassign ad groups to adjust your Quality Score.

On the other hand, if you have a poor Quality Score, but the conversion rate is good, the cost per conversion is acceptable and cost savings brought on by an improved Quality Score rating is not important, than this information is irrelevant.

As a final note, and in case you haven’t viewed it, refer to the video by Google’s chief economist Hal Varian, in which he explains the AdWords Ad Auction and how your max CPC bid and Quality Score determine how much one pays for a click.





7 responses to “What’s All This About Google’s Quality Score?”

  1. sachin sharma writes:

    This is the one that I am looking for. I have run some campaigns and now releasing what I am loosing. I could have save more money.

    Special thanks to Mr. Hal Varian who mentioned clearly what QS is all about and how it plays a prominent role in minimizing CPC.

    Thanks Guys keep up the good work.

  2. William Toll writes:

    Javier, great article/summary on Quality Score. There are so many factors and it’s such an important factor in campaign costs/impressions etc. Also thanks for highlighting importance of website speed. For organic – Google has been talking web performance since May 2010. For PPC site speed is also important – or even more so as the traffic is all paid and higher conversions are key.

  3. Javier Ruesga writes:

    William,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree, with your points. As we move forward I believe that Quality Score and Relevancy will become even more critical component of a search query match, but site performance (and Quality) is crucial since preview is now available on PPC. Placement is a challenge within PPC if Quality Score is not achieved, and it will be even more challenging the local search marketing level, as PPC real estate is less visible with the Local Pack (map & pins) and the addition of preview to PPC.

  4. Colorado Springs Blinds writes:

    How did Google came up with “Quality Score”. Is it another feature to be able to boost or increase the relevance of a site’s keyword. Or,is this another way to sift through legitimate keywords and dispose of those spammy ones if ever such exists.

  5. Javier Ruesga writes:

    CSB,

    Thanks for your comment. I believe that Quality Score was an evolution of several things.

    First of all, there was a need to enhance the user experience and retain market share, especially since Yahoo! as their primary competitor (at the time) was also looking for ways to entice advertisers and capture a larger share of the market.
    Second, eliminating ubiquitous sites who often times had deep pockets, but created poor user experience and results were prevalent. Often times they were found in the “Premium” positions (top three), because of the bid auction, and these sites would often times push down more relevant sites (often comprised of the middle or lower tiered advertisers)from appearing in these “Premium” positions and preventing them from having an opportunity to enter into the PPC landscape. Adding the Quality Score component allowed for a more leveled playing field for advertiser’s, as well as spreading the wealth amongst better structured advertising campaigns and web sites, and rewarding them for their efforts with a lowered CPC. Making available more marketing dollars to continue their online marketing efforts.
    Lastly, implementing the Quality Score helped eliminate the bidding wars and bubbles that were often times created in the old auction bidding model. Quality Score now helps determine the minimum bid based on Max Bid, QS & Ad Rank.

    So, to answer your question. Each client is different given the different Relevancy and Quality Score factors. What may be legitimate keywords to you (High Quality Score), might be poor (Low Quality Score) for another advertiser, vise-versa. Hope this helps, and remember this function continues to evolve.

    Cheers

  6. Kent writes:

    Hi Javier Ruesga, thanks for the article, it is really help, since I am going to post a topic about Google Adwords.

    And, talking about site speed/performance, how does Google evaluate it, does Bruceclay has article or newsletter on this issue? I need to know more. Thanks! :)

  7. Javier Ruesga writes:

    Hi Kent,

    Thanks for your comment. You can visit our blog to learn a bit about it at: http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/2010/03/page-speed-google/ Also, you can go to Google’s website at: http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/

    Cheers



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