What’s All This About Google’s Quality Score?
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.