An aspect that often confuses those new to PPC – and many of those not so new -is Google’s quality score.
The quality score is a test of your keywords worthiness. The quality score is used on all your keywords, and is used by Google as a test of your campaigns relevance. The more relevant your campaign is – some would say “relevant to Google’s bank balance” – the more likely you’ll appear in prime position on Adwords.
It’s reasonable to think Google would want the highest bidder to appear at the top, but Google actually makes less money this way. What Google wants is to display the ad that both has a sufficiently high bid and gets clicked most often by searchers. Google is asking users “is this ad relevant to you?” In this respect, the quality score can be your friend, as you can get higher ad placement using lower bids than your competition, by being more relevant.
So it really pays to have a high quality score.
What makes up the Quality Score?
The key metric is relevance, combined with your bid price. Are you bidding enough, is your ad exactly what the searcher is looking for, and can you prove that fact over and over again?
Google lists the following factors:
- The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the keyword and the matched ad on Google; note that CTR on the Google Network only ever impacts Quality Score on the Google Network — not on Google
- Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
- The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
- The quality of your landing page
- The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group
- The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query
- Your account’s performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown
- Other relevance factors
Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, explains quality score in this introduction video
In practice, focus on your click-thru rate over time, on elements such as your keywords, groups, and campaigns. Click-thru rate, or CTR, is still the heavy hitter (it is the big piece of the above pie in Hal’s hand).
You also need to be bidding close to your competitors. A high quality score won’t necessarily get you a high position if you’re only bidding 5% of what your competitors do. Bidding too low just means you are wasting time not collecting feedback from the marketplace. Get in the game 😉
There are other less obvious factors, such as Google’s perception of relevance, which is a little harder to measure, and truth be told – only known to Google. Google looks to see if the AdWords ad copy wording matches the intent of the query. You can use keywords in your ads and Google may do semantic analysis which approves, but the bar might be higher. Google also employs quality raters which do manual reviews to look at perceived value add and other such fuzzy factors which change with market conditions.
When thinking about your keywords and ad copy, examine the wording of successful competitive ads, defined as ads that have been occupying top positions for a length of time. Do they hint at a clear buyer intent? Are they more commercial than non-commercial in nature? What angle do they take? Interview customers and find there pain points. Are there other market pain points that are not well represented in the ad copy of competitors?
How Do you Find Your Quality Score?
Up until recently, Google has been rather secretive about their quality score, offering only vague descriptions such as “Poor/OK/Great” . However, now you can see it for yourself.
- Sign in to your AdWords account at https://adwords.google.com.
- Select the appropriate campaign and ad group.
- Click the Keywords tab.
- Click Customize columns, under “Filter And Views”
- Select Show Quality Score from the drop-down menu.
- Click Done when you’re finished. Each quality score will be shown as a number of 1-10.
How Can I Improve My Quality Score?
Once you know your quality score, you can then optimize it, just as you optimize your ad groups and other variables. Focus on the terms that have the weakest quality scores.
Make sure your text ad closely matches the keywords you’re bidding on. Are your keywords with a low quality score only vaguely related to your copy? Either change the copy, put the keyword in new group with specific ad copy.
Your ad groups should all be tightly focused. You don’t need to use exact match on all keywords, but if broad or phrase match isn’t working maybe you should look to tighten it up. Also pay close attention to negative matches. Negative matches help relevance and should help your CTR, thus improving your quality score.
Next, review all poorly performing text ads by CTR (click thru-rate). Can you rewrite the ads to tighten the focus? Rewrite and test. If this doesn’t improve your quality score, keep rewriting, or dump the ad. Be very careful making changes to ads that perform well, however, as this will also effect your score.
After conducting this optimization, remove any poorly performing keywords in terms of quality score. Low quality keywords can drag down your entire campaign, as Google looks at historical averages across your campaign and account, not just specific keywords. However, the higher your overall quality score, the more you can get away with some underperforming keywords.
Review your landing pages. Don’t sweat this too much, as landing pages don’t really have much affect on you quality score, unless they are god-awful. They can certainly do you harm if you stray too far outside Google’s Adwords Landing Page Guidelines. Be relevant, clear, don’t trap users or try to fool them, and focus on usability.
The content network won’t affect your quality score, so don’t be afraid to use it. You might also like to read our Google Content Network Guide.