What is an AdWords Quality Score and How to Improve it?

Google_Ads_Quality_Score
Your AdWords Quality Score can make or break your Google Ads campaign. Learn what it is and how to improve it with our complete guide to Quality Scores.

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Google processes 40,000 search queries a second. If you’re looking to advertise your business, Google Ads can be a lucrative tool to utilise, but a low Adwords Quality Score could mean you’re missing out on some major opportunities.

For the average advertiser, the range of targeting options available with Google Adwords makes it possible to double return on investment, but for many, that’s just not the case.

If you’re finding that the right keywords, captivating ads and great Call to Actions aren’t getting you results and costing you major $$$, then your AdWords Quality Score could be to blame.

Google Ads is a speciality of ours at SH1FT so if your Quality Score is in need of a little boost (or a complete overhaul!) then this guide is for you. We’ll take you through the process of understanding and improving your AdWords Quality Score and have you back in the top ad spot in no time!

What is an AdWords Quality Score and Why Does it Matter?

“Quality Score is an estimate of how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing pages are to a person who sees your ad. Higher Quality Scores typically lead to lower costs and better ad positions” – Google

In other words, it’s kind of a big deal…

Quality Scores are the key to mastering Pay-Per-Click campaigns. Think of them as the credit score equivalent for the advertising world; the higher your Quality Score, the more favourably your ad appears and the more cost-effective it becomes. Facebook also has a relevance score that works in a similar way, which you may already be familiar with. To find your AdWords Quality Score click here.

Having a good Quality Score matters because Google uses it determine your Ad Rank.* If your Quality Score is low, then a competitor with a higher one can win the ad auction, even if their bid is lower. Essentially, a poor Quality Score is costing you money. Can you afford to have one?

Google Ads Quality Score Ad Rank Formulas:  Search Network Ad Rank = CPC bid x Q.S.
Keyword-targeted Ad Rank = Display Network bid x Q.S.
Placement-targeted Ad Rank = Bid x Q.S.

*It’s worth noting that Google claims Q.S does not affect Ad Rank, however, all the elements that do have an impact are the same ones that affect Quality Score, so take from that what you will…

Three factors determine your Q.S:

  1. Expected Click Through Rate
  1. Ad Relevance
  1. Landing Page Experience

Another reason you should be interested in your AdWords Quality Score is that it affects whether your ad will show extensions, such as sitelinks that can help improve your click-through rate, and therefore your Q.S.

A high Quality Score is also a good indicator of a well-optimized user experience. A high Q.S. indicates that you are meeting the user’s expectation based on keyword search and landing page conversion. In other words, you’re showing them what they want to see and making it easy for them to find it. Nice job!

Now that you have a better understanding of what a Quality Score is and why you want a good one, let’s take a look at the different types of Q.S. and how to improve them.

The Different Quality Scores and How to Improve Them

1. Account Level

The Account Level Quality Score is the result of the historical performance of all keywords and ads in that account. It is an unconfirmed but generally accepted Quality Score.

Tips to Improve:

It can take months to see improvements in poor performing accounts but don’t be tempted to start fresh. Google typically favours older accounts (it’s judging historical performance after all), so restructuring your existing account is more benefical.

Deleting or pausing low Quality Score keywords will help to improve account level Q.S. However, it is important to consider the search volume and return on the word first. Both options will stop data collection, meaning that keyword plays an increasingly less significant role in the Quality Score over time, but deleting the keyword makes it harder to turn back on in the future as it will be seen as a duplicate.

2. Ad Group

The Ad Group Quality Score is the average Q.S of keywords within a specific ad group. It’s a good way of determining any areas within a campaign that need improvement. (This Q.S. is not actually visible within an account on the ‘Ad Groups’ tab but can be determined by averaging the Quality Scores of keywords in a specific ad group)

Tips to Improve:

Work on the lowest average Q.S areas first to provide a better Return on Invest. For example, if Group A has 2 low-quality keywords, but an average Quality Score of 8 and Group B has 1 low-quality keyword but an average of 4, Group B should be optimized first.

Restructure campaigns and ad groups, and edit low CTR ads too. Restructuring ad groups improves account structure, whilst preserving the history used to calculate Quality Score.

3. Keyword-Level

The Keyword-level Quality Score is calculated based on the performance of search queries that exactly match your keyword. It’s visible on the Google Ads interface as a scale from 1 to 10.

A keyword’s Quality Score is based on their historic performance on Google until it reaches the impression threshold on your account. Until then the Q.S. will not reflect how it is performing in your account, which is important to note if you have lots of keywords with very low impressions. Until they reach that threshold, there is very little that can be done to influence their Q.S.

Tips to Improve:

Analyze impression share data (% your ad was shown out of the total available impressions) and if necessary, improve performance by increasing daily budgets or boosting bids to rank higher.

Consider adding Broad Match keywords, as running phrase and exact match only will slow impression growth. However, be careful that by doing this you’re not decreasing the ad relevance.

Check your keywords! Make sure that you’re not using keywords so niche that no one is searching for them. The Opportunities Tab in Google Ads is a good place to find new keywords that are relevant to your current ad groups.

Look at the click-through rate for keywords that have reached the impressions threshold; the CTR can be a good indicator of performance. If both the keyword and ad CTR is low (typically less than 1.5%) then it suggests users are not finding the ad relevant to their search.

4. Landing Page

Whilst not technically a Quality Score, it does factor into the Keyword Quality Score so it’s important to get right. A fast load time and usability are crucial for a good landing page experience, as well as ensuring the content is relevant to the keyword search.

We have a great article on how to create landing pages that convert as well as some examples to take a look if you need some inspiration.

Tips to Improve:

Utilise Message Match from the keyword search to make it clear what the user is getting at every stage.

For example, if you’re searching for say a maxi dress in black, then you’re unlikely to click on an ad for “dresses” as that implies you will have to do more work to find the style and colour that you’re after. A strong Message Match, like the one below, increases conversions because it reassures users they’re in the right place. At no point during the search are they in any doubt as to what they’re getting.

In fact, Message Match has been shown to produce conversion rate lifts of up to 212%.

Search result for "Black Maxi Dress" showing Message Match in the title, url, description and landing page.

Custom landing pages are also a good way of improving a Quality Score as they address the landing page experience factor. Directing the user to a custom landing page for the specific keyword they searched reduces the number of additional steps required and ensures a smoother user experience.

5. Ad-Level

Each ad within an ad group has different click-through rates, which influence the ad-level Quality Score. Running lots of low CTR ads could be negatively affecting your Q.S and ad ranking and should be addressed quickly.

Tips to Improve:

Include Dynamic Keyword Insertion ads which automatically update to match a user’s exact search term. They show up for keywords and variations on that term, which is useful if you’re keyword has common alternative names, for example, “chocolate cookies” and “chocolate biscuits”. Whilst they tend to receive more clicks because they appear more relevant, you need to be careful when utilizing these ads. Create custom landing pages so you’re not sending users to a generic post-click page after promising specific terms. Check your keyword phrases will make sense and don’t target competitor keywords such as brand names unless you want a potential lawsuit on your hands!

For more information on DKIs and how to incorporate them click here.

6. Display Network

The Quality Score for the Google Display Network works differently to the Search Network Scores we’ve been looking at above. The factors that determine Q.S. on the Display Network depend on the bidding options chosen for the campaign.

For cost-per-click bidding, how successful your ad was on a placement and similar sites in the past, as well as the landing page affect the Quality Score.

For cost per thousand (CPM) bidding, the quality of your landing page affects the Q.S. including how relevant, transparent and easy-to-navigate the page is.

Tips to Improve:

Test out different ad types. Images ads may work better than responsive ads on certain sites, however on average, advertisers see 50% more conversions at a similar CPA when both ads are used together.

Separate Search Network and Display Network campaigns so it is easier to manage them.

Review the relative click-through rate to see how your ad is performing against others on the same website. There is an optional column in Google Ads for the Campaign and Ad Group tabs to show this metric. To improve a low relative CTR, look for potential exclusions, revamp ads and include negative keywords.

3. Mobile

Your Quality Score is calculated the same way, regardless of the device platform you choose. Mobile devices with full internet browsers treat ads the same as a computer. However, the distance between the user and the business location can influence mobile ad Quality Scores when this data is available.

Tips to Improve:

Google recommends that you separate a combined campaign targeting all devices so that mobile is separate from desktops. This will enable you to take advantage of device location and locations extensions data that would otherwise be unavailable.

Common Quality Score Misconceptions

  • Match Type Matters – Google measures Quality Score without considering specific keyword match types. Broad, phrase and exact match all have the same Q.S so choose whichever works best for your ad campaign (remembering that Broad Match keywords can be useful for boosting impressions).
  • Pausing Ads and Keywords will negatively affect Quality Score – Quality Score is calculated based on how well keywords and ads are performing. If they’re paused, there’s no performance data coming in for them so there’s no Quality Score to accrue.
  • Top Positioning will help my Quality Score – Whilst the higher positions do generally generate a higher CTR, Google compensates for this by adjusting the Q.S. formula. You won’t be penalised for appearing lower down in the searches unless your ad is terrible, in which case, maybe you should reread this article again…
  • Deleting low Quality Score elements erases their history – Pausing, deleting or restructuring a low Q.S. account element will still affect your account history. With that being said, Google recommends that poor performing ads and keywords are deleted to stop them further negatively affecting your account history as you go forward.

Final Tips and Takeaways

Hopefully, after reading this you should have a better idea about what your AdWords Quality Score is and how you can improve it. Although there are multiple Quality Scores and different things you can do to improve them individually, they all really come down to three things: Ad Relevance, Landing Page Experience and Expected CTR. If you’re producing effective, high-quality ads that are converting then you’re on the right track to a high Quality Score.

Here are some final tips that you might find useful for getting on top of your Quality Score:

  • Check your destination URLs – Do they all link somewhere? Is that location useful and relevant to the ad? This is especially important if your website has been recently updated as broken links will affect your landing page experience.
  • Remember the top position isn’t everything – Getting to number 1 can be costly, and doesn’t always provide more conversions than spot 2 or 3. Consider your budget and ROI when bidding for Ad spots.
  • Check load speed – A low load speed is defined as the regional average + 3 seconds. No one wants to wait that long!
  • Organize keywords – Split keywords into tighter groups that can be more effectively linked to individual campaigns to improve Ad Relevance.
  • Be a little negative – Negative keywords can help improve your Q.S by excluding you from irrelevant searches. For example, if you’re a baker who doesn’t sell any gluten-free products, you won’t want to appear in searches for “gluten-free bread/cakes, etc”. Setting up negative keywords will stop your ad appearing when they are searched alongside your triggered keywords, increasing ad relevance.
  • Nail the ad copy – Both the title and URL should feature the keyword and the description should be simple but specific, detailing any benefits and a call-to-action.
  • Use extended text ads in every ad group – It’s likely that you’re already making use of extended text ads as the character limits are now automatically set to these parameters. However, check any old ads or ones that haven’t been edited in a while to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the increased character limit.

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