Why Google Advertisers Need To Know Their Quality Score

When using Google AdWords, advertisers create a set of keywords for which they want to have an ad displayed, determine the maximum they are willing to pay if someone is taken to their website for those keywords and then create ads to show for these keywords.  Within the ad copy, advertisers determine which page on their website that the user will be taken once the user clicks on their ad. 

Keyword quality score is a highly relevant factor in establishing successful Google marketing campaigns for both eCommerce as well as Professional Services advertisers. There are two important factors in determining quality score: ad quality and page relevance.

Let’s cover the basics first and then look at how Google determines and finally how an advertiser can improve their quality score.

What is Google’s Quality Score – Every time a search is done on Google, Google runs a real-time auction to determine in what order paid ads are listed.  The real-time auction takes into account two things in determining Ad Rank (what position ads are shown): how much an advertiser is willing to pay if their ad is clicked and the quality score of the keyword being auctioned. Quality score is determined by how often an ad is clicked on (click through rate) along with how long the user spends on the website they are taken and if the user hits the back button immediately (referred to as a bounce). If a user bounces, Google calculates that the user was not interested in the page they were taken and assigns a low quality score for that search to that particular keyword.  If this happens on a ratio that Google deems lower than average, the keyword is defined as having a determined low quality score.

Why Does Google Assign A Quality Score? Google wants those searching their results to find what they are looking for easily.  This keeps people using Google to perform searches instead of using a competing search engine. Therefore, it is in Google’s best interest to provide users with the most relevant results in order that they keep their users using Google to perform Internet searches.

What happens if advertisers have keywords with low quality scores?  If an advertiser has a keyword with a low quality score, three things are likely to happen.  1). Ads will be displayed lower on the page than competing advertisers with a higher quality score that are willing to bid the same amount for the same keyword. 2). Google will charge more per click to serve ads for keywords with low quality score (although an advertiser can NEVER be charged more than the maximum bid they have allowed).  3). Keywords will receive the message that ‘ads are rarely being shown due to low quality score’.  This generally happens when a keyword is assigned a quality score of either 1 or 2.

Review-and-Ratings-SystemHow can advertisers determine the quality score for keywords.  In order to determine the quality score for keywords open the Google AdWords dashboard and go to the keywords tab and click on columns and then select customize columns. Under attributes is listed Qual. Score (short for quality score of course).  Simply add Qual. Score and hit apply.  Now, when viewing keywords advertisers will see a column for quality score rated from 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. The lower the quality score for a keyword the more expensive, less often and lower placed the advertiser’s ads will appear.

Improving quality score through ad copy – A low quality score may indeed be due to a poorly written ad.  For advertisers looking to improve quality score, make sure that ads contain popular keywords from the ad group for which they are being served.  This technique is known as tying creative to keywords and if done well will increase the likelihood of users clicking on an ad thus improving click through rate (CTR). 

Help ads stand out with the use of offers and creative copy. This can be challenging with just four lines of text to work with so it is important to always be testing and optimizing ads. Include a call to action, this is a chance for the ad to convince potential customers to select your ad as well as letting potential customers know what to expect when they visit an advertiser’s website.

A third technique that can help increase quality score by strengthening an ad is adding Google ad extensions.  Google offer a number of ad extensions which includes: call extensions, location extensions, review extensions, seller rating extensions, dynamic sitelink extensions and app extensions. Each of these extensions have their place and their success depends on the business using, but they all have one thing in common: they take up more real estate on the page (when displayed) making an ad more prominent thus increasing the likelihood of clicks and leading to increased click through rates.

Improving quality score through landing pages – Two words: Be Relevant.  Make sure the page a potential customer is brought to when clicking on an ad matches their search.  Advertisers often make the mistake of dropping potential customers onto pages which are much too broad (including the home page) rather than creating a landing page geared toward a user’s search.

Having landing pages closely related to a user’s search will not only increase an advertiser’s quality score on their Google ad campaign, but it will also work wonders in increasing conversion rates. It is a cardinal sin to make potential customers search a website once they have arrived from Google in order find what they were initially searching for on Google and customers simply won’t do it.  What customers will do is hit the back button and click on a competitor’s ad that the user hopes will be more relevant.  Customers bouncing back to Google hurt an advertiser’s quality score and costs advertiser’s money for the visitor they received who took no action other than to leave. It takes time to create relevant landing pages, but it is an effort worth the trouble ten-fold in order to improve both conversion rate and quality score.

Strategy for monitoring quality score – It is recommended for advertisers to keep a close eye on their quality scores.  A keyword with a low quality score could have the ability to negatively affect an entire ad group making it more expensive for keywords with an average to high quality score. Low quality score keywords do this by lowering click through rates for ads being served to other keywords within the same ad group.

If an advertiser has a keyword with a low quality score, it is recommended to either pause the keyword or pull the keyword into its own ad group and work on making either the ad copy, landing page or both more relevant to that keyword(s).

Quality score is often overlooked in importance in favor of bid, but remember Google uses a combination of both to determine Ad Rank. Therefore, it is critical to monitor keyword quality score as low quality scores are red flags that are not only costing advertiser’s budget, but affecting the overall quality health of the campaign.

Still need help or looking for someone to bounce ideas off?  I am currently offering free marketing strategy sessions to those interested. Contact True Online Presence at 1-888-456-6943 to schedule.

Happy Marketing!


Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist  with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues.  Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.