Google Ads Quality Score (A Complete Guide)
July 21, 2021
Most advertisers live and die by their Google ad quality score. Since a low score has the potential to thwart your campaign before its even started, it’s a good idea to become familiar with it.
Overall, your Google Ads Quality Score is an indication of how well your ads resonate with your audience. They can show you how many people are clicking on your ads, how efficient your landing page is, and also, ways to optimize it for conversions. But unless you know what you’re looking at, it can be like staring into a maze.
What most people don’t realize is that your quality score is not a single number, nor is composed by a single factor. Instead, it’s the amalgamation of lots of different factors, each one with the potential to tank or elevate your score. And, in turn, the ads themselves.
In order to understand it fully, you have to dissect Google’s own information concerning the quality score. It can be rather confusing though, which is why we’ve consulted with PPC experts and digital marketers to lay it out in the most easy-to-read fashion.
What is My Google Ads Quality Score?
If you haven't picked up on it by now, digital marketers love putting the very description of a thing inside the title itself. Your "Google ads quality score" then, describes exactly what it is at a glance: Your "score" is the quality of your Google ads. How well do they rank, how will they resonate with the audience, and ultimately, how well do they funnel people to your landing pages?
Despite its important sounding name, the quality score is not meant to be the be-all and end-all of your marketing campaign evaluations. Rather, Google itself describes your quality score as an "diagnostic tool" meant to be used in conjunction with your other marketing efforts. A score of 1-10 is given, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the highest. The higher the number, the better your ad is expected to perform.
Keep in mind as well that quality score is by no means an exact indication of real-life performance. You can have ads that have fantastic quality scores but don't convert very well in real life. That's not an issue with the system, that's just a part of understanding human nature. Not everything that is clicked on ends up being bought.
According to Google, three main factors go into determining every quality score that they will give you.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
A click on an ad indicates intent by the user, therefore click through rate should be seen as one of the best indicators of an ad’s performance. All of your creatives are at work here, such as image, ad copy, and targeting, so use your click through rate is a good indication of whether or not your ad is reaching the right audience.
Google really focuses on intent of the searcher when compiling not only their paid advertising results, but also their organic search results. To achieve a high quality ad score, the ad needs to closely match what the user is looking for themselves. If your ad is advertising bathtubs, for instance, but you are targeting people with an interest in shower installation, then your quality score will naturally be lower.
Landing Page Experience
In addition to relevancy, Google places a lot of emphasis on the user experience for their webpages, which includes landing pages. Since landing page is an actual webpage that is indexed by their search engines, they are evaluated in the same way that they would a company's homepage. For that reason, you should never skimp on the details. Make sure that the colors, text, and overall functionality is up to snuff.
How is the Quality Score Calculated?
Though the quality score is a single number, it's calculated using a combination of the three components listed above: CTR, relevancy, and landing page experience. All three of those components are given one of three scores: average, below average, or above average.
But Google doesn't just pull these rankings out of thin air, it's actually based on the historical data (from the last 90 days, at least) of those keywords. The relevancy score, as an example, measures how well your ad is performing against ads that are targeting the exact same keyword. If it was deemed as less relevant than those similar ads, your score will be below average as a result.
Google claims that there are several factors that are not considered by your quality score, such as the devices used in your search, location of the user, time of day, and any ad extensions that may exist. Anecdotal evidence from other marketers has determined that while these may not be a direct influence on the quality score itself, it certainly could influence search results, auction success, as well as a number of other metrics, so keep them in mind when evaluating your score as well.
How Do I Check My Quality Score?
Although no marketer would recommend you obsessing over your quality score every single day, it is a good idea to check in on it every week or so to determine whether or not your ads are performing as they should.
Part of the reason for this is that Google, like all ad platforms, lag in their reporting. If you check it every single day, you may be making adjustments to the ad in response to how the ad was performinig a week ago, not how its performing today. Additionally, its wise to only make small adjustments as you nail down the reason why the score may not be as high as you want it to be.
To check your quality score though, you first need to sign into your Google ads account. Click the "keyword" in the left menu, and then check the columns icon in the upper right corner of the screen. From there, you'll have the option to modify your columns for keywords, where you can choose between quality score, landing page experience, expected CTR, and ad relevance to add to the display. You can even check for historical data.
Why is Quality Score So Important?
If you find that your quality score is not as high as it should be, you shouldn't panic, but it is something that you should try to remedy as quickly as you can.
For starters, your quality score will help ensure if your keyword is even able to enter the auction the first place. More than one advertiser has started a campaign, only to find out that they're not receiving any impressions, much less clicks on the campaign themselves. When they dig into their metrics, they find that their quality score is too low and Google has deemed all of their campaigns as irrelevant.
Furthermore, your quality score can determine the ad rank themselves. Since Google places such a high premium on relevancy and user experience, an advertiser with a high quality score and a smaller budget can overtake an advertiser with a much higher budget but a lower quality score. Keeping your overall quality score up is one of the best ways to maximize your ad spend.
Finally, you should really focus on improving your quality score because higher scores will net you a discount on your CPC (alternatively, lower scores will cause you to pay more). Google considers their ideal benchmark score at a five, so anything above that will net you a discount. A quality score of 10, for example, can discount your CPC by up to 50%.
This is not completely altruistic on Google’s part. What they know is that the more relevant your ads are, the more people will return to their platform to spend money. And, the higher performing your ads are, the more advertisers will return to their platform to spend money. It’s a win for everyone!
Different Types of Google Ad Quality Scores
One of the biggest sticking points for many new advertisers is the fact that there's not just one quality score to pay attention to, but three. Understanding which is which can go a long way in helping you optimize your ads.
Account-Level Quality Score
Though technically Google doesn't acknowledge that such a thing as an account level quality score exists, older documentation clearly establishes that it was a factor at one point in time. Recent anecdotal evidence by online marketers suggest that is still in play as well, meaning that you should take it into account when you’re drying to determine the overall health of your ads account.
Google tracks the historical performance of all the ads and the keywords in a single account, and can limit account capabilities, such as whether or not you can input more keywords into a single ad. Whereas some may be tempted to simply open a brand-new account and start fresh with new campaigns, you should rethink this. Google seems to favor add accounts that are older, so starting all over may not reap you the benefits that you desire.
Instead, work to remove the old and underperforming ads from your accounts, populate them with high-performing lines, and try to improve your account from the inside out.
Keyword-Level Quality Score
Since all new ads need to hit a minimum impression threshold before Google starts populating data on it, you might not see your keyword level quality score appear right away. You can increase the budget to try and drive the number up faster, but don't do it at the expense of overall performance.
Once the keyword-level quality score appears though, you should see a bunch of different factors that Google takes into consideration, such as your historic click through rates, relevancy, and the user experience for your various landing pages.
Look through all the different factors to see where you can make improvements. If your CTR is low, for example, adjust your ad copy to make sure that it's more appealing and relevant to your audience.
Ad Group Level Score
Each ad group has their own specific quality score attached to it, and the number you see displayed in the dashboard is the quality score for the entire ad group together. If, for example, you have one ad that is scored at a three, while another is scoring at a seven, then you'll most likely see a quality score of five.
Understanding this key principle is one of the best ways to improve your overall quality score ranking. By removing the underperforming ads and funneling most of your money into the higher performing ones, you both maximize your budget and improve your quality score the same time, reaping you increased visibility and a higher conversion rate as well.
How to Improve Your Quality Score
Since a high quality score is so important to conversion rates (not to mention your budget), it’s in everyone's best interest for you to try to get the highest quality score you can. Below are some ways that have been proven to do exactly that. While none of them are a silver bullet by themselves, when they’re taken in concert with each other, the combination can reap massive rewards.
Do Your Research
As with any marketing plan, you should always do your research before starting a paid campaign. You should know exactly what type of customer it is you're trying to serve, what keywords are relevant to them (done through thorough keyword research, of course), as well as what type of ad copy and creative works best for your specific audience.
And if you want a true "ninja tip," focus your ad campaigns on the long-tail keywords. These types of keywords are usually not searched as much, which means that the cost per click may be slightly higher, but the conversion rate is also higher since it represents a higher level of intent. These can be difficult to find, but most of the time, they'll be your highest performing keywords.
Check Your Site Speed
Google cares deeply about usability for their customers, so make sure that your site is built for speed. A delay of even a second or two can cost you thousands of visitors to your landing pages as they bounce right off because they perceive that the site isn’t operating very efficiently. The more "bounces" your site has, the lower Google will rank your landing page.
Improving your site speed can be a juggling act though, especially when you consider all the different factors that go into it. You can always pay somebody to do this, but it also boils down to things like hosting packages, the size of your site, and whether or not you're using some kind of caching plug-in to help deliver site content faster.
Kill Under-Performing Keywords Quickly
While you should always wait at least a few days before you check in the progress on your campaign, once you determine that a keyword is not performing at the level that it should be, kill it as fast as you can. These low value keywords operate as boat anchors for your campaign, dragging your quality score right into the mud along with your conversion rate.
If you honestly believe that the problem isn't with the keyword, then try it out on a different format, such as with new ad copy or a different audience. Regardless, don't let your ego get in the way of a horrible campaign if you know something needs to change.
Refine Your Ad Copy
Your ad copy can literally make or break your CTR, which means you need to constantly be evaluating it against the results of your campaign. The better your copywriting skills, the more users will click on your ad, which significantly increases your quality score.
Just make sure that you're not being deceptive with your ad copy. Whatever you promise in the description needs to be delivered on your landing page, or else the bounce rate will go through the roof and neutralize any advantage to your quality score. Google also values transparency, so make sure you're being upfront with your audience.
Too Many Broad Keywords
This may apply more to the research part of this list, but it should be stated separately that too many broad match keywords can drag your quality score down too. Every single keyword that you put into your campaign should address as closely as possible the searchers intent, which will cause your click through rate to go up alongside your conversion rate.
A good rule of thumb is to bind the keywords that are most closely linked together in a single ad group, allowing you to minimize the variables and make the most efficient use of your budget. If you have a lot of broad keywords together, you won't know which one is underperforming.
On the other hand, you may not have enough broad match keywords. If your keywords are so laser focused in that only three people in the entire world whatsoever click on your ad, then you can expect your quality score to reflect that narrow focus. The marketer's true job is to find the balance between the two.
One of the main indicators of a Google ads quality score is whether or not there's any account activity at all. If you have an old account but haven't done any campaigns in years, your quality score is going to suffer as a result, and getting it started could be a challenge (but certainly not impossible).
It should tell you something about the complexity of a Google Adwords campaign that there are people who devote their entire lives to PPC. Some of these people spend 20+ hours a week managing campaigns, while the average Adwords account managers spend around 10. That increased account activity signals to Google that this is an account that is worth emphasizing, precisely because the people managing it are so dutifully tending to it.
Every marketer worth their salt knows the value of testing ad campaigns, but the best ones are almost obsessive about it. They constantly schedule A/B campaigns to pit even the smallest differences against each other, and are always working to improve the ad copy to find that slight uptick.
As a result, the quality scores of such dedicated account managers are almost always higher than the average person's. I'm not suggesting that you have to devote your entire life to a single number, but making a practice of testing and evaluating your ad’s performance is only going to help your account in the long run.
Should I Ever Ignore Quality Score?
Any information that Google gives you (or any platform, for that matter) is to be ignored at your own peril. But there may be occasions when you should overlook your quality score and focus on other metrics.
Many marketers advise focusing on other factors, such as your bid amount and getting the right keywords. They argue that if you turn your attention to these, the quality score will take care of itself. Others will tell you that as long as your quality score doesn't dip below a certain level — say three or four — then it's not worth even noticing. Unless your ads are not showing up in search results or you're paying way above the price you should be for your ads, you should focus on your bids.
As stated above, your quality score should never be the single metric that you look at, but it is a good indication that there's something present that needs adjusting. Effective marketers use it as a solid foundation with which to build their ad campaigns, allowing them to get a behind-the-scenes look at how they're doing.
Still, you should always take the quality score into account alongside your other goals. Is your campaign ranking high for certain desirable keywords? Is your conversion rate within acceptable parameters? Are your costs low enough that you're turning a sizable profit? If so, then your quality score should be used as just another number in determining the overall health of your paid advertising campaigns -- albeit an important one.
About THE AUTHOR
After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts, spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient at running our own campaigns and we share our knowledge with you.Learn more about SparrowBoost