How to improve your AdWords Quality Score

If you don’t understand how the Google AdWords Quality Score works, then your AdWords campaigns will inevitably fail.

Read why the quality score has a significant impact on your cost per AdWords conversion and learn how to outsmart your competitors in the race for the most profitable ad positions.

Why is the Quality Score so important?

Essentially Google wants its search engine to show its users the most relevant search results.

That applies to both the organic search results and the sponsored AdWords listings.

The Quality Score formula rewards advertisers that pick only those trigger keywords that are closely linked to the webpages and products, that the advertiser promotes through its sponsored ads on Google.

If you run an online store that sells baby clothing, then Google will certainly allow you to pick trigger keywords such as “family car” and “baby stroller” but given the relatively weak link between the visitors’ search terms and your products, Google will put you at a clear disadvantage when you bid for those trigger words in competition with manufacturers and dealers of family friendly cars and the retail outlets that have specialised in baby strollers.

Whenever a Google visitor hits the “Search” button, Google first calculates your Quality Score and then your Ad Rank. A high Quality Score coupled with a high maximum CPC bid will lead to a high Ad Rank. The highest Ad Rank will give you the top spot above the organic listings.

How is the AdWords Quality Score calculated?

Google has not disclosed exactly how the AdWords Quality Score is calculated, but I will give you my best guess based on numerous clues given by Google AdWords team and actual data from hundreds of AdWords accounts.

The Quality Score is calculated at several levels – it’s calculated at:

  • Account level
  • Campaign level
  • Ad Group level
  • Ad level
  • Keyword level
  • Domain level

The most important factor for your Quality Score is the CTR (click-through-rate) at keyword level.

In essence Google uses its own users to rate the relevance of your AdWords listings. If you have a high CTR it means that people clicked on your ad, that again indicates to Google that your ad was the most relevant to display to its visitor for that specific search term.

The CTR is factored in relative to your average ad position. A click-through-rate of 5% for an AdWords listing with an average ad position of say 4,5-5,0 (to the left of the organic search results) indicates higher relevancy than a CTR of 6% for an ad placed in prime position above the organic listings.

Your CTR at ad, ad group, campaign, account and domain level is also part of the Quality Score equation.

When you set up a new ad group and add new keywords they will usually start out with Quality Scores that assemble those of your existing campaigns. As the new AdWords ads accumulate sufficient click data of their own, they will be less dependent on the historical performance of your other campaigns and instead primarily be assessed based on their own merits.

You can only see your Quality Score at keyword level.

It will display as a figure between 1 and 10 when you tick off the below column in your AdWords interface.

How to view Quality Score in AdWords interface

1 is horribly bad and hardly achievable, whereas good keyword selection and attractive ad copy will typically yield quality scores of 7 or above.

A small note: Your quality score rarely stands at 8 or 9. It tends to jump directly from 7 to 10 and vice versa. An extra incentive from the Google guys and girls at Mountain View to have you go the extra mile and aim for excellence :)

Google will round off your quality score before showing it, i.e. when the Q.S. is displayed as 7 it can really be anything from 6,51 to 7,50. This is not overly important, but as you get increasingly advanced it might be nice to know that a rounding off takes place.

Ad Rank is not shown anywhere (you have to derive it from the actual listings on the search engine results pages).

How is the Google AdWords Ad Rank calculated?

Whereas the calculation of the Quality Score is highly complex, the theory behind the Ad Rank is a lot easier to grasp. The Ad Rank is really just a simple auction system.

Your Quality Score multiplied by your Max CPC bid for a given trigger keyword decides where your ad is shown.

An example using the keyword “baby stroller”:

Your Quality Score for the keyword “baby stroller” is 7, your competitors have yet to this guide on how to improve the AdWords Quality Score and therefore only scores a mere 4.

You bid a maximum of 0,50 Euro for the “baby stroller” keyword, whereas your competitor has set his maximum CPC to 0,60 Euro.

You: 0,50 euro multiplied by 7 gives you an Ad Rank of 3,5
Competitor: 0,60 multiplied by 4 gives him an Ad Rank of 2,4

You win the auction and your ad is displayed above his ad – and orders for baby strollers will hopefully come your way.

3 key points to remember

  • High CTR usually gives you a high Quality Score (and lower cost per click and/or many clicks)
  • Watch out for quality scores below 7 for keywords that are both popular and relevant to your business. Improve your Quality Score to keep your costs down and traffic up.
  • It might take days or weeks for your quality scores to stabilize. After performing changes to your AdWords campaigns, you need to wait at least a few weeks before concluding failure or celebrating victory.

How to Improve Your Quality Score?

Remember what I wrote earlier? Google’s ultimate goal is to provide their users with the most relevant search results.

To improve your Quality Score, therefore, you need to make your AdWords copy and landing pages more relevant to Google users.

Here are some examples of what you can do to boost your ad relevancy:

  • Divide your keywords into several smaller ad groups with fewer keywords in each. This allows you to write more focused ad titles, text and display URLs where the keyword is included.
  • Customize individual landing pages for each of your main keywords. The keyword should be included in an unforced, natural way in the page title, heading and main body of text. The Google AdWords algoritms do indeed look at on-page elements as well.
  • Make sure that your landing pages are optimised to load as quickly as possible, while also maintaining an attractive appearance.
  • Keep an eye on any keywords that are frequently searched but have a low CTR. Keywords with a low click-through-rate will pull down the Quality Score for the ad, the ad group, the ad campaign and the overall account. Shut down these keywords or ‘quarantine’ them in a separate ad group, requiring special consideration later on.
  • Add negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing when the user is unlikely to click on them. These negative keywords are very important, but often neglected by AdWords advertisers.

Need Help to Improve Quality Score?

Hopefully the above introduction to Quality Score will have given you a good idea of how to work with, not against, Google AdWords.

If you have any questions, drop a comment below and I will do my best to answer your question.