A quick, current, and crucial guide to Google’s Quality Score

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Whether you’re brand new to pay-per-click marketing with AdWords, or you’ve been at it for ages, you’ve probably heard others harp on the importance of ‘Quality Score’ to your performance.

Here I’m going to delve into the most up-to-date information on Quality Score, giving you everything you need to know about what it is, how it works, how you can impact it and where things are changing.

What is Quality Score?

At its simplest, Quality Score is an AdWords metric (rated from 1 – 10, with 1 being the lowest) used to determine where in Google’s sponsored results your ad will show up and how much you will pay for a click.

It’s a crucial thing to keep an eye on, because it influences:

Your ad’s cost-per-click (CPC): The more relevant your ad, stronger its click-through rate (CTR), and the better your landing page experience, the less you’ll pay to earn that click.

Your ad’s position: The more effective and relevant your ad, the better your positioning. Keep in mind that Google’s goal is to not only help customers find the best products, services and experiences, but to make the most money possible from their ad network. If your ad earns more clicks, they’ve got a direct incentive to give it more prominence.

And the reason it matters? Because it’s a pivotal part of calculating your ad rank:

Your Ad Rank = Cost-Per-Click Bid x Quality Score

How is Quality Score measured?

Quality Score is algorithmic, accounting for factors both internal (within your Adwords account) and external (on your landing page). While we don’t know every metric to influence Quality Score, here’s what we DO know and why it matters:

1. CTR is king

The uncontested heavyweight champion metric for Quality Score is how well your ad performs in search results, and the historical click-through rate is the best way for Google to tell. 

According to Tenscores.com, Google calculates CTR a number of ways, including:

  • Individual keyword CTR
  • Display URL CTR
  • Ad group CTR
  • Account CTR
  • Keyword CTR by geography
  • CTR by placement (Display network only)
  • CTR by device targeted

Google is always trying to predict how well your ad will do before they show it, so even if it’s a brand new keyword for your account, they’ll try to draw on past performance data – whether that’s an existing ad group or the entire account.

That’s why there’s speculation that older accounts perform better – there’s more proven history for the Adwords algorithm to draw on.

2. Keyword relevance

At its simplest, this is about how closely matched the user’s search query is to the ad you’ve displayed. You want your ads to contain the keywords you’re targeting (or very close variants) in the headline and throughout the ad.

Importantly, the type of match you set your keyword to (broad, exact, or phrase) will not impact the Quality Score for that keyword – though it should be noted that exact and phrase match settings tend to garner fewer impressions, taking longer to build up historical data over time.

Also playing into this is how you choose to structure your ad groups. One giant ad group with every targeted phrase might seem like an OK idea until you realize how difficult it is to write highly targeted ads for that group. It’s far better to organize into tight, related and relevant groups.

3. Landing page experience

It’s not just about how many people you can entice a click from – Google cares about how you treat them too. A relevant, quality landing page will positively impact quality score – though there’s some serious speculation as to how much it’s really a factor.  

  • Bounce rate doesn’t matter, at least according to this conversation with a Google rep.
  • Organic ranking has zero impact on quality score, and neither do backlinks.
  • Keyword or content density doesn’t matter either, so long as you meet a minimum threshold (make sure your targeted keywords are reflected in your landing page.

Factors that ARE considered on your landing page are:

  • Loading speed: Don’t let it lag.
  • Quality: Don’t do anything shady. Here’s a helpful resource from Google themselves.
  • Relevance to keywords: Make sure to group your keywords by ad content, and ensure the text on your landing page is crawlable.
  • Historical CTR of the landing page URL in ads.

Tomorrow: How can you improve your Quality Score? 

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