The Ultimate Guide for Google Adwords Quality Score


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Anyone who knows about PPC and AdWords know what the Quality score is, but what people don’t know is the Quality score that they see in the AdWords interface is not the overall score – it is just the keyword-level Quality Score, a small portion of the bigger whole! And, one  more thing that people don’t know is that all the Quality Score issues cannot be solved by studying only the Keyword-level QS data provided by Google AdWords through its interface. This guide provides the list of different types of Quality Scores and the answers to various misconceptions that exists about QS. At the closure of the guide, a checklist of the actions is provided that can help you improve your Quality Score.

Different Types of Quality Score

Account-Level Quality Score

Google measures the Quality Score at the account level by taking into consideration the overall historical performance of the account i.e. the performance of all the keywords and the ads the account has. Google has never ever publicly acknowledged the existence of the Account-level Quality Score, but it does exist. (It is a general belief that except for keyword-level QS, there are others types too and Account-level QS is one of its many types.)

As many of you will already be aware, a lot of under-performing keywords in one’s account with low click through rate ultimately bring down the overall account’s Quality Score! But did you know that, they also make it really difficult for the merchant to add mew keywords as because of the bad performance history, they will also start at low QS. So is it okay to start afresh? We have the answer – utilize the same account, but do some improvements!

If your account is old and has had great performance over the years, it is going to perform way better than the new AdWords accounts. Here one thing to note is that Google gives preference to old accounts over the new ones. That is why it is better not to think about starting anew because as per AdWords you can either start again using the same account or you cannot. Moreover, it is never a lost battle, with a careful reconstruction, the accounts QS can be improved, though it might take months to boost an under-performing account’s performance, it is totally possible.

Using the same account, so what to do about low-performing keywords? You have two options! Some experts say that you should delete underperforming keywords as soon as it is clear that they are hopeless, while some think that instead of deleting them, better option is pausing them. Both options are great as by using any of these, the keywords will stop collecting data and with time will lose their significance. However note that if you are opting to delete such keywords, just analyze them first. If any of these have high search volume and have generated well in the past, it is better to pause them, because if you will try to add them again after removal, there will be issues as Google will treat them as duplicates.

Ad Group Quality Score

Ad Group level Quality Score helps you in prioritizing what you need to tackle first. If you have a low keyword Quality score whose overall average is good & another Ad group who’s QS is less than satisfactory, it becomes quite clear where you need to focus first. A better ROI can be achieved by working on our lower QS areas.

You should reconstruct your campaign, look for ways to do that and re-work low CTR ads to boost your ad group QS. Restructuring your account’s ad groups is a great way to get rid of the visible history, however note that whatever part of that history that Google needs is preserved.

Note: In an Ad Group, the related Quality Score is never visible within the account so it is usually taken as the average of the quality scores that that specific Ad Group’s keywords have.

Keyword-Level Quality Score

eyword-level Quality Score is the QS issued to the keywords that your account uses, and unlike the account-level QS, it is made visible within the account’s interface. This Quality Score is measured by taking into consideration the search queries that exactly match the keywords as well as their performance. Therefore no matter what match type you are using for a keyword, its QS will remain the same for all match types.

It is allotted by Google on a scale of 1-10 where 1 symbolizes poor performance and 10 the best of the bests.

Note that once a new keyword is added, initially its QS is allotted as per its performance on, and this fact holds till this keyword accumulated enough data on your account and reaches a minimum number of impressions. Impression threshold is usually something from a thousand to multiples of thousand. Once this threshold is achieved, Google will give less significance to historic performance and it will be allotted its Quality Score depending upon how it is performing in your account.

When analyzing or reviewing the Keyword level QS, you get an idea about:

  • Quality Score– It tells about the extent to which the ads, the landing page and the keywords are relevant to the online user queries & user who are viewing the Ad.
  • Ad Relevance– Higher QS would mean that the keywords you are using are related to the ad copy and such an ad would generate more clicks
  • Landing page experience– A good Quality score also says a lot about a landing page’s relevancy to the ad copy and users.
  • Expected CTR–It is the chance that an ad will be clicked when shown; the past performance plays a very important role in this.
  • Quality Score (historic)– It is the Quality score that the keyword had in the last reporting frame; through this you get an idea whether your attempts at restructuring the account are paying off or not, however note that results show after a few months.
  • Ad Relevance (historic)– It is the previously reported ad relevance in the reporting time frame.
  • Landing page Experience (historic)– It is the previously reported landing page experience score in the reporting time frame.
  • Expected CTR (historic)– It is the previously reported expected click-thru-rate in the reporting time frame.

The first thing that you need to do for the newly added keywords is try to boost impressions; here are a few things that you can do:

  • Examine impression share data. Impression share represent the number of times your ad was shown out of the total impressions that the ad was eligible to appear. If impression share is low, you can boost it by either increasing your daily budget or by increasing the bids so that you can get a higher rank for the Ad.
  • Either Loosen up restrictive match types or use broad match keywords. Instead of using restrictive match types, it is better to use broad search type so that the ad gets a better chance at accumulating more impressions. In this case the impression growth rate will be fast as compared to the case of exact or phrase match types. It is advised that you should always start with those ads that have a comparatively higher click-through rate.
  • Loosen up the themes so keywords are not so niche.

In order to earn more impressions, make sure that your keywords are not too specific – such keywords usually don’t have much search volume. For this you can use the opportunities tab in the AdWords interface – here you can find the relevant keywords for your Ad.

For the keywords that already have thousands of impressions under their belt, use the CTR as the indicator to choose the ones which are more relevant to the user’s search queries. If the Click through Rate is less than 1.5%, it is a clear indicator that the ad group is more specific than the others.

Ad-Level Quality Score

Every ad that runs in your Ad campaign has a different Click through rate which means that each one of them will have a different Quality score. This is because CTR is one of the most important factors which is given a lot of weight age when measuring QS. Therefore a low CTR means diminishing QS. The most natural way to boost your QS in such cases is to use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) in your search campaigns. It has been seen that a DKI ad has a more chance of getting a click than a non-DKI ad because it shows the user the exact search query he/she is using, and hence appears more relevant to the user. However, keep track of these ads to know whether these clicks are generating conversions or not; by keeping an eye on this you can salvage your ROI in time.

Ad-Level Quality Score is also the factor through which Google AdWords decide whether the extensions will be shown with your ads or not. You need a good rank if you want the extensions to be shown; which mean you need a competitive bid and great QS. Note that when talking about gaining a higher rank, we are not saying that you should target the first position as it is not considered a very profitable position to be at.

Extensions like site link can be of great help in improving your CTR. In the recent times Google has also tested adding the url of the website in the first line of the Ad.

Landing Page Quality Score

As per Google there are three main factors that affect landing page Quality Score. They are relevancy – when it comes to keywords and the content, transparency and navigability. It is through these factors that Google directs and it will not be wrong if we say that it forces the advertisers to built quality websites relevant and useful to the users that they serve. By following Google landing page guidelines, advertisers can improve their ROI substantially!

There are many other things that can affect your Landing page QS, like loading speed. In Google AdWords you can check a landing page issues by hovering the mouse over keyword QS’s speech bubble. Quality is the main factor that decides your Landing page QS, though Google has never stated such a thing openly. Another thing that you should note is that each and every landing page is evaluated by a person – yes a human, a real person – more than once. Hence there are ample chances of improvement – whether that is the content quality, usability or improving the load time.

Display Network Quality Score

Did you know that Google allots different QS for Google display network too? Yes, it does. While calculating this Google AdWords takes into consideration the past performance of the Account on the sites on which your ads are eligible to appear. However, note that relevance of the keywords and the ads is still important, so is the landing page’s quality.

Still, Quality Score calculation is a bit different in Display Network because of its different biding options. If the merchant is using CPM model, more prominence is given to the landing page’s quality, while if you are using CPC biding, both landing page’s quality and the account’s historic CTR are considered.

In Display Network, the Quality score can be improved by experimenting with different types of ads. On some web sites, image ads work better than the responsive ads; however for those sites which don’t allow both, you can try to cover a mix of both. Note that Display Network advertising is an altogether different thing, and for good CTR, you will need to use the tools wisely and targets your ads to the proper websites and demographics. Also, keep your search and display network ads campaigns separate so that you can easily manage them.

Another thing that you should do to improve your Google Display Network QS is the thorough evaluation of your CTR. By doing this you will get an idea about what your ads are accomplishing as compared to others on the same website. This can be easily checked through the tab ‘Campaign and Ad Group’ available in AdWords interface – it provides insight to what is known as relative CTR.

Relative CTR is calculated by dividing your ad’s CTR by the CTR attained by the ads which are shown on the same website. And if it is low, it might bring down your GDN Quality Score. So it is better to review your account and you can begin the reconstruction with the potential exclusions. Next start with creation of new ad copies with relevant keywords, use negative keywords and make use of category exclusions and contextual targeting.

Mobile Quality Score

In case of Mobile, as per Google the Quality score is calculated the same way as is done for the desktop version, however in this case a few more things are taken into consideration like the distance between the business and the user, when available.

It is stated that no matter whether the user is using a desktop or a mobile browser, ads are treated the same way when it comes to Quality Score calculation, but every ad gets a different QS for both its desktop and mobile versions. Suppose you have a combined campaign for all platforms, divide it into separate campaigns for desktop and mobile for the same ad copies, you will note that there are fluctuations in QS for the same Ad. However an interesting point to note here is that nothing has actually changed, in the combined campaign what you saw was the combination of both the QS, and now what you see is the exact individual scores.

Why Quality Score Is So Important

As per Google, Quality score is essential in deciding an Ad’s rank and CPC as it is the direct reflection of the relevancy of your keywords & Ads. Through it Google tells that your keywords are as per the queries that users are using online to search the products you are offering, and hence are useful to the user.

From the point of view of the advertisers, Quality Score is of great importance! One main reason is that for your ads to be eligible for auction you need to have a minimum Quality Score, without which your ad will not be shown to the user. In addition to this, CPC bid also is used to calculate Ad Rank which is also a very important thing for the advertisers who have a relatively lower budget. The following is the formula used by Google to calculate Ad Rank:

Ad Rank = CPC bid × Quality Score

Therefore with a good Quality score, the advertisers with a low bid and still get a good Ad Rank. Not only in the case of CPC bids, the Quality Score also plays a major role in calculation of ad rank on Google Display Network. This is the formula that Google sues to calculate ad rank for keyword-targeted ads:

Ad Rank = Display Network bid × Quality Score

Same can be said for the placement-targeted ads in GDN, Google uses the ad group Quality score and the bid – no matter whether you are bidding for the ad group or the individual placements – to calculate the ad rank. Here is the formula:

Ad Rank = Bid × Quality Score

At the end, a good Quality Score is essential for your accounts success. Such that if your account’s keyword-level Quality Score is very low, it is possible that you might not even be able to qualify to enter the auction. Low QS means low CTR which equals low traffic and even lover conversions & ROI.

Quality Score Myths Busted

This section covers a few myths and misconceptions that exist in the industry regarding Quality Score.

Keyword-level Quality Score Changes When Match Types are Altered

This is the first misconception, and it is a misnomer because when Google measures Quality Score it never puts into consideration the keyword match type. This is because Google measures a keyword’s Quality Score only on the basis of the fact whether it ‘exact’ matches a query or not. So no matter whether you are using broad, phrase or exact match of the same keyword in your account, Google will allot the same Quality Score for all of these.

For example, no matter if you are using the keyword pink teddy as broad or an exact match to an online query, the Quality Score in both the cases will be same. So, keyword-level Quality Score doesn’t changes with the change in Match types.

Pausing the Keywords or the Ads – Does it Affects Quality Score?

No, Quality score will not suffer if you are thinking of pausing a keyword or an Ad. This is because Quality Score is just all about the performance of the keywords & the ads, and if they are not active, it just means that they are not shown, and if they are not shown, will that affect their performance? No!

Display and Search Quality Score Affect Each Other

First of all both these Quality Scores are separate, Google criteria of calculating them is also different and they not at all related to each other, so affecting each other’s QS totally an out of question.  Also, Google’s search and display networks are totally different; therefore, performance of your ads or keywords in one will never affect your performance on the other.

Higher Positions Equals Better Quality Score

Though it is true that higher Quality score leads to higher rank and lower CPC, it is also a fact that Google compensates for the ad positions through its formula which breaks self-strengthening nature of these higher ranking ads.

Deleting or Restructuring Low QS Elements Erases Their History

This not at all true, whenever a low QS element in AdWords is deleted, paused or restructured, the history of that element remains and is still considered when it comes to the account’s history. This is the reason that Google itself advices that you should delete keywords that perform poor as well as their history so that they can’t affect your account’s history on the negative side. However, note that the past performances of these keywords will never actually vanish, but by doing this, over time their negative effect will decrease.

Why Is My Quality Score So Low?

Here is a list of factors that might be the reason behind your low Quality Score. Check whether they have been implemented well or not:

  1. Check your URLs:

In case you have made recent changes to your landing pages and since then your Quality score has gone down, it is possible that there is some issue with the URLs. Check whether they are working properly & are indeed taking the shoppers to the designated landing page, if not it is possible that the URL is broken. If this is the case, here are a few symbols – that might be the culprits – plus suggestions with which you can replace them:

  • If a forward (/) slash, a backward slash (/), a comma (,) or a Ampersands (&) is causing problem, you can use a dash or a space in their place.
  • However if it is either an apostrophes or a parentheses (), replace them with nothing
  1. Website’s speed:

Website’s low speed can affect your Quality Score badly. Make use of Google Analytics or any other Webmaster tools to check your site’s speed. As per Google a website’s load time is considered slow when it is below the threshold value which equals the regional average plus 3 seconds. Make sure that you read the following recourses for better results:

  • This resource sheds light over the factors that lead to a slow load time.
  • Here you can have a look at Google’s page speed extensions for Chrome & Firefox.
  1. Recreate low CTRs Ads

Identify the ads in your PPC Campaign(s) which have low click-through rate, and rewrite them; research properly and use relevant keywords.  As per Google, a low CTR is <1.5%. Make sure that your ads have the high-performing keywords.

  1. Extended Ads & DKI Ads

It has been seen that extended ads means a higher CTR, so make sure that there are at least 3 extended text ads in every ad group. Also consider using Dynamic Keyword Insertion as they contribute a lot to CTR.

  1. Account Audit & Restructuring

Analyze your account properly, perform an audit and try the following things:

  1. If you have ads with CTR <1.5% that have next to nil conversions, think of pausing such keywords or Ads.
  2. Organize your keywords by using small and more tightly themed ad groups.
  3. Relevancy is important not only for the keywords but for the landing pages too, so make sure that the content of your landing page is relevant and as per the URL and the product you are offering.
  4. Whenever a keyword is added, it is given a Quality score based on the history of the account, it gets its own individual quality score only when it reached the minimum impressions. Therefore, if you are only using exact or phrase match consider using broad match so that the keyword can reach its impressions early. This will do wonders with the Quality score; later on if you want you can change it back to phrase or exact match.

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