November 3, 2022
Want to run a successful paid search campaign? You need to have a solid understanding of the Adwords Quality Score metric.
No time to waste, so let’s dive right in!
Quality score is Google’s grade assigned to the quality and relevance of both your ads and keywords. It determines your CPC (cost per click) and it's multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process.
"The AdWords Quality Score is a keyword-level score on a 1–10 scale. A Quality Score of 8–10 is considered very good," says SproutSocial.
Your quality score depends on three main factors:
☞ Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR): When someone types in a keyword in Google—how likely are they to click your ad?
☞ Ad Relevance: Does the ad make sense for someone who searches for a particular keyword?
☞ Landing Page Experience: Does the content and offer on the landing page correspond to the ad text?
Your Quality Score will affect how your ads perform and how much you pay for each click. A better performing, optimised AdWords account means lower CPA and increased profitability—more revenue, better ROI.
Your Adwords Quality Score (QS) represents the relevance of your ads to a user’s search query—relevant ads to their queries ensure a better customer experience. Along with CPC bid, it determines ad rank. So, a high QS is paramount if you have a smaller ad budget.
The ad rank formula for the Google Search Network is:
Ad Rank = CPC bid × Quality Score
The higher your Quality Score, the lower your cost per conversion. If your Quality Score is low, your ad rank will be low, likely meaning less traffic to your site and a lower ROI.
You can find your Quality Score in the Keywords tab in your AdWords account. There are a few ways to check your Quality Score:
1) Run a keyword diagnosis: ☞ Click the Campaigns tab at the top. ☞ Select the Keywords tab. ☞ Click the white speech bubble next to any keyword's status to see details about that keyword's Quality Score. You'll be able to see ratings for expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.
2) Enable Quality score columns: ☞ Click the Campaigns tab at the top. ☞ Select the Keywords tab. ☞ Click the Columns drop-down menu in the toolbar above the statistics table. ☞ Select Modify columns. ☞ Select Quality Score. ☞ Click Apply To see the current quality score and its component statuses, choose any of the following to add to your statistics table: ☞ Qual. Score- Landing Page Exper.- Ad Relevance- Exp. CTR
To see past quality scores and component stats, segment by day and choose any of the following to add to your statistics table: ☞ Qual. Score (hist.) ☞ Landing Page Exper. (hist.) ☞ Ad Relevance (hist.) ☞ Exp. CTR
Getting this error means your quality score is at a two out of 10 or less—so there is plenty of room for improvement.
In this scenario, ads associated with the low-quality score keywords may not be shown at all or you will have to pay a much higher CPC if they are shown. What happens is that Google is prioritising other ads over yours.
Now you know what Quality Score is, what influences it, and why it is important—let’s discuss how we can improve it.
We need to consider the key factors in determining your Quality Score. So, it could mean making adjustments to your keywords, ads and/or website.
Your chosen keywords are the foundation of all your paid search activity. If your research is poor, the downstream effects will be huge. Use Google Analytics to find the actual words and phrases real site visitors use to find the products/services you offer. It will also provide an accurate picture of what keywords are driving the most traffic and conversions. Once you have done this, you can use free or paid keyword tools to add to your initial campaign.
Organise your keywords into influential groups. One of the keys to high Quality Scores is high relevancy between the search query and your ad. All the keywords in an ad group should have a high level of meaning. Too many broad ad groups can lower your Quality Score—establish smaller, tighter ad groups.
With targeted ad groups, you will reach a specific audience and be able to deliver a focused laser ad, which will help improve CTR and increase the ad's relevance.
👀For example, let's look at the keywords of an online sports equipment retailer. It's not sensible to chuck in all your keywords into one group and hope to attract those searching for tennis rackets with a generalised message about sports equipment. Equally, it can be very time consuming to produce ad copy and landing pages for each type of racket or club. The best solution is to group your keywords by theme, then segment these groups into sub-groups etc. and create a hierarchy of small, manageable keyword groups. Now you can write a specific ad or set of ads to test and create a landing page for each group.
Google recommends that you use 15-20 keywords per ad group.
I know, crazy, right? That's not going to help our Quality Score. Why? Because it's challenging to run an ad that's very relevant to 15-20 keywords. Most PPC experts recommend having 1 to 10 keywords per ad group. That might seem a tad extreme, but it’ll give you that rise in your quality score. It is also a big argument for ‘Sing Keyword Ad Groups’ – but we’ll leave that for another day.
Negative keywords are terms you include in your ad group or campaign if you do not want your ad to show—the Joker to the keyword Batman.
Including these will help improve your CTR as those that aren’t in your target market will not see your ad. At a campaign level, you add negative keywords you never want traffic for. However, if you are using single keyword ad groups, you may wish to place negative keywords at ad group level i.e. to eliminate overlap.
Expanded text ads allow you to run ads with longer copy—50% more characters than traditional AdWords ads. These are perfect for targeting long-tail keywords and improving your ad relevance. In addition to fitting in the longtail keywords, you can also fit in benefits and a call-to-action. Do it! With expanded text ads, you have 140 characters of ad space—a big leap from the former 25-35-35 format.
Ad extensions deliver elements of information about your offering, so if the additional information is helpful, it's more likely people will click your ad.
Bit of a ‘catch 22’ but Quality Score is also a factor in determining if your ads will show extensions. Here is an overview of the ad extensions you can use to improve CTRs and, by default, your Quality Score:
☞ Sitelinks: These are links to other areas of your site that searchers may find useful; make sure you use other landing pages you have.
☞ Location: Display your address directly beneath your ad; great for location targeted campaigns.
☞ Call: Searchers can call you directly from the search results page, and on mobile, they can just click the ‘Call’ icon to place the call – this counts as a click.
☞ Callout: Add an extra line of copy that highlights the benefits or features of your business. Not clickable, but it does reinforce your message and offering.
☞ Structured snippet: These allow you to add supplementary information about your products or services based on your predetermined list.
☞ Price: Showcase the prices of your products or services - only visible on mobile but very effective if you’re offering low or promotional prices.
Ad extensions can be added at either the account, campaign, or ad group level. Location and call extensions should be added at the account level unless you have different locations or numbers, in which case they should be added to the associated campaigns. Sitelinks, callouts, and snippets should be added at the campaign level, and in some cases at the ad groups level. While you don’t necessarily need different ones for each ad group, you can provide extensions for sets of similar ad groups.
Google AdWords feature allows you to insert the user's exact search term anywhere into your ad copy. It is very convenient, but you risk creating ads with irrelevant messaging—a big no-no when trying to improve your quality score. Not to mention it can lead to poor ad messaging. If you use single keyword ad groups, then it virtually eliminates the need for Dynamic Keyword Insertion in the first place.
Even if you rank well organically for your branded terms, you should still bid on these terms. Your combined CTR will be higher if both paid and organic search results are shown. Branded ads will also achieve the highest CTRs across your entire account—a big win for quality scores across the account.
As it is your brand and you can create relevant ads and landing pages easily, you will likely achieve a quality score of 7 or above. Also, those searching for your brand are most certainly high-intent, so more than likely to click on your ad—another win for your CTR.
Ad relevance is one of the three factors Google says impact your Quality Score. A well-written ad will not only be relevant to your target keyword, but also to your prospective landing page.
In addition, the CTR of your ad and historical account performance impact your Quality Score. A well-optimised ad will include copy that is closely tailored to your keywords, reflect the offer on the landing page and include a solid call to action.
Again, this goes back to tight ad groups—delivering an ad about ‘red shoes’ is not as relevant as showing an ad about ‘red high-heels’, when the keyword searched was ‘red high heels’.
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After a lead clicks on one of your highly relevant ads, they will take the next step in the paid search journey—the landing page.
Push that Quality Score up a few more points by communicating the key messages displayed in your ad, delivering a fantastic user experience and having super-fast loading times.
What to consider when improving your landing page experience:
Google considers the relevancy of your landing page when calculating your Quality Score. The content on the page has to match what your ad has promised. As a starting point, make sure you use your keywords in the title tag, meta description, and H-tags and that they are within the body of your content. We suggest a customised landing page for each ad group to ensure your messaging is consistent from ad to a landing page. This increases your quality score and will provide an excellent boost to your conversion rate.
☞ User Experience
Your landing pages should be visually appealing and easy to navigate. If your visitors leave quickly (they ‘bounce’), Google will assume the content is not relevant, negatively impacting your quality score. Some key elements to focus on are:
☞ Page Speed
Ever clicked an ad that took ages to load? Yeah, we all did. That's why landing page loading times have become a huge consideration in calculating Quality Score.
According to HubSpot, "The average bounce rate is between 26% and 70%, with the optimal range between 26% and 40%."
A great starting point to reducing load times is to visit Webmaster Tools, Page Speed Insights and GTMetrix—they will give you an indication of how fast your page is loading and the factors slowing it down, plus what actions to take.
As a brief overview, some of the factors that contribute to longer load times are:
Use tools like Unbounce, Instapage and Leadpages to create fantastic looking landing pages that are quick, light and mobile optimised.
4 Quality Score Misconceptions
Here are a handful of misconceptions you need to be aware of:
#1. Changing your keyword match types alters your Quality Score
Google measures Quality Score without considering keyword match type. If you have a broad phrase and exact match of the same keyword in your account, all three will have the same Quality Score.
#2. Pausing ads or keywords negatively affects Quality Score
Wrong. If they aren’t active, they are not entering the auction or being shown; there is no Quality Score to accrue.
#3. Higher positions benefit your Quality Score
Quality Score is adjusted to compensate for ad position differences. Google understands higher positions are more likely to generate a higher CTR than lower positions.
#4. You can erase keyword Quality Score history by deleting or restructuring
According to Google, whether you pause, delete or restructure an account element, its historical performance will still affect your account history. However, Google still recommends you delete poor performing keywords and ads because it will prevent them from further negatively affecting your account history.
Google hasn’t confirmed there is an over-arching account level Quality Score—but it is widely accepted that there are different levels of Quality Score other than the visible keyword-level one.
A large number of low-Quality Score keywords and ads with a low CTR on an account with poor historical performance will impact new keywords and they will all start with an overall lower Quality Score.
Google does have a bias towards older performing accounts and will perform better than new accounts. Although it can be tempting to start from scratch with a new account, it’s best to restructure the account, even if it can take some time to see improvements. The long-term results are worth it, we promise.
According to SproutSocial, "Working on the Quality Score helps put your mind in the place of your customer, which in turn leads to you being a better marketer overall."
This guide will help you streamline your campaigns, increase your Quality Score, and make your AdWords account more competitive. The results will be higher ad placement, which will deliver improved click-through rates and lower minimum bids for keywords—a.k.a. better ROI.
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