In an era in which Google is giving advertisers less and less data to go on, the quality score remains a core PPC optimisation, with very real impacts on your cost-per-clicks. Here we’ll outline what a Quality Score is, before going on to explain what steps you can take to improve it.
What is quality score?
Quality score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions. - Google
In simple terms, Google’s aim is to provide a top-notch user experience and one of the ways they do this is by giving a competitive advantage to advertisers with the most relevant and highest quality ads. To achieve this, they give each keyword within every Google Ads account a “quality” rating based on numerous factors relating to user experience. Keywords with higher quality ads and more relevant landing pages will be given a higher quality score than a competitor who has poorer quality ads.
Each new keyword in your account is given a starting quality score of 6, which can be considered average. The following factors are then taken into account in the quality score formula, producing a value between 1 and 10:
Expected click-through rate – By taking the historical performance of your account (excluding the effect of ad position), Google will estimate the likelihood that a user will click on your ad. This is a good indicator of the relevancy of your ad to the search query.
Ad Relevance – This measures how closely your ad matches the keywords within your account. If your ad is recommending where to buy cheap flowers but appears when someone is searching for the nearest fried chicken shop, you probably want to reassess your ad copy!
Landing page experience – This measures the relevancy, loading speed and usability of your landing page. Google aims to promote advertisers who will provide a good user experience.
So what does a high-quality score indicate?
A high-quality score means that you have a keyword whose ads:
Are relevant to the search term
Lead users to a relevant landing page which Google believes they will find useful
Have historically driven a higher CTR than its competitors on similar terms
How often does quality score update?
Quality scores on Google Ads update every time a user makes a search which triggers your ad. This means that it constantly updates to take into account changes to your site and ad copy, as well as your ad’s performance.
In practice, given the use of historic data, quality scores will take a bit of time to reflect the changes made. But the good news is that, with a bit of work, you can improve your quality scores.
But why does quality score matter?
These changes are all well and good, but what’s in it for you as an advertiser? To put it bluntly, the better your quality score, the cheaper your clicks.
Remember that the higher your quality score, the better Google sees you as responding to your users' needs, and therefore the less they will charge you for each click. Cheaper clicks equal better margins and a lower cost per conversion.
This is based on the following methodology:
If you have a higher quality score than your competitor, you can achieve the same position as them in the search engine results page for a cheaper price, making those terrifying CPA targets much easier to achieve.
On the flip side, a low-quality score could result in issues with your ad being shown at all, and quality score is one metric to check if your ad is seeing very few impressions.
Google keeps their exact algorithm tight to their chest, but the formula for ad rank can be simplified to:
Quality Score x Max CPC (+ Other Factors) = Ad Rank
This means that the ad rank of the advertiser below you, as well as your own, will impact your ultimate cost per click
So, based on the above equation, if you have a quality score of 10 and your competitor only has a quality score of five, you could achieve a better position in the search engine results with half the bid. For example:
You: 10 x $1 = 10
Competitor: 5 x $2 = 10
This means that Quality Score has a very real impact on your CPC: Your cost in each auction is determined by the Ad Rank and quality score of the advertiser below you, and you will only pay “the minimum required to beat the ad rank of the competitor immediately below you”(Google)
Note that Google does not reveal the exact formula for either ad rank or quality score.
Improve your quality score: 5 tips to achieve 10/10 quality score
If you follow these five recommendations, you will likely see a sky-high quality score within your account:
1. Tailored ad copy
Tailor your ad copy to your keywords. Try to include your keyword within your ad copy to improve ad relevance (the second component of quality score), and user experience, which in turn can improve click-through rate. For example, if you were a clothes retailer with the keyword [denim shirts] you could use ‘Denim Shirts’ in the headline to increase both quality score and user experience.
Note that we have also included USPs such as ‘Free Delivery’ and ‘10% Discount’. Although this won’t directly improve the ad relevance, it may improve click-through rate which Google takes into consideration when deriving quality score.
2. Granular account structure
Structure your Google Ads account so that you have a large number of very targeted ad groups. Don’t be afraid to use single-keyword ad groups for high traffic keywords.
3. Choose highly relevant landing pages
Put some thought into which landing page you point traffic to for the best user experience and the shortest conversion path. If you’re selling electronics, for example, send users searching for an HP laptop to the HP laptop page rather than the homepage.
This can have an incredibly large impact on performance. We built a bespoke, fully automated tool for a large North American retailer which matched keywords to 100,000s of unique landing pages filtered to the user's specific search query and generated copy relevant to the products advertised on a weekly basis. The tool sparked in a 300% increase in ROAS, both from the resulting rise in conversion rate and impact on quality scores.
Good user experience pays.
4. Ad extensions
For those of you who are unfamiliar, ad extensions are additional pieces of information about your business; phone numbers links to specific pages, USP call-outs.
Do not forget to utilise as many ad extensions as physically possible. Google focuses on both ads and extensions when calculating the quality score. Use call-outs to highlight USPs, site links to direct users to useful pages, and review extensions to show off all the fantastic recommendations you have.
Extensions are taking up an increasingly large amount of space on the SERP, a trend that looks set to continue. They can have a significant impact on your CTR, even on top of their direct impact on quality score.
Note that both the site links and the copy in the above ad could be made more relevant to the search query, making Bookblock significant savings on what is an expensive search term to hold.
5. Optimize, optimize, optimize
Remember to continually review and refresh your ad copy and landing pages, and their impact on quality score.
Testing different versions of ads can give insights into what drives the highest click-through rate, and which ad copy achieves the highest quality score.
The best practice would be to keep testing the top-performing ads and remove and replace ads that are under-performing. Using this method, you should see constant improvements in ad performance over time. You can learn more about this in our blog on ad copy testing.
Continually testing your copy and landing pages can lead to very real improvements on quality score, as the below shows with ad relevance where significant optimisations were made to ad copy over time.
The visibility that Google gives on historical quality score and its three underlying components helps advertisers to quantify their findings from optimisations to see the impact their changes are really having on their keywords.
Nifty optimisations and some clever AB testing using the 5 top tips above will have you celebrating your 10/10 quality score in no time!
If you would like to learn more or want more support improving your quality scores and improving results from your PPC activity, get in touch with the team at Ayima.