In your quest to stand out in your space, grab your audience’s attention and maximize every marketing dollar spent, there are a lot of metrics to track.
One of those is your Google Ads Quality Score.
As its name implies, this is a score that Google uses to rank and reward your pay-per-click (PPC) ads. It’s based on certain criteria that the search engine giant designates as quality indicators.
Have you checked yours lately?
In theory, the score is simple. A high-quality ad benefits everyone, including your company, your users, and even Google. As such, those are shown in higher positions in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), where interested buyers are more likely to see them,
Yet, for its relative simplicity, this diagnostic tool can be complicated to use and understand. Today, we’re here to break through the jargon, clarify the technical details, and help you optimize your Google Ads score, starting today.
What is the Google Ads Quality Score?
When you invest in a paid search marketing campaign, you expect your ads to be shown for the keywords you select. In turn, you pay a small fee every time a user clicks on one of your ads.
Yet, how does Google determine which advertisers rank for these campaigns?
A major part of the answer lies in the pertinence of those keywords. In short, your Google Ads Quality Score reflects how relevant Google believes each keyword to be. You can also think of it as a measurement of how likely it is that a user will click on your ad for that word or phrase.
The score ranges from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Each keyword in your Google Ads account will receive an individual Google Ads Quality Score. The three subcomponents that make up your score include:
- Expected click-through-rate (CTR)
- Ad relevance
- Landing page experience
Your keyword can score as “Below Average”, “Average” or “Above Average” for each of these three subcomponents. You can see the details on these components by hovering over the “Status” field of any keyword.
As you’d imagine, there is a ton of data that Google must consider before assigning each keyword a score based on these factors. After all, a given keyword can participate in many different auctions. As such, the score received is an aggregate of its relevance across those collective auctions.
Why Does Google Have a Quality Score?
Why does Google go to the trouble of scoring your keywords in the first place? Put simply, to help them deliver a better product.
When advertisers make an effort to use the most relevant keywords possible, users see more relevant and applicable ads. Seeing as Google has the lion’s share of digital ad spending, representing nearly 40% of the market, the search engine has a lot at stake. You aren’t the only one who wants users to click on your ads — Google does, too.
Displaying poor-quality ads with lower click rates doesn’t just cost them in the short-term. It also damages their reputation as the industry’s long-standing behemoth. Over time, if search ads aren’t relevant, users will slowly begin taking their search efforts elsewhere.
Displayed Score vs. Real-Time Score
When you log into your Google Ads dashboard, you’ll notice that the Quality Score is one of many columns that provide data for each keyword. Other column titles include:
- Ad Group
- Maximum Cost-Per-Click (Max. CPC)
- Expected CTR
- Ad Relevance
- Landing Page Experience
While all of these columns, including your Quality Score, offer valuable insight into the performance of your keywords, they are not always updated in real time. To that end, it’s important to understand your score and use it as guidance, but not to obsess over it.
How does Google rank your ads? It takes into account your real-time Quality Score, which hinges on a variety of behind-the-scenes factors, many of which you’re unable to manipulate. This real-time score is so granular and intricate, that a 1-10 scale cannot accurately capture it. Moreover, it updates and changes with every single search performed.
Due to its frequent fluctuation, Google keeps this score beyond your simple dashboard metrics. Still, this doesn’t mean that the displayed number isn’t relevant or helpful. When analyzed appropriately, this number can help advertisers:
- Attract higher-quality leads
- Select the right keywords
- Send users to more helpful landing pages
- Write higher-quality ads
Though it can take some time to improve your Google Quality Score, the effort is worth it. The Google Ads platform is designed to help put your business in front of leads that are most likely to buy from you. The more relevant your keywords are, the easier this task becomes.
How Does Google Calculate Your Quality Score?
Around the world, there are nearly 5.8 billion Google searches performed per day. That’s more than 70,000 search inquiries initiated per second.
This larger-than-life status wasn’t obtained on a hunch.
The search engine relies on intel amassed over myriad touchpoints to ensure that every digital ad, keyword, and landing page is as relevant as possible. As you’d imagine, the amount of traffic and activity happening on Google has provided the platform with plenty of Big Data to work with.
To mine this information for insights, Google uses its own system of algorithms, as well as advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. These tools can gauge keyword relevancy quicker and more effectively than actual employees, who could inject both bias and human error into the equation.
With these resources, Google performs a collective analysis of each SERP. In response, because they’re able to monitor the exact content that users engage with, they can also predict the kind of content that will pique their interest in the future. Therein lies the primary focus of the Google Ads Quality Score.
In essence, this score measures and helps predict the CTR for each keyword. In fact, before the actual Quality Score metric was established, Google used CTR data to determine the relevancy of a keyword. With this data, they could determine if a keyword should be disabled or moved up in the ranks, garnering a higher price in the online ad auction.
While this ranking mechanism worked for the short-term, we’ve already covered that there are many different considerations that go into a keyword’s position. While CTR data is helpful, it doesn’t capture the entirety of an ad’s relevance. Hence, the Google Ads Quality Score was created to replace this component.
How Can You Improve Your Quality Score?
There isn’t a shortcut to boosting your Google Ads Quality Score. There’s no magic formula to enter or special bypass to take. Instead, you’ll have to work diligently at improving the relevancy of your ads, keywords, and landing pages for each campaign.
The key to scoring as high as possible is to remember the three subfactors that Google takes into consideration when calculating your collective Quality Score. These include:
- Expected click-through-rate (CTR)
- Ad relevance
- Landing page experience
Let’s review how you can strengthen your approach to each of these measures, boosting your score organically and effectively.
If someone searches for a term that matches your keyword exactly, how likely are they to click on your displayed ad? The answer is your CTR.
If you’ve earned a “Below Average” score on this factor, consider why this might be the case. In most cases, a low score is attributed to an irrelevant keyword that doesn’t match the actual product that you’re advertising. For instance, if you’re selling cat litter but your keyword is “Kids Vitamins”, it’s unlikely that the user initiating the search will be interested in your ad, no matter how visually dynamic or interactive it might be.
Another culprit that can lower your Expected CTR score is a keyword that’s relevant, but only in very specific situations. For instance, if you sell cat litter and your keyword is “cat”, then there is a chance that someone searching for cat litter will search for that keyword and click on your ad. Yet, consider how many other cat-related topics other users might be searching for, including cat health, cat toys, cat clothes, or even photos of cats.
In this case, casting such a wide net can negatively impact your Expected CTR score. To turn the tables, try to add more relevant keywords to your account.
What happens, however, when your keyword and ad are relevant, but your score is still low? It could be that Google can’t identify the connection. Try making it more obvious by creating a compelling ad that’s unmistakably relevant to the keyword.
Ad relevance and Expected CTR work hand-in-hand. This metric gauges how relevant your actual ad is to the keyword you’re bidding on.
Are you consistently scoring “Below Average” in this category? If so, try to separate your ad groups into more tightly-focused themes. By doing so, you can make sure that each ad group only contains the most relevant keywords possible for that specific ad.
For instance, say your company provides HVAC repair. In theory, you could lump these keywords into one ad group:
- HVAC repair
- HVAC technician
- Air conditioner maintenance
Yes, all of these closely-related keywords are very relevant to your company. Yet, they lose individual relevance when lumped into one group, as the resulting ad will ultimately be too generic. By dividing them into distinct ad groups, you maximize their power.
Landing Page Experience
Google doesn’t only measure what a user thinks about before clicking on your ad. They also want to know the kind of user experience they’ll encounter afterward.
To this end, it’s critically important to create landing pages that encourage them to stick around. Otherwise, they might click your ad (which you’ll pay for), but they won’t help your organization generate any income. Nor will they help Google.
Every landing page you create and link to in your ads should be relevant to the search query. It should also match what your ad states and deliver on any promises you made.
Are you still scoring “Below Average” in this category, even though your landing pages are relevant?
First, make sure that you’re employing deep-linking tactics. This means sending users to a specific landing page, rather than simply directing them to your homepage and hoping they’ll figure out navigation on their own.
Then, make sure your landing pages are optimized for mobile.
Doing so helps to improve the user experience and makes it easier for them to explore your content. This guide can help you take the necessary steps to ensure that anyone, from any device, can access your pages. Google has long rewarded mobile-friendly websites, so taking the time to perform this transformation can help with your overall Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts, too!
Why Does Your Google Ads Quality Score Matter?
As mentioned, your Google Ads Quality Score isn’t meant to be the only metric you follow as you determine which keywords to use in your ads.
Still, it’s important to track it for a few important reasons. Your score helps to determine:
- If your ad is eligible to enter a given auction
- How your eligible ad is ranked
- The CPC rate you’ll pay
Thus, optimizing your score can help you improve your ad position and lower the price you pay. Let’s take a closer look at how Google uses this number to determine these factors.
Determining Ad Eligibility
To achieve continued success, Google must only show ads that are relevant and appropriate for the web viewers who see them. They make money every time a user clicks on your ad, so they can’t afford to give their highest positions away without review.
After all, if there were no governing factor determining ad eligibility, any company with deep enough pockets could maintain a spot at the top simply by placing the highest bid every time. In turn, they’d get maximum exposure, even if their ad wasn’t relevant to the keyword at all.
The result? Visibility without clicks, which doesn’t exactly benefit anyone, especially Google.
To this end, the Quality Score helps make sure this monopolization doesn’t happen. As soon as Google recognizes that a particular keyword is irrelevant, it “flags” it by assigning it a low score. In some cases, Google can even prevent that ad from competing in the auction altogether.
Knowing this, you can take the extra time to make sure your ads and keywords are as relevant as possible. Doing so not only results in a higher Quality Score, but it can also help you maintain marketplace competitiveness. Once your ad is deemed eligible for the auction, you can work on helping it rank as high as possible.
Boosting Your Online Auction Ranking
You’ve made it through the hardest part. Google has reviewed and analyzed your keyword and ad, and determined that they’re relevant enough to be displayed in search results.
After weeding out irrelevant ads, Google then focuses on ranking the eligible ones. The ones that rank the highest will appear near the top of the SERPs, while those with the lowest scores will be displayed near the bottom.
Given that ads and websites shown on the first page of Google SERPs garner up to 92% of all search traffic clicks, you want your ad to display as high as possible. Ads that end up on the second page only receive around 6% of all clicks.
Want to rank at the top? Quality matters.
In fact, there are around six total factors that determine how an advertiser’s ad will rank, designed to reward the most relevant, highest-quality ads. Let’s take a quick look at each one.
1. Your Maximum Bid Amount
Your maximum bid is the highest amount of money that you’re willing to pay Google Ads for one click on your ad. In reality, your actual bid amount will likely be lower than this number, but it’s considered when determining your Ad Rank.
2. The Overall Quality of Your Ads and Landing Page
This factor is the most closely linked to your Google Ads Quality Score. Here, Google will analyze the overall quality and relevancy of the ad you want to display. Is it relevant and useful to your target audience?
3. The Competitiveness of the Specific Auction
If your ad is ranked far higher than your closest competitors, you’ll claim the top spot. However, you might have to pay a higher CPC due to your overwhelming dominance and increased assurance of winning.
4. The Context of the Person’s Search
As with everything Google touches, context matters. This applies to the online ad auction. To determine how to rank eligible ads, Google will take into account the details surrounding a person’s search, including:
- The search terms they entered
- The type of device they’re using to perform the search
- Their location at the time of the search
- The time of the search
- The exact nature of the search terms
- Any other ads or search results that might display on the page
- Various other user signals and characteristics
5. The Anticipated Impact of Ad Extensions and Other Ad Formats
Every time you create an ad using Google Ads, you’ll have the option to add extra information to it. This might include your business phone number or links to other pages on your website.
These additional features are known as ad extensions. If you decide to use them, Google will analyze these extensions and gauge how they will affect your ad performance.
6. The Degree to Which Your Ad Meets Google Ad Rank Thresholds
The Google Ad Rank threshold is the reserve price for your ad. If you bid lower than this price, your ad will not be displayed. Google sets this threshold based on a few different factors, including:
- The quality of your ad
- The position of your ad
- User attributes and signals
- The topic and nature of the search terms
- Auctions for related search terms
In the past, the calculation used to determine Ad Rank was relatively simple and straightforward. The formula was: Maximum CPC Bid x Quality Score.
Yet, in 2013, the ranking factors were expanded to include adjustments for ad extensions. Then, in 2017, the Ad Rank thresholds and other factors were added to round out the list of considerations.
While all of these elements might seem tedious, it’s important to realize that Google performs Ad Rank calculations in a split second thanks to machine learning. Moreover, even when you receive your rank, keep in mind that it isn’t set in stone.
Rather, Google recalculates your rank each time your ad meets eligibility and competes in an online auction.
As such, the position of your ad is bound to fluctuate. It will go up or down with each auction depending on how it meets those above six factors for a given search. Your competition will shift with each user query, along with the context of the search and your ad quality.
Of course, the highesting ranking ad receives the top SERP position. In turn, higher-positioned ads are bound to receive the most clicks. This can create more opportunities to attract leads and encourage them down the path to purchase.
Lowering Your CPC
Another reason why it’s smart to pay attention to your Google Ads Quality Score? A high number can result in a valuable discount off of your CPC, which can save your brand money.
Remember how we mentioned that your maximum bid amount might not be the amount that you have to pay? That’s because the actual amount that you’ll be required to pay for a click is calculated based on how far ahead of the next ad you’re currently positioned. In other words, your real CPC is based on how much you’ll need to pay to maintain your rank.
For this reason, most advertisers are used to paying an actual CPC that’s much lower than their maximum bid CPC. If your Quality Score is high, you’ll be that much more ahead of your competitors. As such, it takes less (and costs less) to keep that coveted position.
Make Every Click Count
Investing in Google Ads is a step in the right direction for your company. It’s smart to leverage the world’s most popular search engine to help expand brand visibility, grow your customer base, and build your bottom line.
Yet, these efforts can be for naught if your target audience isn’t finding and clicking on your ads. To make sure your hard work pays off, you’ll need to take several factors, including your Google Ads Quality Score, into account.
While this isn’t meant to be the sole determinant in your online ad campaign, it can help you gauge how relevant and helpful Google believes your ads to be. With this knowledge, you can make the tweaks necessary to ensure ad eligibility, improve your position, lower your CPC.
Looking for help as you roll out your next Google Ads campaign? We’d love to help.
We’re experts in SEO, PPC and social media marketing. We have the resources, tools and knowledge required to help you stand out in your online space. Contact our team today and let’s take this next step together.