Updated July 29, 2021 to feature new information and best practices.
If you’re new to pay-per-click (PPC) or search engine marketing (SEM), you may have seen the Quality Score (QS) phrase thrown around multiple times, or have even seen the metric in your Google Ads interface. So, what is Quality Score? It is Google’s (or Microsoft Ads) way of looking at your historical data and letting you know whether or not your ad quality is getting more or less attention than your competitors at the keyword level.
What is Quality Score?
Quality Score (QS) is a metric in Google Ads, Bing Ads (now Microsoft Ads), and other platforms that combines historical performance and relevance of your ads, keywords, and landing pages to a user’s search query. QS is graded on a 1 through 10 ranking scale, with 10 being the best.
Quality Score can also be a helpful warning signal when there are particular ad groups or campaigns in a PPC account that need to be optimized; as a rule of thumb, the better your QS, the better your ads perform.
QS is comprised of several things, such as expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Whenever your ad competes in an auction, Google evaluates these factors. Your score is then combined with your maximum cost-per-click bid to establish your Ad Rank. Ad Rank determines where/when an ad appears in the search results.
To improve ad position for a given keyword, advertisers are presented with two options: increase the maximum cost-per-click bid, or improve the QS of the keyword.
In Google Ads, the QS for each keyword can easily be viewed. After logging into an account and navigating to the keywords tab, hover over the eligibility text (eligible, not eligible, limited) in the status column of your keyword.
The Difference Between Quality Score and Ad Rank
When taking into account the quality of your ads for optimization opportunities, Google looks at the same metrics for QS to determine Ad Rank. However, Ad Rank does not factor in QS to determine an ad’s position in the ads auction. As mentioned earlier, factors such as ad relevance, expected click-through rate, and landing page experience all play a role in determining ad position. These factors are also paired up with bid amount and Ad Rank thresholds, the competitiveness of the auction, and the context of the user’s search. Google defines QS compared to Ad Rank as, “Quality Score is an aggregated estimate of your overall performance in ad auctions, and is not used at auction time to determine Ad Rank.”
Instead, QS is referred to as a diagnostic tool to determine and improve low-quality ads.
Why Is Quality Score Important, and What Does It Influence?
Quality Score is a reflection of the health of your campaigns and influences overall account performance. PPC managers looking to rank in the top positions in the search results while not paying a premium should focus on achieving a higher QS.
QS directly influences:
- Actual cost per click (CPC): Higher QS allows you to bid for top positions, so achieving a high QS can help stretch your PPC budget.
- Ad position and top of page bid estimate: High QS can lead to higher ad positions which will help clickthrough rates.
- Cost per conversion: By paying less per click, advertisers tracking conversions could see significant decreases in the cost they pay per conversion.
The Three Main Factors That Determine Quality Score
When looking for areas to improve ad quality, Google determines your QS with three main factors: the expected clickthrough rate of your ad, the relevancy of your ad, and the landing page experience a user would go through when the ad is clicked. Let’s break that down further.
Expected Clickthrough Rate
The expected clickthrough rate is the likelihood of your ad being clicked on when shown to a user. It takes into account your keyword performance in past ad auctions based on ad position. An average or below-average grade may indicate that you’ll need to review your ad copy or landing pages.
Ad Relevance is how closely the content of your ad matches up with the user search intent. For example, let’s say you’re searching for running shoes on Google. Ads displayed are for a variety of athletic shoes that are directly or closely related to your query. The relevancy for these ads are average or above average based on the query. However, if an ad for “mens oxford dress shoes” displayed in the SERP, the ad would likely receive a below-average rating since it’s not providing content related to running shoes. It’s important that users find what they need or are looking for quickly, and writing high-quality and relevant ads is the best way to stay competitive.
Landing Page Experience
The landing page associated with each ad and keyword should be relevant to the search query, useful, and user-friendly. In the running shoe example, let’s say our specific query is “running shoes for plantar fasciitis.” A landing page talking about the revolutionary benefits for medical grade insoles of a brand new running shoe would serve as average. But factor in fast page speed and solid user experience so information is easy to find, and you’ve got yourself an above average rating. Crunchy load times and confusing landing page experience with unrelated content is wasting a user’s time, and you lose money on that ad interaction. Every second counts, and as cliche as it is, time is money.
Other Factors That Determine Quality Score
While you observe your QS grades and optimize ads, remember there are more ad quality factors besides what is graded by QS. Here are some other areas of quality to consider that may affect your ads.
Historical Click-Through Rate (CTR)
This is based on historical clicks and impressions built up over time. If people who see an ad click on it at a high rate, that indicates to Google that the ad fulfills a searcher’s need. Remember, this is based on impressions for EXACT searches of your keyword, so changing match types won’t impact that QS.
The ad should match the user’s search intent. When the keywords you bid on closely relate to the ad triggered, there is a better chance they will relate to the user’s search query.
This refers to how well the ad performs in the geographical targeted region. Your ad for towing services could perform outstandingly in Reno, Nevada but perform worse in Las Vegas, likely due to factors like competition and bidding. Consider breaking campaigns out by region if you see higher performance in one area over another.
This takes into account how well the ad performs on different devices, such as laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. When talking about landing page experience, mobile landing pages vs. desktop landing pages can sometimes be incredibly confusing. Just visit any government-built website on mobile vs. desktop. Page loads are slow and navigation is borderline impossible. Click the wrong button and you lose all the progress you made filing a form. Make sure your landing page is friendly for any device.
Factors That Are Not Components of Quality Score
When talking about QS, and ad quality, you’re going to end up looking at Ad Rank. That’s an entirely different performance metric to consider, however, there are mutual factors at play that don’t directly affect quality score grading.
Maximum CPC Bids
In the ad auction, your maximum CPC bid and QS are averaged out alongside the relevancy of the search query to determine how your ad is ranked. It goes without saying that high-ranking ads have high clickthrough rates.
Search Query Relevance
Contrary to prior belief, the search engine results don’t always get it right. Ads showing for “Men’s Dress Shoes” when the search query entered is for “Women’s Dresses” doesn’t exactly scream “click me.” Keep your accounts organized with match types like phrase or exact matches.
When you’re talking about different offerings or sitelinks in an ad, you take up half of a user’s phone. When your ad is one of three results above the fold, the probability of that ad being clicked on increases drastically. So make sure you have your callouts, sitelinks, or any other relevant ad extensions filled out and enabled to run. That’s free real estate!
Quality Score Formula: How Is Quality Score Calculated?
Taking into account everything that goes into QS, we have to look at the WEIGHTED value of each factor. Google has confirmed that landing page experience and expected clickthrough rate have more weight than ad relevance when determining QS.
The chart below depicts how Google determines the weight of each of these three factors:
|Rank||Landing Page Exp.||Ad Relevance||Click-Through Rate|
And the formula used to calculate Quality Score is simply:
1+ Landing Page Experience Weight + Ad Relevance Weight + CTR Weight
This reverse-breakdown is beautifully written by Brad Geddes in a guest post on Search Engine Journal.
What Is Considered a Good Quality Score?
When trying to figure out a good QS, here is our rule of thumb; If you’re targeting keywords with high intent for clicks or conversion, 8-10 out of 10 is excellent. 7 out of 10 if you have low search intent keywords and 3 or higher if you’re targeting competitor keywords.
Tips to Increase Your Quality Score
First and foremost, always pay attention to ad copy and keyword targeting. Some keywords may need a little more love and attention to thrive, so don’t be afraid to break some keywords off into single keyword ad groups in order to increase those quality scores and better cater ads to users who search for them.
Additionally, make sure your landing pages are optimized. They should be quick to load and provide useful information that contains copy relevant to your targeted keywords, and you should see improvements in a matter of weeks.
And be sure to check out this post, with additional tips to improve your quality score.