8. Quality Score

At this point, you must be wondering how Google determines which ad to display, and how to order the ads in the list of ads, regardless if those are shown at the top of the search results, on the side or at the bottom of the page.

The process of determining the relevance of the ad and the order of presented ads is based on calculating quality score, so in order to fully understand advertising on Google, you have to understand what quality score is and how it is calculated.

What is quality score?

Quality score is a variable used by Google search engine, as well as by other search engines, such as Yahoo! and Bing, in the purpose of calculating the rank of the ads and the cost per click of the ads. Quality score is what determines when and where your ad will appear, and it also affects the price of the ad. The idea with this approach was to improve user experience by providing only the most relevant ads, the ones that are most likely to help the users find what they are looking for.

Quality score is calculated every time a keyword is used in the search query. Therefore, AdWords assigns a quality score for each keyword in your campaign, ranging between 1 and 10, 10 being the highest. The quality score determined for a keyword is not final. It is calculated again for each query. Factors that affect the quality score of the keyword are constantly changing, which results in different value of the quality score.

You can always check the specific quality score for each of the keywords in your campaign. Go to your AdWords account and find the column Quality score.

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Quality score was first introduced in 2005, in the purpose of increasing the relevance of the ads displayed by Google. Understanding the relation between a keyword used in the search query and ads enabled Google to show much more relevant ads, which started to improve user experience, to have positive effect on the usability of the search engine, and it ultimately started to increase the profit of Google AdWords program, since ads have become more efficient.

Why is quality score important?

Having a high quality score is very important for running successful campaigns with Google AdWords program. Quality score also plays a major role in determining the position of the ad. Having in mind that the results shown at the top of the page are most likely to be noticed by the search engine users, it is very important to be positioned as high as possible, which can be done by increasing your quality score.

Google calculates ad ranking using a simple formula: Bid x Quality score.

Quality score also affects the costs per click, which means that higher quality score, indicates that you will have to pay less for your ad being shown. In this case, your ad is perceived as relevant and useful to the users, which provides positive experience for the users and it allows you to run a successful campaign.

Factors influencing quality score

Since quality score is the important part of advertising on Google, and it essentially helps you with creating better ads with more success, you should have in mind all the factors that influence quality score. A complex formula is used to calculate the quality score by AdWords program every time a keyword is used in the search query.

Since the purpose of the quality score is to increase the relevancy of the ads, it includes several metrics that are supposed to evaluate the relevance and the quality of an ad. Learning about these metrics will help you understand how quality score is calculated and what you can do to achieve as highest quality score as possible.

The lowest quality score is 1 and the highest is 10. You should always try to reach 10 as the quality score value, because this increases the success of your campaign. However, reaching 10 /10 is not always easy, so you will frequently have to be satisfied with lower score, such as 7 or 8. In case the score is lower than 7, you will need to revise your campaign, and see what you could do to improve the score, and the campaign itself.

You should analyze all of the elements that influence the quality score in order to improve its value and thus improve the efficiency of your ads.

Keywords

In order to make sure your ad is relevant for a certain search query, you have to use the keyword in the title of the ad, as well as in the description of the ad. Not only is the keyword used in the ad important when determining relevance, but the keyword is also highlighted when the search results are shown, which makes it easier for the users to spot them when scanning through the results. You should choose keywords carefully and also make sure that they are related to your ad group, as well as to your landing page.

Landing page

As it was said in the beginning of this book, a landing page is a page the users will reach once they click on your ads. Landing page is a place where you will be able to achieve your goals, regardless if those are purchases, signups, etc. Therefore, having a landing page of high quality is very important for having effective ads, and which will further affect your quality score.

Quality landing page will help you achieve your main goal, which is to convert the visitors. Besides being relevant to the ad, which is essential, the landing page should:

  • Contain keywords form the ad
  • Be easy to navigate
  • Provide enough information about who you are and what you offer
  • Be accessible via mobile devices
  • Enable users to access the home page of the website

Loading time

Loading time is an important part of optimizing your website for search engines, and when it comes to search engine advertising, this factor is even more important. If your landing page takes too much time to load, a certain percent of visitors will close the tab before the page is even fully loaded. The fact is that internet users are becoming more and more impatient, and they expect the pages to load quickly and without any difficulties.

If your landing page loads slowly, and visitors who clicked on the ad leave before even seeing what you have to offer, you will miss a chance to convert those visitors. Furthermore, this might have negative effect on the relevance of your landing page, which will reduce the quality score.

Click through rate

When people search for certain keywords on Google both organic and paid results appear. People than click on the result they find most relevant for their search query. If people find a search result relevant enough that they actually click on it, Google will also consider this result relevant.

If, for example, users look for bikes to rent in Paris, there will be several ads that will appear as paid results. If several users click on your ad in particular, and they repeatedly click on your ad when searching for bikes to rent in Paris, Google will see you ad as quite relevant and useful for this particular search query. High click through rate will have a positive effect on quality score. As a result, your quality score will improve, which will also result in your ad appearing high up in the page of results. Consequently, the costs of the campaign will be lower, as high click through rate reduces the costs per click.

Geographic performance

Geographic region also affects quality score of your ads. If Google notices that click through rate is significantly lower in a certain country, the quality score of the ad for that region will be lower.

In order to ensure that your geographic performance does not harm your quality score, you should carefully choose the location targeting options in the settings of the campaign. This will enable you to target the visitors in those geographic regions where you expect to convert those users. In addition, excluding certain regions will help you reduce costs of the campaign, as your ad will not be shown to the users who are unlikely to become your customers.

Historic data

The data about your account also affect the quality score of your ads. In particular, if your AdWords account has been active for a while now, and if you have had success in running high quality campaigns, this will have a positive effect on the new campaigns you are going to organize.

Furthermore, the historic data related to your domain name can also improve your quality score. If you have been able to successfully associate your domain name with keywords which had high quality score, this could help with future campaigns.

How to improve quality score?

When it comes to improving quality score, you have to analyze all of those elements that affect quality score and you have to learn how to improve each of them individually. While all of these elements affect quality score, click through rate is perhaps the best indicator for Google on how relevant your ad really is.

Click through rate helps Google rate ads as relevant or irrelevant. Since the goal of Google is to show the ads that are truly relevant to the user, which improves both user experience and the profit Google is going to make, click through rate is a factor that will help Google evaluate the relevance of the ads. This is why this element is especially important when it comes to determining quality score.

Therefore, the first task in improving quality score is to improve click through rate. Click through rate is the number of times your ad has been clicked compared to the number of times it has been shown. You will increase the number of clicks if you create effective and persuasive ads, which are well targeted.

Usage of keywords and illustrative images will further improve the performance of the ad. You should also provide relevant description, as you want to persuade the users to click on your ad. Selection of target audience and geographic region is also extremely important when trying to improve click through rate.

If you rent bikes in Paris, you have to choose corresponding target group in your campaign setting. Unless you do so, you are at risk of wasting your budget and gaining low performance for your ads. For example, if your ad is shown when someone wants to rent a bike in Berlin, it is unlikely that those users will click on your ad, which will result in your ad being considered as irrelevant, and the quality score will decrease. In order to avoid this, you have to choose the right settings when you set up your campaign.

Unlike click through rate, conversions do not affect the quality score. The reason why conversions do not affect quality score is because Google is not able to find out what conversion is for your campaign in particular. Each campaign is different, and you may set up different goals for your campaign. Besides goals, you choose which action you are going to consider as a conversion. Some advertisers will use sale as a conversion, while others will consider sign up for the newsletter as a conversion. This depends on the type of website as well, but what matters is that Google has no way of knowing whether you were able to convert the visitors with your campaign, and thus Google is unable to use this factor when determining quality score.

Some practical tips to help you improve quality score are the following:

  • Use only keywords that are relevant to your business
  • Be careful when grouping keywords, as the ad group is also given a quality score
  • Create descriptive and engaging ads
  • Use negative keywords to avoid your ad being shown in the search queries that are unlikely to result in users clicking on your ad
  • Choose target audience carefully
  • Pause or remove keywords that have low click through rate
  • Improve your landing page
  • Improve loading time of your website / landing page