How to Improve Quality Scores

Healthy PPC CampaignsOne of the most frequent topics we get questions about is PPC quality scores. A quality score is an important indicator of a PPC campaign’s health, but those new to PPC don’t even know it exists. We wanted to do a Q&A about quality scores to help advertisers understand how to improve their quality scores. If you have another question about improving quality score, please leave us a comment, and we’ll answer that too.

What are PPC quality scores?

Both major search networks — Google and the Search Alliance — have quality scores on a scale from 1 to 10 to ensure you’re not creating ill-fitting keywords and ads for your PPC campaigns. Think of it as report cards for your PPC campaign health. Google has had their quality score for several years and the Search Alliance introduced theirs earlier this year. Google determined there was a need for a metric to determine quality of campaigns after having too many people advertise on popular search terms that were irrelevant to their campaigns.

Quality scores are given at the keyword level, but it’s important not to think of them as a keyword score. They indicate that keyword’s relationship to the rest of the paid search campaign and how healthy that relationship is. Also, keep in mind that 1 to 10 isn’t necessarily a totally linear scale. The difference between obtaining a 6 to 7 isn’t the same as obtaining a 9 to 10 quality score, which is much harder.

How are PPC quality scores calculated?

In essence, quality scores measure the relevancy of keywords to your ad copy to your landing pages. Keep in mind that quality score algorithms will continually change. Dig deeper, and it’s actually a bit more complicated than just relevancy.

Here are the main components of a quality score:

  • The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the keyword and the matched ad; note that CTR on the Google Network only ever impacts Quality Score on the Google Network — not on Google SERPs.
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account.
  • The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group.
  • The quality and user experience of your landing page.
  • The load time of your landing page.
  • The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group.
  • The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query.
  • Your account’s performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown.
  • Other relevant factors

Why do PPC quality scores matter?

Ultimately, Google Quality score affects your cost-per-clicks and your ad position. Simply, the formula is:

  • Ad rank = quality score * max. bid

So the higher your quality score, the less you have to bid to have a high ad rank. Google will let you know how much you have to bid to achieve a first page bid. AdCenter’s quality score doesn’t directly work like this.

Having a high quality score has other benefits as well. Top position ads (the ads directly above the organic search results) are only eligible to those with a high quality score.

In addition, if you have a low quality score, you may be ineligible to enter the ad auction for that keyword.

What is the difference between Google’s quality score and the AdCenter’s Quality Score?

Google’s Quality Score has a direct correlation on pricing and position, while currently the AdCenter Quality Score is supposedly only informational. However, an experiment by Dr. Pete Meyers on the SEOmoz blog found that an increase in Bing Quality Score for his campaigns substantially improved his position and CPC.

It’s also easier to track your keyword quality score performance over time in AdCenter but rather difficult to track in AdWords. The quality score in AdWords also has less actionable data than AdCenter’s. AdCenter breaks down your quality score into overall keyword score, keyword relevance, landing page relevance and landing page user experience.

Chart of AdCenter Quality Scores

How do I find my quality score?

For Google, you can find your quality score at three different points in your paid search campaign – account statistics, the Keyword Analysis field, and account reports. For AdCenter, you can see your quality score in the Web UI, as well as through adCenter Reporting and Reporting APIs.

How do I improve my quality score?

  • Keywords: Watch your use of broad-match keywords, which can lead to a lot of keywords that aren’t a fit and will lower your score. Similarly, proceed carefully with keyword-generator tools, which can also create irrelevant keywords. Determine which keywords aren’t converting and turn them into negative keywords. Remove keywords with low-quality scores, and put them into their own ad group. One tip from PPC Hero is to put your misspelled keywords into their own ad group since they’re likely to have low quality scores and won’t hurt the performance of an otherwise strong ad group. Keep in mind is that your account history will play an important role in determining your Quality Score. One tip is to start your campaign with branded keywords so you’ll start your campaign with a high click-through rate, and then begin adding in other search terms. A recommendation Craig Danuloff writes in the book “Quality Score in High Resolution” is to use keywords with clear intent, meaning search terms people use when they’re clearly looking to buy.
  • Ad Groups: Ensure you have tightly organized ad groups with less than 50 keywords in each ad group. Utilize dynamic keyword insertion to ensure your keywords in your ad copy to increase your relevancy.
  • Ad Copy: Write compelling ad copy for your PPC ads. Ensure you’re using the same keywords in your ad copy.
  • Landing Pages: Your landing pages must have relevant keywords used in the copy. Oli Gardner of Unbounce recommends that you create a targeted landing page for each ad group. Again, it’s important to make sure your keywords can be seen in your ad copy and then follow through to your landing pages.

What constitutes a low quality score? What constitutes a high quality score?

Like most attributes of paid search, it depends. If the keyword isn’t competitive, it might be easier to score a quality score of 9 or 10 if you’re running a quality campaign. If you have a competitive keyword, a 7 or 8 might be much more obtainable. Typically, a low keyword score is a three or below.

When should I delete my keywords when they have a low quality score?

Kearby Chen and Mark Ballard of The Rimm Kauffman Group have an excellent post on using Google keyword data to improve performance and when to delete a low-performing keywords. The reality is that really low-quality scores often indicate something is wrong with your campaign and likely lacks relevancy. If you have a low quality score you want to improve, start by looking into the relevancy of your landing page. Many companies still use homepages as landing pages.

Does broad-match keywords lead to a lower quality score?

Broad-match keywords lead to less relevant keywords, and less relevant keywords lead to a lower quality score. So, indirectly yes. However, according to Google, if you used one keywords three times each in an ad group but with each keyword having a different match type, they would all have the same quality score. If you want to use broad-match but want to improve your quality score, consider the broad match modifier. Broad match modifier will search for misspellings, singular/plural forms, abbreviations and acronyms but not synonyms and related searched.

How attainable is a quality score of 10/10?

Remember that the historical performance of your campaign plays a role in determining your quality score. So it will take time for your campaign to generate enough data to make that happen. But according to Trada’s account manager, Brandon Hess, a Google Quality Score of 10 is rare. Really rare. It typically happens if you’re using branded keywords that you’re really well known for. So don’t punish yourself for scores below 10 if they’re not branded terms.

My quality score is a 7, and I want to increase it to an 8. What should I do?

First, congratulations of a quality score of 7. It’s a great score and means you’re doing a lot of things right. In fact, Dr. Siddharth Shah of Efficient Frontier has noted that quality scores of 8 are very rare. The easiest thing to do when you have a seven and you want to improve performance is to increase your bid price. Another way to really dig into your keyword relevance is to run a search query, and see what terms are causing people to click. Draw out as many new keywords as possible and tighten up ad groups as appropriate.

Hypothetically, if you have a quality score of 1, can you still buy your way on to the 1st page? What is the exact correlation between low quality score and how much extra you will need to pay to get on the 1st page?

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t share its exact secret sauce. But almost always, you’ll need to improve your quality score beyond a one for your ad to be shown anywhere, not just the first page.

Is it true Google will lower your quality score if your phone number is in your ad?

Not directly. But if people call instead of clicking then your ad will have a lower quality score because it has a lower CTR.

How can a few keywords with low quality scores affect your campaign?

It can be detrimental. You want to look at it as a percentage of your total keywords. If less than 10 percent of your keywords have a low quality score, then it’s probably not going to be that detrimental. Anymore than that, you’ll really want to pay attention to those low performing keywords. No matter what, you want to think about isolating those keywords into their own ad groups and maybe their own keywords.

Does using dynamic keyword insertion affect quality score?

Google says it doesn’t. Yet, we know DKI is known to affect CTR which definitely affects quality score.

If you have another question about improving quality score, please leave us a comment, and we’ll answer that too.

2 responses to “How to Improve Quality Scores”

  1. [Infographics] How Does the Google AdWords Auction Work? And Landing Pages for PPC | Unbounce

    [...] have some excellent resources on the subject of PPC and how to improve quality scores. [...]

  2. Vladi

    Ok…this was a nice article. Thanks for taking the time to write this and for the links that provided more insight!

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