What is Google Quality Score - How to improve quality score in AdWords

Improve Your Quality Score by using Google AdWords

Quality Score

Google AdWord Quality Score

As an Unbounce blog reader, you already know conversion rate optimization is a great way to drive more results from the money you’re already spending to acquire traffic to your site. So today I’d like to focus on another way to make more money from your marketing efforts; namely, ad optimization.

While there are many ways to improve your ad performance, one of the most pertinent is to improve your Quality Score (QS), particularly the subcomponent, landing page quality (LPQ).

But before I get into how to improve your Quality Score via landing pages, here’s some behind-the-scenes context based on google adwords

What is Google Quality Score ?

Ultimately, Quality Score is Google’s way of using collective wisdom of many searchers to measure the relevance of a keyword. In short, it’s a measure of how good of a job you’re doing providing people with search queries with strong answers.

This is important because if you are the best answer to someone’s query with your ad and resulting landing page, Google gives you your clicks for less money because you’re helping provide a better user experience, which makes Google more money.

Quality Score impacts ad rank and costs

It’s fairly well known that Quality Score is one of the factors that determines Ad Rank. The other factors are the bid and the impact of ad extensions.

When you improve any of these three components, your Ad Rank increases, which leads to one of two possible outcomes:

  1. You win a better ad position (but pay the same or more for improved placement on the page), or
  2. The position of your ad remains the same, but you get a discount and pay less for any clicks you get.

In short: You can get a discount on AdWords by making your ads (and corresponding landing pages) more relevant!

This is because the CPC you pay is only part of what determines how Google makes more money.

Ad Rank now vs. then

To deepen your understanding of AdWords, I find it useful to take a quick trip down memory lane about the ad auction. Ad Rank used to be calculated like this:

Ad Rank (circa 2002) = Max CPC * CTR

Notice that Ad Rank is actually Cost Per Mille (CPM or cost per thousand impressions) in this equation! Over time, Google started to use a predicted rather than historical CTR, so we changed how we explained the formula and introduced the concept of Quality Score so we could stop talking about pCTR (predicted CTR).

Ad Rank = Max CPC * pCTR → Ad Rank = Max CPC * QS

Then we refined the algorithm to deal with some weird edge cases and rather than just multiplying the factors, the formula became more advanced. We communicated it as follows:

Ad Rank (today) = function (Bid, QS, Extensions)

With this historical context, we see that the ad auction is basically a CPM auction where the way the CPM is calculated has evolved over time.

So even though advertisers place CPC bids, Google is awarding the best ad positions to advertisers who deliver the best CPM for Google (aka: those who provide more relevant ads that get the most clicks).

How Quality Score can reduce CPCs

As an example to show how this discounting of CPCs really works, let’s say there are two advertisers, Rahul and Priya and they both bid a max CPC of 10 rs. However they have different Quality Scores, a 5 and a 10.

  Bid QS Ad Rank CPC
Rahul 100Rs 10 10 50 RS
Priya 100 Rs 5 5 100 Rs (or the auction minimum)

As you can see, Rahul (who’s winning the auction) actually pays a lower CPC than Priya, because his Quality Score is better.

Effective CPC = Ad Rank of the ad to beat / this ad’s QS + the smallest monetary increment
Effective CPC for Robert = 5 / 10 + $0.01 = $0.51

Real time Quality Score vs visible Quality Score

The Quality Score number between 1 and 10 that you see next to each keyword is simply an indicator and can be used to help prioritize what to optimize. After optimizations, it can be used to determine if improving relevance was achieved.

However, this number is NOT what is used in the Ad Rank formula.

Some indicators have more precision than others and there are also indicators that are linear and some that are not (the visible QS indicator is not necessarily linear).

The speedometer in a car and the signal strength bars on your cell phone are both linear, but the former is more precise than the latter. As you drive faster, your speedometer goes up precisely to tell you that you’ve increased speed. The bars on your cell phone, however, may take a while to go from one bar to two bars even though the signal strength has been gradually increasing for a while. Visible Quality Score is more like the phone’s signal strength indicator, except that there are 10 levels.

Articles claiming you can reduce your cost by 50% by doubling your QS number are oversimplifying, but they still make a valid point: that better Quality Score will lead to lower costs (assuming no jump in position).

The only way to reduce your CPC by half is by doubling your predicted CTR.

What factors go into Quality Score?

As an AdWords marketer, you want to get yourself a better Quality Score and a lower cost per click. There are several factors that go into Quality Score so let’s take a look at what those are:

  • Ad relevance
  • Expected CTR
  • Landing page experience

Ad relevance

Ad relevance is an indicator of how well your ad text matches your keywords.

It’s usually a good idea to include the core concept of the keyword in your ad text, and to also include some compelling unique value propositions that will make your ad stand out from competitors. Over the years I’ve personally noticed that even minor changes in word choice can have drastic impacts on how well the user understands the ad.

For example, when eBay changed their ads to say, “buy it on eBay” instead of, “find it on eBay.” Because the word “buy” implies ecommerce, this got a far better CTR than the word ‘find’ which didn’t directly suggest one could buy the desired item.

Expected CTR

Expected CTR is an indicator of how likely your ad is to be clicked.

At the most basic level, this requires choosing good, relevant keywords, and grouping them in logical ad groups so that you can write compelling ads that get users to click.

Landing page relevance

Landing page relevance indicates how well your landing page meets the needs of users, and there are many ways you can go about improving this.

As an example, Joe Khoei from PPC agency SalesX (where I serve on the board) says that using Dynamic Text Replacement on Unbounce landing pages for the Children’s Learning Adventure helped his client increase conversion rates (calls and form fills) from 1.4% to 3.3% over 8 months.

Generally, using personalization features like DTR will correlate to better Landing Page Quality (LPQ) because users are getting what they want and that is what Google wants too: happy users who continue to engage with ads.

The purpose and importance of landing page quality

Landing page was the last component to be added to Quality Score and I was still on the team when we made this change. We had come to realize that it was too easy for advertisers to game the system by writing must-click ads, but then lead the user to a not so spectacular landing page, and in some cases even to a scammy site.

We had to start looking at what happened after the click, so we used both manual processes with the policy team and automated ones through the QS indicator to find sites that weren’t delivering a great experience.

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