Google Ads: Improving Quality Score

What is Quality Score?

Your Google Ads Quality Scores matter, more then you probably realize. Quality Score affects the cost and efficiencies of your paid search campaigns. Google Quality Score is a significant factor in how your PPC ads perform and how much you pay for each click. A higher Quality Score acts as a discount on the bid needed to get higher ad rankings.

Quality Score has three important elements. The easiest way to think about the interaction between these elements is the better the rating of each, the higher the total quality score. Think of a simple formula,

Click Through Rate x Ad Relevance x Landing Page Experience

There are other factors as well, such as historical performance of your ad account and relevance of keywords within ad groups. We like to use this formula as multiplying factors as an extremely low rating on any of the factors drastically brings down your Quality Score, and increases the price of your bid needed to get good ad rank placement.

Google does not share the weighting of the factors going into calculating your quality score, after all, it's part of the magic mix algorithms Google has for everything, However, Google Ads documentation is pretty clear that of all the factors, improving the relevance between your keywords, your ad text, and your landing page can go a long way to improving your Quality Score.

Viewing Quality Score in Google Ads

To actually see the mysterious Quality Score in your Google Ads account, within any campaign or ad group, click on keywords. Then click on the Columns icon and use the drop downs to pick the Quality Score category. We prefer the following selections:

Google Ads Quality Score Options

Quality score appears as a measure out of a possible 10. The factors used to calculate the quality score as a rating of below average, average, or above average. In order to get a rating of at least 7, all three factors need to be at least average and at least one factor will need to be above average.

Google Ads Quality Score Displayed

Improving Quality Score

Going back to the formula:

Click Through Rate x Ad Relevance x Landing Page Experience

Click Through (CTR) is typically a byproduct of good work done to improve other areas. People click on your ad after a search if it looks like the result most likely to provide them with the information or the product in their search terms. If they find their search term in the headline, the page title, in the destination URL, and in the description of your ad, the likelihood of a click is relatively high. Much higher than if they don't see their search term in your ad. in fact, it's very unlikely your ad would even be appearing without any of these falling into at least a broad match.

As we said before, we believe the strongest factor in the Quality Score formula is relevance. Relevance across the board, between your keywords, your ad text, and your landing page copy. Think of relevance as consistency. Let's use the search term Saskatchewan fishing lodge. If you have a keyword matching this term, or closely matching, tick one of the boxes. If, in the same Ad Group, you have an add with the term in the headline and in the description text, tick off another box. If you ad points to a page (landing page or destination URL) that is optimized for Saskatchewan fishing lodge, then tick the 3rd box for relevance. The process to follow is to ensure that the searcher is able to satisfy their needs all the way through from their search to the landing page and end up on a page that is relevant to their search term.

The Path to Better Google Ads Relevance

Working on that Quality Score formula and addressing the most important factor, relevance, can be accomplished through several methods. There are two sides to consider, your website landing page, and Google Ads.

From the Google Ads side, we will address this at an Ad Group level. Think of an Ad Group as a collection of themed keywords. In our example used previously of Saskatchewan fishing lodges, we would want to include similar keywords such as Saskatchewan fishing resorts, Saskatchewan fishing guides, Saskatchewan fishing trips and Saskatchewan fishing outfitters. We would not want to include terms which are only loosely related such as Saskatchewan vacations, fishing tackle, salt water fishing trips. One of our guidelines is anymore than 12 keywords in an ad group and you are likely extending that keyword theme too far.

Next think about your ads, within your Ad Group. Multiple ads are far better than Ad Groups with single ads. Google will test your ads and will use the best performing ads more often. So start with a minimum of three ads in your ad group. Optimize several of the ads for the highest volume search terms in your ad group, including that search term in your ad headlines and description fields. Lastly, ensure that the destination URL or the landing page where your ads point to is the most relevant landing page on your site. Hint: it quite often is not your website home page. Keep in mind that within an Ad Group, all your ads must point to the same landing page, otherwise Google will disallow your ads.

That brings us to Landing pages. As 1/3 of the relevance formula, a weak landing page can drop a potentially strong Quality Score of 8 or better down to a mediocre 5 or 4 score. A landing page that is well optimized for the same theme as the Ad Group's ads that point to it will provide a positive landing page experience, leading to improved engagement and higher conversion rates. This means low bounce rates and higher time on site and pages per session. If you are spending money on the front side to drive traffic to your website, then you also need to spend the time and effort to develop content that matches (relevance) the Ad Group theme.

Here's another reason to develop strong landing pages, they also attract organic traffic. A well developed, optimized, theme relevant landing page is an asset that Google may decide belong in their top 10 rankings and will bring you additional traffic without the associated cost per click.

One more method to consider in improving your Quality Score which is to add Negative Keywords. We have a future article about negative keywords but for now it's important to know that you can eliminate budget dollars spent on low quality traffic by adding these to your Ad Groups, Campaigns, or Account level negative keyword lists. Using our "Saskatchewan fishing lodges" example again, we would likely consider a search term such as "salt water fishing" as a negative keyword. There's no salt water fishing, just 100,000 fresh water lakes, in Saskatchewan so we would not want to spend money attracting traffic looking to fish for salt water species or at salt water locations.

Quality Score Side Effects - Better Budget Spend

A side effect of getting better quality scores is that your money spent is used attracting higher quality traffic, more relevant traffic, to your business, to what you sell. Higher quality traffic tends to interact at a higher rate with your web site, viewing more pages, consuming more content, spending more time on your site, increasing the likelihood that they will contact you through your site, or purchase directly if you have ecommerce available.