Adwords Quality Score Factors Explained

Quality score is one of the most important numbers you will encounter in your Adwords account because "it can decide the fate of your account".(Geddes, Brad, Advanced Google Adwords, 2014) 

Introduced in 2005, Quality score is a number from 1 to 10, assigned to an ad copy by Google to measure how good the experience a searcher will have with the ad copy and the landing page. 

Quality score is important for adwords campaigns because it determines the ranked order of an ad in search results and subsequently the cost an advertiser has to pay to appear in paid search results. The higher the Quality score of an ad the less the advertiser pays. In contrast, raising your bid does not affect Quality Score, therefore even if you are willing to pay more you will not improve your Quality Score. Sounds fair, right? 

Quality Score Factors

If you have come across Google's ten commandments you will probably know that the company is obsessed with user experience. Google's dictum stating "Focus on the user and all else will follow" proves that, and as you may imagine all quality score factors are tied to user experience and satisfaction

Ads and landing pages with high relevance to searchers' intent (and consequently satisfaction) are rewarded with higher Quality Scores and cost less money. Although there is a bit of Google's secret sauce when it comes to Quality Score factors, with Google using over 100 factors to determine Quality Scores, in brief, the main factors that affect Quality Score are the following:

  • Historical CTR of ad copy. Perhaps the most important Quality Score factor because it reflects the outcome of your ads relevancy to searchers' intent. The higher the CTR the higher the Quality Score. Apart from each ad's performance, Google also examines your Account history, which is your entire account performance in terms of CTRs, in order to determine how the account has done overall and decide what should be the normal range of Quality Scores in the account.
  • Relevance of ad copy to search query How closely does your ad copy match the search query.
  • Relevance of keyword to ad copy. How closely does your ad copy reflect your keyword. Do you use generic keywords (i.e shoes) or specific and relevant to searchers' intent? (i.e men's nike trainers)
  • Landing page experience This factor measures how thematically relevant is the landing page to the keyword that triggered the ad to appear. Does the text in the landing page match the search query? Equally important aspect in Landing page experience is page load time. The faster it loads the better the experience for searchers. 

    Quality Score Factors Explained
    Main Quality Score Factors


    Where to find Quality Score in Adwords?

    You can view your Quality Scores in adwords interface as seen in the screenshot below:

    How to find Quality Score in your Adwords account

    By opening the dialogue box you can find whether you ad is eligible to appear in search results and see a diagnosis about possible problems that might hinder your ad copy from showing in search results. In case you want Quality Scores to appear in your dashboard, click on "columns" tab under "keywords section" and select Quality Score. By adding Quality Score in your customized columns, you can then sort them out, in order to find the worst performing ones and try to improve them by advising each keyword's dialogue box. 

    Now, while these messages appearing in the dialogue boxes can point you in the right direction, they are a bit vague as to the specifics. The hyperlinks in the dialogue box lead to Adwords Help resources, which might find again a bit fragmented, especially if you are not plan to read their overwhelming 400 page "manual". So let's briefly see some recommendations on how to improve your Quality Score.  


    Optimizing Quality Score

    Most of the times campaign budget is limited, therefore you might need to improve your ad's position without increasing your campaign or CPC bids. Your top priority then should be to make the necessary changes that will improve the Quality Score of your ad. 

    Although Google uses complex algorithms to determine Quality Scores, there are some guidelines that can definitely help in optimizing your Quality Scores such as: 
    • To improve the CTR of your ad copies A generic approach to improving CTRs is to try writing more compelling texts and improving your offering to the searcher. Another technique is to bid higher in the beginning of campaigns in order to acquire top positions in search results and benefit from higher CTRs, higher Quality Scores and consequently lower CPCs. Also, adding sitelinks can be very effective, because the CTR of sitelinks is calculated into the overall CTR, and therefore increases it, alongside Quality Score. Try using at least 4 sitelinks, but not more than 8. Change the keyword match type. If you are currently using broad match, change it to modified broad or phrase match and monitor the Quality Score over the next week or so. You can see more about match types at our post "Keyword match types explained". After all, we all dream of those Double-digit CTRs... 
    • To ameliorate the relevance of the ad copy by mapping the most relevant keywords of you ads to the most relevant landing pages. To achieve this, try to break down your account structure more granularly by creating topical categories and subcategories of ad groups, ad copies and keywords that ideally should reflect your website structure. This structure will allow you to gain better control over your account performance and will help you focus on high converting ads and keywords. You can find out more about keywords categories in our "keyword research and analysis guide".  
    • To optimize your landing page by making it ROTN (Relevant, Original, Transparent and Navigatable). Landing page optimization is closely related to SEO best practices that include on-page optimization, fast webpage load times, simple code and crawlable content for Google's Adsbots, which are responsible for measuring Quality Scores. Transparency to users is also essential and Google recommends to always use privacy policy, opt-in forms for newsletters and always notify users prior to any action that can alter their browser settings. The "Navigation" requirements of high quality landing pages include various practices of Usability design such as internal linking to important pages of the website (i.e homepage, best sellers etc.), an "about us" page with detailed contact information, a privacy policy and product details (for ecommerce sites). There are many landing page optimization paid services such as Unbounce and Optimizely and that can help you easily create a landing page an reach high Quality Scores.   
    • To monitor systematically the trend of your Quality Score by scheduling frequent reports to observe its fluctuation within a time period...and Never Stop Optimizing it! Keep in mind that low Quality Scores, apart from being costly for your pocket, can also lead to low or no visibility in search results.


    Quality Scores and CPCs 

    A good quality score is considered anything higher than 7/10. In industries with expensive CPCs such as finance & insurances, jobs & education or computer & consumer electronics where CPCs for certain keywords could reach 40€-50€, the savings from an increase in Quality Score from 7/10 to 10/10 can be significant. (note that as Quality Score increases, CPC drops). The following image from the bid management software house WordStream shows what you should expect to pay in any adwords auction in relation to your Quality Score. 

    The role of Quality Score in Adwords Auctions
    The role of Quality Score in Adwords auctions

    Each advertiser enters the auction with an ad and determines a max bid he is willing to pay for CPC. Google then assigns a Quality Score for each ad by measuring the factors mentioned previously. The product of Max Bid and Quality Score is called Ad Rank. (Ad Rank=max bid x Quality Score)

    In this example, the Ad rank for the first advertiser is $2.00x10=20. Respectively, the second Ad rank is 16, the third 12 and finally the forth is 8. The actual CPC an advertiser pays is calculated in every auction and is the result of the ad rank of the advertiser immediately below, divided by his Quality Score plus just one cent. (Actual CPC= ad rank of the advertiser just below/his Quality Score + 0,01). A good Quality Score and just a penny more is all you need to beat your competitor! This is why the adwords pricing model is considered very fair in terms of rules, ethics and logic...

    Google updates Quality Score frequently. In terms of CTRs, updates run every day for most keywords. Relevancy updates run once per week and finally updates regarding landing pages even less frequently. A general rule of thumb for landing page crawling by bots, also valid in SEO, is that the more traffic you receive the more often Google crawls your site.


    Quality score is the core of Google's ad business and arguably one of the most important metrics for adwords advertisers. Although in a recent whitepaper Google tries to devalue the importance of Quality Score to advertisers, stating that "Quality Score shouldn't be the focus of your optimizations", we can't neglect the fact that high Quality Scores save us money and reflect how well an account performs against its objectives.

    July 14, by Vangelis Kovaios

    Suggested Reading:

    -Google Adwords management:Keyword match types explained

    -Quality Score by Certified Knowledge

    See below Tenscores' Infographic on Quality Score

    What Is Quality Score?