Quality Score is the enigmatic numerical evaluation tool Google uses in the administration of ads within AdWords. Quality Score is somewhat like the SEO ranking factors, with marketers continually guessing about what its components are and what weights each component has in the algorithm. There’s no pretending to know all the answers, but that shouldn’t stand in the way of being able to improve Quality Score.
Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is a major aspect of Quality Score- so much so that some people feel it’s the only thing that matters for a good Quality Score at all. That isn’t the case, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is so important it is at the top of this list. Any and every PPC expert will recommend focusing on boosting your CTR.
CTR and Quality Score are so closely related that improving your CTR by just a few percentage points can boost your Quality Score. By making changes to your ads and your account, particularly where you see ads with low CTR, you can raise your CTR to levels that will have an impact on your Quality Score as well. For example, If your actual CTR is 2% and your quality score is around 4 (not great), but your expected CTR is 4%. Working to improve that CTR just two percentage points, from 2% to the expected 4% means you can expect your Quality Score to jump 1.5 points – up to a 5.5 average.
However, the relationship between CTR and Quality Score follows the law of diminishing returns. As the click-through-rate increases, it has less and less of an impact on the Quality Score. It’s what we call “beginner gains” in weight lifting. When you first start, you have so much room for improvement that the weight you are lifting jumps quickly week by week, but the better you get, the less room for improvement and therefore the smaller increments of change.
Be warned, it’s possible to artificially boost CTR, by doing things like writing overly- but those tricks are short-term and financially meaningless or worse, wasteful.
Improving Quality Score means improving your ad copy. It’s that simple. Ad copy should be closely tailored to the keywords you are using – ideally, your ad copy will contain the keywords that you are using.
Beyond just containing the right keywords, ad copy should be optimized to be engaging and entertaining. Shoppers are more likely to click on an ad that directly addresses their desires, and good ad copy can make sure that you don’t lose prospects by getting keywords right but getting the tone wrong. “Birthday cakes: They exist. We sell them.” Technically fits the right qualifications for ad copy for the keyword “birthday cake,” but it has all the enthusiasm and appeal of a brick to someone who does not care about bricks. All joking aside, badly written ads can be a major problem. If you’re looking for a way to boost your Quality Score, optimizing your ad copy will help.
Keywords and ad copy should be directly related, but there’s a deeper level to Quality Score called relevance, which also means that your ads and keywords should have that same close connection to the content on your website – particularly the ad landing page. Google wants an ad to be like a window into your site – on the ad, the shopper should see exactly what they were looking for and when they click it, it should be immediately obvious what kind of product, service, or other types of content they will find on your site.
Now, all that being said, it is possible for a keyword to have a high Quality Score and yet have low ad relevance – or the other way around. Adwords looks at a different variety of factors in the creation of a Quality Score. Quality Score is made to be a measure of the quality of an ad. Google is incentivized to make user experience, particularly with ads, as exceptional as possible, and Quality Score (and relevance specifically) is a major part of that. Still, even is overall Quality Score is high, you can check these individual factors, like relevance, to see if there is still room for improvement within your ads.
One thing that continually crops up as a reason for low quality score is that many advertisers are making their ad groups too large. It’s a fair complaint. Having a wide variety of smaller ad groups is undoubtedly more work. More pruning, shaping, optimizing. More negative keywords to apply. But as we all know, PPC isn’t a set-and-forget (LINK TO BLOG POST) type of advertising, and treating it as such is a great way to see your keyword Quality Score take a nosedive. Ad groups should be kept relatively limited. Google recommends that you only include 15-20 keywords per ad groups. The odd element in this particular tip is that just the act of making your ad groups more exclusive does not directly improve your quality score. But as we’ve said before, successful PPC and a high quality score do not necessarily all hinge upon direct relationships. The reason for the recommended ad group size is that once an advertiser gets an ad group bigger than 15-20 keywords, they begin to veer dangerously into the territory of less-relevant keywords, which will tank your CTR, which lowers the Quality Score.
And thus we are brought around in a full circle. Quality Score is more complex than any one series of targets to hit for each factor – relevance, copy, CTR, etc, and so there’s a final piece of advice to share:
Quality Score is not the be-all-end-all. It is a measure used by Google to advertise as best they can. It is not the last word on what is a good ad and what isn’t. In the end, only your ROI can tell you whether an ad is performing well or not. If your ROI is lacking, low Quality Score may indicate problem areas, but don’t use Quality Score alone to evaluate your ad performance.