2020 US Search Award Winner
2020 US Search Award Winner – Best Use of Search – B2C (PPC)

Today I’ll be explaining what Quality Score is and why it’s important.  In the not too distant past, a PPC manager was responsible for optimizing many levers in order to maximize results.  These included manually adjusting bids for devices, locations, household income, demographics, time of day, day of the week, keywords, etc.  In the current environment, with Smart Bidding taking control of all of those adjustments, one of the most important areas that a PPC manager can still make a big impact is on improving Quality Score.

In this post, we’ll walk through what it is and why it’s important, the 3 components that make up Quality Score, and how to improve it over time.

 

What is Quality Score?

Quality Score is a number from 1-10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being that highest, that is assigned to each keyword in Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.  For this post, we’ll be using Google Ads as an example, but everything below also applies to Microsoft Ads (Bing).  A high Quality Score means you’re delivering a good user experience to a Google searcher.  How does Google decide what a good user experience is?  They look for three factors: Ad Relevance, Expected CTR (Click-through Rate), and Landing Page Experience.  Each of these factors can be viewed individually within Google Ads, and are ranked as either Below Average, Average, or Above Average.  If your ad is relevant to what someone is searching for, your ad copy is enticing enough to drive a high CTR, and the landing page matches up to the keyword that is searched, Google considers that a good user experience.

When all three of these factors align, and you have a high Quality Score, it impacts how much you pay for clicks and where you appear in the search engine results page (SERP), also known as your Ad Rank.  Ad Rank is determined by multiplying a keyword’s bid (e.g. $2) by the Quality Score.  Based on the product of this multiplication, all competing bidders are rank-ordered, and their ads are displayed on the SERP corresponding to their Ad Rank.  For example, if one advertiser has an Ad Rank of 50 and is competing with another that has an Ad Rank of 48, the bidder with 50 would appear above the bidder with 48.  The higher up on the page, the higher the click-through rate.  High Ad Rank is a good thing for your PPC keywords!

 

Quality Score and Ad Rank Example

Let’s say there are 3 competing coffee brands bidding on the same ‘coffee’ keyword: Billy’s Beans, Mocha Joe’s, and Latte Larry’s.  Here are their bids, Quality Scores, and Ad Ranks:

Advertiser CPC Bid Quality Score Ad Rank
Billy’s Beans $3 8 24
Mocha Joe’s $4 5 20
Latte Larry’s $7 2 14

In the above example, although Latte Larry’s is willing to spend up to $7 per click, they will be below their competitors who are bidding less on the same keyword.  This is why Quality Score is so important!  Let’s say that Latte Larry’s was able to improve their ad copy, which now focuses more on the keyword and is more enticing to users, lifting it’s expected CTR.  This brings Latte Larry’s Quality Score from a 2 to a 6:

Advertiser CPC Bid Quality Score Ad Rank
Latte Larry’s $7 6 42
Billy’s Beans $3 8 24
Mocha Joe’s $4 5 20

Latte Larry’s is now clearly on top in terms of Ad Rank and their ad will now show up first in the SERP.  With a Quality Score of 6, Latte Larry’s now only has to bid any amount over $4 ($4 x 6 = 24, tied for first with Billy’s Beans) in order to take the top spot.  If they’re able to get their Quality Score up to 10 then they only need to bid more than $2.40.  By optimizing for Quality Score, you can quickly improve efficiency and operate with higher expected returns.

 

Quality Score Components and How to Optimize

Ad Relevance

Google defines Ad Relevance as:

“Ad relevance” measures how closely your keyword matches the message in your ads. A below-average score may mean that your ads are too general or specific to answer the user’s query, or that this keyword isn’t relevant to your business.”

This is the most straightforward of the 3 factors.  Want to improve Ad Relevance?  Make sure the keyword appears in the ad at least once.  It’s a common best practice to use the keyword in the Headline 1 section of an ad.  If someone is searching for ‘ground decaf coffee’, your Headline 1 should read ‘Ground Decaf Coffee’ or ‘Buy Ground Decaf Coffee’, not ‘Online Coffee Delivery’.  Note that this is only really possible through tightly grouped keywords and ad groups [Ricky – do we have a SKAGs blog post we can link to here?].  If you have ‘decaf ground coffee’, ‘instant coffee’, and ‘espresso roast beans’ in the same ad group, it’s very hard to speak specifically to each of these keywords in your ad copy.  Responsive Search Ads [Ricky – link this to Google or our own blog post if we have one] are an effort by Google to overcome this, but we still advise more granular ad groups with headlines highlighting the specific keyword being searched.  Ad Relevance is arguably the easiest of the 3 Quality Score measuring factors to influence.

 

Expected CTR

Google defines Expected CTR as:

“Expected CTR” measures how likely it is that your ad will be clicked when shown. This score is based on the past clickthrough performance of your ads. We exclude the effects of ad position and other factors that affect the visibility of your ad, such as extensions.

This one is a little trickier to optimize.  Occasionally you’ll see keywords with very high CTRs (15%+) with an ‘Average’ or ‘Below Average’ ranking.  What’s most important is to follow ad copy best practices, like making sure the ad is relative to the keyword searched (which also helps Ad Relevance), and including calls to action in the copy, such as ‘Shop Now’ or ‘Learn More’.  You can keep experimenting with different copy variations until you land on one (or a set) that Google deems to be Above Average in Expected CTR.

 

Landing Page Experience

Google defines Landing Page Experience as:

“Landing page experience” estimates how relevant and useful your landing page is to people who click your ad. It takes into account factors such as how well your landing page content matches a person’s search term, and how easy it is for people to navigate your page.

Making your keyword match your ad and landing page is pretty straightforward.  If someone is searching for ‘ground decaf coffee’, have your keyword or ad point to the page on your website with ground decaf coffee instead of the homepage or all products page.  Do this for each keyword and you should be Above Average in this ranking factor pretty easily.

The second half, how easy it is for people to navigate your page, is a more complex.  Google give more detail in this Google Ads support post.  Tips include promoting transparency and fostering trustworthiness on your sire, making mobile and computer navigation easy, decreasing your landing page loading time, and making your site fast.  This goes back to the reason Quality Score exists—making sure that users have a seamless, good user experience.

 

To Sum It All Up

You should now have a solid understanding of what Quality Score is, why it’s important, and how to improve it in your account.  It’s a factor that your competitors are likely monitoring, so it’s crucial in the competitive world of PPC to maximize your Quality Score however you can.

Feeling overwhelmed or need some extra help?  Contact us and we’d be happy to help you improve your account and take it to the next level.

Owen Loft