Your Quality Score in AdWords plays a significant role in determining the cost, effectiveness and success of your PPC campaigns.
But what is it, and how can you improve yours?
What is a Quality Score?
Quality Score is essentially what it says on the tin: Google’s own rating of your ads, including the quality and relevance of both the keywords and ads. It is about how good your ad is at meeting the customer’s needs, and this means providing both relevance and value. SEO experts will be more than familiar with those words, and the same principles apply to PPC ads.
For information on how to find your Quality Score and its component scores, have a read of this handy Google guide. You can now also view historical quality score data so you can track how your quality score has changed, as well as other more detailed insights into your score.
Why does Quality Score matter? First and foremost, Quality Score has a significant influence over the cost of your campaigns, determining how much you pay for each click. In short, a higher quality score will mean higher ad rankings and lower costs. By lower costs we mean lower cost per click and lower cost per conversion. Now I’ve got your attention!
There are a variety of factors that go into determining a quality score and, similar to SEO, no one can be absolutely certain of which factors are more influential than others. However, through a bit of detective work and a healthy dose of savvy common sense, we can get a pretty good idea.
The first step towards improving your Quality Score is to get the initial keyword research phase correct. Always focus on the most appropriate keywords for your campaign in order to improve relevancy (we’re going to be saying this word a lot). Remember to also consider long-tail keywords, as these can bring significant traffic that is highly targeted.
Identifying the most relevant keywords is not enough; you also need to organize them into effective groups that can be used for individual campaigns. Avoid having too many broad ad groups, as these can lower your Quality Score. Instead, establish smaller, targeted ad groups, as these will contribute towards an overall more successful campaign.
Set up this phase of the campaign correctly and you’ll be in a much better position to improve your quality score. With targeted ad groups, you will more effectively be able to reach the exact audience that is most likely to be searching for what you are providing. Get this part right and the rest should flow naturally.
As part of this, be sure to exclude negative keywords that could be unnecessarily draining your budget. Failing to do so could lower your click-through rate and therefore damage your Quality Score.
Landing page experience
We could dedicate an entire blog post to optimizing your landing pages, but for the sake of this article, the key point to remember is – you guessed it – relevance. You’re going to be bored silly by this word if you make it to the end of this post, but we keep mentioning it for good reason.
The process of clicking through from the ad to the landing page should provide a cohesive experience that links the user seamlessly from their initial search query to the conversion. Your landing page is an essential part of this process and it is therefore crucial to follow best practices for optimizing landing pages, as follows:
- Relevant, original content
- Transparency and trustworthiness
- Clear navigation and strong UX / UI
- Mobile friendly
- Quick load speed
- Ensure no broken links
Having a good landing page is not just necessary to please Google: it will also improve your conversion rate, which is the ultimate goal.
The general consensus is that click-through rate (CTR) is the most influential factor in determining Quality Score. Afterall, it is a valuable indication of how appealing and helpful your ads are to search engine users.
Some find it easier to focus on improving the CTR, rather than the quality score, as it is a little more transparent in terms of the contributing factors.
One of the key factors in improving CTR is the ad copy. Ensure it is enticing and to the point. Make searchers want to click on your ad over the other ads being displayed. You may need to do a bit of trialling and testing to find out what works best, but just remember one crucial point: relevance! (Bet you didn’t see that one coming…)
This encompasses both relevance to the search term and also to the landing page. For example, if your keyword is “seo agency london” and your ad makes no mention of SEO, then your score will be lower. It’s good old-fashioned common sense.
Furthermore, there is no point writing ad copy that you know will improve click-through rates, if it has no relevance to your landing page. This may give you a high click-through rate but it will leave you with virtually no conversions and these are the most important end goals in terms of campaign success and ROI.
You may want to consider pausing keywords with both a low CTR (<1.5%) and low conversions. Remember that Google will give a keyword an initial ‘expected’ CTR% when it starts; this can sometimes be misleadingly low, as other advertisers may not have experienced good CTRs.
Don’t let that put you off, though: as it could present a valuable opportunity for you to provide a better ad and landing page experience to your competitors. You can also try incorporating Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) to improve click-through rate.
Historical account performance
Just like a bad credit rating that may come back to bite you in the backside, your historical account performance can also affect your Quality Score. If you have a history of low Quality Scores, then Google is likely to penalize your current Quality Scores accordingly.
It may seem a bit unfair, especially if you have previously had bad scores but are determined to turn over a new leaf.
It also applies to newer accounts, as Google is more likely to trust ads from an old account with a long history of good performance than it is a new account with little history to go off. It’s the same as trying to get Google to trust a new website in terms of SEO: it takes time, but persevere and you’ll get there.
Think you’ll be clever and just start a new account for the same website? Afraid not, as it is against AdWords policy to start over (that’s the last time you’ll try to outsmart Google…). You’ll just have to stick it out and be patient.
Ad Rank isn’t so much a factor in improving Quality Score; rather quality score helps to improve Ad Rank. However, it is worth a mention as it is important to look at the bigger picture and to avoid honing in solely on quality score. Ad Rank determines the position of your ad in the SERPs and is determined based on your bid amount, quality score and the expected performance.
Once you see your Quality Score improve, your Ad Rank should naturally follow suit. As a result, you’ll see your ads occupy those top positions, your click-through rates will improve and it will all come full circle.
My final word of advice is to not get too hung up on Quality Score. Sure, it’s important, but what’s more important is the bigger picture and getting those conversions.
Quality Score is a contributing factor to the overall success of your campaign, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Focus on quality, relevance and improving click-through rates, and you’ll be rocking your ad campaigns in no time.