We get it — the realm of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and, more specifically, Google Ads, can be disorienting. The main reason being the fact that even experienced PPC professionals don’t exactly know how PPC campaigns work under the hood.
One of the most infamous examples is the ad rank, which is determined by a black box algorithm that is largely unknown even to the Google mastermind who created it. What is known about the ad rank, however, is that the two variables that play a large part in determining it are your bid for the ad and your ad’s quality score.
The bid is rather self-explanatory — but what is quality score? That’s the question we will answer in this article. We will define what quality score is, what role it plays in the performance of your PPC campaign, and, most importantly, how you can improve it and why.
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What Is Quality Score?
In Google Ads, the quality score (QS) is a metric of how relevant your PPC ad is in regard to the keyword you’re targeting with your ad. The quality score is assigned on the scale of 1 to 10 — 1 meaning that your ad is highly irrelevant to your target keyword and 10 meaning that your ad matches the keyword perfectly.
Google calculates the PPC quality score for your ads based on the past performance of the ads that other advertisers ran for the keywords you target. As a result, QS as a metric is usually aimed at advertisers, to help them get a better idea of whether their ads fit the user intent behind the keyword they’re targeting.
And while this is the general definition of QS, it’s mechanics and implications go a little deeper than that. That’s because there are actually three types of quality score.
#1: Account-Level Quality Score
Account-level quality score is calculated as the average of your entire ad account’s past performance, across all of your ad groups and ads. Google neither confirms, nor denies the existence of account-level quality score — as a result, it’s not a metric you can see in your Google Ads interface.
Still, there are theories that account-level quality score may play a part in determining the quality scores of your current ads. For example, if you’re running an old Google Ads account with a proven track record of executing successful campaigns, the quality score of your future campaigns may be a bit more favorable.
#2: Ad Group Quality Score
Ad group quality score is the average of the individual quality scores of all the ads within that PPC ad group. Just like account-level QS, ad group QS is not a metric that’s presented to you explicitly in your Google Ads interface.
As a result, it shouldn’t be treated as a performance metric, either. However, ad group quality score could be useful as an A/B testing tool to compare the performance of the two ad groups.
#3: Keyword-Level Quality Score
Keyword-level quality score is THE quality score that is presented to you in your Google Ads interface — and the type that fits the general QS definition the most. Keyword-level QS is calculated based on the past performance of other ads that targeted the same PPC keywords you’re targeting.
That is, until your own ads get enough impressions for Google to start analyzing their performance within your account — known as the impression threshold. Once your ads cross this threshold, the historic performance of other advertisers’ ads will have less of an impact on your keyword-level QS.
Instead, Google quality scores are determined by the algorithm based on other factors, most notably:
- Click-Through-Rate (CTR): Arguably the most important component of QS, the click-through-rate of an ad is the ratio of clicks an ad gets, relative to its number of impressions. In other words, it’s the percentage of people who actually click on your ad after seeing it. Generally speaking, the higher your CTR, the higher your QS will be.
- Ad relevance: A measure of how relevant your ad and its components are to the keyword it’s targeting. Elements that contribute to the ad relevance are include the ad copy and whether it features the target keyword.
- Landing page experience: Google looks at several factors when determining whether the user who clicks on your ads gets a good experience on your landing page. Ultimately, it comes down to relevancy and originality of the content, ease of navigation, fast loading speed, and responsiveness of the web design.
What Is the Role of Quality Score in PPC Campaign Performance?
While QS should not be treated as a performance indicator, it is still an important metric that may affect the overall effectiveness of your PPC campaign — in three ways.
First, quality score determines whether your ad will enter the auction for your target keyword in the first place. Naturally, Google does not want to show their users ads that are completely irrelevant to the keyword and the user’s search intent. As a result, ads with extremely low quality scores typically don’t have any chance of appearing in Google’s search results pages — unless your cost-per-click (CPC) bid is extremely high, which wouldn’t be cost-effective.
Second, quality score plays an important role in determining your ad’s ad rank — the elusive metric that determines your ad’s position on the search results page. Once (and if) your ad enters the ad auction, Google’s algorithm will assess the ad’s QS together with other metrics, such as your max CPC bid, to determine how your ad will rank.
Finally, quality score directly affects the CPC you’ll pay on your ad. Because Google is interested in showing only the most relevant ads to users, it will reward the advertisers who run such ads by offering them discounted CPC rates. For example, a QS of 9 will lower your CPC by as much as 44.2% compared to a QS of 5 — Google’s benchmark value. On the other hand, a QS of 2 will make your CPC at least 150% higher. Naturally, the lower your CPC, the more users and clicks you will be able to attract within your PPC campaign budget, making your ads more cost-effective overall.
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How Do You Increase Your Google Ads Quality Score?
Now that we’ve covered what quality score is and why it matters, let’s proceed with the most important part, for which you probably came here — how you can increase your Google Ads QS.
1. Assess the Quality Score Components
Before you can proceed with improving your QS, you must understand the metrics that Google uses to calculate it. And while we have already mentioned a few of those metrics, you can easily see all of them in your Google Ads interface.
Simply navigate to the “Keywords” tab of your campaign and you’ll see all of the metrics listed in columns after the keyword and its quality score:
- Landing page experience
- Expected CTR
- Ad relevance
- Historical quality score
- Historical expected CTR
- Historical ad relevance
Each one of these metrics will be rated as Below Average, Average, or Above Average to give you an idea what components of your ad might be negatively impacting your quality score and require your attention.
With that said, let’s go over the tactics you can use to improve each one of these components one by one and with that, improve your overall quality score.
2. Optimize Your Landing Page Performance
The user experience plays an essential part in all realms of digital marketing — from SEO to PPC. As such, the experience that your users get once they arrive at the landing page for your PPC campaign can truly make or break the success of your campaign.
Typically, improving your landing page experience essentially means lowering the page’s bounce rate — the percentage of users who land on it, then leave without taking the action you want them to take. This can happen for a variety of reasons — the page might be confusing for the user, seem untrustworthy, or take too long to open.
Here’s how you can alleviate these issues to optimize user experience and landing page performance:
- Optimize loading speed: Nothing can make your user bounce faster than a slow page loading speed. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the modern user expects every page on the internet to open in a fraction of a second. Even a one-second delay can increase the probability of a user bouncing by as much as 32%. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to avoid that. Start by analyzing your page’s loading speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It can help you identify the technical issues that may be negatively affecting the loading speed and give you suggestions on how to resolve them.
- Use responsive web design: A landing page that has a responsive web design will be able to adapt its interface to different types of devices and screen sizes, which is essential for a smooth mobile browsing experience. In 2022, responsive web design is a must — unless you are ready to miss out on the 54.4% of all internet traffic.
- Make your landing page easy to read and navigate: You know what’s worse than users bouncing from your landing page because they’re not interested in converting? Users bouncing off because they cannot figure out what your landing page is about and how they can convert. Make sure your landing page is easy to read and navigate — use the Z or F page pattern to highlight the most important information, add clear and visible CTAs, and be generous with your white space to declutter the user’s screen.
- Populate your landing page with unique, valuable content: Users may come to your landing page because of your ad, but they will stay because of the page’s content — web copy, images, multimedia elements, and so on. Since the page content is, essentially, what drives users to take the final step to conversion, make sure your content is unique and valuable. Be sure to speak to your users in their own language and communicate clearly and openly what your landing page is all about.
- Make sure your landing page is relevant to your ad: Above all, your landing page should be relevant to your ad — both in terms of the user journey and the messaging. For example, if you are running an ad for one specific product, clicking on the ad should lead the user to the dedicated page for this product — not a category page or your website’s homepage.
3. Research & Target the Most Relevant Keywords
Contrary to popular belief, finding the right keywords for your ad is a bit more complicated than finding generic terms that describe the product or service you’re advertising.
That’s because even keywords that are similar in meaning can vary in terms of the search intent behind them. Similarly, the keywords that might seem like they have nothing to do with your product and service might turn out to be relevant for your campaign.
For example, let’s say you are an interior designer and you want to advertise your services using a PPC campaign. Keywords you might want to target include:
- “interior design”
- “interior designer”
- “interior design agency”
- “interior design bureau”
- “custom interior design”
However, these are not the only keywords you could target. Other terms that could be relevant to your business and, as a result, your ads, might include:
- “custom kitchen design”
- “custom furniture”
- “custom renovation projects”
And while all those keywords are roughly similar to one another, it would not make sense to target them with the same ads — the images, copy, and CTAs for an ad that is aimed at the “custom kitchen design” keyword would be different from those in an ad aimed at “interior designer.”
Compile all of your keywords and separate them into individual ad groups — with landing pages to match — based on the exact meaning and search intent behind them. That way, you’ll be able to create ads that are tailored to your target keywords as closely as possible.
4. Take Steps to Maximize Your CTR
Improving your ad’s CTR will not only boost its quality score and, potentially, your conversions — it will also lower your CPC. After all, the more people click on your ad, the more cost-effective it is.
And while everything you do to improve your ads’ quality score — especially tailoring your keywords — would in turn improve your CTR, there are a few additional ways you can maximize it, through:
- Ad extensions: Ad extensions are the text and links that appear underneath the body of your ad and present additional information to your user. These include structured snippet extensions that give additional information about your product or services, sitelink extensions that feature links to additional landing pages, and call extensions that allow the user to contact you directly via phone.
- Negative keywords: Negative keywords are the keywords that you don’t want your ads to target — even if they are synonymous with your main keywords. By designating certain keywords as negative for your PPC campaign, you can make sure your ads don’t appear for those keywords. This will allow you to boost your ads’ relevancy by ensuring that they only target the specific keywords you want them to target. Consider the interior design example from above: the negative keywords for such a campaign could include terms like “landscaping” or “window installation” — terms that might be similar in Google’s eyes, but have nothing to do with your business.
- Dynamic keyword insertion: Activating dynamic keyword insertion in your ads will make your target keywords appear automatically in your ads’ headers and URLs. While it may seem like a minor detail, inserting your target keyword into the URL will make it even clearer to users what your ads are all about. Moreover, because dynamic keyword insertion is performed automatically, your ads will adjust to include the exact keyword your user is searching for, saving you the manual work of setting up your ad groups one by one.
5. A/B Test Your Copy & Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
The real estate for your copy and CTAs in PPC ads is limited. As a result, you might be conflicted about what details you should include in your ads, and what details you should omit.
And even if the ads you create are successful, you won’t be able to help but wonder: what if they were even more effective, had you included those other highlights instead?
The best way to resolve that dilemma is A/B testing — creating two separate ad groups targeting the same groups, but with different copy, images, and CTAs.
A/B testing will allow you to see which ads perform better with your audience and tweak them even further to create a formula for successful ads with high quality scores.
Benefits of Improving Google Quality Score
Improving the quality scores of your PPC ads is not just about seeing high numbers in your Google Ads interface. Ultimately, high-quality scores across your entire PPC campaign have a number of tangible benefits:
- Lower campaign cost: As we established above, a high quality score automatically lowers the CPC of your ads — but that’s not the only cost benefit you’ll get. A lower cost per click might translate to a lower cost per acquisition (CPA) if the users who click on your ads end up converting. In the long run, this can drastically improve the overall cost-efficiency of your PPC advertising efforts.
- Higher traffic to your website: Since ads with a high QS are deemed relevant and valuable by Google, they are more likely to rank higher on the search result pages and to be seen by more users. This may result in more people visiting your website or even sharing it with others. Overall, it may lead to a higher traffic on your website — which may lead to more conversions.
- Higher account-level quality score: Running a successful PPC campaign with high-QS ads might make your future PPC campaigns more successful and efficient. That’s because a PPC campaign with a high average QS will improve the overall average QS of your ad account, which, as we’ve mentioned, could potentially boost the default QS of your future ads.
What Is Quality Score? Key Takeaways
Even though quality score is not a comprehensive KPI for your Google Ads campaign, it may still affect the effectiveness of your ads — or, at least, serve as an indicator of what may be holding your ads back.
As a measure of your ads’ relevance for the keywords that you’re targeting, the quality score can help you improve your PPC ads in a way that will make them seem more trustworthy and relevant to both Google and your target audience.
By optimizing your landing page experience, targeting the right keywords, and maximizing the CTR potential of your ads, you will be able to fine-tune your Google ads for the highest quality score possible and run successful, cost-effective PPC campaigns.
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