When you’re first getting started with Google Ads, managing and optimizing a successful pay-per-click (PPC) campaign can be quite challenging – especially if you don’t understand the importance of the quality score. Just as your credit score influences your ability to secure a mortgage, an ad’s quality score has a profound impact on the cost and effectiveness of a paid search campaign. So what does a high quality score indicate? How is it calculated? And most importantly, does it even matter?
(Hint: It does.)
How Google Ads Work
Before we hone in on quality scores, let’s discuss how Google Ads work. This is the basic process:
- Advertisers choose keywords to target. They select words that are relevant to their products or services, focusing on the terms their ideal customers use when searching on Google.
- Advertisers bid on the keywords. When you enter your bid (which you can adjust at any time), you’re telling Google Ads the maximum amount you’re willing to pay when a user clicks on your ad. Google will tell you if you need to increase your bids, so it’s okay to start low. Just remember to check back frequently to raise your bids if needed.
- Every time someone searches on Google or visits a website that displays Google Ads, the advertising system conducts a lightning-fast ad auction. To determine which ads appear on the search engine results page (SERP), Google combines the advertisers’ bids with the ads’ quality scores (which are assigned based on the quality of the proposed ads).
- When a user clicks on an advertiser’s ad, the advertiser pays a specified amount (the actual cost-per-click), which is calculated using this formula: (Competitor AdRank / Quality Score) + .01 = Cost-Per-Click. The “competitor AdRank” is the AdRank of the competitor below the advertiser.
In addition to your bid, there are two main factors that determine which ads appear on the SERP and how they are ranked: (1) the quality of your ads, and (2) your choice of ad extensions and ad formats. Let’s start with the latter.
When you create an ad, you are allowed to expand it to add information through the use of extensions. Not only do extensions increase the amount of information in an advertisement, but also they typically boost the click-through-rate (CTR) by giving the ad greater visibility and giving users multiple ways of contacting you. Many formats are available for extensions, including call buttons, links to specific pages on your website, location information, added text, etc. Adding an extension does not guarantee that it will always appear with your ad, however.
You can also improve your ad’s chances of appearing on the SERP by focusing on quality. The Google Ads system evaluates the quality of every ad and assigns it a quality score, which brings us to the question at hand: What does a high quality score indicate?
What Does a High Quality Score Indicate?
According to Google, a quality score is “intended to give you a general sense of the quality of your ads.” A high quality score indicates that Google’s advertising system believes your ad and landing page are relevant and useful to people looking at the ad. Three factors influence each ad’s quality score: the expected click-through rate, the ad relevance, and the landing page experience.
Note that the score is an aggregated estimate based on past performance in recent ad auctions, so if an ad hasn’t garnered enough impressions or clicks, Google won’t give it a quality score. This also means that your quality scores may change over time as your ads get more impressions. And because recent impressions are required to maintain a quality score, a score may disappear if there isn’t a sufficient amount of recent data.
Quality scores are assigned at the keyword level. To see your keywords’ quality scores, open your Google Ads account and navigate to the Keywords Report. If you don’t see a quality score column when you open the report, you can add one by modifying the metrics displayed (this option is found in the upper right corner of the table, under “Modify Columns”). The quality score is reported on a scale of 1 to 10.
The Importance of a High Quality Score
Perhaps you’re tempted to dismiss quality scores because you don’t care what Google thinks of your ads. While we applaud your individualism, keep in mind that your ads’ quality scores will greatly impact the performance of your ad campaigns. An ad with a high quality score will lead to lower CPCs and better ad positions on SERPs.
So if you want to rank higher and pay less, spend some time improving your ads’ quality scores before you increase your ad budget. Monitor your ads’ scores in your Google Ads account, and work to improve them if they’re holding back your ad campaign. Each factor that influences the quality score (expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience) will receive one of three values: below average, average, and above average. Review these values to decide what to optimize to improve your quality score.
Why does Google use quality scores at all? Because the search engine depends on revenue from advertising, they want their users to see relevant, interesting ads every time they search. If they allowed low-quality ads to take up space on SERPs, they would earn less money and risk annoying their users.
So if you want to improve your PPC performance, pay less for your ads, and boost your ads’ rankings, keep an eye on your quality scores.
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