Understanding Your AdWords Quality Score

Many small businesses use the Google Adwords program to get traffic to their sites without ever considering their keyword quality scores, yet these QS scores are critically important in determining the success or otherwise of an Adwords campaign.

First things first, make sure you can see those scores! In the Keywords tab of your Google Adwords Campaign, click the word ‘Columns’ that appears just above the traffic graph then tick the box for ‘Qual. Score’ before clicking the ‘Save’ button underneath. That adds the QS column to your screen and we really want those scores to be as high as possible, preferably 7 or above (however you will rarely see keywords scored at 8 or 9, they tend to jump between 7 and 10!)

It is important to understand that the QS given to a keyword governs whether an ad is eligible to enter the auction and also governs the ad’s rank (position) and the actual cost paid for a click. The higher the QS and the more you are prepared to bid, the higher your ad will appear. Ad ranks are determined by multiplying the keyword QS by your bid. The higher the result, the higher the ad will be placed. A high QS can also mean you pay less per click than others, even advertisers appearing below you!

So how can we influence our Quality Scores? There are several factors that influence QS but the largest is the keyword’s Click Through Rate (CTR) over time. A healthy CTR indicates your ads are relevant to the search query and of interest to searchers so Google is happy that its main aim is met. Google’s CTR benchmarks do account for the positions the ads appear in, so ads in position 8 are not expected to have as high a CTR as ads at the top of the page.

We can maximise CTRs by having interesting ad copy that compels the reader to click. Strong quality or value statements and strong calls to action can mean the difference between a CTR of 1% or 3%.

The relevance of keywords to the ads in their adgroups is another very important factor in maximising CTR and QS. It’s well known that ads containing the keywords just used by the searcher are more likely to attract clicks. This is the primary reason for grouping your keywords and ads into well thought out adgroups.

We can also maximise CTR by using negative keyword matching to reduce the number of irrelevant ad impressions. Unless you are using exact match keywords only, it is very likely your ads are shown to some searchers who are not really looking for what you sell. For example, an advertiser bidding on the broad or phrase matched keyword “tennis shoes” may find his ad is shown to people looking for “kids tennis shoes” when in reality he does not stock kids sizes. A look at your Search Query Performance Report will show you what keywords are triggering your ads and which ones to add as negative matches.

The quality of your landing page is also important to your QS. If your ad for birthday cakes is leading to a page all about muffins and cupcakes then your landing page is not really relevant to the searcher, even if somewhere else on your site is a page all about birthday cakes.

Spending a little time on improving your Quality Score and therefore your ad rank and cost paid per click is certainly worth the extra effort involved, just try it and see the results for yourself.