What Is Google AdWords Quality Score And Why Does It Matter?

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With Google AdWords, merely paying for an advert does not guarantee either prominence in the display rankings or a competitive cost per click (CPC). Where your advert ranks and how much you pay depends widely on your Quality Score (QS).

What Is AdWords Quality Score?

Quality Score is Google’s way of regulating the quality and relevance of pay per click adverts. A similar system is used by other PPC providers, such as Yahoo and Bing. Given as a figure between 1 and 10, with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst, QS determines which adverts have prominence in the paid results and how much users pay per click. As we will see below, high quality scores bring valuable benefits, whereas low scores burden users with expensive penalties.

How Is Quality Score Calculated?

Quality Score is a measure of two things: the relevance of the keyword both to the advert and your target market, and; the quality of your written copy and landing page. There are three main factors that affect quality score:

1) Keyword Click Through Rate (CTR)

Google calculates the current and historical CTR of your chosen keyword to help ensure it has relevance to people’s search queries. Keywords that have never had much traffic or those whose popularity has dropped have a lower QS than trending keywords. Local performance of keywords also affects QS. For example, if your chosen keyword has a high CTR in the USA but a poor CTR in the UK, your advert’s QS will be lower in Britain than if you are doing the same campaign in America. This is part of Google’s emphasis on local relevancy in its search results. Learn more about increasing Click Through Rate with this article - Google AdWords Split Testing - Increase Your CTR and Quality Scores.

2) Relevance Of Your Advert Copy

Your advert copy should directly relate to the keyword or it is not deemed to be relevant. ‘Irrelevant’ copy will negatively affect your Quality Score. It isn’t enough to just include your keyword in the advert copy, although this is essential. You should also include variants and negative versions of your keyword in the advert copy to boost relevancy. We will cover the importance of negative keywords in an upcoming blog post.

3) Quality & Relevance Of Your Landing Page

The web page your advert clicks through to is your ‘landing page’. This can be a pre-existing page of your website or a purpose built page. The important thing from Google’s perspective is that the landing page is explicitly relevant to your advert. Adverts that direct to website homepages or blogs therefore have a lower Quality Score because these pages are often optimised for multiple keywords. Specific landing pages with tightly targeted copy perform better in terms of QS. The loading speed of your landing page will also affect QS, with penalties given for slower pages. Get more conversions from your AdWords landing pages by reading this article - How To Increase Conversions From A Google AdWords Landing Page.

How AdWords Quality Score Affects Cost Per Click

Higher Quality Scores are awarded by Google with discounts of up to 50%, while lower quality adverts have prices hiked by up to 400%. Ouch! Here is a summary of the current discounts and penalties:

  • QS 10: 50% discount
  • QS 9: 44.2% discount
  • QS 8: 37.5% discount
  • QS 7: 28.6% discount
  • QS 6: 16.7% CPC increase
  • QS 5: No discount or penalty. This is the Google benchmark.
  • QS 4: 25% penalty
  • QS 3: 67.3% penalty
  • QS 2: 150% penalty
  • QS 1: 400% penalty

Using a hypothetical example, let’s say keyword X has a CPC of £2.50 at the Google benchmark of QS 5. If you can increase your QS to 9 you will pay a discounted rate of £1.39 per click, a generous saving. If on the other hand you completely let yourself go and your Quality Score slips down to 1, the same advert will cost you a sizeable £12.50 for every click.

At the same time, higher QS adverts will be given preference on the page over lower QS competitors and they will appear more frequently. There is therefore a direct correlation between higher QS and a higher number of clicks.

It should now be obvious why QS is so important. In our example, the user with the QS 1 advert will be paying more than six times as much as their competitor with a QS 9 advert, as well as getting fewer clicks. It is therefore essential that you take active steps to keep your AdWords Quality Score high in order to get the best results from your PPC campaign.

Making Sense Of Google AdWords

Google AdWords is an effective form of advertising that can yield a great ROI for your business, but it needs to be approached in the correct way for it to have the best results. To check the performance of your campaign, download our free Google AdWords Checklist today. The checklist contains all you need to know to get your PPC campaign started on the right foot and maintain a high quality score. Click here to claim your copy.

Google Adwords Checklist - JDR Group