Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is one of the best and most targeted ways to drive traffic to your website. With paid search, you can enter a few keywords, write some targeted ads, and be on the first page of the search engine results page in a matter of minutes (though a couple hours is more feasible).
The problem is, most people jump right into paid advertising without really understanding how the system works, and therefore end up spending more money than necessary to get that traffic.
Each search engine has their own paid platform, with the largest being Google AdWords. Paid search has a lot of moving parts, and one of the most important aspects of the Google PPC system is Quality Score.
In a nutshell, Quality Score is a numerical estimate of how relevant your keywords, ads, and landing pages are to the person seeing them. The Quality Score system rates every keyword on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible score. The higher your Quality Score, the more relevant Google thinks your ad is to the searcher.
How is Quality Score Calculated?
As stated previously, Google looks at how relevant your ad is to the landing page to the keyword. Every keyword is assigned a Quality Score, and it is calculated every time a search is performed and your ads are eligible for the ad auction. Google takes a number of things into consideration when calculating Quality Score, with some known, and many not (which tends to be Google’s M.O.) Some of the main factors include:
- Click-Through-Rate (CTR) – The more often your ad is clicked on, the more relevant it is to the users. Google uses your historical Click-Through-Rate to estimate the chances your ad will be clicked on. Click-Through-Rate is the most important factor in assigning Quality Score.
- Account Click-Through-Rate – Google also looks at the overall click-through-rate of your account when assigning Quality Score, so it is important to keep your account healthy as a whole.
- Landing Page Quality – Google wants its users to have a good experience when they visit your website. They take into account your landing pages relevance, transparency, and how easy it is to navigate.
- Ad to Keyword Relevance – How relevant is your ad to your keyword? It matters. Make sure your ad uses the keyword phrase and is not misleading to searchers.
- Keyword to Query Relevance – If your keyword is phrase or broad match, Google takes into account how closely-related the keyword is to the actual search term the user types in. This is why it is important to have small, closely related ad groups and to use negative keywords.
- Geographic Performance – Certain keywords perform much better in different areas. It is important to monitor this and make sure you are targeting areas where you are performing the best.
- Device Performance – Google also looks at how your ads and keywords are performing on different types of devices. It is important to make sure you are using best practices for each device type so your ads are enticing to the different types of users.
Why Does Quality Score Matter?
Bottom line: The better your Quality Score, the less you will pay every time somebody clicks on your ad. Google uses a formula known as Ad Rank to determine the actual amount you will pay when someone clicks on your ad. Ad Rank is a combination of your Quality Score and your max Cost-Per-Click (the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click.
You will almost never pay your maximum cost-per-click. To determine your actual cost-per-click, Google looks at your ad rank, and how much a person would pay for the position below yours, and then adds $0.01. This means that a quality ad could be paying much less for position 1 than the person in position 2 if you have a better score!
Another benefit of a high Quality Score include the ability to show up in the Google auction in the first place. Anything 4 or below, and you run the risk of not even having the chance to show up.
Quality Score Myths & Misconceptions
1. Search & Display Quality Score Affect Each Other. Many people worry that low click-through-rates in the Google Display Network will affect the Quality Score of their search keywords. Google actually looks at these networks separately because the criteria for evaluating Quality Score are very different for each network, so one has absolutely no effect on the other.
2. Higher Ad Positions Improve Your Quality Score. Some people believe that you can “buy into” a better Quality Score. According to Google, they actually compensate for different ad positions because they know that higher positions mean higher click-through-rates.
3. Changing Match Types Will Improve Quality Score. The Quality Score for a keyword is the same no matter what the match type is. So a Quality Score for the search query “web design” will be the same whether you are bidding Exact, Phrase, or Broad match, so there is no direct effect. However, if you are seeing a lot of results for a search query, adding it as an exact match and writing better-targeted ads can improve the score for that query.
4. You Can Delete Poor Historical Quality Score. Many people also believe if your historical score is suffering due to poor past keyword performance, you can delete those terms and improve the Account Quality Score. According to Google, however, this historical score will stay with you, but it is still important to remove poor performing keywords to stop future bad performance in your account.
If you are looking into paid search marketing as a way to drive traffic to your website, you need to take the time to learn the system and understand how it all works. Quality Score is by far the most important aspect of the AdWords system and will affect nearly every aspect of your bid strategy and performance. If you want to start advertising, or have been seeing low scores in your existing account, take the time to make sure you are utilizing the best practices listed above in the “How is Quality Score Calculated?” section.
Gatorworks is a company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is involved in website design, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media management, and inbound marketing.