Back to Basics: AdWords Quality Score Made Easy

Sales and marketing

More often than not, I get asked by clients about the quality score of their Google AdWords keywords. They want to better understand what they mean, what they’re made of and of course, how to make them better.

With that in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to take things back to basics. After all, if we don’t fully understand the foundation of AdWords, how can we ever expect to build a campaign that will deliver time and time again.

Firstly, What is Quality Score?

Google tells us that the quality score of a keyword is a basic measure of the approximate ad and landing page quality in the context of a single search. Google says that having a high quality score is an indication that the ad text and landing page are going to be relevant to the person typing in a particular keyword in the Google search bar.

Google’s priority is to ensure the best possible experience for the end user -- making it as streamlined and pain-free as possible. For example, let’s say you’re looking to buy a pair of red shoes and typed ‘Buy Red Shoes’ into Google. When you hit the search button you want to see an advert about buying red shoes, click on it, and land on a page about buying red shoes. Google wants to give you what you want and have the end-user trust in their results. They want them to know that when they type ‘Buy Red Shoes’ into their search bar, they will find results about buying red shoes. Easy!

So now that we understand where Google is coming from, how do we ensure that we achieve a high quality score? First up, we need to identify the three key elements that influence a quality score.

1) Relevance of keywords
2) Relevance of adverts
3) Relevance of landing pages

The way I like to look at it is this; your keyword is your anchor that holds everything in place. Most accounts that come to me in need of fixing up have all the emphasis placed on the keyword and not much on anything else - people tend to have a good idea of the keywords that they want to show for but that’s about it.

So let’s use our red shoes example. Lets say that you have a keyword that is simply: ‘Buy Red shoes’.  In this example, ‘Buy Red Shoes’ is our anchor and everything is pinned on that keyword ensuring that at each hurdle we hone further into the relevance of that keyword… ‘Buy Red Shoes’.

Making the ad text relevant to that keyword is not too difficult, but certainly essential. If we make the headline of the ad ‘Buy Red Shoes Online’ and include the term ‘Buy Red Shoes’ somewhere in the next two lines of text Google will easily identify the relevance between the keyword and ad text. The great news is that not only will Google see the link but the chances are that the person looking to buy red shoes online are more likely to click on your advert after noticing its relevance to their search. A win/win I think you'll agree.

The final hurdle is to create a relevant link between the landing page, the ad text and the keyword. This part is a bit of a no-brainer if you ask me. The person looking to buy red shoes online, inevitably wants to see a page that offers him a selection of red shoes. If you can send them directly to that page, not only will Google give you the green light, but you’re also increasing the chances that your visitor will buy the red shoes you are selling!

For me this last link is really significant, not for AdWords or quality score but for the all-important return on investment. The more diversions in the way of a customers path to purchase, the increased likelihood that they will get distracted or fed-up with the process and never reach that all important goal – your landing page (the landing page that offers them exactly what they’ve been looking for). If we can send them to a page that is relevant to their initial search (and create a bridge with a relevant advert) we will be offering potential customers every opportunity to complete their goal (and your goal) of purchasing.

It is also important to note that the negative effects of a poor quality score can be costly. Without going into them in great detail, keywords with a low quality score can be impacted by:

  • Keyword eligibility/auction eligibility  - meaning that your keywords will rarely be shown in search listings because Google determines there are more relevant keywords out there for the same searches.
  • Increase in actual cost per click - making it more expensive to get clicks on the keywords you are running
  • A higher keyword first page bid estimate - meaning that you’ll be bidding above the odds just to get a spot on the first page
  • Poor Ad position - low quality scores can impact your adverts eligibility to be shown further up the page

At the end of the day, having a good quality score is important to the success of a campaign. Without a decent quality score, your AdWords campaign can be significantly impacted or disadvantaged. Poor quality scores can lead to inefficient campaigns with an unnecessarily high Cost-Per-Click (CPC) for ads to be shown in poor positions. A good quality score leads to competitive CPC which allows your ad to show more frequently and in better positions.

It makes sense that Google wants to ensure relevance for their users. So, I believe it is worth spending the time working on improving your quality score to help Google help you.


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Ling Lee

Ling Lee , at Digital Marketing and Personal Branding

Thank you for the detailed article David! I'll keep your advice in mind when I try out Google Adwords.