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Quality Score (QS) is a crucial component to the success of a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaign. It has an impact on the number of impressions, on the Ad position, on the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) and, consequently, on the overall performance of your account. Although it’s not possible to open Google’s “black box” and know how to pull out the secret algorithms used by ‘big G’ to determine the QS, we are able to identify the factors that influence it and the relevance they have.

There are two types of QS, according to Google. Search Network QS and Content Network QS. The concept behind them is identical, but the factors influencing the scores are different. In this post I’ll focus on the Search Network QS.

Definition and Background

The AdWords Quality Score is an objective measurement of the quality of an advertiser’s keywords. It’s a dynamically calculated measure performed by Google every time a keyword matches a search query. The value is on a scale 1-10. Basically the higher the number, the better it is.

In the early days of PPC, the position of an ad was decided on a pure auction-based model, therefore Higher Bid equals Higher Rank. At the time, bidding a penny more than your competitors on a specific keyword would guarantee a top position placement.  However, in 2005 Google introduced QS in order to give users more relevant and higher quality results. This introduction has drastically changed the game’s rules. Big budgets are no longer enough to secure a high rank in the search pages. Advertiser needs to create quality AdTexts and at the same time, work with clients to create rich content in order to get their ad’s displayed among the top sponsored results.

How QS affects performances

As it emerges from the formulas below, the QS has a direct impact on the AdRank and the Actual CPC. Google would rather display no ads rather than display poor QS ads.

AdRank = Max CPC x Quality Score

Actual CPC = (AdRank to beat /Quality Score) + £0.01

The process is not completely automated, Google employs “Quality Raters” who manually review the Ads to ensure they match the quality standards required. More relevant Ads get better marks and also have better chances of being displayed.

Factors affecting the Quality Score

There are several different factors affecting Google Search Network QS. For some of them, a long term strategy and a constant optimisation activity is required to obtain substantial improvements. Other factors can be improved in a relatively short term by following simple guidelines. Let’s see them all in details.

Historical Click Through Rate (CTR). Although the weight experts attributing to it may vary, all are in agreement to the fact that historical CTR is the predominant factor to determining QS. Its incidence is estimated around 60%.

Relevance of the keywords and the matched ad in the search query; Estimated around 10%;

Account Historical CTR of all the ads and keywords. Estimated around 5%; This means that advertisers with accounts which have performed well in the past have an advantage over advertisers with new accounts;

Quality of the landing page. Speed and content richness are taken into consideration; estimated around 5%;

Relevance of keywords and ads in the adgroup. Estimated around 5%;

Other Factors, kept secret by Google. Around 10%.


Best Practices to improve the QS

Clicking on the “Opportunities Tab” in the AdWords interface you’ll see a list of tips to improve the QS and the overall performance of your account. Below is a summary of the best practices:

– Organise your campaign by theme;

– Choose your keywords carefully and continually monitor the performances.

– Make sure that the keyword is contained in the Ad Text;

– Improve the quality of the landing page, adding relevant and unique content;

– Improve the overall navigation of the website. Websites with high bounce rates are given a lower Page Ranking by Google and therefore will have a poor quality return;

Bear in mind!

– Negative keywords do not affect your Google AdWords QS. Adding new negative keywords won’t improve the QS of existing keywords however it will help you to control costs;

– Changing a keyword’s match type will not affect QS.

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