The Adwords Quality Score: A Fundamental Necessity

I’m going to let you in on a little industry secret: Google’s goal is to serve users ads they’ll find relevant. Okay, it’s not much of a secret and I probably didn’t need to tell you that – but it’s true. If shoppers don’t find the ads in Google’s ecosystem the least bit appealing, then the whole thing becomes a bit of a moot point.

You can have a phenomenal product with a competitive price, but that doesn’t necessarily determine its relevancy. So who decides what’s pertinent and what’s not? The short answer: Google. The still short, but slightly longer answer: you; if you follow the Adwords guidelines, at least.

Google’s way of measuring the caliber of your advertisements is through the use of what’s called the Adwords Quality Score. The Quality Score is far from being a new development and is only one part of your PPC campaign, but it’s a crucial component all retailers advertising on the platform should understand and be familiar with.

So what exactly is the Adwords Quality Score and why is it important?

A good ad is good for business. Users are more likely to click, businesses can drive conversions, and Google maintains a strong presence as an advertising platform. Everybody wins. It’s no wonder they’ve incorporated a grading system.

The real question is, what variables go into determining any given grade? A lot, actually.

Before we jump into it, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the Quality Score is meant to be a diagnostic tool, not an indicator – or expected indicator – of your ad’s performance.

Let’s talk quality

How a Quality Score is calculated is dictated by many, many factors. And while user queries, device, location, and even time of day are all influential in the auction process, these variables are not directly related to the score seen on your account.

For the most part, Google bases your Adwords Quality Score on the following three components:

quality score components

Each of these components are given a status of below average, average, or above average and are weighed against user searches. When a user enters a search, Google will then recalculate each component to assist in determining Ad Rank.adwords quality score

Think of it as being a closed loop. The combination of these factors need to come full circle, ultimately catering to the end user. If a person enters a search, are they going to find your ad copy relatable and enticing? If they do, are they going to find your landing page engaging and easy to use?

It’s all about creating that perfect experience from start to finish. Google wants to know, “does this ad warrant an impression?” and “will that impression drive a result?”. This is what the Adwords Quality Score is all about.

Click-through-rates and why they’re a big deal

As previously mentioned, expected CTR is one of the main components that impact your Adwords Quality Score. Actually, it’s the biggest factor in determining your score.

As you know, Google wants to show its users relevant ads. Relevant ads mean more clicks. More clicks mean happier users. And what do happier users mean? A greater return.

The click-through-rate is the bow that ties the whole package together.

You’re probably thinking, “but CTRs are influenced by so many different things. What’s used for what in determining Quality Score?”. I’m glad you asked.

CTRs are evaluated on three levels: The account, the keyword, and the ad.

The Account

The average CTR displayed in your account is not the CTR used to leverage your Adwords Quality Score. Instead, click-through-rates are broken down and divided into various sub-categories to be weighed.

  • Device – performance on mobile is going to differ from performance on desktop. It wouldn’t be fair to to lump the two together, and Google understands that. CTRs are looked at individually based on device.
  • Search and Display – similar to the device logic, performance is going to be different between Search and the Display Network. As such, they are viewed separately.

 
Within the account, there are other CTR-related intricacies that influence your Quality Score, but Device and Search or Display are the most noteworthy.

The Keyword

Let’s say you want to run an ad for a new product your business is starting to sell. Your account is set and you’re figuring out your keywords; the usual stuff. Except, there’s a problem.

This is the first time the selected keyword has been used on this account. As a result, there’s no performance data to see how well the keyword has worked with an ad historically. So how is the Quality Score affected here?

In these instances, data on that specific keyword is taken from the entire system (all accounts are taken into consideration) and is weighed against how well other ads in your account have performed.

If both of these factors have a good score, then there’s a solid chance your new keyword will have a better Adwords Quality Score starting out.

The Ad

The ad, itself, is the last CTR factor and works in conjunction with the previous two; specifically the keyword. The big thing here is copy.

An ad’s copy needs to be relevant to the keyword that was searched for. The goal, per usual, is driven by the number of clicks it can garner. By having an engaging ad that offers value, CTR is going to be better.

Data from how your keywords perform with the ad will accumulate, and eventually Google will begin to rely on this to better gauge your Adwords Quality Score.

Relevancy. Okay, what does that actually mean?

Relevancy is the second biggest component in determining your Adwords Quality Score. But how is that determined? After all, it’s not the most tangible measurement.

Google determines relevancy by analyzing the language and context of an ad or query, trying to establish how well it relates to a keyword. They’re basically trying to see if there are any correlations between your ad and a user’s search that might act as an indicator of CTRs.

Influencers in this can be any number of things. Were there additional terms in the search query that still related to your ad? Does location impact your ad at all? How does the time or day fit into it?

Despite so many relevance factors, the important thing to take note of is that they’re all built on the same principle of determining whether or not an ad is going to be clicked.

The Landing Page Experience

Finally, the quality of your landing page. Of the three components, this is the newest element to the Quality Score. While CTRs and relevancy have been measured for a longer period of time, a positive user experience still stands as a key contributor toward your Adwords Quality Score.

Google calls it the Landing Page Experience. It’s essentially Adwords’ measurement of how well your website reflects your ad.

Is it easy to navigate? Is it transparent in its intentions? Does it clearly define what the user is doing there and offer a seamless and effortless navigational experience? Effective landing page optimization is key.

If your landing page gives people who click your ads exactly what they’re looking for, then you should have a strong standing in this department.

Text vs. Product Listing Ads

This is where things get a little more interesting. While the premise carries many similarities across both ad formats, the Adwords Quality Score isn’t as transparent in Shopping ads the way it is in text ads.

Text ads are more direct in the sense that, by adhering to the Quality Score “rules”, you’re given an actual score that serves as a baseline.

However, with product listing ads, it’s not quite as clear. First and foremost, the Adwords Quality Score (more commonly referred to as Relevancy for PLAs) isn’t actually reported to the account – so you don’t necessarily know where you stand.

The thing to keep in mind with PLAs is that, despite its lack of QS reporting, historical CTRs and product feed data are the main components to a products relevancy.

Quality Score affects both ad formats, it just happens that the results and factors of one are not as direct as the other.

Final Thoughts

“Typically, the goal is to get the highest ad rank for the lowest CPC,” said Adam Harms, Retail Search Manager at CPC Strategy.adam quality score

“If you have a poor quality score, your ad either won’t show or you’ll be charged a premium for it to show. At that point, you could be paying more for a less than ideal spot on the SERP.

With high quality scores (8-10), you’re more likely to show on the results page and even benefit from discounted CPCs. And while Quality Score is a significant factor in Ad Rank, advertisers would be wise to keep more important metrics in mind.

For example, you can put significant energy into inflating your Quality Score with a solid CTR, but if you have a poor conversion rate you’re left with terrible ROI. A high Quality Score doesn’t matter if users aren’t converting once they get to your site.

The best practice is to pair hyper-specific keywords and ad copy with an easily-navigable, relevant landing page. If you do that, you’re very likely to achieve a high Quality Score.”

 

For more information on the Adwords Quality Score, please contact jlommer@cpcstrategy.com

 

Additional Resources:

How to Optimize Your AdWords PPC Campaign Structure

2016 Google Shopping FAQ – Answered

Using Auction Insights To Project & Stay Ahead of Competitors in Q4

Introducing New Google Shopping Ad Rank for Top Product PLAs

Optimizing Retail Landing Pages For Conversational Search

About the Author See all posts by this author here.