Understanding and improving Quality Score

Quality Score is a much-debated metric in the world of Search Engine Marketing. There are probably as many opinions on the topic as there are stars in the sky. However, there are some undeniable facts which we’ll cover in this blog post. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of what Quality Score actually is and how to work with improving it.

What is Quality Score?

First things first. Each keyword’s Quality Score is graded on a 10-point scale, 10 being the highest. This is shown in the Google Ads UI allowing marketers to get a sense of how relevant their keywords are at a glance. But that’s not the only purpose of the Quality Score. It’s also used to determine your CPC (Cost Per Click) in the ad auctions. A simplified way of looking at it is that your actual CPC is influenced by both your Quality Score and that of your competitors, which is why you should pay attention to it.

Quality Score is essentially Google’s way of grading the relationship between a user’s search query (when someone types a word(s) in Googles search engine), the keyword you’re bidding on to match that query, your ad that is shown on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and finally the corresponding landing page on your website.

Thus, the Quality Score is broken down in three parameters which all serve to ensure quality and relevance. These are:

• Exp. CTR (Expected Click-Through-Rate) – How likely your ad is to get clicked
• Landing page experience – How user-friendly and relevant the landing page is
• Ad relevance – How relevant the ad copy is to the keyword and search query

Each of these is in turn graded on a three-tiered scale ranging from Below average to Average and Above average. The relevance and quality of each of these parameters are weighed and scored every time your keywords are competing to show one of your ads. Naturally, your brand keywords will typically have a higher score than your generic keywords since they are highly relevant to someone searching specifically for your brand.

There are many calculations and speculations floating around on what an “acceptable” Quality Score is and how much it impacts your CPC. We’ve found that 7 is usually a good score to aim for. This lets you know your keywords, ads and landing pages are relevant and competitive.

Working with Quality Score

While your strategy shouldn’t revolve completely around Quality Score, it’s good to keep an eye on it and optimise when possible. Making sure your keywords, ads and landing pages are relevant to users looking for your products and services should always be among your top priorities.
When examining your keywords and their current Quality Score, it’s useful to keep a few things in mind. If a keyword is rarely shown or clicked on, you shouldn’t put too much work into it. The same goes for keywords with a very low score, say, 3 or below. Let’s call these secondary keywords for now (I’ll come back to these later).

To quickly find keywords that you could focus on optimising, navigate to the Keywords-view in the Google Ads UI and use the built-in filter to remove any keywords with no clicks and a Quality Score of three or below. Remember to also select the three parameters of Quality Score from the Columns menu so that these are included in the report. Finally, set the time period for the last 30 days so that you are analysing fresh keyword data. You can also export your keywords to MS Excel for some beautiful pivot table magic and deeper analysis.

You will now be presented with a current list of your traffic-driving keywords. These would be your primary keywords. From here you can start analysing the performance of these keywords. Some key things to look for are:

• Are your highest quality keywords driving most of the traffic?
• Are some keywords shown a lot but rarely clicked?
• Which keywords are driving your conversions, and at what cost?

This will help you get started with optimising your keywords. Check the Exp. CTR, Landing page exp. and Ad relevance columns for indications of where to focus.

In this example Keyword 5’s Exp. CTR and Ad relevance are both Below average. This indicates that the ad copy should be made more relevant and closely related to the keyword.

Use this report to analyse and act on these issues to improve your keyword’s Quality Score. There are many more dimensions that can be applied to this process such as segmentation on a device, certain minimum levels of clicks, CTR, conversions or cost and much more.

So, what about those secondary keywords? The ones you filtered out. Improving their Quality Score is often going to be more work than it’s worth. They can be paused or removed so that they don’t spend valuable budget that could be better used by your high-quality keywords if they haven’t performed for a long time o, are rarely shown or costing a lot but not delivering relevant results.

Wrapping it up

• Quality Score is a dynamic and regularly re-calculated metric.
• It’s the product of multiple parameters, all pertaining to relevance.
• With a higher Quality Score, you can expect lower CPCs.

Even if solely focusing on optimising for a higher Quality Score is not necessarily an efficient strategy, the outcome is a better experience for the end-user. That, I would argue, is really what we all should be striving for.

Curamando regularly performs in-depth assessments of SEM operations for a wide range of clients in both B2B and B2C markets. This is usually the first step in uncovering potential performance and budget optimisations that help our clients be more competitive and efficient in their digital marketing.

Would you also like to read about whether you need a CDP or a DMP? You can do that here.

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