The importance of quality score in paid search

Will Haswell is the Business Development Manager at Adzooma. He has worked in the digital sector for over 7 years, and managed and delivered large digital marketing strategies for some of the UK’s largest businesses. With vast experience in ad operations and technology, he has encountered many third-party platforms, some good, and some not so good. Now at Adzooma, he is passionate about helping small and medium sized businesses to advertise online.

Paid search, or pay per click (PPC), often used in conjunction with SEO, remains an essential marketing element for many businesses, most notably those that want an online presence.

But we are still seeing businesses not effectively implementing PPC campaigns successfully. One of the biggest areas that businesses are failing to address is a low AdWords quality score. In short, if you’re trying to master PPC, you need to understand quality score.

According to Google, “quality score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages.” It is determined at the keyword level and is represented as a number between one and 10, and the higher your quality score, the better your ads will perform.

An increase in quality score can lead to better ad rank, higher click through rates (CTR), and ultimately cheaper clicks. The big advantage to increasing your keyword quality score is that you pay less per click.

Google determines quality score by evaluating three main factors:

  • Click Through Rate (CTR)
  • Relevancy
  • Landing page

These three factors are rated either below average, average, or above average, and you are able to manipulate these factors.

So how do you increase your quality score?

It’s important to start by saying that CTR is, without doubt, one of the most important aspects of quality score. No matter how relevant your ads are, if people fail to click on them, your quality score will take a hit.

Firstly, ad relevanceplays a huge part. Make sure you keep your ads relevant to the search term. If you’re running multiple search terms, then run a specific ad that’s relevant to each one. Since quality score determines where and how often your ads appear, it’s important to boost your ratings by working consistently on your account. This can be achieved by focusing your efforts on several key areas:

Keyword research is vital to a successful campaign and quality score. You should discover new, highly relevant keywords to add to your campaigns, not forgetting to include those long-tail opportunities that can contribute to the bulk of your overall traffic.

But just the right keywords aren’t enough; they need to be organised correctly. Split your keywords into tight and organised groups. This way they can be tied to individual ad campaigns easier. We should all practice ongoing keyword grouping, as this can be crucial for successful PPC and will greatly increase your chances of achieving high keyword quality scores.

(Top tip: You should run ads with branded keywords even if you already show in the first organic position for those keywords. You may well find that branded keywords give you the highest CTRs of all your ads.)

Don’t forget to add negative keywords: you should be continuously researching, and excluding irrelevant search terms that are wasting your budget.

Then ad text comes into play. You should test out PPC ad copy that is more targeted to your individual ad groups, and keep refining those. Compelling and relevant ad text translates to higher click-through rates, which in turn translates to a better-quality score.

It’s always a good strategy to have multiple text ads with different messaging, so you can test what works and what doesn’t.

Then, why not use expanded text ads? It is a great way to include more longtail keywords, and if you can fit longtail keywords into your ad, then your ad is more likely to be relevant to the keyword. This will improve your quality score.

Generating clicks alone isn’t enough: you should endeavour to optimise landing pages. Your landing page needs to be relevant and have a direct connection with your ad groups. You need to provide a consistent experience for visitors, from keyword to conversion.

Essentially, the content needs to reflect the ad. Ensure that you use keywords in the title and meta description parts of the page. They should also appear in your content and subheadings as well.

(Top tip: Decrease your landing page load times. Landing page load time has become an important consideration in calculating quality score. You can use Webmaster Tools or Page Speed to test your landing pages and check their speed. Here is a list of best practices for speeding up your website.)


Hopefully these tips will help you streamline your campaigns, and increase your quality score. If you aren’t doing it, your competitors certainly will be. Higher placement of ad will lead to higher CTRs and lower minimum bids for keywords, therefore your campaigns costs will reduce.

It’s also important to note that improving your quality score should not be the sole objective of any changes to your campaigns. You shouldn’t set out to make changes just to improve your quality score. You should make changes to your campaigns to improve the campaign performance and if done correctly this will naturally increase your quality score.

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