As a digital marketer, it’s useful to have all kinds of knowledge in your skills toolkit. At any given time, we’re asked to create a social media graphic, respond politely to an irritated customer and source content for next week’s posts. Learning about paid ads and how they work is yet another skillset that can help you expand your expertise as a marketer.
You might already know about social media ads and how to optimize them. But how familiar are you with Google Ads and AdWords? Before social media ads were an option, Google was already dominating the digital ad game with AdWords. In July 2018, Google changed the name of Google AdWords to Google Ads. Since then, they’ve made some major improvements to the ad experience but the core concept of AdWords remain the same.
A key element of Google Ads is the Quality Score, or “an estimate of the quality of your ads and the landing pages triggered by them.” In this article, we’ll cover the basics of what the Quality Score is, what determines it, and how to improve Quality Score.
What is Google Ads Quality Score
Have you ever searched for something and the results were exactly what you were looking for? It doesn’t always happen but when the ads are right on target, it saves you a lot of time clicking around.
With a search of “custom mugs bulk,” these four ads showed up with the phrase sprinkled around the ads. Someone searching for custom mugs is likely to click one of these sites. These ads likely had high Quality Scores.
The AdWords Quality Score is a keyword-level score on a 1–10 scale. Every keyword in your Google Ads account is assigned a Quality Score. A Quality Score of 8–10 is considered very good. If you are creating new campaigns and groups, know that you need to reach a certain threshold of impressions and clicks to have a Quality Score. In these cases, you’ll see a “—” where a number usually is.
To find your Quality Score, navigate to your Google Ads account. Head to your keywords report. If you don’t see a Quality Score column, go to the upper right corner of the table and modify your columns. In the quality score section, you’ll be able to add any of the below to your table:
- Quality Score
- Landing Page Exper.
- Exp. CTR
- Ad Relevance
The below historical data is available if you segment by day:
- Quality Score (hist.)
- Landing Page Exper. (hist.)
- Ad Relevance (hist.)
- Exp. CTR (hist.)
Now you’ll be able to see what each keyword’s score is.
Why is the Quality Score important?
Your Google Ads Quality Score is important because good scores positively influence your Ad Rank and lower your cost per click (CPC). The better your Quality Score, the less you’ll pay and the higher you’ll show up in search results. Instead of increasing an ad budget, focus first on determining if your Quality Score needs improvement.
In 2018, digital agency Merkle reported that CPCs were increasing faster than click volume.
This means that you might still need to pay more for your Google Ads but you still shouldn’t discount the effect that a good Quality Score has on them. Plus, a good Quality Score indicates a high degree of user-relevant optimization, which translates into a strong user experience overall. Learning to keep the key factors influencing Quality Score in mind when creating ads can also help you tackle similar ad rating metrics like Facebook’s Relevance Score.
Over time, the Quality Score affects how your ads perform. When you improve on the Quality Scores, your ads show up higher, the cost per click goes down and the cycle repeats.
Quality Score factors: What are they & how to improve them
There are three factors that determine your Quality Score: expected clickthrough rate (CTR), ad relevance and landing page experience. The same keywords with different ad groups will have different Quality Scores because the groups likely differ in the ad creative, landing page and demographic targeting.
Your Expected CTR is how Google thinks your keyword will perform. Once your ad goes live and into auction (when someone searches the keyword to prompt your ad in their results), the CTR adjusts. CTR is given three statuses: above average, average and below average.
To improve your CTR from a “below average” status, you should look at your ad copy. Do the keywords match the ads? Is what’s displayed intriguing or is it just a mess of keywords that don’t actually translate to clear copy?
The best way to approach ad copywriting is to look at it from your ideal customer’s perspective. You want to display an ad that is natural to how your customer would search for it.
For example, let’s say you’re searching for “where to buy moving boxes.” It shows some sponsored shopping results and the first ad after that is from a reusable moving box company. The headline “Moving? Don’t Buy Moving Boxes” is natural to read and eye-catching. Skimming the content below shows some benefits and the pricing is clear without ever leaving the ad.
Ad Relevance is how related your keyword is to your ad. It’s given three statuses like CTR: above average, average and below average.
To improve your ad relevance score from below average, you’ll want to examine your keywords’ match to the ad and/or see if your ad group has too many different topics. An ad for “black walking shoes” should have relevant keywords like “walking shoes” and “comfortable shoes.” It shouldn’t have keywords like “black boots.” Target the customer’s actual intention or use case – a person shopping for walking shoes isn’t likely to also be interested in boots at that moment, even if they are related categories in your site structure.
The above example illustrated by CXL Institute displays a group of seemingly related keywords that all trigger a single ad for dresses. Someone searching for one of these highly specific variations, like a black dress, won’t click on the ad because it looks like a general display page instead of a page full of black dresses.
To fix this, create groups that are more tightly knit in keywords. Some marketers advocate for single keyword ad groups that give them a great deal of control over the specificity of each ad. Test out what works best for you.
Landing Page Experience
Google wants you to create unique and interesting websites, and it wants the user to have a good experience with the site. If they don’t or you don’t deliver on what they’re searching for, they’ll quickly bounce. Like the other factors, the landing page experience has three statuses: above average, average and below average.
To improve your landing page experience status, there are different areas you can explore. Unless your existing page is an exact match to the search result, it’s best to create landing pages that display what people are searching for.
In the previous example of dresses, if someone were searching for a “short green dress,” it would be best to have the landing page be a highly filtered selection of only short green dresses. Alternatively, someone searching for “Homecoming dresses” probably wants to see the broader product category result page of semi-formal dresses.
If your landing page matches the keyword but the status is still below average, examine your site’s user experience. This includes items like your site speed, landing page load time, the mobile experience, navigation and ease of use. Is it easy to shop? Are the products easily viewable?
Finally, take a look at the copy and images on the page. Is what you advertised what the customer is receiving? Do they need to scroll to find the information or is it clearly displayed? The fewer actions that someone needs to take to reach their search goal, the better the site experience.
In this example, the search result of “print photo cards” has two ads. The top ad mentions photo cards and provides a link directly to create your custom photo card. And indeed, clicking on the link leads to a number of different types of photo cards you can create.
The landing page experience factor does have a lot of components in it, which may make it trickier to improve in status. It’s best to tackle one part at a time. Generally, you do want website visitors to have a good experience in terms of the content of the page, and elements like site speed and load times are important to consider for your overall site health as well as improving your landing page experiences status.
If you’re just starting out on Google Ads, don’t fret. It’s been around for a long time so there are plenty of resources out there. The AdWords Quality Score is where you can start learning about keywords, relevancy and landing pages. Working on the Quality Score helps put your mind in the place of your customer, which in turn leads to you being a better marketer overall.
If you do get stuck on where to start on the Quality Score, check out the flowchart above. Keyword research and writing may also lead to improvements in social media ad writing and planning your company’s content. If you know what people are searching for to find you, you’ll be able to change up keywords on your website to have this organically show up higher in search results. Keyword searches will also give you insight into what your customer wants. Maybe they want a whitepaper or a certain product. If so, you can create and optimize your landing pages for them.
Learning about AdWords Quality Score is just another skill to take on for the modern marketer. Like many marketing skills, there’s no one quick fix for Quality Score, and improving yours will take experimentation and refinement. Let us know how you’ve tackled improving the scores on your paid ads in the comments!