Quality Score (QS)

In the world of automated bidding strategies, knowing how to optimize your Quality Score (QS) is the key to winning ad auctions with lower bids. Google benefits from serving high-quality, relevant ads to its users, which means they reward ad relevance above almost anything else. Quality Score is a simple way for advertisers to understand how relevant their ads are. Google also uses it to rank ads in split-second auctions, helping push hyper-relevant ads to the top of the SERP.

What is Quality Score?

Quality Score (QS) is a single number Google produces for each ad an advertiser includes in their campaign. It measures the ‘quality’ of the ad by gathering data from users, comparing what they search with which ads they click on, and what they do once they’ve clicked through. In other words, the Quality Score is a measure of how relevant an ad is to a user based on the keywords the advertiser is targeting.

The score goes from 1 to 10. The higher the score is, the better your ad drives responses from users. This score is meant as a guide for advertisers, helping them refine and tweak ads to suit their audience all while driving down the amount they have to bid on each auction to take the top spot.

There is a niche form of Quality Score called the auction-time QS, which is a split-second number Google calculates when advertisers choose ‘smart’ bidding strategies. It takes all the same factors into account but updates the Quality Score for every single time an ad is served, rather than averaging it out over time.

In its simplest form, your Quality Score is an estimate – based on existing data – of how likely your users will find your ad relevant enough to not only click on it, but interact with the page waiting beyond the link.

How does Quality Score work?

Let’s dive into the mechanics behind Quality Score. This will help us later when we break down what you can do to maximize your score. There are three core factors Google uses to decide on your ad’s Quality Score: expected click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance, and the user’s landing page experience.

The first, Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR), is where the Quality Score began. Back before Google’s machine learning was so advanced, this was the only measure we had to estimate how often users might click through. These days, it’s the foundation of Quality Score. Essentially, CTR measures how likely a user is to click on your ad based on their search terms and your ad’s history. The higher this rate, the better.

Next is ad relevance, which compares how well your ad’s messaging matches up with the keywords you are targeting for said ad. Once again, the higher this number is, the better your Quality Score will be.

Finally, we have landing page experience. Your user’s journey with your ad doesn’t end once they’ve clicked through; what they do once they land on your chosen page is just as important as the click. Checking metrics like bounce rate and session time, Google’s algorithm uses data about your user’s interaction with your site to see if you’re delivering on your promise.

Combined, these three factors contribute to a well-rounded measure of ad relevance that takes the user’s entire journey into account.

How do you calculate Quality Score

Since Google handles millions of users every single day, it has huge amounts of data to draw from. Using big data practices and evolving machine learning, the search engine measures how users interact with ads. Whether a user clicks on an ad, which keywords appeared in their query, or what they did after they clicked through; all of these factors are carefully captured and aggregated.

A Quality Score is an example of measuring user behavior on a scale only a giant like Google can manage. For each ad an advertiser creates and lists, it compares how users interact with it and which keywords they were searching for. This allows them to build a reliable picture of how relevant the ad is to every single keyword it’s targeting, then average that out into a Quality Score.

What is the best Quality Score?

The best Quality Score is a 10. This indicates that your ad is extremely relevant to your users, compelling enough to drive them to click through, and the landing page experience delivers on the ad’s promises. However, getting a 10 isn’t very common. Instead, it’s ideal to shoot for a balance between your Quality Score and your maximum CPC (the maximum amount you’re willing to bid on a given keyword to show your ad).

Google will use Quality Score to rank ads come auction-time, pairing the score with the maximum CPC an advertiser has chosen for that keyword. The goal here is to let Google’s algorithm know that if it places your ad in the top spot, it will most likely drive a high click-through rate (CTR), thus giving Google more revenue.

A high Quality Score boosts your ad’s chance of ranking higher in comparison to the other ads in the auction, so even if your maximum CPC is less than theirs, you’re still in with a solid chance of winning that top SERP spot. Once you occupy that top position, a high Quality Score will also ensure you don’t have to pay as much to hold onto it, since Google already knows that your ad delivers great results for that keyword.

How to improve Quality Score in Google Ads

Google stands to benefit from high-quality, relevant ads being served to their users. The more users click through, the more money Google gets paid, and users tend to click on ads they feel are most relevant to their searches. That’s why they value relevance so highly, and why advertisers pay so much attention to optimizing their Quality Score. The question is, how do you do it?

This is where we return to those three core components of a Quality Score we talked about earlier: CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. These are the foundation of a great Quality Score, so they’re also where we need to concentrate our optimization efforts. Below, we’ve broken down a few simple ways to analyze and improve each factor.

1.     Drive relevance with keyword choice: If you’re noticing that your CTR is low, this might be because your ad isn’t being served to the right users. In other words, it’s not relevant to what they’re looking for. Try narrowing your targeted search terms, opting for longer or more specific keywords that will drive relevance. For example, while “door” is quite broad and might serve your ad to a lot of irrelevant searches, “cheap door repair” is far more specific. This way, you’re likely to get more people clicking on your ad, and your CTR will spike.

2.     Make your copy compelling: Be clear, concise, and careful with how you word your ad copy to make sure it’s clearly articulating what you are offering. Better yet, pack it full of your brand’s unique voice to help it jump from the page and catch your user’s eye.

3.     Deep linking is king: Consider your ad to be a promise to your prospective customer. If you’re offering them a niche service in your ad, but your chosen link drops them on your website’s homepage, there’s a good chance they’ll bounce away in favor of something more convenient. Link your users to exactly where they need to be for a quick and easy conversion.

4.     Group your ads strategically: Within your campaign, Google’s algorithm is comparing every line of copy in your ads to the keywords you’re targeting for that group. If you have low ad relevance, it’s likely that you are packing too many different keywords into a single ad group. Try breaking them up into niche groups to drive higher relevance. For example, instead of grouping ‘dog grooming’, ‘dog food’, and ‘dog harnesses’ into the same group, break them each into their own with sub-keywords branching out.

5.     Check your bounce rate: High bounce rates on an ad either indicate that your user isn’t ending up somewhere relevant to their needs, or your page is lacking functionality. If you notice a given ad with high bounce rates, try running an A/B split test with different landing page layouts or copy to diagnose what’s driving your customers away. That way, you can focus on fixing the right thing.

Overall, time spent on cultivating a higher Quality Score is good news for users, advertisers, and publishers. With relevant ads becoming more and more important, this metric is key to refining a campaign to find the right people, in the right place, at the right time in the wild west that is a SERP.