What is AdWords Quality Score? How does it affect your PPC?

What is Quality Score? A Quick Introduction for Marketers

Reading Time: 5 minutes


If you have ever done any search engine marketing or pay-per-click advertising, then you will undoubtedly be familiar with the term Quality Score. Your Quality Score is one of the factors that make up your Ad Rank (the other two being the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click and your competitors’ bids). Ad Rank, in turn, determines how much you will have to pay for clicks to your website.


As you can see from the graphic above, your Quality Score acts as a modifier and makes it possible for higher quality ads to perform better than lower quality ones even if the bid amount is lower. If you can improve your Quality Score, you are effectively reducing the amount you have to pay per bid.

Google has changed the way it calculates its QS quite a bit over the last few years. The average keyword QS used to hover around seven a few years ago, but it’s much harder these days and the average seems to be five. QS is calculated and updated every time a search that triggers your ad is conducted.


Types of Quality Score

Do Account, Campaign & Ad Group Level Quality Scores Exist?

Technically, you will only find a reported Quality Score at the keyword level where it is used together with your maximum bid to calculate your Ad Rank.

In Google’s latest white paper on the matter, ‘Settling the (Quality) Score’, Google flatly denied having any account-level, ad group-level or campaign-level quality score. However, several respectable authors such as Larry Kim of Wordstream and Rob Boyd of PPC Hero believe that such Quality Scores, or at least something very similar, do at those levels.

If you’ve spent any time reading information released by Google about its own products and services, you would know that it can release ambiguous information. This is not surprising, simply because it needs to provide a fine balance between providing enough information such that people can adequately use its products, yet not reveal too much to the extent that others are able to ‘game’ or manipulate its algorithms.

In this particular case, while they have denied the existence of Quality Scores other than at the keyword level, they do state that for ‘newly-launched’ keywords, the performance of ‘related keywords’ is taken into consideration.

Furthermore, it is well-known that accounts that have been around longer and has historically performed well tend to be favoured by Google.

Display Network Quality Score

You will not be able to see the Display Network Quality Score in your account dashboard, but don’t worry, it exists. You should also know that the Display Network Quality Score works differently from those on the Search Network. Any changes on your Display Network QS will not affect your Search Network QS, or vice versa.

Your Display Network Quality Score is first dependent on the type of bidding option you’re using. These are your options:

  1. Cost-per-Click (CPC) Bidding Option
  2. Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM) Bidding Option

If you’re using the CPC bidding option, important factors of your Quality Score include your historical performance (specifically the CTR of your ad), relevance of your ad to the target placements and the quality of your landing page.

If you’re using the CPM bidding option, then the only factor that affects your QS is your landing page quality.

Keyword-Level Quality Score

[contextly_sidebar id=”HFOHcLslDyaidDdJEDSKnft6Oh7g8RBv”]When you hear people talk about Quality Score, they are usually referring to the one at the keyword level. This is because this is the only quality score that is reported in your account. This is the QS that advertisers will spend the most time trying to optimize.

The Keyword-Level QS is shown from 1-10, with 1 being ‘Poor’ and 10 being ‘Great’.

The Quality Score is calculated according to the performance of search queries that exactly match your keyword. This means that your match type has no bearing on your Quality Score.

As you can see in the screenshot above, there are 3 components to your QS:

  1. Expected Click through Rate (CTR) – The likelihood that your ad will be clicked
  2. Ad Relevance – How closely your ad matches the intent behind a user’s search
  3. Landing Page Experience – How relevant, transparent and easy-to-navigate your page is for users

This is the QS that we’ll be concerned with for the rest of this article.


Finding Your Quality Score

Log in to your account and go to the ‘Keywords’ tab:

Keyword Tab

Mousover the bubble (shown within the red triangle), and the pop will appear with your Quality Score.

A Closer Look at the Factors Affecting Your Quality Score

As we mentioned previously, there are three factors affecting your Quality Score:

  1. Expected CTR
  2. Ad Relevance
  3. Landing Page Experience

Each of these factors is given one of the following scores – below average, average, great.

Expected CTR is a measure of how likely someone will click on your ad when searching for your targeted keyword. Google will take into account how well your keyword has performed in the past when estimating your CTR. Always keep in mind that Google’s goal is to provide the best search results for those using its search engine. One of the ways Google measures this is by how often people actually click on your ad. If your ad has a low CTR, then it can assume that you’re not offering the results people are searching for.

Ad relevance refers to how closely related your ad is to your targeted keywords. This is also related to how you organize your account. A ‘below average’ grade here can be caused by your ad or keywords not being specific enough or you may be trying to cover too many topics in your ad group.

Your landing page refers to the page that your user is directed to after clicking on your ad. With regards to your landing page experience, Google has always emphasized the following:

  • Relevance & Value – Ensure that the content on your website is relevant, useful and original
  • Trust & Transparency – Foster trust and transparency on your website, for example by clearly explaining your products or services before asking them to fill in a form
  • Easy to Navigate – Making it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for on your website, especially the mobile version
  • Engagement – Encouraging people to stick around in your website (reduced bounce rate), for example via engaging, relevant content and a fast-loading page

Your landing page is periodically manually reviewed as well, so you have more than one chance to create an engaging experience for your visitors.

In our next article, we will look at how you can improve your Quality Score.