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Quality Score Explained: Achieving (Near) Perfection

One of the most frequently asked questions we answered at Google was something along the lines of, “What the hell is a Quality Score, and how the hell do I make it better?” Most advertisers just want their Quality Score explained, and who could blame them? The full formula that determines your Quality score is seemingly shrouded in secret, and it can sometimes feel like you need to conjure up the dark arts Harry Potter style to get that desirable 8-9 score.


While we think this would pretty cool to witness in person, we promise it’s not necessary if you follow our “One Per” rule. We’ll cover that further down in this post, but before we do, let’s quickly recap what the hell Quality Score is in the first place.

Quality Score Explained

Quality Score is Google’s 1-10 rating of the quality and relevance of your keywords and search ads. Relevancy is really the key here. The more relevant your keywords and ad text are to the product or service you’re selling, the higher your Quality Score will be.

All that being said, relevancy is only one of many key factors that impact an increase or decrease in Quality Score. Here are the 4 you need to pay attention to:

  • Landing Page Experience & Historical Landing Page Experience
  • Ad Relevance & Historical Ad Relevance
  • Expected Click-Through-Rates & Historical Expected Click-Through-Rates
  • Historical Quality Score

Although it’s almost impossible to determine which of these factors carries the most weight at any given time (we were not even told this at Google), we recommend making sure you’re always optimizing for a strong CTR. When lots of people click on your ad, it’s a good signal to Google that your ad must be relevant and helpful.

Why You Need to Care About Quality Score

The short answer to why you need to care about your Quality Score can be summed up in one word: money. Google rewards advertisers that achieve high Quality Scores with lower costs and higher ad rank. This means advertisers with High Quality scores can bid lower than advertisers with Low Quality scores and still have their ads rank higher in the search results. This can be an incredibly effective way to increase your ROI.

Our good friends at Wordstream did the math on this and it’s pretty staggering. Advertisers with Quality Scores in the 8, 9, and 10 range will see on average a 37%-50% discount on their CPCs. Advertisers with Quality Scores in the 4, 5, and 6 range will see on average a 16%-25% increase on their CPCs. That’s money better spent elsewhere.

Finding Your Quality Score Criteria

Okay since we’ve sold you on why quality score is so important, it’s time to see how you can check and analyze your current scores. In the past, you were only given this dialogue when it came to quality score:

Luckily for us, Google improved their quality score reporting by providing access to historical data of quality score, ad relevance, landing page experience and expected click-through-rates. This is an opportunity to test each criterion respectively, making quality score tracking more of a science and less of a guessing game.

How to Check Your Keyword Quality Scores

  1. Click Campaigns
  2. Click the Keywords tab
  3. Under the status column, click on the white speech bubble to find your:
    1. your overall quality score
    2. your expected click-through rate
    3. ad relevance
    4. landing page experience

The grading criteria range from below average to above average. You can also create quality score columns to compare your performance over certain periods of time.

Disclaimer: If there is not enough data available within your specified date range, AdWords will mark it as null or ” – ”

How to Add Quality Score Columns:

  1. Click Campaigns
  2. Click the Keywords tab
  3. Click the Columns▼  button and select Modify columns
  4. Click Quality scoreQuality-Score-Columns-AdWords-Adhawk
  5. Select which quality score metric you’d like to include:
    • Quality Score and/or Historical Quality Score
    • Landing Page Experience and/or Historical Landing Page Experience
    • Ad Relevance and/or Historical Ad Relevance
    • Expected Click Through Rates
  6. Click Apply

The “One Per” Rule

Now that we’ve recapped why Quality Score is important, let’s take a look at the best way to hack your account and achieve an (almost) perfect score across your Ad Groups.

A quick disclaimer before we kick off, the “One Per Rule” requires organization and a little research to see the most value. We promise that it’s worth it.

What Is the One Per Rule?

As the name suggests, the One Per Rule requires you to limit the number of keywords per Ad Group to 1. We know, it’s crazy. The method behind the madness is that it ties your keyword closely to your ad text and the text on your landing page. This signals to Google that your relevancy is through the roof, therefore awarding you a high Quality Score.
It’s important to note that not all keywords are created equal (and neither are all keyword matching options.) You only want to use the One Per rule on your top performing keywords.

  • Step 1: Doing Your Research — Select the Campaign you want to optimize, and locate your 5-10 top performing keywords across Ad Groups. “Top performing” should be measured by the metric you’re looking to optimize (conversions, cost per conversion, cost per click, etc.), but all keywords should have a competitive click through rate (1% and above).
  • Step 2: Create One AdGroup Per Keyword — Create an Ad Group for each of your top performing keywords. If you have 5 top performing keywords, you should also have 5 Ad Groups. Use each individual keyword to name the Ad Group to make organization easy.
  • Step 3: Optimize Your Ad Text for Relevance — One of the most important things you need to remember for the One Per rule is making sure your keyword appears multiple times throughout your ad text. We like to call this “threading the needle”. It basically means that the keyword in your Ad Group will appear multiple times in your ad text and again on your landing page.

We typically see higher Quality Scores when it’s placed in the headline, description, and display URL in your ad text. If one of my top performing keywords is “women’s hats”, the structure of my ad should look as follows:

quality score explained

  • Step 4: Optimize Your Landing Page for Relevance — The final step in the One Per Rule is simple, you want to make sure that the keyword you selected appears somewhere on your landing page. A quick change to the copy on your landing page should do the trick.

Quality Scores are feared by advertisers everywhere because of the perceived unpredictability, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel for advertisers that are organized and follow the instructions above.

We want to end this post with one important reminder: maintaining a high Quality Score creates cohesion between your ad, its message, its destination, and what you are actually offering the consumer. It’s not about simply improving your score out of 10, you’re paving the most straightforward and enticing path to converting eyeballs into big bags of money.

What’s your relationship like with Quality Score? Are you going steady or is it complicated? Let us know in the comments! 

Marketer's Guide to Google AdWords

5 responses to “Quality Score Explained: Achieving (Near) Perfection

  1. Thanks Dan! Question about the “One Per” tactic: If your keyword is Blue Suede Shoes, can the ad group include Broad, Phrase, and Exact match bids for Blue Suede Shoes ?

    1. Hi Greg, thanks for stopping by. We’d suggest that you include one match type per keyword, depending on what your goals are! You can read more about it in this post, where we go through each match type and each purpose they serve.

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About the Author

Dan Pratt is the co-founder and COO of AdHawk (Techstars ‘15). Prior to founding AdHawk, he worked on the Accelerated Growth team at Google, helping startups assess, refine and grow their digital advertising. He’s an expert in all forms of paid advertising and has been honing his marketing and sales skills since selling homemade pizza from his desk in third grade.