Improving Your AdWords Quality Score

Posted on July 26, 2012

Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) is without a doubt the fastest way to drive traffic to your website, and is especially effective when running a targeted campaign for a specific service offered.  However, those with limited marketing dollars are often understandably concerned about spending too much per click.  In this article, we’ll take an in depth look at the most effective way to drive down this cost, which is to improve your AdWords Quality Score.  If you have not already done so, we highly recommend a thorough reading of our previous articles on PPC to ensure other aspects of your campaign are all properly configured.

Quality Score Components

Quality Score measures the cumulative keyword relevancy across several aspects of your campaign.  While the exact algorithm is a proprietary secret known only to Google, we do know the factors that comprise it.  First, whenever a keyword is searched and triggers your ad, Google measures the relevancy of that word against (1) your advertisement, (2) the keywords you targeted, and (3) your website or landing page.  Next, that result is calculated against the historical click through rate (CTR) experienced by that targeted keyword AND the historical CTR of your individual AdWords account.  The end result is called Quality Score; measured on a scale of 1-10.


The importance of this number becomes evident once you see that Quality Score is part of a much simpler equation that determines Ad Rank.

Every time a potential client searches a term that triggers your ad, the Quality Score is instantaneously calculated and then multiplied with the bid price to determine Ad Rank.  The ads with the greatest Ad Rank are the ones that will appear (or appear in the higher positions).  With a direct relationship between the two variables, you can easily increase bid price to win bids and get more clicks.  However, since this will obviously increase costs, you would be much better served to increase Quality Score; resulting in higher average ad positions at a lower overall cost.

Improving Quality Score

If you feel a bit overwhelmed by any of the previous descriptions of Quality Score then don’t panic, because it’s much more important to simply realize how you can improve each of components rather than understanding how they necessarily relate to each other.

Relevant Keywords

Perhaps the most basic step to improve your Quality Score is to simply evaluate your targeted keywords to ensure they are as relevant as possible to your campaign.  You should do this by viewing the statistics on what exact search terms were entered when people clicked on your ad.  If there seems to be a wide variety of perhaps erroneous terms not related to your campaign, consider altering your keyword match options to “phrase match.”  This will result in less overall clicks, but will ensure that your ad is only served to more relevant searches.  Additionally, you should include as many “negative match” keywords as you can think of.  These would by any terms that are not conducive to a relevant or desirable visitor.

Group Similar Keywords

Another way to increase Quality Score is to create unique Ad Groups for related keywords.  When unrelated keywords are grouped together, the ads you created within that Ad Group may be irrelevant to the wider variety of topics.  When this is the case, you run the risk of irrelevant ad being served to potential clients, decreasing your Quality Score and effectiveness of your campaign.

For example, if you are a dentist targeting teeth whitening, all teeth whitening keywords should go in one ad group.  This way all the ads within that group can be tailored for that specific subject.  Likewise, if you are running a special for new patients, place those keywords in their own Ad Group and create them their own set of ads.  If these two topics were grouped together, a teeth whitening ad could be served to a potential client who was searching for a new patient special.

Improve Ad Text

One of the most crucial ways you should be improving Quality Score, while also optimizing ad performance, is by continually improving the text of your ads through intermittent changes.  These changes are not random, but a strategic split test to determine what words or phrases are most attractive to your potential clients and that result in a higher Quality Score

Within an Ad Group you can view each ad variation that was created when you first set up your campaign, along with all the vital performance statistics.  There will almost assuredly be one or two top performers (those with the highest Quality Score  will almost always also have the highest number of clicks, Clickthrough rate, and lowest cost-per-click).  These are the benchmarks against which all future ads will be measured.  Edit the poorest performing ads by clicking on the ad text (when the pencil icon appears), and then copy the exact wording and punctuation of your top performing ads.  Finally, make one or two slight changes to test for improvement.

Once these new ad variations have had time to collect enough data (typically a few days to a week) log back into your account to view the results.  Repeat the process of keeping the best performers while deleting the poorest.  This method of split testing is a very efficient and continuous way to improve the Quality Score and performance of your ads.

Optimize Your Website / Create a Landing Page

Finally, Quality Score can be increased by manipulating the website itself.  The idea behind this step is that each ad should first be sending its traffic to the most relevant page on the site, and then you can work to further increase the relevancy of these pages (optimization).  For example, if you are a dentist targeting a specific procedure like teeth whitening, then it would be most relevant to send visitors to a teeth whitening page.  This may require adding new specialized pages to your site (called landing pages), but it will have duel benefits of decreasing the cost of your ads as well as increasing the conversion of visitors, since they will be more likely to contact you once they find the specific information they were searching for.

Optimizing these landing pages (and your entire site) will improve how Google views the relevancy when determining Quality Score, and will additionally help improve your website’s organic (non-paid) search engine rankings.  Include descriptive and informative text that incorporates your targeted keywords, but that is not so repetitive that it can be construed as spam.  Also, add your targeted keywords into the title tag and meta description and keyword tags.

Final Thoughts

With any marketing tool as complex as AdWords there is a substantial risk for inefficient, wasteful spending.  It is therefore crucial that any individual or firm in charge of your marketing be diligent in reducing every possible cost of your PPC campaign, especially in regards to small businesses.  By adhering to the concepts described in this article any business manager should now have the knowledge to accomplish this in what is perhaps the most efficient way possible, which is through improving your AdWords Quality Score.

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