Real Impact of Google Quality Score In AdWords PPC

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We ran into an AdWords error- yes they admitted that for whatever reason, their system messed up- that gave all our keywords in a new account a quality score of 1/10. The system was telling us that the landing page was the problem, but nothing seemed wrong there. When we contacted our dedicated AdWords reps, they owned up to the error and manually fixed it.

Keep a Close Eye on New Accounts

This underlines that you need to keep an eye on new accounts. Sometimes they don’t run at all- and sometimes there are errors like this.

But I thought we might learn something about the impact of quality score since I could run reports to look at the keywords before and after the quality score adjustment. If you haven’t read the basics of quality score, check out Google’s explanation of Quality Score.

Grace Period and Shut Off


Before I get into that, another thing I need to point out that happened was that 6 days into the account’s life, impressions dropped precipitously. Evidently, the AdWords system will virtually turn off a low quality score account after a certain grace period.

Quality Score’s Effect on Impressions and CTR


After our account rep fixed the error, our impressions jumped 61.3% higher than they had been in the first few days (I excluded the precipitous drop period). Interestingly, CTR dropped too- suggesting a phenomenon I’ve seen before, which is that the fewer impressions you budget for, the better AdWords seems to display you for high CTR. In other words, the more impressions you go for, to a degree, the lower quality impressions you’ll get, and CTR will drop.

A caveat, this new account needs some serious ad testing, and the current CTR is not adequate. That’s a separate issue, but long term, of course, it could also decrease quality score.

 CPCAvg Ad PosAvg Quality Score


Quality score moved the needle but only a little bit. The reduction in CPC was less than 10%, and about the same movement in average ad position.

Historical CTR: Major Impact on CPC, Huge Part of QS


A separate examination of CTR and Ad Position over time suggests that historical CTR may have a bigger impact on quality score than anything else- and thus, in the graph above (x axis is weeks of account’s existence), where bid was not changed, as CTR increased, CPC remained steady but ad position decreased (approached 1.0 – higher ad position is a lower number).


Although tight AdGroup structure and good landing pages are essential to a high quality score, I believe the biggest impact on quality score and your CPC is ultimately your CTR over a long period of time. So that brings us back to ad testing. And patience.

Strike the balance in your ad testing results between CTR and your ultimate KPI (ROAS or Cost Per Conversion). Because, focusing on CTR exclusively could get you a lower CPC, but from visitors who don’t convert, and what’s the point of that?

Brian Carter
Brian is author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook and Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook's Features For Your Marketing Campaigns, How to... Read Full Bio
Brian Carter
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  • Bernhard

    The same thing – QS 1/10 for all keywords – happened to a new customer of mine. The account, however, was running for some years already. At a certain point, the customer wasn’t seeing his ads anymore, and contacted us to fix it. Same diagnostic – “the landing page is not relevant to the ad”, but the customer was #3 in organic search for the same keyword! Tried to point to that site from another Adwords account, same thing – QS = 1/10. In a magical Tuesday morning, 8:45 AM, all keywords went up to 7/10, 9/10. The time suggests someone at Google woke up in good mood and decided to fix it 🙂

  • Chelsea Blacker

    Great find, thanx for sharing your thoughts on impressions – i’ve had similar experiences. Just a friendly though – may want to rename & upload your images to keep your client private. cheers!

  • Rauhbautz

    Thanx for handy article! How do you I run Adwords campaign with error?

  • Cheap Web Hosting

    @Brian, what did they fix? Like Bernhard, this morning I woke up to no clicks on a campaign and did a little poking around to see 1/10 scores on all of my keywords on a very profitable fitness campaign that has been running as least a year. My jaw dropped! Prior to this morning, my keywords were 7/10, but mostly 10/10. Luckily I already had the attention of a Google Rep that helped me with something else on the account the day before. I submitted a reply back to her this afternoon and referenced this post. Hopefuly I don’t get the usual links in a canned reply sending me to read up quality scores.

    BTW, what does it take to get a dedicated Google Rep? I just hate having to go back and forth with different reps who do nothing more than send me reading material. I’m not a total idiot when it comes to Adwords, but it’s almost impossible to get someone who will really LOOK into a problem like this one that I can’t figure out, as opposed to the brush off and “here, go read this”.


  • Alexis Kauffmann

    A “little” mistake like this might cost a small fortune!