Seven Advanced Questions About Quality Score Answered

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If you’ve been advertising with Google AdWords for a little while, you probably have a handle on the basics of Quality Score: what it is, what it does, how it’s calculated, and how it affects your campaign performance and costs. If you don’t fully understand the fundamentals of Quality Score, there are plenty of beginner resources out there for you.

This is more of a FAQ (frequently asked questions) for intermediate or advanced AdWords users. You know how to set up and run a campaign, and you understand the importance of a high Quality Score. But it’s a complicated system, and you may still be struggling with some of the finer points.

Below you’ll find expert answers to seven common technical questions about Quality Score.

1. How does having the keyword in the display URL or destination URL affect Quality Score?

The only real impact this can have is on click-through rate (CTR), but CTR is a major factor in determining your Quality Score. There may be an incremental bump in your relevance, but the main impact is in whether it compels more searchers to click. Generally speaking, it often helps, but having the keyword in the display or destination URL has a significantly lower impact on CTR and Quality Score than headlines, calls to action, and benefit statements.

2. How useful is dynamic keyword insertion in improving Quality Score? Does appending a dynamic keyword to the URL help improve Quality Score?

Dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) is generally very helpful in raising CTR and, subsequently, Quality Score (again, there is no direct boost, but click-through rate is the biggest single Quality Score factor, and DKI can have a significant impact on CTR). Including dynamic keywords in the URL, as in the body text of the ad, can have a marginal impact on click-through rate.

3. Do keywords with zero impressions lower your Quality Score at the account level?

How can a keyword that does not receive impressions hurt your Quality Score? Google does use several gauges to determine not only how a keyword is performing, but also how it could potentially perform. This is where keywords with no impressions can negatively affect an account. If there is no new data to suggest to Google that a keyword could perform well, then it won’t give you the benefit of the doubt. Also, keywords with zero impressions tend to cause clutter and confusion—it’s better to keep your ad groups small, tight-knit, and clean.

4. Is it best to pause keywords with low Quality Scores (3 and below) while you modify parameters to help bump up their Quality Score?

It’s important to think of the two different levels of Quality Score, the first being the account level and the second being the keyword level. So if you have a lot of keywords in the account that have Quality Scores of 7 and only a few with Quality Scores of 3, then the account overall has good performance, which means it will be easier to turn those low-scoring keywords around. However, if you have mostly keywords with 3’s, your overall account performance is poor, and these keywords will be more difficult to turn around. Pausing and activating keywords should really be based on performance.

5. What if you have a relevant keyword, good ad copy, a great landing page, but a Quality Score of 1?

There are four possibilities:

  1. You don’t mention click-through rate, which is the most important part of QS. If everything seems great but you have low CTR, tweak your ad text to make your ad more compelling so that more people will click on it.
  2. You may be suffering from poor history at some level, be it the ad group, campaign, account, potentially even your industry’s experience with the keyword.
  3. Your keywords may not be as relevant as you think they are. Is your group all about “golf”? Or all about “golf club sets”?
  4. It may be that Google is punishing you for your business tactics. Are you upfront about how and when you charge customers and use their personal information?

6. Why would I have a low Quality Score on my most highly converting keyword in the ad group?

Conversion rate is not a factor in determining Quality Score. Your conversion rate could be 100%, but if your CTR is very low, your Quality Score will be low as well.

7. How do long-tail keywords with next to zero impressions effect Quality Score on a campaign as a whole?

It depends on the terms and on the account. Google has two ways of dealing with low volume keywords:

  • In Aggregate – They can look at a basket of keywords that are related and sum that score to figure out the performance of the keyword niche in question.
  • Extrapolating from Head Terms – They can take a broader variation of a term and apply its performance to lower search volume terms to create a best guess at relevance.

Which option they use depends on the data in your account, so the advice is really to avoid adding these keywords, and in the event that you do, make sure you have a means for clustering and measuring the keywords in aggregate, and monitor account-wide Quality Scores closely.

Larry Kim

Larry Kim

CTO and Founder at WordStream
Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007. Today he serves as company CTO and is a contributor to both the product team and marketing teams. Larry practices photography in his spare time.
Larry Kim
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  • plaudit_design

    Thanks for the tips. While quality score is pretty straightforward on the surface your article gave me some new ideas to tackle some poor ratings.

  • Dillon Smith

    Thanks for the great article! I'm sure that many of us have asked ourselves at least one of these questions at some point in our SEM careers. It's great to have the answers!

  • Chris Sisco

    It's also important to keep in mind that if your ad is ranked higher (spots 1,2, or 3), it's more likely to be clicked on than an ad ranked poorly (spots 5, 6, or 7). That being said, CTR can be improved by increasing your CPC (initially spending more) to gain the #1 spot and ultimately improving your quality score since we'll exp a higher CTR via higher positioning.

    • George Michie

      Hi Chris, you are mistaken, here. Google normalizes CTR for position. QS is not improved by bidding to the top of the page.

  • Francesco Tinti

    Good post. Just some notes.

    According to negative quality score -under 5- for personal experience it's better always DELETE keywords. Pausing only a keyword will anyway affect the adgroup quality score.

    Surely in AdWords there are more than 2 quality scores over keywords and account quality scores.
    They may be a adgroup quality score which is a “logic” step if you think to keywords, There should be also a quality score related to ads (and/or to ad URLs, because you have specific reports about this kind of information).

    Finally when you have quality score 1 it's a 95% a landing page penalty and it is given by a quality rater. Usually your ads are disapproved and a message in “disapproved ads” notifies that :
    1) you must clean the landing page and make it be landing page quality compliant;
    2) ask for a landing page review contacting AdWords team for a new evaluation.

    The notification message informs also that 3) if you don't do step 2 your quality score will always be 1. So don't hope in an algoritmic quality score review.

  • Mazakaro

    i have been using adwords for short time and i know a bit about it , i think as you said what matter are keywords which are affecting directly on quality score , you can sort the list by priority i remember and you can choose the best one for you !

  • Rahul @ MazaKaro

    i have been using adwords for short time and i know a bit about it , i think as you said what matter are keywords which are affecting directly on quality score , you can sort the list by priority i remember and you can choose the best one for you !

  • Clickprefect

    i have been using adwords from a long time and i know about it , i think as you said what matter are keywords which are affecting directly on quality score , yes quality score is determined by keyword click through rate ,keyword historic performance ,relevance of ad text & several other factors

  • ICOM Institute

    i agree with you on quality score. even i was facing the same problem in adwords. i was new in that but then i got in touch with google support team they asked me to increase quality score for maximum clinks with minimum budget! i never used this trick “to pause keywords with low Quality Scores” it sounds good ! let me try this and i dope i will get better response ! by the way thanks for sharing your precious knowledge with us.