The Importance of Quality Score in 2013

SMS Text


Everyone in search engine marketing knows that Quality Score is important. But you may not realize that Quality Score is more important now than ever. That’s because as average Quality Scores have fallen over the last 4 years, the benefits you get from having an above-average score is far greater in 2013 than it was in the past.

How much greater? And how can you get a piece of those cost benefits? Let’s start by looking at what a typical Quality Score distribution looks like in 2013.

The Typical AdWords Quality Score Distribution Today

Earlier this year, I manually analyzed several hundred AdWords accounts too look at what the average Quality Score distribution looks like today. Here’s a picture of what the impression-weighted average Quality Score looks like in a typical account:


The key takeaway here is that the average Quality Score is now 5/10 (this is down from 7/10 back in 2009). You can see from the chart that Quality Scores of 3/10 and 4/10 are much more common than they were 4 years ago.

Why Quality Score Is Up to 200% More Valuable in 2013

Without getting too technical, I’d like to share some quick data that illustrates the increased importance of Quality Score in AdWords. These tables show the kinds of discounts (or penalties) you can expect to see based on your Quality Score for a given keyword, relative to the average Quality Score of 5/10.


In 2013, if your keyword has a Quality Score of 10, you can save an estimated 50% on the cost of each click. Note that this is 67% more than you saved four years ago for the same Quality Score. Why? Because average Quality Scores have fallen over time, meaning that higher Quality Scores are even more beneficial and save you more relative to other advertisers.

Figuring out Your Average Quality Score

A quick and easy way to figure out your Average Quality Score is to run the my Free AdWords Grader application, which will generate you a Quality Score report card that shows the distribution of your keyword Quality Score and computes the average value as shown here:


3 Non-Obvious Ways to Improve Your Quality Score Now

So how can you raise your own Quality Scores and start seeing these cost benefits? Easy – just raise your Click Through rates. There’s a near straight line relationship between Quality Score vs. CTR. Recently I took a look at a bunch of accounts with +8/10 average quality scores and found the following 3 things in common among the over-achievers.

  1. Bid on Branded Keywords – Branded keywords get on average CTR’s of between 30-80%. This generates a tremendous uplift in your account average CTR, and creates a remarkably beneficial uplift on all the other keyword quality scores in your account. You absolutely must try this out.
  2. Target The Long Tail – Ideally +75% of your impressions should be accrued to keywords with 3+ word keyword phrases.
  3. Stay Active in Your Account Many PPC account managers are lazy bums that do nothing at all in their AdWords accounts. These clowns go nowhere. All of the top achievers with above 8/10 average Quality Scores were active in their accounts every week, regularly trying out new keywords, deleting lousy keywords, trying out new ads, employing negative keywords, etc.

These are just 3 ways that you can increase your Quality Scores. The key takeaway is that an above average CTR and Quality Score will help you beat your competitors – both in terms of getting more exposure and paying less for your clicks, and that taking action today is worth more than ever!



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... Read Full Bio
Larry Kim
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • Chenzo

    Larry – I give you a lot of credit being an adwords guru – out of my realm !

    your pal,

    • Larry Kim

      thanks bro

  • Stuart Draper

    Improving Quality Scores is something we focus on as an agency. Why? Because we know that lots of others are ignoring the metric. We look for any and every way we can win to get the most bang out of our PPC advertising budgets. I like the bid on branded keywords idea, and agree it should be done, but I most certainly would NOT recommend doing it for the sole purpose of helping increase account average quality score. As I understand it, your account average quality score does not effect any individual keyword quality score. Correct me if I am wrong.

    I would recommend branded keyword bidding because you will get clicks you would otherwise lose to a competitor and you will have the ability to send visitors to a landing page that matches the message of the ad.

    • Larry Kim

      i like bidding on branded keywords because as you say, i can control the messaging more depending on what terms were searched on in addition to the branded keyword, and can direct them to more specific landing pages.

      And, i am seeing that the overall uplift in account CTR has an impact on the QS of non-branded keywords in the account, too! do some analysis on your own accounts and see for yourself!

  • Alan Morte

    Larry, great breakdown of quality score! Love the visualization. We preach this to every Adwords client we have and the importance of the six attributes. Will definitely send them your article!

    • Larry Kim

      Thanks Alan

  • Oliver Ewbank

    Great post. People seriously under-rate Quality Score and the money it can save you on your AdWords account. Another good way to increase your quality score is to increase the speed of the load speed of the landing page.

  • Yogesh

    This is right concet to manage PPC . if ppc manger lazy can be loss in ppc.