What Is Quality Score and Why Does It Matter?

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If your business is running a search engine advertising (pay-per-click) campaign, chances are you’re familiar with the phrase “quality score.” However, you may be wondering what quality score is and why it matters to your campaign. Quality score is a critical factor that affects the performance of your search advertising, so here are a few things you should know.

What Is Quality Score?

Quality score is a rank of how relevant and useful a search engine thinks your business is to someone searching for your products and services online, and this rank impacts both the cost and position of your pay-per-click ads on the search engine results page. Search engines typically evaluate your text ad(s), keywords, and landing page, and the higher your score, the more relevant your business appears to be to a related search.

How Does Quality Score Affect My Search Advertising Campaign?

Quality score affects a number of factors related to your search advertising campaign, including the actual cost-per-click of your keywords, the minimum bid estimates of your keywords, and the rank of your text ad(s). Higher quality scores tend to result in a lower cost-per-click for your target keywords and lower bid estimates for your text ad to appear on the first page or in the top position in the search engine results. That means with a high quality score, it’s cheaper and easier for your ad to appear in a better position when someone searches for your target keywords.

How Is Quality Score Calculated?

Search engines evaluate a variety of factors when determining quality score, such as your keyword clickthrough rate (CTR) history, the quality of your landing page, the relevance of your text ad, and the relevance of the keywords you are bidding on. Google has recently addressed some of these factors that help determine quality score.


Keywords play a large role in a business’ quality score. Google Performance Specialist Tanmay Arora addressed the factors that help determine keyword relevance, including:

  • Keyword Relevance: Keyword relevance is not just determined by a keyword’s presence or frequency on a landing page, but also by how appropriate Google thinks consumers will find the keyword in relation to the content on the landing page.
  • Historical Performance: When a keyword is bid on, Google assigns it a base quality score based on its historical performance on Google’s search engine by looking at factors like the keyword’s clickthrough rate for other search campaigns. Quality score is re-evaluated over time as it gathers more data from the campaign as it runs.
  • Clickthrough Rate: Google takes into account the exact match clickthrough rate, or the number of times the keyword triggers a search ad when the keyword exactly matched a search term and was clicked on by the consumer who searched for the term.

Text Ads

Text ad relevance is also a major factor in determining quality score. In addition to just bidding on keywords, you should also include a primary keyword in the copy of your text ad. Search engines like Google also take into account the overall effectiveness of your text ad, including how often it is served in relation to a search query and how many clicks it receives when displayed on the search engine results page.

Landing Pages

Google recently announced that landing page quality would have more weight in determining the quality score of a text ad. That’s why it’s extremely important for your landing page to display content that a user would expect to see after clicking on your ad. The content should be related to the topic of your ad, such as product or service information.

According to Google’s director of product development, Jonathan Alferness, Google’s intent with this factor is to improve the user’s experience when clicking the text ad and visiting the business’ website. According to Alferness, this change means “pages that seem to be about the topic of the user’s search will do better here [on Google’s sponsored results] than general landing pages.”

How Can I Improve My Quality Score?

Because there’s no public formula to tell us exactly how search engines calculate quality score, there is also no single way to improve your quality score. However, there are some best practices you can follow.

Search engines are looking to see how well your keywords, text ad(s), and landing page work together in getting a consumer to the right place. Because broad keywords are typically more competitive, it’s in your best interest to bid on some geo-targeted and long-tail keywords related to your business. In addition, using localized and product- or service-specific keywords in your text ad can help your ad appear in the sponsored results when someone searches for those terms.

For instance, if a consumer searches for “organic fertilizer Houston,” a text ad has a higher chance of showing up if the business is bidding on an exact or closely related keyword, rather than a general keyword like “gardening.” In this example, this likelihood is further improved if the text ad also contains content related to the topic of organic fertilizer in Houston.

It would also boost the campaign’s quality score if the landing page for the text ad is related to gardening supplies in Houston. If you include any offers on your ad, like “get a free lawn evaluation,” content related to that offer should also appear on your landing page to increase your text ad quality score.

Have you taken steps to increase your quality score on the top search engines? Which tips for choosing keywords, writing text ad copy, or building landing pages have you implemented that have improved your search advertising performance?

Tamara Weintraub
As a Content Marketing Manager at ReachLocal (NASDAQ:RLOC) and writer for the ReachLocal blog, Tamara Weintraub helps local businesses reach more customers online with helpful tips about online advertising, social media marketing, and Web Presence Optimization.
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  • http://www.hughbanksdesign.com/ Chris Hughbanks

    This is exactly my I tell my customers that PPC’s are like precision surgery. Ever piece has to be laser focused on getting the right people to the right place with the right message.

  • http://www.dock29.com @dock29

    It all comes back to best how to keyword research. With well over 160 signals Google looks at to determine rankings it all comes down identifying the right keywords through testing and then providing excellent content that search engine should rank. Since the Google keyword estimator and other traffic forecasting tools are so poor at the local level we have a slightly different approach. We 1) build out all possible keywords appropriate for a client and mash those up with all the local geography city terms (prefix and suffix), 2) test them live using Google adwords with a small $100-$200 test budget, 3) bucket them into paid, organic, both or neither based on actual traffic at the local level, 4) get to work building out organic content for the most appropriate keywords.

    I don’t know why more agencies don’t do this as it removes any guessing, capitalizes on long tail keywords which vary by market, leverages Googles drive to get more local, and saves the client huge ppc dollars if they continue to support those after the test is run.

    Thanks for taking the time to share, once again, the basics of quality score with regard to search engine marketing. If anyone would like to see the how to keyword research strategy we use please feel free to visit our website at http://www.dock29.com. Thanks again @dock29

  • http://www.citymediamarketing.co.uk Arun

    In Simple Words, Test Test Test and Test again….

  • http://www.ppcadsmanagement.com/ Sarmista Aun

    Hi Tamara,
    Increasing the Quality Score has become one the most critical issues to the advertisers. I think your article will surely help them out.