Online Marketing Blog

What Every AdWords Advertiser Should Know About Quality Score – The Ultimate QS Improvement Guide

Do you need to improve your AdWords Quality Score? Do you want to understand what Google wants from you as an advertiser in exchange for a decent Quality Score and lower click prices? Today I will teach you the ins and outs of the algorithm and show you how you can tweak your account and site to influence each Quality Score factor.

*Update: I have been contacted by a source inside Google and updated two points in the post accordingly*

I am constantly surprised at how little advertisers really understand Quality Scores. If you put in a little effort, you can reap some very tangible benefits and come out leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.

SECTION 1: QUALITY SCORE BASICS

While Quality Score is relatively simple to grasp as a concept, it’s a little more complicated in practice. Stasia, an AdWords Seminar leader, gives you a nice introduction to the basic concept of Quality Score in the video below:

Get the Flash Player to see this Google AdWords tutorial about building your keyword list.

The Opportunity.

Back in the good old days, AdWords was based on a pure auction-based model. If you bid more than another advertiser on a keyword, your ad would appear higher and ultimately get more clicks (and hopefully sales). Back in 2005 when Google introduced the Quality Score, it changed everything.
No longer could search results be flooded with irrelevant ads of those with massive budgets. Many advertisers were very upset, but a unique opportunity arose for those with smaller budgets and the inclination to put in a little hard work — perhaps people like you. With the refinement of the Quality Score algorithm and the great scam / affiliate flush of late 2009, there has never been a better opportunity for those advertisers with a quality product or service and a little time to try to understand Quality Score to really reap the rewards. Are you ready to learn more about Quality Score? Let’s get started.

Why Quality Score Is Important.

Quality Score is extremely important because it can make or break your campaign (and in some cases, your business). Quality Score determines how much you pay for your advertising on Google and how much exposure you get. You wouldn’t place a TV or magazine ad without knowing how much you have to pay or how much exposure you would get, would you? Brian Carter, a  humorous motivational speaker and the Director of Search  for Online Marketing Agency Fuel Interactive shares some interesting client information over on Search Engine Journal on the inverse relationship between Quality Score and cost per click (CPC). I have reformatted the data below:

quality score relationship to CPC

As you can see, the higher your Quality Score, the lower the price you pay per click. Also, as you will see below, the higher your Quality Score the more exposure you will get as AdWords uses Quality Score to determine what Ads are placed in the coveted 1-3 search results above the organic and local search results.

Us City And State Location Targeting

SECTION 2: QUALITY SCORE FACTORS

Types of Quality Score And What They Impact.

According to Google, there are two “types” of Quality Scores. The AdWords help documentation goes into a little more detail, but the guys over on PPC Hero pretty much nailed it in their Quality Score Handbook (Essential reading by the way) when they said:

Search Network Quality Score is different from Content Network Quality Score. Also there are different Quality Scores for setting minimum bids and ranking ads for the Content Network, Quality Score and the maximum cost-per-click determine the ad rank on content pages. For search, Quality Score, along with maximum CPC, determines ad rank and determines promotion to top of page.

The Google & Search Network Variations/Exceptions.

There are slight variations to the Quality Score formula when it affects ad position and first page bids:

  • For calculating a keyword-targeted ad’s position, your landing page quality is not a factor. Also, when calculating ad position on a Search Network placement, Quality Score considers the click through rate (CTR) on that particular placement in addition to the CTR on Google.
  • For calculating first page bid, Quality Score doesn’t consider the matched ad or search query, since this estimate appears as a metric in your account and doesn’t vary per search query.
  • CTR on Google network, CTR on Google Network impacts QS on the Google Network, not on Google.

The Content Network Variations/Exceptions.

The Quality Score for calculating an ad’s eligibility to appear on a particular content site, as well as the ad’s position on that site, consists of the following factors:

  • The quality of your landing page
  • The historical CTR of the ad on this and similar sites

The Quality Score for determining if a placement-targeted ad will appear on a particular site depends on your campaign’s bidding option.

If your campaign uses cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) bidding, Quality Score is based on:

  • The quality of your landing page

If your campaign uses CPC bidding, Quality Score is based on:

  • The historical CTR of the ad on this and similar sites
  • The quality of your landing page

Brad Geddes of bgTheory has a handy Quality Score chart with all of this information (reformatted for this post) :

quality score table

SECTION 3: IMPROVING YOUR QUALITY SCORE

Now that you know as much as Google is prepared to share about Quality Score, how it is calculated, and roughly how much weight is given to each factor, what factors can you as an advertiser realistically influence? As it happens, quite a lot! Let’s go into each of the major factors and look at what we can improve.

Improving Your Quality Score for the Search Network

The CTR and historical CTR of the keyword and the matched ad on Google

The CTR of your ad / keyword pair is by far the largest factor in determining Quality Score. The important thing to remember is that the CTR is normalized to your position so your CTR is judged good or bad for Quality Score reasons based on the performance of other ads currently and historically in this position.
Bidding more to move up to the number one position will more than likely improve your CTR, but it will rarely do you any good if your ad doesn’t get a better Quality Score than other ads have received in that position in the past. The goal here is to make your ad so relevant and enticing that the searcher just has on click on it. You can explore the topic of Improving CTR in more depth in some of my previous posts.

It is also important to aggressively research and add negative keywords. This will increase your CTR and reduce your exposure to those searching for something you do not provide. Consider running an AdWords Search Query Performance report daily or weekly, mining your server log files, or checking your Analytics account for negatives and add them to your campaign negative list. Matthew Mierzejewski has also written a fantastic post on this topic and detailed how negative keywords impact Quality Score.

A final historical CTR improvement tip: always bid (and bid high) on your company or brand name. You will get a massive boost in historical CTR because 70%+ of the time, your ad is what searchers are looking for. You will pay pennies per click and decrease the normalized Quality Score and historical account CTR of any competitors bidding on your brand or company name!

TIP: Here is an extremely important article showing the importance of CTR when determining quality score and reinforces where you, as an advertiser, should be focusing your efforts.

Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account

Account history is a tough one and is subject to a lot of speculation. Unfortunately, I believe a lot of it to be true. Advertisers with older accounts which have performed well in the past have a huge advantage over advertisers with new accounts. It can take anywhere from 1 week to 4 months to “shake off” a “bad history.”
This is also what some people refer to as the account level Quality Score. It is not so much a type of Quality Score as it is a factor. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done here with a new account apart from making sure that you have a solid understanding of the factors to get your account off to a flying start (ie: a high CTR off the bat).
If you have an old account with a poor historical Quality Score, you might feel tempted to create a new account to counteract this. This is against AdWords’ policy. If you want to be on the cutting edge and have an appetite for risk, you can beta test new AdWords search ad formats. New formats generally show huge CTR improvements before they settle into the consciousness of Google users. It’s also important to note that the AdWords system treats an edited ad like it’s brand new and has no performance history. According to the FAQ here:

Ad position is partly determined by an ad’s relevance to the search query as well as its historical performance on Google. Editing your ad, therefore, can affect its position.

The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group

A relatively new addition to the QS family, historical CTR of the display URL in the ad group is an easy one to get right. Make sure you initially split test the hell out of your ads/display URL and make sure you stick with the one that drives the highest CTR. Adding keywords to the subdomain and subdirectory of display URL can give massive improvements. Especially if the keywords are trademarks. Frank Pipolo has some good tips on using test domains for this.

The quality of your landing page

This is another subjective topic. However (and this is very important), Google has hired thousands of what are called “Ads Quality Raters.” These are actual humans outsourced by Google who sit at home and rate your ads and the quality of the pages those ads go to. To improve on this factor, it is important to pay very close attention to the Landing Page and Site Quality Guidelines here. I wrote a quality score post years ago on this exact factor, and a lot of the tips are still relevant.
Google also has thousands of Search Quality Raters, not to be confused with Ads Quality Raters, who look at and rate pages for classification in the organic search results. While I don’t have the Ads Quality Rater operations manual, the Quality Rater document is out in the wild for all to see. I’ve heard there is an awful lot of crossover.

Remember, you should ensure your landing page is capable of passing a human check. Make sure it follows the rules and never forget that once it is reviewed, it will be reviewed again.

The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group

You’ve heard it many times before. Make sure your base keyword is in the ad title, ad text and display URL. Easy peasy, even for the tiny fraction of weight it carries.

The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query

This one is a little trickier. Again, attack your negative keyword research aggressively — consider it an essential daily task. This is a more advanced area where going through some detailed buying cycle analysis and segmenting search phrase intent can really pay off. The effort-to-reward ratio will vary here. Getelastic has an amazing post on something very similar here.

Your account’s performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown

This factor is a relatively new addition to the Quality Score algorithm. I wrote a post about using geo-targeting to improve CTR previously, but the important takeaway is not that blanket geo-targeting is the right way to go, but that you should pay attention to the geographic areas that are performing poorly and consider creating a dedicated campaign or adgroup for this area or remove it completely. Run an AdWords Geographic Performance report to see where you could improve. Consider using local colloquialisms in your ad text for those specific areas to help improve performance.

Other relevance factors

While there is no way to know for sure what all potential factors are, some common sense can be applied here. The first thing to work on is your bounce rate, or more specifically “back-bounce-rate.” Yes, you read that right. Google has mentioned throughout the years that if a visitor clicks your ad and immediately hits the back button, this is an indication that the page was not relevant. In fact, Google explicitly prohibits the disabling of the back button functionality in their policies.

We also have anecdotal evidence that adding your root or base keyword to your landing page title tag and the other keywords in the adgroup around your copy improves Quality Score marginally. If you have the time, it would be ideal to create a landing page for each individual keyword. When this is not possible, a landing page dedicated to each adgroup usually does the trick.

Page Load Time/Other Factors
You may have noticed “page load time” or “site speed” left out of the factors above. To be honest, I’ve never seen a poor Quality Score due to slow page load time. From my experience, as long as your page loads in a reasonable length of time, you don’t even have to worry about this for now. If increasing your page load by a half second has any impact on Quality Score, it is minimal. There are also many other marginal factors I won’t go into, but Bradd Libby does.

Improving Quality Score For Content Network

There is a lot of crossover in the areas where you can improve your Quality Score on the search and content networks. Let’s look at the factors we can influence to improve Quality Score on the content network. In most cases these are a little harder to influence and take a lot more time and resources, but they are worth the effort if you want to succeed on the content network.

The ad’s past performance on this and similar sites

You can do a little or a lot with this one — from site and site section targeting all the way up to joining the community (if it is a forum for example) to get to know the users of the site and what makes them tick. As a member of the site, what ads or ad text would you find most relevant? I have seen some people even targeting the site users themselves (ie: an ad headline that says something like “Attention Redfly Blog Readers! Want to know more about increasing your keyword Quality Score? Click here!

Another tip is to try image ads and compare their performance against your text ads for each site (if the site accepts image ads). Many advertisers still don’t use image ads, so there is a huge opportunity to jump straight to the top of the pile.

The relevance of the ads and keywords in the adgroup to the site

Consider using Google AdPlanner to get the demographics of the site, and target your ad copy to those demographics. Also have a look at what other AdSense ads are showing on the site and make note of ads that are consistently displayed over time. In general, those ads are what Google finds most relevant to that site (at the time). If you can’t beat them, join them.

The historical CTR of the ad on this and similar sites

Again, use Google AdPlanner to see the “Other sites Visited” section of the site you are targeting. Run a site targeted campaign on some of the lower trafficked related sites. This will improve your “related performance” on similar sites. It might be a lot of effort but not only will you improve overall content network performance, but you will gain significant long tail content network leads or sales.

SECTION 4: Troubleshooting Quality Score

There are numerous things that can cause a sudden drop in Quality Score or a slower, more gradual decrease. Here are some of the most common Quality Score problems and what you can (or cannot) do about them.

Sudden 1/10 Quality Score on all (or most) Keywords & Huge First Page Bid Estimates

quality score dropped to one

This is an extremely common problem and is characterized by an advertiser noticing a very sudden drop in traffic from AdWords. In a lot of cases, your search network traffic stops first and is followed shortly by your content network traffic. This unfortunately is known as a “Google Slap” and occurs when a review has taken place on your account and you are no longer deemed to be complying with the outlandishly opaque landing page and site quality guidelines.

Cause: You are linking or deemed to be linking to a bridge page, a get rich quick scheme, an affiliate page that’s only purpose is to redirect traffic to another domain, an affiliate site that provides no added value, a data collection site (a site that collects users’ email addresses or other info in exchange for a free product / whitepaper, etc.), a “poor quality” comparison shopping site, an arbitrage site, or a scam site.

Solution: Despite what you think about your own site, Google, the Ads Quality Raters, and the QS Algorithm/Bot feel differently. They more than likely feel your site falls into one of these categories. In this case, there is very little that you can do. If your site falls into the “scam site” category, expect to be banned permanently or investigated by authorities.

If you feel that your site absolutely does not fall into any of the categories, request a quick look over of your site on the AdWords Help Forum and then request a manual review by contacting Google here.Note that it should be a 100% false positive if you are to get this reversed so be completely sure that your site doesn’t even fall remotely into one of those categories. Remember, AdWords does not run on auto pilot. Real people will look at and inspect your account.

One High Volume Keyword has a Quality Score Of 2-4

quality score in adwords editor low ctr

This problem happens when a specific high volume keyword, usually a single word or two-word phrase, slowly drops its Quality Score and starts costing more. Because these keywords are usually high volume, they can generate a lot of traffic, and a low Quality Score on these keywords can cause a significant drop-off in exposure and sales.

Cause: High volume and low CTR.

Solution: Add negative keywords to the campaign, use exact match, remove the keyword (be careful as this can impact an adgroup “theme” on the content network) or place the keyword in it’s own ad group and optimize the ad copy and display URL aggressively.

Very High (Even 10/10) Quality Score but a Huge First Page Bid Estimate

10/10 Quality Score but a Huge First Page Bid Estimate

Unfortunately, this is not a problem with your Quality Score. When it comes to certain keywords, there are quite literally hundreds of advertisers. Assume all advertisers also have a 10/10 Quality Score. What determines which ads show? That’s right, good old fashioned bid price.

Cause: High volume of advertisers.

Solution: Bid higher and use the backend to improve ROI and increase lifetime customer value (LTV) so you can afford to bid higher.

In Conclusion

AdWords Quality Score is still a closely guarded secret, as is Google’s organic search algorithm. While it may not be possible to figure out every factor, just like the organic search ranking factors, it is possible to extract enough meaning to understand them and make them work for you. The great scam / affiliate purge of 2009 may have made things easier for existing advertisers, but at the current growth rate of PPC and online ad spending, it’s only a matter of time before the paid search results become as competitive as they used to be. Those of you who understand Quality Score will be in a far better position to get more from your AdWords advertising spend than those who do not.

I hope you got some value from this post. If you did, please share it with others who might get something from it via Twitter, Facebook or Google+


  1. avatar
    John Lee Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Wow – nice job! Detailed, easy to understand and great graphics. Who could ask for anything more?

    Quality Score may still seem elusive to some, but if they read this post, or many of the great articles by Brad Geddes (among others), they should have plenty of info to succeed.

    Reply

  2. avatar
    Jon Myers Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Great post Dave! Really clear step by step walk though of QS.

    Reply

  3. avatar
    Kevin Tunney Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Great article Dave. Comprehensive but succinct, thanks.

    Reply

  4. avatar
    Sean Kirwan Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Great post Dave, a must read for anyone looking to improve adwords performance (and that’s a lot of people).

    Reply

  5. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Thanks for the very nice comments everyone.

    Reply

  6. avatar
    Leslie Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Another great read, as usual – thanks! I’ve actually had various Google reps tell me it’s easier to create a new account, in order to work from an entirely clean slate, than to try and save an account with horrendous account history.

    Reply

  7. avatar
    Gabs Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Great article :) history is soooo important

    Reply

  8. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks Gabs and you’re dead right. It is really REALLY important. So many advertisers give up before they get any history. I guess it’s a useful way for Google to stop all the churn with the AdWords voucher/coupon/promo code abuse.

    Reply

  9. avatar
    BizWriter Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Kudos!

    Reply

  10. avatar
    Adam Green Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Wow Dave, really nice job done.

    Reply

  11. avatar
    Adam Green Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 3:18 am

    Dave – one other thing I have been thinking about that you haven’t touched in your article. What about the quality score/account history that is applied to the domain (not just your landing pages). I took over an account with QS between 2-4 for many terms and closed the account down (the ads pointed to the .com domain they owned). I created a copy of the site, posted it to the .ca domain and created a new account. Basically started fresh and after 5 months, our QS’s are 7 for the same keywords. Now – it isn’t a perfect test of this theory because I have been adding boat loads of negative keywords over time. But when we re-launched, the QS’s were better even out of the gate.

    Reply

  12. avatar
    Rasmus Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Impressive write-up there! Lots of good stuff and a few nuggets. I for one, will go back and turn a few nobs on a few campaigns. Good work and thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  13. avatar
    Razvan Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    superb as always..I admire people like you that blog rare & meaningful…too many feel the need to blog everyday and dilute their knowledge…

    Can I have your permission to translate this in Romanian ? with all the credit mentions, of course

    Reply

  14. avatar
    Trond Lyngbø Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Dave!
    Excellent article!
    Cost efficiency and Quality Score are like bread and butter in Adwords Advertising. Not so many seems to understand the great impact QS can have on their budget and traffic.

    Trond :-)

    Reply

  15. avatar
    Lead Solutions Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks, great article – interesting to learn about historical value was always a bit unclear on this one.

    Reply

  16. avatar
    Miguel Salcido Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Wow Dave you have really outdone yourself this time! That was one of the better posts I have read in a long while! This should be in consideration for one of the top posts of the year in 2010. Sent to my paid search team as a must read!

    I love that graphic under the Quality Score Factors section too.

    Reply

  17. avatar
    Moses Isaac Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Great post Dave. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Moses Isaac

    Reply

  18. avatar
    Chicago Marketing Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Really nice post Dave, a must read for any pay per click marketing consultant.

    Reply

  19. avatar
    Al Kuenn Says:
    March 4th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Excellent post. Great reading for those that understand the importance of QS! Thanks Dave!

    Reply

  20. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    March 4th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Hi Adam,
    Thanks for the comment.

    The reason I didn’t touch on that was for two reasons. The first is not related to your case and involves the blacklisting of a domain which I believe you can hear about from thousands of affiliates who have not (yet) been banned. I have experienced this first hand.

    The other is because I don’t think it’s a domain level factor exactly. If you wanted to test that theory, you could have just added the .ca to the same account. I have a feeling the QS would have still (maybe not initially) been poor. I’d say that there is however a lot of crossover. Obviously I don’t work for Google and cannot tell the exact factors, this is just based on viewing a lot of accounts (like yourself) and seeing a lot of poor quality accounts in the form as affiliate only accounts.

    On that point however, I actually HAVE seen a type of domain “QS Penalty” in an account and another domain in the SAME account perfectly fine, BUT the “penalized domain” was deleted. I don’t want to “undelete” to test this out for obvious reasons ;) You might be onto something though. I’ll explore a little more and update the post.

    Reply

  21. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    March 4th, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Thank you to everyone for all your nice comments.

    Reply

  22. avatar
    Adam Green Says:
    March 4th, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Point well made. I am just working on an account that fits well into some of the techniques you discussed here. I believe his issue has everything to do with BAD account history and it will be a long road of improving that history… but hey – all the while Google makes more money right ;)

    Reply

  23. avatar
    Arthur Coleman Says:
    March 4th, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    great post. very thorough and good data

    Reply

  24. avatar
    Claire Jarrett Says:
    March 4th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Absolutely great post, very clear explanation of QS. The pie charts are excellent – great idea to show it graphically.

    Reply

  25. avatar
    Frank Pipolo Says:
    March 5th, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Dave,

    Solid stuff! Love the fact you go out and put percentages to each factor. I can tell you that we just had Google come down to visit us a month ago and QC is a very big discussion point at our company. In the Google presentation one of the reps talked about QC and I quote “the biggest factor BY FAR to QC is CTR”. Also we were told that history is very short lived as it is calculated no more than 90 days back and it is based on the most micro level – keyword, adgroup, then domain level.

    Thanks for the mention in the post

    Frank

    Reply

  26. avatar
    David Says:
    March 5th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment- but that graph of quality score versus CPC really doesn’t show higher quality score reduces CPC- the line is totally misleading. For example, if you remove the first two data points of quality score 2, I think that line would be almost flat. I’m afraid you can’t trust Excel all the time :-)

    Again, not saying the two aren’t related, just that that particular graph doesn’t show it.

    Reply

  27. avatar
    Stans Says:
    March 5th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Fantastic job – thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  28. avatar
    SEO Workgroup Says:
    March 6th, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Wow Dave ! it’s a very good post. Comprehensive one and easy to understand. One should read it who are using google adwords to understand the basics.

    Reply

  29. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    March 6th, 2010 at 10:22 am

    @Adam, I hear ya! You don’t hear much discussion about AdWords on the affiliate forums these days for that exact reason.

    @Frank, you’re welcome and thanks for the analysis that you did. Obviously the percentages are not perfect and there are probably a LOT more factors that go into the “other” department ;) but I guess it comes back to the 80/20 rule. And as with all things Goolge, noone will ever know exactly.

    Quality Score is to PPC as the Google organic ranking algorithm is to SEO.

    @David thanks for the comment.the graph, linked to the actual article by Brian Carter below it says that it is “just an indicator, and not perfect”. I don’t think we’ll ever get accurate information on it. The point is that there is at least SOMEWHAT of an inverse relationship between QS and CPC at the most basic level.

    Obviously, this depends on advertiser competition, their bids, average QS across all advertisers for a keyword, the differential in bids by those advertisers and the landing page speeds of those that are close on all other factors.

    You’re right, removing the first two points would flatten the line out a little more but this is only a tiny sample size of 700 keywords. I’ve done a similar analysis on a lot more and there are a lot more than two data points in the <3 category.

    You make a good point, but it was the easiest graph to understand I could find.

    Reply

  30. avatar
    Dave Says:
    March 8th, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Really good article Dave. Was well worth the read. Cheers

    Reply

  31. avatar
    Rui Says:
    March 8th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Oh my lord, this is the best article about quality score so far. Thanks!

    I have a question, about the history, is there anyway to estimate how long the CTR history will be established?

    Reply

  32. avatar
    sophie Says:
    March 8th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Great post, really interesting read! Really insightful. Thanks for posting.

    Reply

  33. avatar
    Ric Says:
    March 8th, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Now that’s a sharp article Dave. Thanks for putting all the time into this – had to be hours!

    Reply

  34. avatar
    Szőnyegtisztítás Says:
    March 8th, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I have got some great ideas for my online marketing campaign from your post. I will certainly use quality score on deciding how to tailor my wording.

    Reply

  35. avatar
    Webtronix Media Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 6:35 am

    Thank you. My first detailed article about the mystic quality score. Great help for my adwords account ;-) Greetings from Germany!

    Reply

  36. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for all the nice comments guys. Glad you found it helpful. I couldn’t have put it together without all the fantastic data and info that I have linked to throughout the post.

    Reply

  37. avatar
    Budi Says:
    March 11th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Nice articles. I’ve my own experience. Using Search & Content Network, split testing & negative keyword and optimize the landing page, my QS grew up from 5/10 to 10/10. The content network would increase your Search Network QS if you could increase the CTR of your Content Network Campaign.

    Reply

  38. avatar
    eCommerce Tips Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    wow! thank you for this more than comprehensive guide!

    you said that “It can take anywhere from 1 week to 4 months to “shake off” a “bad history.””

    2 questions:
    “Bad history” = low QS?
    That means that if I have an account for 2 years, let’s say, Google will consider data only for last 4 months?

    thx

    Reply

  39. avatar
    Neytri Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I tried to improve my quality score, but it didn’t help, also went through Adword’s Youtube Channel suggestions, but no result, but here it was a lot more information, I hope it helps…

    Reply

  40. avatar
    Kleang Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 3:54 am

    Thank you for this QS article. It’s the best summarized I ever seen :).

    Reply

  41. avatar
    yandos Says:
    March 18th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    i’ve been reading many guides – but this is pure gold !
    thanks so much…

    Reply

  42. avatar
    Tom Hale Says:
    March 19th, 2010 at 3:15 am

    The more I look at this, the more impressed I am. You really pulled together a lot and organized for us wonks.

    -T

    Reply

  43. avatar
    Marcus Says:
    March 20th, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Thanks for the information. I have used adwords for a while now and made a little. After reading your article on QS, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the help!

    Reply

  44. avatar
    James Says:
    March 25th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I’ve always wondered about quality scores but now i’m in no doubts. Epic post and full of useful information. love the graphics.

    Reply

  45. avatar
    Bennie Mayberry Says:
    March 26th, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    You’ve mentioned in the beginning of the article the “great scam / affiliate flush of late 2009″. Can you explain this in detail? Links maybe?

    Reply

  46. avatar
    Warren Wooden Says:
    March 27th, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Nice article (could have been an ebook) I’ve been struggling with adwords for a while. One of the things I’ve been confused about is when they say my quality score is low, and “this ad may not be shown” and that particular keyword is getting the most views and clicks. I’ve taken a “time out” to learn a little more. Thanks for the info.

    Reply

  47. avatar
    Long Says:
    March 31st, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Hi Dave, could i copy and translate it into Vietnamese? Of course, with the source and a backlink to your site.

    Reply

    avatar
    Dave Davis Reply:April 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Hi Long, of course you can. Feel free!

  48. avatar
    Hakan Says:
    April 2nd, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    That’s a great article. Thanks.
    I would like to ask you a question – that probably is not mentioned above: In all my campaigns I always get a quality score of maximum 4/10. This is due to a “Poor” landing page quality.
    The problem is that my landing page is not Poor at all. I mean I am targeting very specific keywords for a product page, etc..
    I was wondering if my website could be somehow banned from Google Adwords? The website is not an affiliate and doesn’t have anything wrong with it. We are a reputable rug shop and there aren’t even ads on our website.
    I would appreciate your comments. I am looking also to outsource some of the ads management, so maybe the best is to discuss further over e-mail / phone.

    Reply

  49. avatar
    Butterfly Gifts Says:
    April 4th, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Does emptying your cache get rid of all the history?

    Reply

  50. avatar
    Luke Jones Says:
    April 4th, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    That was actually a really good read! I’ve had that in my “To Read” folder.

    Reply

  51. avatar
    Rohit Says:
    April 6th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    The best article on Quality score so far. Thanks Dave i am new to adwords so this article of yours helped me a lot to understand quality score.

    Thanks

    Reply

  52. avatar
    Barry Says:
    April 23rd, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks Dave well put. I have seen even a small increase in QS can make a big difference

    Reply

  53. avatar
    Shei Says:
    April 30th, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Actually this video (link below) by the Chief Economist of Google does a much better job at explaining the importance of Quality Score found in Section 1. Thanks for this very comprehensive write up!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7l0a2PVhPQ

    Reply

    avatar
    Dave Davis Reply:July 13, 2010 at 2:02 am

    Hi Shei,
    You’re right, Hal does a fantastic job at explaining it as well as it’s benefits. Considering how relevant it is, I might add it to the post.

  54. avatar
    Pure SEO Says:
    June 9th, 2010 at 2:02 am

    Article very interesting as is the link by Shei. Quality score is absolutely crucial – I run hundreds of Adwords camapigns for many clients and always get a quality score of 7+. Anything lower and it effects the cost etc too much. (obviously higher is better still)

    Reply

  55. avatar
    Nick Says:
    June 19th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Excellent article!
    I have a pretty new website and have been fiddling around with adwords for a while now. The google help pages seem like an endless maze that never actually leads you to the answer that you want. This article definitely helped a lot, and I’ve spent the last two days reading up on all of yours and others’ posts on QS and adwords while tweaking my own account.

    I do have a few questions:
    1: Does Max CPC affect QS at all? Some of my keywords QS went up to 7 after we raised the CPC to $1.00, and after two days of this, the First Page Estimate sank down to $0.08. I never imagined that I could get that down to 0.08! Can a higher Max CPC raise QS?

    2: Even with increases in QS, I’m getting only 0-4 clicks per day with high impressions, so a 0.XX% CTR. Is this expected for a new account? Or is this just inexperience shining through? I’d love 5+ clicks per day!

    Trying to build on my adwords knowledge. Thank you very much for this blog. It helps an incredible amount with my adwords experience.

    Reply

    avatar
    Dave Davis Reply:July 13, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Hi Nick,
    Sorry for taking so long to reply.

    To answer your questions:

    1) Not your QS, but your actual CPC, which in turn allows you to bid higher, increase your CTR and indirectly increase your quality score. I highly recommend watching this video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7l0a2PVhPQ to see exactly how it effects your bid and QS. Make sense now?

    2) Are you separating out your search and content network campaigns? Run an impression share report to see what your missing. On the search network, depending on your position and vertical, that might be a very low CTR, but not on the content network. In fact, that’s pretty good. There are however too many factors to be exact with this.

    Finally, you’re very welcome. Maybe one day you can come do a guest post? :)

  56. avatar
    Abhijit Says:
    July 1st, 2010 at 5:53 am

    Thanks a ton,

    Good and explained information about quality score parameters,will definately help me will use this information for improving my quality scores.

    Reply

  57. avatar
    Alan Boyer Says:
    July 12th, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Great article.

    I just increased the quality score of a whole campaign by removing keywords that weren’t producing a significant click thru rate, and also removing keywords that had a low quality score. The overall campaign quality scores increased as well as the cost per click improved.

    Reply

    avatar
    Dave Davis Reply:July 13, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Hi Alan,
    Thanks for the comment and tip.
    Removing poor performing keywords (low CTR) increases your overall CTR and hence increases your quality score and by definition, reduces your overall costs. It’s about rewarding the advertiser for providing relevant ads to Google’s customers…the average Susan Surfer.

  58. avatar
    Amanda Says:
    July 16th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    This is an awesome post and very informative!

    I have on comment about the Quality Score Chart you posted above. I see that you did not create it but the data is a little inaccurate as the landing page does indeed have an impact on first page bid. Here is a response I got from one of my Google Reps in regards to landing page quality:

    Since Landing Page Quality is factored into Quality Score, and Quality Score is used in determining the first page bid, the landing page does in fact affect this.

    The chart shows that it is from 2008 as well so it may just be a little outdated.

    Reply

  59. avatar
    Omar Briones Says:
    July 24th, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Rockin it like always Dave!

    Although, that chart is outdated a bit, it’s still pretty valuable insight bro!

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Omar

    Reply

  60. avatar
    NullApps Says:
    July 29th, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Probably the most informative Adwords article I’ve read.

    Two years ago the first website I ever developed got hit by one of those “Google Slaps”. At the time I was paying about $10 – $20 a day with Adwords at about $0.20 CPC. I was trying to get a free service well established within the eBay seller community and was off-setting my advertising expenses with a few eBay affiliate links (just one on most pages). Suddenly one day they wanted $1 – $10 per click. A lot of other people’s sites got hit that same day. When I asked the Adwords support I was told my keywords were irrelevant even though the site was one of possibly five (today it’s the only one) on the entire internet in that particular niche. The weird thing is that when I purchased a similar domain name and pointed all my ads at that one instead my issue went away. Same content, same Adwords account, but completely different results. Two years later that second domain is still doing fine and the original is still trashed. I have keywords that have a $0.05 CPC and QS of 7 and the other domain is QS 1 or 2.

    Reply

  61. avatar
    SEO Company in San Diego Says:
    August 7th, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Not just a “great” post – it’s BAD-AS*S! Really appreciate this incredibly detailed break down of PPC with AdWords, and especially the dissection of Quality Score and the weighted factors that influence it.

    Reply

  62. avatar
    Nick Says:
    August 17th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Before I say anything else, I just want to thank Dave for a great article. I’m just getting into PPC so this article has been a huge help.

    Now I know I’m a little late to this party, but I had a question I was hoping someone might be able to help me with. In the “Other Relevance Factors” section of the article you mention individual landing pages for each individual keyword. This sounds incredibly time and labor intensive but I think I’d like to try it out a bit. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how I would go about creating a specific landing page for a specific keyword unless it was in an ad group by itself. Is that what I’m supposed to do or is there some trick I don’t know about?

    Again, great post. It’s got me going back and reading all your other articles. Thanks.

    Reply

  63. avatar
    Michelle Says:
    September 5th, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    In Google’s calculation of quality score, do they normalize click-through rate by average position on the content network? On the search network?

    Reply

  64. avatar
    tiklafilmindir Says:
    October 4th, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Before I say anything else, I just want to thank Dave for a great article. I’m just getting into PPC so this article has been a huge help.

    Reply

  65. avatar
    Michael Says:
    October 10th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Wow Dave you have really outdone yourself this time! That was one of the better posts I have read in a long while! This should be in consideration for one of the top posts of the year in 2010. Sent to my paid search team as a must read!

    Reply

  66. avatar
    Eamon Diamond Says:
    October 13th, 2010 at 2:51 am

    I’ve always wondered about quality scores but now i’m in no doubts. Epic post and full of useful information. love the graphics.

    Reply

  67. avatar
    Santosh Sonawale Says:
    October 20th, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Wow Dave.. The new added points cleared all the Q score doubts. I have used it for many of my campaigns & I am very proud to say that we have cut the cost by about 30-40%. Which is fabulous. Thanks for sharing great stuff & keep sharing in future.

    Santosh Sonawale
    Google Certified Online Advertising Professional

    Reply

  68. avatar
    Matthew Mierzejewski Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Dave,

    I recently wrote an article attempting to call out a few changes that will not affect your QS. http://www.rimmkaufman.com/rkgblog/2010/09/28/negative-keywords-do-not-affect-google-adwords-quality-score/

    I too assumed at first that adding keyword negatives would surely increase some degree of the accounts QS. However, we’ve been told this isn’t that case. Would you mind commenting about how this changes your approach?

    Also, for high-volume keywords with lower QS, it’s also possible that a 10/10 is not attainable! Let’s take the keyword “martin” for example. Since the user intent is so unclear when someone searches for “martin”, it’s unlikely that ANY ad will receive a high CTR. Users could be looking for an actor, tv series, lighting, a guitar, local restaurant or something else. There are just so many possibilities that a 4/10 QS might be as good as it gets for an advertiser.

    Anyhow, I enjoyed the read, and appreciate your reply in advance.

    Reply

    avatar
    Dave Davis Reply:October 28, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Hi Matthew,
    Thanks so much for the reply and for taking the time to write the article and comment here in particular.

    I have updated the section of this post/guide and referenced your post.

    I am a HUGE fan of the blog you guys have over there. One of my favourites and has been since before we started ours. :)

    Keep up the fantastic work.

  69. avatar
    Jump Manual Says:
    November 2nd, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Unlike Google, there really is no quality score that determines your cost per click. It’s 80% based off your click-through rate, and 20% based on other factors such as niche (which seems to be the other most prominent factor in CPC)

    Reply

  70. avatar
    Elenore Gerald Says:
    November 13th, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Great post mate.

    Reply

  71. avatar
    Gordon McNevin Says:
    November 16th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Wow! Once again another quality and well structered article. Thanks Dave.

    I had no idea that the CTR was THAT important! But thinking about it now it makes perfect sense.

    Reply

  72. avatar
    Media Collective ( June) Says:
    November 22nd, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Very comprehensive article with nice resources for digestion. We have seen a big shift in CPC & CTR especially with localized campaigns when we tightly integrate how google sees the “advertiser client”, via collecting phrases that call first in line google maps, webmaster tool findings as well as search trends, onboard analytics – than using that information when setting up/deploying their ads.

    Reply

  73. avatar
    Tony Hayter Says:
    November 23rd, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Dear Mr Davis, thank you for very informative article. I’ve been a sole trader Adworder since 2003. My Keyword quality score has been consistently high at 8/10 and higher on all keywords for years. Everything in the loop is relevant and original. Yesterday my QS plummeted to 3/10 and 4/10 for everything. I had developed some new, more targeted pages on my site and had to change the URL extensions on my ads accordingly. Thus my advert CTR history was dumped. I didn’t realise it would have this effect on QS. In fact I spent a whole day trying to determine what had gone wrong. I thought my new webpages were the problem (and my developer got an earful too!!) My minimum bid has quadrupled in most cases. If this continues for more than a week or so it will have serious consequences for my business. You touch on the subject, and your article is about the only one I have found that does. Perhaps you could make more of it on your next review. If anyone can let me know how long my pain will last I would be obliged.

    Reply

  74. avatar
    Conor Dunne Says:
    January 5th, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks Dave, really impressive article. We (chill.ie) manage our Adword in-house and this really helps

    Reply

  75. avatar
    Oli Gardner Says:
    February 11th, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Thank you! This is exactly what I need for our customers. I know PPC but not to the level that I wish, so this is a golden resource that I’ll share with every Unbounce customer who has PPC improvement questions.

    Reply

  76. avatar
    Sue Says:
    February 12th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    “If you have an old account with a poor historical Quality Score, you might feel tempted to create a new account to counteract this. ”

    Interestingly, though, people from Google advised me to do just this.

    Reply

  77. avatar
    Aaron Says:
    March 6th, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    This is still by far the best post I have read on Google Adwords Quality Score and always refer back to it.

    Dave, is there a reason the blog hasn’t been updated of late?

    Hope all is well in sunny Ireland

    Reply

  78. avatar
    FBML Says:
    March 18th, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    WOW Dave im really impressed with your research on Quality Adword score. i have never seen such a detailed and graphical presentation of any research on adwords. surely i will try to implement all these instructions. thanks

    Reply

  79. avatar
    John Linogue Says:
    March 29th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Thanks, for one of the better articles around regarding Quality Score and especially on “how to improve it”.

    There’s quite a few thing to learn :))

    Reply

  80. avatar
    Chris Says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Twice in this very helpful article, the author mentions “The great scam / affiliate purge of 2009…” Can you go into more detail about this or point to other resources on this? I am a newbie to affiliate marketing, seemingly at the time of this “purge.” Much educational content on affliate marketing may be now outdated. More information? Thanks… very interesting article.

    Reply

  81. avatar
    Godot Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Excellent post, Dave. We’ve been trying to make sense of AdWords for a while, and your post is great – to the point, comprehensive – complete with the possible improvement tips. Great – thanks.

    Reply

  82. avatar
    Joshua Adams Says:
    May 22nd, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I didn’t anticipate an entire week to learn Adwords. Google gives you all the tools possible, but you must learn everything you can before launching your campaign. It’s sort of fun, in the most frustrating way.

    Reply

  83. avatar
    Gary Martin Says:
    June 7th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    This article is probably the best one I have read on the Adwords quality score.
    Extremely in depth.

    Reply

  84. avatar
    Mike Says:
    June 10th, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    That was an Awesome Post! Quality Score isn’t something that I’ve been looking into until recently and it is more important than I thought.

    Reply

  85. avatar
    Lisa Hutt Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I almost had a heart attack when I read that it was against Google’s policy to have a landing page that is “a data collection site (a site that collects users’ email addresses or other info in exchange for a free product / whitepaper, etc.)..” as this is a key strategy for Lead Generation and the whole business model upon which HubSpot, a very reputable company, was built.

    So for anyone else that felt a flutter of panic….here is what I found on Google’s policies:

    Examples of acceptable websites:

    Websites that request personal information for legitimate lead generation or business purposes and have a clear privacy policy
    Websites where actual purchases and/or transactions take place

    http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=30210&guide=28439&page=guide.cs&answer=190438

    My landing page should pass the test once I add a privacy policy.

    Thanks for this great post!

    Reply

  86. avatar
    Matt Says:
    August 1st, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Great article. One of the best things I did to improve QS on a big account I was working on was to break out the keywords in to very (very) tight ad groups based around granular themes. QS shot up for a large number of KW and it highlighted the KW that were dragging things down.

    Reply

  87. avatar
    Margaret Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    This was really helpful! We have used adwords a few times before with no success and I am trying to implement a new marketing strategy that includes adwords and facebook ads. I would love to see an article for those just starting out with adwords!

    Reply

  88. avatar
    Martin Says:
    December 19th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Interesting and well written article and one of my mates is a quality rater, only found out by accident too – apparently they aren’t supposed to tell anyone!

    Reply

  89. avatar
    Ryan Key Says:
    February 10th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Great visual Guide, I will definitely bookmark this page!

    Reply

  90. avatar
    Mae Says:
    April 20th, 2012 at 12:59 am

    This is a very comprehensive post, Dave. I’m a new marketer and I’m still struggling in terms of understanding Google Adwords and quality score. Your post has truly enlightened me and I think I know better now. Thank you very much. I hope I can apply your tips properly.

    Reply

  91. avatar
    Brian Says:
    April 29th, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Excellent Post. I’ve been having some issues with low quality scores that are perplexing and this article (and the cool graphic) have re-aligned my strategy on how to improve them. Thank you much.

    Reply

  92. avatar
    Gregor Spowart Says:
    April 29th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I just stumbled across this post, but I didn’t even realise that landing pages played such a large part of the Quality Score. I just assumed that Google grabbed your money and then would serve up whatever old rubbish people paid to advertise!

    I like what Matt has said in the comments about above splitting the ads out into very tight groups. My QS are around 4/10 for the ads I’m running which isn’t great, but I didn’t appreciate that I could pay less if I addressed the issue.

    Which is what I’m off to do now!

    Thanks.

    Reply