In this article from Better Sales Funnels, we answer the question: What is Quality Score and Why Does It Matter?
Introduction to Quality Score
If you are new to PPC, or you want to really maximize your results with pay per click (PPC) advertising, you need to understand “Quality Score.”
Your Quality Score can and will have a huge impact upon how much you pay for your advertisements. The Score will also influence the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Think of a Quality Score like a credit score. With a high credit score, you are more likely to qualify for the loans on the best possible terms. You’ll get the lowest interest rates. You will be able to do do more with your money and pay less in costs and fees.
The Quality Score of your ad in Google and Bing affects your campaigns in the same way.
What is the Quality Score?
The Quality Score is a rating of quality and relevance. It takes into account both your actual advertisement and your chosen keyword or keywords. The Quality Score is used to calculate your CPC (cost per click). With the cost per click established, Google and Bing will determine whether to show your ad to a customer or not.
When the CPC is established, but before showing the ad, Google and Bing will consult the CPCs of all the other people who want their ad to show in response to the searched keyword. Google looks at the CPC, and the bidding information you’ve inputted. Then it makes the determination of which ad will be shown. Google uses an auction to determine which ad should be shown. Think of your quality score, CPC and maximum bid combined as you “raising a paddle” as the auctioneer shouts.
The actual quality score of your ad at each auction (meaning each time the user searches for your targeted keyword) is not something Google or Bing shows you. Instead, the score you see if an estimate of what your quality score is expected to be. Real time factors that we know of (and some that we don’t) are used to calculate which ad will be shown at the auction. This is probably why even ads with low quality scores get impressions and clicks.
How is the Quality Score Calculated?
No one who doesn’t work for the search engine can say for sure. Google and Bing tell us a few things to watch out for. But ultimately, some of the math is still a secret. We do know that the Quality Score of an ad depends upon lots of different things, such as:
Relevance of the keyword to its ad group
Quality and relevance of the landing page
Relevance of the ad text
Maybe even historical performance throughout your entire ad account.
What does relevance mean? The dictionary says relevance means “closely connected or appropriate.” In the internet marketing world, relevance means “happy and satisfied customer.” A keyword is highly relevant when searching for it gives the customer the information or result they wanted. An advertisement is relevant when clicking on it gives the customer the information they wanted or solves their problem. Happy customers is what search engines want.
When advertisers give customers what they want and make them happy, the search engines reward that by giving those advertisers discounts on their advertisements.
What is CTR (click-through-rate)?
An important part of understanding and improving your quality score is understanding CTR.
CTR is the acronym for “click through rate.” This is a metric that measures the number of times customers click on a particular ad per number of impressions. It is a percentage calculated by taking the number of times the ad was clicked on, and dividing that by the number of times the ad was shown (aka impressions).
A low CTR means that not many people click on the ad when it is shown. A high click through rate means that a lot of people click on the ad when it is shown.
By the way, in case you didn’t know, an impression in PPC advertising is an ad view, meaning that the advertisement was displayed for a customer to see it. This doesn’t mean that the customer actually looked at the ad, moused over it, or did anything at all to recognize that the ad was displayed. This is just a simple metric that tells us how many times that particular ad was loaded up and shown on the page in response to a search.
Good vs Bad CTR
You’ll see that a common question online is “what is a good click through rate?” The answer to this question is a difficult one, because a good CTR will really depend upon the advertisement and the product or service. A really competitive niche with lots of competitor advertisements popping up around yours will make it really difficult to get a high CTR. It will be easier to get a higher CTR when there are fewer choices for the customer to choose from.
The position of the ad (where it is on located on the page, first, second, third, on the bottom, etc) will also impact the CTR. An ad that doesn’t show as one of the top 1-3 ads will naturally get a lower CTR. Google says that the ad position should not impact the quality score, but it is hard to see how it wouldn’t if CTR is a simple math equation created from the number of clicks and impressions.
But either way, the obvious answer to the question is the highest possible CTR, in any case.
There are those who would say that beginners should feel pretty darn good if they can get a CTR of at least 2%. Others will tell you that 5% is when you should feel like you are doing pretty awesome.
CTR on Various Platforms
Another thing to consider when you are looking at Click Through Rates. The platform you are on will vary as far as what is considered a “good” CTR. Generally, the CTR on Facebook will be lower, because people on Facebook aren’t on Facebook looking for something to click on necessarily. They are often there just to surf, relax, watch funny cat videos, catch up with friends, to socialize.
Banner ads will probably also have a really low CTR. Not a lot of people click on them anymore, so to get a CTR of 2% on a banner would be pretty darn phenomenal.
Contrast banner ad CTRs with those of email marketers. Email marketers look at open rates and clicks inside their emails on the links. Email marketers look for a CTR (number of opens divided by number of clicks on links) upwards and in excess of 10-20%.
A high CTR can be bad for business. If you are getting a lot of clicks on your advertisements, regardless of the price per click, you are probably spending more money. This is only a good thing if the customers are doing what you want them to do when they land on your site. Are they buying? Opting in to your email newsletter? Liking or subscribing? Watching the videos?
The high CTR itself is not the bad thing. Your advertisement, keyword, or maybe even your offer could be the problem. But if you have a high CTR and a low conversion rate, this is a pretty strong sign that something needs to change.
How to Improve Quality Score?
With a bit of work and focus, you can improve the score of your advertisements.
The primary place to start is with your keywords. The keywords you use in setting up your ad group(s) should be hyper-targeted to the information or solution you want to send your customers to. One technique you often see people showing on video tutorials is to cram as many keywords as possible into one ad group. The hard part about this is that it is difficult to them use all of those keywords in the resulting ad headlines and ad copy.
For example, you are promoting a product that teaches beginners to play the piano. Thinking creatively, you might think that someone who is searching for products to learn to play the guitar might also consider buying the piano product. Totally plausible. But if you input keywords about playing the guitar into your advertisement for learning to play the piano, your resulting advertisement is probably not going to be found to be that relevant. You can do this, of course, and probably get some clicks on the advertisement. But you’ll probably just end up paying more for those clicks than you would otherwise.
Ad Groups Organizing
The next thing to do is to work on your ad groups. As noted above, I recommend against the technique of cramming tons of keywords into one ad group. Instead, I think it is a better practice to focus on one keyword at a time. Do one ad group, with one keyword. Then create multiple ads around that one keyword. The CTR of your ads will increase when you do this, because the user will see advertisements with his keywords right in front of him, and will be more likely to click.
After you’ve worked on adding the right keywords and organizing your ad groups, you have to start running your ads. As you do so, watch the clicks carefully. As the clicks come in, you’ll see what people search for. Many times, you’ll see searches that are not close to relevant to your product. These are negative keywords that you’ll want to exclude from your campaigns to keep your costs down.
For example, I could be promoting a link tracking software, like Clickmagick. I use keywords like “link tracking” or “link tracker” as keywords. Over time, I would see that “link tracking” is something that people search for, but not always something I am promoting. I check my stats and see that my keywords are used when they want to know where their Fedex and UPS packages are. I would ad “fedex” and “ups” (and DHL and the rest of the shipping companies) as negative keywords so that I don’t pay for clicks in the future to those keywords.
Landing Page Experience
Look at the webpage itself. Confirm that the the landing page is a place where a user would actually get value from if searching for your targeted keywords. If the search is a general search, then the landing page should have general information. And, if the search was a specific product or service, make sure the landing page contains that specific product or service.
Give the user reasons to say on your site for a long time. Make sure there is tons of value on the page, and not too many links. Include high quality and relevant images, photos, infographics, or videos. The last thing you want is for the user to bounce right back to google within milliseconds of clicking on your advertisement (“bounce rate”).
Another way to keep the bounce rate low is to make sure your site loads lightening quick. Users get impatient if the information they want to see doesn’t show up right away.
Make sure the site is easy to navigate for both desktop and mobile users.
Ad social share buttons and trust signals.
If you are struggling with your landing pages and the tech is overwhelming, consider using pre-formatted templates or a page builder. If you are using WordPress, we recommend Thrive Themes. These templates and themes are prepared with people like you in mind, to take all of the work and worry out of the equation. Their focus is on making customers happy and making sites load as fast as possible.
All of this can be hard to understand in the beginning, when you are just getting started with PPC. To make this easier, I would suggest the following strategy:
- Start with ONE keyword at a time in an ad group.
- Make the keyword the title of the ad group, and the only keyword in the group.
- Create your ads with that keyword in the headline and copy. Don’t try to target multiple keywords in one ad.
- If you can, make sure that the keyword you are targeting with your specific ad group is actually found on the page you are sending traffic to.
None of this is full-proof, but it will help you get started. Over time you will develop a system and see what works for you, and your campaigns. And what doesn’t work as well.
If you have questions about Quality Score, feel free to drop us a comment. We love creating content to help out our readers.