The AdWords Quality Score: factors and effects

To make sure that the search engine can show users the most relevant ads, Google uses a complex algorithm which estimates the quality of an AdWords ad. This quality estimation is performed at each ad auction in real time and determines the Ad Rank along with the maximum cost-per-click offer (max. CPC).

Ad Rank = Maximum CPC x Quality Score

The search engine giant will not reveal in detail exactly how this calculation works at an auction level. To give advertisers the ability to find out the quality of their own ads, you can retrieve a Quality Score in your AdWords account for every advertised keyword. Basic components needed for the calculation are data like:

  • The expected click-through rate of ads
  • The ad’s relevance
  • The users’ previous experience with the landing page

The result is represented on a scale of 1 to 10. But this is only an estimate and should not be compared to the actual, auction-specific Quality Score since auction-dependent variables are not taken into account in the estimation.

AdWords Quality Score (retrievable in account) ≠ auction-dependent Quality Score (stays secret)

Factors that change with each keyword search containing the same keyword are: the respective device in use, the location of the (searching) user, the time of day, and the exact wording of the search phrase containing the keyword. The Quality Score displayed in the AdWords account on a keyword level doesn’t have a direct impact on the ad rank. But the components that are used to calculate this estimate are also incorporated into the auction-specific Quality Score. So it’s generally recommended to optimise ads so that the highest possible estimate for the AdWords Quality Score can be obtained. Let’s look at how this can affect and increase your Quality Score.

How can you increase the AdWords Quality Score?

The algorithm that Google uses to calculate the Quality Score isn’t known. In the AdWords support area, the search engine does list different components of the Quality Score that have an impact on the Ad Rank. What are important are the aspects that relate to the AdWords account’s historical data:

  • Expected click-through rate (CTR) of an ad: Google estimates the expected click-through rate for each AdWords ad depending on the keyword used. The estimate is based on the clicks and impressions that the ad gained in the past.

  • CTR of the displayed URL: if the URL (that was displayed in the AdWords ad) has already been clicked on, this has a positive effect on the quality estimate of the ad.

  • Landing page quality: Google deems user friendliness of prime importance. When calculating the ad quality, the relevance, transparency, security, and usability play an important role for the website that is linked in the ad.

  • Display and search relevance: the more relevant an ad is for a keyword, the higher Google estimates the quality of the ad. Ideally, the AdWords ad should correspond to the intention of the searcher.

  • Geographic performance: if an ad is designed for a certain region, the clicks and impressions (which were obtained using the AdWords account for the targeted region) will count in the quality estimate.

  • Targeting devices: if you target ads by device type, the clicks and impressions that the ads receive on these devices will be included in the Quality Score.

Ads receive the best AdWords Quality Score if they have a high relevance for the keyword including displayed URLs and linked landing pages, and this connection has been confirmed in the past by a good click-through rate. Advertisers should therefore check which search intentions Google users have when they search for certain keywords and then optimise both the ad text as well as the landing page in order to improve the AdWords Quality Score.

If ads are displayed for new keywords, Google won’t have any data on their previous performance. New keywords are then given the average value of 6 until enough data is collected. According to Google, this process usually takes about a day to complete.

The impact of the ad quality

The various components of the Google AdWords Quality Score play a major role in how effective an ad is by it reaching your audience through appearing in the search results. Simply put, the higher the quality of an ad, the less it costs to make the ad appear in the search results when the related query is searched for. According to Google, these are the following aspects that can be affected by individual components of the Quality Score:

  • Participants in an ad auction: high-quality ads are more likely to take part in auctions with competitive keywords

  • Actual cost-per-click (CPC): since the various components of the Quality Score are incorporated together with the display command when it comes to the Ad Rank estimate, this often leads to high quality ads appearing in the same position at a lower actual CPC.

  • Display position: high quality ads appear higher up on the search results page.

  • Bid estimates in connection with the display position: bid estimates for the first page and the top positions are lower for high quality ads than for ads with lower quality.

  • Ad extensions and formats: across the Google network there are display formats which are only available from a certain minimum quality upwards. In addition, the search engine leader determines from the Ad Rank whether an AdWords ad is to be shown with ad extensions.

The quality factor at the keyword level is the only factor that Google discloses in AdWords. This factor is also indicated at an auction level as well. Whether other quality factors are revealed at other levels remains speculation.


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