Generally speaking, magic bullets don’t exist in the world of digital marketing.
But when it comes to shooting down your competition with Google Ads, there’s one thing that comes pretty close: Quality Score.
In this post, we’ll explain what Quality Score is, why it matters, and how paying attention to it can help you achieve game-changing results.
What is Quality Score in Google Ads?
Quality Score (QS) is the metric used by Google to measure the quality of your entire Ads setup.
From ad and keyword relevancy to the effectiveness of your landing page, it’s the guiding light for PPC strategists — because a strong Quality Score means you’re running a campaign that’s both high-performing and cost-effective.
How does Quality Score work?
Using a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest), Quality Score rates the overall user experience of your ads and landing pages when someone searches for your keyword. To do this, it takes the following factors into account:
- Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR): This measures the likelihood that your ad will be clicked on by someone searching for your keyword.
- Ad Relevance: This checks that your ad makes sense in the context of the search.
- Landing Page Experience: This ensures that your landing page is aligned with your ad’s copy (and vice-versa). Note: there are factors that need to be optimised outside Google Ads, including page loading speed, user experience, and on-site content and messaging.
Each factor is scored as Below Average, Average, or Above Average in your Google Ads account.
Why is Quality Score important?
Trust us, you can spend countless hours researching the right keywords; you can agonise over punchy ad copy that fits with the character constraints, and you can optimise landing pages and calls to action until you’re blue in the face. But if you overlook Quality Score, even a little, your campaign simply won’t reach its full potential.
It’s that important.
Quality Score is the glue that binds. It estimates the quality of your keywords, ads, and landing pages, with a high QS leading to lower cost-per-conversion (CPA) and improved ad positions and performance. Yet, if you underestimate it (or ignore it altogether), you could end up missing out on valuable traffic or paying through the nose for search terms that should be relatively inexpensive.
How to Improve Quality Score
Now that we know why it matters, how do you make it better?
To improve your Quality Score, you need to look at those three factors mentioned above in greater detail — both individually and collectively.
Ultimately, your goal is to meet the searcher’s needs. The better and more often you can do that, the more you’ll be rewarded by Google with lower CPC.
Here are a few ways you can improve your Quality Score:
1. Build single keyword ad groups (SKAGs)
When you first build a campaign, it can be tempting to place 10 or 20 semi-related keywords into single ad groups to save time. But the time you save now will be spent ten-fold later undoing the damage to your Quality Score.
As we’ve explained, the QS is calculated based on expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. If the keywords in your ad group are vaguely related, but with little overlap, it’s difficult to excel in any of those areas.
So, to maximise the relevance and alignment between keyword, ad, and landing page, we recommend building single keyword ad groups, or SKAGs.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you’re running a campaign for your pet shop and you want to sell toys and accessories online. So, you head to Google Ads and you start to build out an ad group with terms such as pet accessories, pet toys, chew toys, dog accessories, toys for dogs, toys for small dogs, puppy toys, etc.
Do you see the problem? Some of those keywords are not like the others. Running this campaign could mean triggering ads that aren’t always relevant to the search term, or sending searchers to a landing page that’s trying to cover too many bases.
Instead, you need to break each keyword out into its own ad group, creating an almost 1:1 ratio of Keyword to Search Query. Someone searching for puppy toys may not click on an ad for generic pet accessories, so you need to build a puppy toys ad group, create relevant ads, and send searchers to a landing page dedicated to your range of puppy toys (and nothing else).
And by curating an experience specific to the searcher’s intent, you’ll boost your QS, improve ad performance, and lower costs.
SKAGs in action
Taking the SKAGs approach is something that we did for Dove Steel Doors to great effect.
Although their campaign was performing incredibly well, we believed there was still room for improvement. To achieve this, we stripped their account back to the bare bones, uncovering the keywords driving results (and those keywords worthy of a second chance), before rebuilding it with better, more targeted ads.
The results were astounding. We managed to increase return on ad spend (ROAS) from 2,116% to 4,716% by streamlining their account and aligning keywords, ads, and landing pages with searcher intent.
You can read more about our work with Dove Steel Doors in this case study.
2. Short on time? Use Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) instead
While incredibly effective, setting up SKAGs can be a time consuming, labour-intensive process.
If you’re running a large site (especially an eCommerce site with hundreds or thousands of pages of inventory), creating individual ad groups for every product or page keyword can be a bridge too far.
Luckily, Google has an ad function that can replicate the benefits of SKAGs without the heavy lifting: Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs).
DSAs essentially automate the reasoning behind the SKAGs approach, crawling your site for keywords before auto-filling ads with relevant ad copy. This means you can target your entire website (or specific, highly-relevant landing pages) without having to add keywords and create ads for all possible matches.
And the result? When a user searches for something related to your website, Google dynamically generates an ad with a headline based on the search, combining it with text from your most relevant landing page. The ad then enters the auction as normal, and you get an ad geared towards searcher intent — every time.
3. Create more relevant ads with message match
If you’re sensing a theme here, then it’s relevance. Google wants to ensure that your ad is relevant to both the keyword that was searched for and your landing page.
Perhaps the best way to improve ad relevance is to employ message match.
This is, essentially, a way of making sure that you have a consistent message from the ad to the landing page, which will, in turn, have a major impact on your expected CTR and landing page experience.
Here’s an example. Let’s imagine that you’re selling blue suede shoes. You target the keyword “blue suede shoes” and you use it in your ad copy. You also make sure your landing page has the title “Blue Suede Shoes” and a picture of, you guessed it, blue suede shoes.
At no point will the searcher feel like they’re not getting what they’re looking for. You’ve matched the message every step of the way and met their expectations in the process. Simple, but effective!
4. Go beyond the words to improve landing page experience
Finally, there’s more to the landing page experience than making sure the words are relevant.
According to Google, you need to pay attention to the design and performance of your landing page with Quality Score in mind, too. Otherwise, you could end up losing leads, money, and QS points.
A quick Bounce back to the search results, for example, would suggest a low-quality visit, so to combat this, you need to ensure your page is clearly laid out with helpful (relevant) information; is easy to scan; appears trustworthy, and doesn’t distract with pop-ups.
And in a similar vein, you have to keep a close eye on your landing page’s load times. It’s long been suggested that Google deems a “slow loading” page as anything below the regional average plus three seconds, so if you’re leaving searchers twiddling their thumbs waiting for your page to load, you could be negatively impacting your Quality Score in the process.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check how well your pages are performing and, if necessary, put some page speed-enhancing techniques into practice, such as optimising images, reducing redirects, or eliminating plugins.
In summary: Improving Quality Score
Like we said, there are no magic bullets when it comes to digital marketing — but taking aim at your Quality Score can net you some huge results.
To improve it, you need to consider relevance and organisation across every aspect of your Ads campaign. A low score typically stems from a lack of cohesion between keywords, ad groups, ad copy, and landing page experience.
And while there are no quick-fixes, the tips above should help.
By organising your keywords into clear and relevant ad groups; by writing ad copy that matches searcher intent and reflects your landing page’s offer, and by ensuring your landing page is quick and easy to use, you’ll soon see an upturn in your scores (and lower CPC into the bargain).