What is Quality Score & how is it measured?
Oh, the mystery of a good Quality Score (QS). A QS is Google’s way to rate yours or your client’s keyword and ad quality. But how does it work and how can you take advantage of it? Let’s go back to the basics.
Every new keyword in your account will start with a quality score of 6. The QS can then be influenced by a lot of factors - such as the match rate between the search query and the keywords and ad, the historical click through rate (CTR) and the landing page experience. The general rule is: the higher the QS, the less you have to pay to be in the same position, as the ad rank is calculated based on both your QS and your bid. This means the higher the QS, the cheaper your traffic! My lovely colleagues Imogen and Laura have explained the mysteries of QS in further detail here and here.
Google recently launched historical Quality Score, which means you can now map your QS over time to see any trends. This was big news for us in the agency as we were finally able to map how certain activities in our accounts influenced the QS.
The impact of a higher QS
Between July 2016 and June 2017, I made many changes to a client account. The driving force of which was the aim to improve that all important QS! This included auditing the keyword match types and ad copy, ad extension optimisation and running landing page tests. I will explain these activities in more detail in the next part of this blog.
Below you’ll find my results. I excluded any pure brand terms and looked at Search Only traffic.
Quality Score vs. Avg. CPC
The data from January 2017 shows that we did not only see an increase in the QS (from around 7.4 to 7.9) but also a drop in the avg. CPC (from over £0.40 to £0.35), which was in line with the changes we started making from that time.
Quality Score vs. Avg. Position
We also saw that, although we didn’t increase our max. CPC, there was an increase in the avg. position when our QS increased.
Both graphs help to show that an increase in QS has led to a decrease in the avg. CPC, whilst improving the overall position, whereas the max. CPC remained stable.
The synergies between QS, avg. CPC and sales/spend
Additionally, I was able to prove that a higher QS was also leading to a higher sales/spend. This was partially due to the lower avg. CPC, but most likely also down to factors relating to user experience. Higher QS keywords usually see a better landing page engagement, ad vs. search query match rate and above average historical conversion performance.
How to improve your QS
Now that you know what a great QS can do to your performance - get optimising! There are many different ways you can work on improving your QS in the account:
- Keyword match types: The first area to look at is, of course, the keywords themselves. As a rule of thumb, your exact match terms should have a higher QS than your broader terms since you specify which exact search terms you want to show for, instead of trying to cover a high number of search terms with very few broad match keywords. Reviewing your match types will therefore be a useful exercise. For the above client, we started adding exact match variations for the phrase match keywords with a low QS and high CPAs. We could then separately optimise the search queries that exactly matched the phrase match keywords. Exact match keywords often have a lower avg. CPC, which is another reason to build them out.
- Ad copy optimisation: Google will look at the match rate between the search query and the ad copy, so try and have your keywords in your ad copy. Also ensure that the general content of your ads reflects the type of content that the user would want to see when conducting their searches. For example, if someone is looking for Halloween recipes, don’t target them with ads around Halloween makeup tips (there are, of course, instances such as remarketing to previous visitors, where you might want to do this). Not doing this might not only impact your CTR but might also lead to a bad website experience if the user did decide to click on the ad but then ended up on a page with the wrong content.
For this client, we analysed the ad variation with the highest CTR. Based on that ad variation, we created another variant with very similar messaging. The ad variation with the lowest CTR was then paused, ensuring we were always promoting our very best ad copy.
- Ad extensions: Google takes ad extensions into account when calculating QS, so do not focus on your ads alone. By highlighting other relevant areas on your website through ad extensions, you give users more choice. Structured Snippets help to illustrate the products / services that you offer. Callouts help you push your USPs. Promo extensions help you to extend your ads with promotional messaging. Location and call extensions help users get in touch with you or to visit one of your stores. There are so many opportunities!
For the client in question, we ensured we had all ad extensions possible. We also evaluated their performance and removed anything with below average results.
- Land page tests: Another area to look into, which can help you to increase the CTR and in turn the QS, is to run landing page test to find out which page is driving the best on site engagement and conversion rate.
The tests we ran for my client were highly informative. We ended up splitting out our campaigns by audiences who saw different performance for different landing pages.
- Website optimisation: One factor which isn’t necessarily in your hands is website optimisation. Google Analytics provides a lot of useful insights into on-site user behaviour. The user friendliness and content of the website will influence the conversion rate. Therefore, always make sure to do your GA analysis to find actionable insights.
Please keep in mind that your QS will always differ depending on the type of keywords you are looking at. For example, competitor or more generic keywords are likely to have a lower QS as they will not always perfectly match the products or services on your website but are instead trying to capture users upper funnel. However, try to maximise your QS for any of your own brand terms and dig deeper if you see a low QS for these.
If you need any help or have any questions, please get in touch.
Image credit to Pexels.