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What Is Quality Score

What is Quality Score?

Know the function of an above-average Quality Score and it’s relationship between your cost per click and cost per conversion.

Is Quality Score the final stop to determining the health of your accounts? It depends on who you ask. But the foundational truth is that understanding its function reveals a network of interrelated metrics that stand or fall like dominoes.

By definition, Quality Score is a metric Google uses to determine where advertisers rank on the SERP based on the historical performance and relevance of your ads, keywords, and landing pages to a user’s search query. Just as your credit score can affect whether or not you qualify for a loan and the quality of your interest rate, Google’s Quality Score affects how your PPC ads perform and the cost you pay per click.
As a general rule, the better your Quality Score, the better your ads perform. Comprised of expected clickthrough rates, ad relevance, and landing page experiences, Google evaluates these factors to comprise a 1 through 10 ranking scale, with 7-10 being above average and 0-2 rendering ads nearly ineligible to be shown at all. The higher your Quality Score, the less an advertiser will pay per click in relation to others bidding on the same keyword.
Seems simple enough.
But your score is then combined with your highest cost-per-click bid to determine your Ad Rank, which establishes where and when an ad appears in the search results. So to improve your position for a given keyword, advertisers can 1). increase the maximum CPC bid or 2). improve the keyword’s Quality Score.
Why CPCs and Quality Scores matter
Perhaps most affected by Quality Score is your cost per click. In 2009, Craig Danuloff at Click Equations published data that showed how much you save by raising your Quality Score:

A Quality Score of 10 afforded a 30% discount on CPC compared to someone whose Quality Score was 7. At the low end, having a Quality Score of 1 forced you to pay 600% more. Price-gouging at its worst.  
While Danuloff used 7 as the neutral score because it was the mean QS across accounts at that time, that number has decreased to about 5. This means that the savings for an advertiser with a QS of 10 would now be closer to 50%.
Why CPC doesn’t have the final say
Detractors would say that cheap traffic isn’t always quality traffic; therefore, the benefit of higher Quality Scores on CPCs is overstated. However, what detractors don’t seem to comprehend is that Quality Score has an additional and nearly equal impact on cost per conversion.
Larry Kim, founder of Wordstream, compiled CPA data from thousands of campaigns and plotted the average cost per conversion versus the impression-weighted Quality Score for each campaign. His results looked like this in 2013:

Mirroring Dunaloff’s findings that were focused on cost per click, Kim determined that the higher your Quality Score, the lower your cost per conversion will be on average. He further noted that having a below-average Quality Score was akin to paying a penalty as the CPA rose for each additional point below 5 out of 10.
Four ways to move your Quality Score above average
Although understanding and optimizing for Quality Score can seem confusing, here are four easy steps to focus on in your PPC account that will boost your QS, save you money, improve your ad position, and improve the performance of your PPC campaigns by lowering CPA:

    1. Methodical account organization. Ensure that ad groups and campaigns are arranged into clear keyword themes. If an ad group has over 50 keywords, try to deconstruct it into smaller, more focused groups.


  • Relevant keywords, ad copy, and landing pages. Does the ad copy relate to the keywords you are bidding on? Does the copy align with the content on the landing page, so visitors clicking on ads experience a direct connection between your ad and their search query?
  • Focus on clickthrough rates. Expected clickthrough rates are highly impacted by your targeted keywords. Bidding first on exact and phrase match keywords before broad match helps to filter unqualified search queries. Bidding on branded keywords also tends to have both high click-through and conversion rates. Google AdWords ad extensions and sitelinks provide an additional option for more display options for clicking.
  • Research for new keywords. Keywords are the tools to target your audience, so bidding on the right keywords can determine the success of your PPC campaigns.

Knowing that your Quality Scores may be saving you up to 50%, or penalizing you via CPC and CPA, should provide strong motivation to improve your Quality Scores. Optimizing even one of these interconnected metrics can seem daunting at first but making small changes can have a major impact on account performance and improvement. For assistance, RLC Media can provide the expertise, analysis and reporting tools to see results. Contact Us Today/