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Everyone already knows about the quality score that exists for individual keywords in your Google AdWords account - the visible quality score at the keyword level. What many people don't seem to realize is that there's more at stake here than meets the eye. Most of the time, you can't solve a quality score issue if you're only given the keyword-level quality score in the Google AdWords user interface. There is a lot more to check and you may need to dive a little deeper into this topic to solve the overall problem. This guide will help you learn about the different types of Google Quality Scores, why they are important and the misconceptions about Quality Scores.

Types of quality factors

Quality factor at account level 

The account-level quality score is the result of the historical performance of all the keywords and ads in an account. Google does not confirm the existence of this quality factor, but it is generally recognized that there are different levels of quality factors than the visible quality factor at keyword level.

If you have a large amount of low quality score keywords in your account, as well as low click-through rate (CTR) ads and poor historical performance, these aspects will drag down the overall quality score of your account, making it harder for you to bring in additional keywords as their starting point is a generally low quality score. 

The quality factor at account level also lends itself to discussing Google's "favoritism" towards older accounts as opposed to newer accounts. An account with a long history and good performance will perform better than a new account. Once efforts are made to improve the quality score, you can expect it to take a few months to see increases in underperforming accounts. In the meantime, it can sometimes be tempting to start again with a brand new account. However, this fresh start is a violation of Google AdWords guidelines. Therefore, you need to start from scratch within your existing account by restructuring according to keyword, ad and landing page relevancy guidelines.

Opinions differ on how to deal with keywords that have a low quality score. Some claim that it makes sense to delete these keywords as soon as it becomes clear that they will not perform well. Others, however, see simply pausing said keywords as the better option. Both options make sense for low-value keywords, as they will stop accumulating data and eventually play a less important role in your score at account level once you have paused or deleted them. However, before you decide to delete these keywords, you need to consider how much search volume and return these keywords have generated for you so far. If you delete keywords from your account, the system will have problems retrieving them later, as Google will see these keywords as duplicates. Accordingly, before you delete anything, make sure it's something you can really lose to avoid trouble later. 

Quality factor at ad group level

The quality score at ad group level is a way of identifying the areas you need to work on within a campaign. For example, if you have a low keyword QS in an ad group, but your overall average is 7 - as opposed to an ad group with an average of 4 - you can get a clear picture of the most important aspects to focus on first. Working on the areas that have the lowest average Quality Score will help you achieve a better ROI.

You should look at ways to restructure your campaigns and ad groups and work on low CTR ads to increase the quality score of the ad group. Restructuring your ad groups is a good way to improve the structure of your account. Your visible history will be deleted as soon as you move things, but the history for calculating your quality score will remain.

One note: The quality score at the ad group level within an account is not visible on the "Ad Groups" tab, but rather an average of the keyword quality scores in the specific ad group. 

Quality factor at keyword level

This is the quality factor that Google gives your Keywords is assigned. It is visible on the AdWords user interface. The quality score of a keyword is rated on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is excellent. The quality score at keyword level is calculated based on the performance of search queries that exactly match your keyword. This means that your quality score will be the same for a keyword - regardless of the match type.

It's important to note that a keyword's Quality Score is based on their historical performance on until they reach a significant number of impressions in your account (significant in this case means a high number in the high thousands). This then represents the limit of impressions. Once the keyword receives significant impressions, the respective Quality Score will start to reflect how it performs in your account and historical performance becomes less of a factor. This is relevant if you have many keywords in your account that have a low amount of impressions: These keywords are not judged based on their own Quality Score in the account. Until keywords have reached the limit of impressions, quite little can be done to influence their Quality Score. 

When checking keyword quality factors You can see the following in your account;

  • Quality factor - How relevant the keyword, the ads and the landing page are for those viewing an ad.
  • Relevance of the ads - How closely keywords are linked to advertising copy.
  • Landing page experience - How useful the landing page is for users who view the page.
  • Expected CTR - Based on past performance and refers to the probability that an ad will be clicked when it is displayed.
  • Quality factor (historical) - The last known quality factor in the reporting period.
  • Relevance of the ads (historical) - The last known relevance of the respective advertisement in the reporting period.
  • Landing page experience (historical) - The last known score regarding the landing page experience in the reporting period.
  • Expected CTR (historical) - The last known expected click-through rate in the reporting period.

Here are some recommendationsto drive your impressions upwards:

  • Analyze impression share data. Impression share represents the percentage of times your ads were shown out of the total impressions available for which your ads were eligible to appear. If your impression share is low, you can improve performance by increasing your daily budgets or boosting your bids to rank in higher positions.
  • Loosen the restrictive match types or add broad match keywords. Running keywords that only result in slow growth in terms of impressions in phrase and exact match and extended post-roll times in terms of quality score. To roll this out strategically, start with ad groups or keywords that have the highest click-through rate (CTR).
  • Loosely list the topics so that keywords are not assigned to a niche. You want to make sure that keywords aren't too specific and therefore won't be searched for by anyone. The "Opportunities" tab on the AdWords user interface is a good place to find new keywords that match your current ad groups.

For campaigns whose keywords have received significant impressions, it makes sense to use the CTR as an indicator of performance. If the keyword CTR as well as the ad CTR is low (less than 1.5%), then this is an indication that users do not see the ad as relevant to their query and the ad could be more specific to the ad group topic.

Quality factor at ad level 

The ads you place in each of your ad groups have a different click-through rate, which is a factor in determining the quality score. If you have a lot of low CTR ads in your ad groups, these could contribute to a low quality score as AdWords takes all your ads into account when calculating your scores. One way to give your account a natural CTR boost is to add Dynamic Keyword Insertion ads to your Search Network campaigns. DKI ads display the user's exact search query within the ad, as long as the character limit on the ads is not exceeded. While you need to be very careful when using these ads, it is more likely that your DKI ad will receive a click than a non-DKI ad as it appears more relevant to the user's search. However, you need to make sure that you find ads that don't convert despite a high CTR so that you don't ruin your ROI. You can pause poorly performing ads without harming your quality score, but editing an existing ad will trigger the deletion of its history.

The quality score is also a factor in how AdWords determines whether your ads will show extensions. The first position should not necessarily be your goal for all your ads, as this is not necessarily the most profitable position most of the time. However, if you want to take advantage of extensions like sitelinks, which help your click-through rate, you need to have a competitive bid and a good quality score. Google has also recently started testing adding the domain in the first line of the ad, but an ad must be in the top position to qualify.

Landing page quality factor

Google always states its three big landing page quality factors: relevant and original content, transparency and navigability. Google wants to force advertisers to create high-quality websites that are useful and relevant to Google users. This is the reason why Google is also the top dog in terms of search engines. The quality of the landing page should not only be relevant for Google, but also for advertisers. Following the guidelines for a good landing page is most likely to help advertisers convert visitors to customers and improve ROI.

The user interface tells you if there's a problem with your landing pages when you hover over the balloon for a keyword's quality score. Google doesn't openly admit that there is a landing page quality score, but the quality of the landing page is a factor in your keyword's quality score. In addition to following Google's landing page guidelines, keep in mind that your landing pages will also be evaluated by a real person - and this happens more than once. Ergo, there is always another way to improve and having good usability as well as a fast loading time is especially important. 

Quality factor for the display network

Your quality score on the Google Display Network works slightly differently to the Search Network. AdWords will take into account the historical performance of your ad on the page you are eligible for and other similar pages. The relevance of ads and keywords in relation to the page is still important - as is the quality of your landing page.

The Display Network has other bidding options and the factors that contribute to your DN Quality Score will depend on your choice. If the campaign uses a CPM model, your quality score will be based on the quality of your landing page. If, on the other hand, you have opted for a CPC bid, the factors taken into account are the historical CTR of the ad and the quality of the landing page.

Testing different ad types can help you improve your display quality score. You may find that on certain pages, you see image ads as a better fit as opposed to responsive ads, and you may want to cover both bases if a page doesn't allow single images. The more options you have and the more testing you do, the more help you have to improve your CTR.
Remember, the Display Network is a completely different proposition and you need to use the tools you have to target your ads to appropriate sites and demographics. It also makes sense to separate your Search Network campaigns from your Display Network campaigns so that you can manage them better.

Another way to improve your GDN quality score is to review your relative click-through rate. Evaluating this metric will help you understand how your ads are performing against others on the same websites. AdWords has an optional column for the campaign and ad group tabs for this metric. Relative CTR is a fairly simple calculation of the CTR of GDN campaigns divided by the CTR of other ads running in the same locations. A low relative CTR can hurt your GDN quality score. If yours needs to be improved, you should start looking at possible exclusions by using page and category exclusions, redesigning your ads, including negative keywords and using contextual targeting.  

Mobile quality factor

In terms of mobile, Google claims that the quality score is calculated the same regardless of which device platform you use (PCs, tablets, smartphones, etc.). However, the system takes into account the distance between the user and the place of business, if any, with regard to the quality factor for mobile ads by using the device location and data on the extent of the location.

If you separate a combined campaign (targeting All Devices, i.e. PCs, mobiles and tablets) so that mobile is separate from desktop (this is the structure suggested by Google), you may notice an increase or decrease in your Quality Score in each of the campaigns after the migration, even though nothing has really changed. Your combined campaign was a combination of quality scores for different platforms. After separating them into separate campaigns, you can see what each individual quality score actually was.

Why the quality factor is important

From Google's point of view, the quality factor is important because it is representative of the relevance of your ads with regard to users' search queries. Google is the top dog when it comes to search engines and wants to keep it that way in the future. The quality score helps them to ensure that the ads users see are relevant to their search queries.

From an advertiser's perspective, the quality score is of enormous relevance for many reasons. This metric determines whether a keyword is even suitable for participation in an auction and therefore whether your ad will be displayed for a user query on the Google Search Network. In addition to the CPC bid, the quality score determines the Ad Rank and this is extremely important - especially for advertisers with a limited budget. The Ad Rank formula for the Google Search Network is as follows: 

Ad rank = CPC bid × quality factor 

With the quality score as a factor in determining ad rank, advertisers with low budgets can work hard to optimize their accounts and may end up in top ad positions even if their bid is lower than a competitor's bid with a lower quality score. The quality score also affects the placement of ads in relation to the Google Display Network. The Ad Rank formula for keyword-oriented ads is as follows: 

Ad Rank = Display Network Bid × Quality Factor

For placement-oriented ads on the GDN, Google considers your bid either for the ad group or for individual placements and the quality score of your ad group. The Ad Rank formula for placement-oriented ads on the Google Display Network is as follows:

Ad Rank = Bid × Quality Factor 

Ultimately, the quality score affects the health and success of your account. If your quality score is too low at the keyword level, your keyword may not even be able to participate in an auction, meaning your ad won't be displayed and won't be able to compete for the searcher's business. If your quality score is low, your ad rank will be low, which will most likely lead to less traffic to your site and a low ROI.  

Google quality factor

Misconceptions regarding quality factors

I have listed different types of AdWords quality factors and explained why the respective quality factor is relevant in an account. Now I would like to address the misconceptions about quality factors.

Match types change the quality factor

Basically, Google measures your quality score without taking the keyword match type into account. So if you find a broad, a phrase or an exact match of the same keyword in your account, all three will have the same quality score. Google determines the quality score of a keyword based on an exact match using a query. Changing the match type of a keyword does not directly lead to a change in the quality score at keyword level.

The quality factor suffers when ads or keywords are paused 

Pausing ads or keywords has no effect on the quality score, as this is based on the performance of your keywords or ads. If they are not active and therefore do not participate in the auction or are not displayed, there is no quality factor. 

The display and search quality factors influence each other

As explained earlier in the guide, these two quality scores are separate and do not influence each other. Firstly, the criteria for determining these quality factors are different and secondly, the search and display networks are so different that it would be almost impossible for Google to allow them to influence each other. Your performance on one will not affect your performance on the other. 

Higher positions benefit from your quality factor

On the surface, it appears as if this is true. However, the quality score is actually adjusted to compensate for the differences in the position of the ad. Google takes into account the fact that higher positions naturally generate a higher CTR than lower positions. Therefore, they compensate for this by adjusting their formula to remove the self-reinforcing nature of higher positions. 

Deleting or restructuring elements with a low quality factor deletes their gradients

This is not correct. According to Google, whether you pause, delete or restructure an account type item, its historical performance will continue to affect your account history. Although adjusting these items will not clear your account history, Google still recommends deleting underperforming keywords and ads to prevent them from continuing to negatively impact your account history in the future. As performance data is accumulated over time, the negative effects of these low-performing elements will decrease - but they will never disappear completely.

Where can I find the quality factor?

Optimize quality factorTo view the quality factor, navigate to the keyword overview. In the "Status" column, simply click on the speech bubble symbol and you will receive information about the quality factor. Each keyword has its own quality factor, so each keyword should be analyzed. By clicking on the speech bubble, you can obtain information on the expected click rate, ad relevance and target page experience.


How can I optimize the quality factor?

  1. Keep AdWords campaigns small

It is advisable to subdivide the campaign structure very finely. This can be achieved by only including 2-3 keywords in the individual ad groups. As a result, the keywords match the ads better, which leads to an increased click rate.

  1. Post keywords as exact match

By using the exact match function, we ensure that our ads are only displayed for the keywords that have actually been booked. This also inevitably leads to higher CTRs.

  1. Use display extension

AdWords ads can be made even more eye-catching by using ad extensions. This is particularly successful with ad extensions such as sitelinks or call extensions for additional information. This helps to sustainably increase the click rate. 

  1. Use the optimal target page

The choice of target page also plays an important role. For this reason, it makes sense to use specialized landing pages for the ads. You should also make sure that your website is mobile optimized and has a low loading time.

I hope that I have clarified the importance of the quality factor and that you can use it to improve your Optimize AdWords campaigns can.

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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