AdWords’ quality score goes into determining how much you’re spending per keyword. We share some tips on improving your quality score and lowering your cost-per-click.
What You’ll Learn:
- How is your quality score calculated?
- How to improve your quality score on AdWords
- How to improve your quality score of keywords
- How to create super-specific ad groups
- Best practices to improve ad quality score
- Improve your landing page quality score
Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Quality Score
According to Google, Quality Score is intended to give you an overall sense of how effective your ads are in meeting your audiences’ needs.
The score aims to measure a user’s experience with your ad and its associated landing page and plays a role in determining ad placement and how much you’ll pay per click.
You might think about it much like you might think about a credit score. If your credit score is stellar, but you have no income, you’re going to have trouble getting a loan.
On the flip side, if you have a lower credit score but a decent income you may have an easier time getting a loan, but will be charged a higher interest rate than someone with a good score and a decent income.
Accounts with lower Quality Scores can still run campaigns, but Google charges them more per click, as it’s in their best interest to prioritize those accounts with a proven track record for delivering relevant ad content.
In this article, I’ll go over some tips for how to improve Quality Score in AdWords to help you lower CPCs and create more relevant campaigns for your audience.
How is Quality Score Calculated?
Quality Score represents an aggregated estimate of how well a keyword is likely to perform based on how its performed in past campaigns. Google then uses that data to assign each keyword a Quality Score on a 1-10 scale (lowest-highest).
Google calculates Quality Score based on three key factors:
- Expected click-through rate (CTR). the percentage of people who will likely click on your ad when they see it.
- Ad relevance. the overall relevance of your ad to your keyword
- Landing page experience. a measurement of both the user-friendliness of your landing page and its relevance to the keyword.
How to Improve Your Quality Score on AdWords
Start by Looking at the Basics
- Look at the keywords with low scores. If Google offers an explanation for why they’ve assigned that score, you have a good starting point for making improvements. You’ll typically see this for keywords with scores in the 1-3 range.
- For those without an explanation from Google–think keywords in the 4-6 range, the problem is typically more about account structure and relevance.
- Once you’ve improved your account structure, improving your Quality Score then becomes a game of focusing on improving ad copy and optimizing your landing pages.
Now, let’s look at some specific tips for how to improve Quality Score on AdWords. I’ve broken these next few sections into three main categories: keywords, ad copy, and landing pages.
How to Improve Quality Score of Keywords
Choose Your Keywords Wisely
Here’s the thing: Google Ads success starts with the right keywords. Meaning, weak keyword research breeds weak campaign performance.
Relying exclusively on free tools like Google Keyword Planner can hurt your ability to serve up relevant ads. While you can review search volumes and expected CPC rates, Keyword Planner doesn’t offer much insight into whether these terms are relevant to your website and your target audience.
What should you do instead?
Well, for starters, take a look at your website analytics. Instead of starting with Google’s Keyword Planner, head over to the Search Console, and check out your Queries report.
This report lists out the queries that generate the most impressions of your website in the organic SERPs.
The benefit here is, this will give you more insight into the terms users type into the search box to find your website, which can help you optimize your ads for relevancy.
Here’s how to find them:
- Open Google Search Console
- Navigate to the Performance tab, then click Search Results.
- Click “+ New” then click “Page…”
- Type in your website’s URL.
- Then scroll down the page to ID the keywords that make your page show up in the SERPs.
- Look for long-tail keywords that relate to your offer and make a list of those terms to use in your ad campaigns.
To find competitor queries:
- Navigate to “Performance,” then “Search Results.”
- Click “+ New” then “Query.”
- Type in a target keyword.
- Scroll and click the “Pages” tab to find pages competing for the same keyword.
Additionally, you may want to invest in using a paid tool such as:
- Keywords Everywhere
While these platforms might be a significant investment for some marketers, they allow for much more informed keyword research that can help you develop more relevant PPC campaigns and SEO content.
Target the Long Tails
It might seem like a good idea to target keywords like “pants,” “ice cream,” or “shoes,” but the reality is these hyper-broad terms can spell trouble for your campaign.
High volume keywords often signal ambiguous intent, which put you at risk for attracting visitors with a different goal than what your page provides.
For example, the search term, “ice cream,” might attract someone looking for a recipe to make ice cream at home, someone looking for a local spot to grab a few scoops, or someone looking for local delivery options.
With search terms that vague, Google doesn’t know what searchers want, so it turns up a variety of options.
Instead, get specific. Instead of targeting “ice cream” try something like “easy chocolate ice cream recipes.” While longer tail keywords don’t get the same volumes as more generic ones, they tend to convert better.
Use Negative Keywords
Too many digital marketers ignore negative keywords, but they can improve your Quality Score by allowing you to run more relevant campaigns.
Negative keywords are words that you add to your campaign or ad group that you want Google to ignore. In other words, when people search for those keywords, they won’t see your ad.
Why is that important? Well, a lot of it has to do with intent.
Because you’ve determined that people who use those search terms are probably not in your target market. As a result, it’s unlikely that they’ll click on your ad and your CTR will suffer.
For example, let’s say you’re running an online store that sells only casual shirts. In that case, you should eliminate the keyword “dress” because you aren’t selling dress shirts.
In this article, I’ve shared some basic tips for identifying the right negative keywords to boost ad performance.
Improve AdWords Quality Score with Branded Keywords
You should run ads with branded keywords even if you already show in the first organic position for those keywords.
Because your combined CTR between the ad and the organic result will be greater than the CTR of the organic SERP result on its own.
What’s more, branded keywords also produce higher click-throughs as compared to other search terms, as the people who search for specific brand names have a high purchase intent.
While the share of searchers targeting branded terms is a small group, running campaigns around these keywords is a slam dunk for boosting campaign relevance–thereby improving your QS.
Create Super-Specific Ad Groups
Getting your account structure right is huge when it comes to maintaining a good Quality Score. While the set-up process might be a pain in the beginning, the upfront time investment is worth the extra effort.
Google recommends structuring your campaigns into specific ad groups, as it allows you to maintain relevance between the keywords, ad copy, and landing page. This means you’ll want to avoid creating ad groups with every single keyword.
Get started by making a list of your keywords, then grouping them together based on category. Think branded, non-branded, or centered around a specific product or service.
From there, you can refine ad groups based on segment, stage in the buyer’s journey, etc.
Here’s an example from the Google Help Center that demonstrates how you might organize ad groups around product categories.
The fewer keywords per group, the easier it is to maintain that close connection between the query, the ad, and the post-click experience. That said, there’s no definitive number you should focus on.
Some websites say “less than 20,” which is way too much.
Others recommend building ad groups called “SKAGs,” which stands for “single keyword ad groups,” where ad groups contain just one keyword. This strategy is great for ensuring that vital message match between keyword, ad, and landing page, though it can be time-consuming.
As such, it’s best-suited for targeting high-intent keywords that stand to have the highest impact on your bottom line.
How to Improve Ad Quality Score
If you want to improve your ad quality score, here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you put together your next campaign:
Write with Relevance in Mind
Write ad copy tailored specifically to your keywords to increase the relevance of your keywords to each of your ads. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’ll want to make sure that the ads searchers see from the SERPs represent exactly what you’re offering.
Consider the following:
- Who are you targeting?
- What are the demographics of this group?
- Does the link explain exactly where the customer will end up if they click?
- Does the copy include keywords in a natural way or do they appear to be forced?
Be Direct in Your Messaging
Google’s text ads don’t offer a ton of space to get your message out. As such, you’ll want to avoid flowery language and cut to the chase.
Here, make sure you make your key points as clearly as possible using the least amount of words. Consider what makes your product or service unique, and be sure to include that value prop in your ad. Be sure to describe any special offers or features in the ad.
Drive Action with the Right CTA
Back up your ad copy with a strong, clear call-to-action.
The goal here, again, isn’t being clever. It’s about helping your audience understand what they can do after the click. Here, stick to simple directives such as sign up, browse, order, buy, get a quote, message business, etc.
Improve the Landing Page Experience
So, according to Google, landing page experience represents how well your website delivers what searchers are looking for when they click your ad.
Google determines your landing page Quality Score by evaluating how relevant the page is in relation to your target keyword and ad copy, as well as the overall user-friendliness of the page.
Essentially, a lot of improving landing page QS comes down to following general SEO best practices–site speed, mobile-friendliness, navigation, etc., as well as ensuring tight message match between keyword, ad, and landing page. (for some inspiration, here are 50 landing pages that offer a solid user-experience).
Here are a few tips that can help you improve your score:
Decrease Landing Page Load Times
A big part of the landing page experience is load time.
Make sure you take a look at the load times for each landing page, which you can do easily using Google’s Page Speed test.
As a point of reference, the threshold for slow load times is calculated by finding the regional average plus three seconds.
If your page is slower than that, it may hurt your Quality Score.
While there are many factors that could drag down your site speed, here are a few common culprits:
- Multiple redirects
- Meta refreshes
- Large page size
- Slow redirects
- Slow server
- Interstitial pages
Google’s Help Center mentions that you might want to consider turning your landing page into an AMP page. More on setting up AMP for AdWords landing pages here.
Beyond page speed, you’ll also want to make sure your landing pages pass the Mobile-Friendly test.
Keep Landing Page Conversion Ratios 1:1
The conversion ratio is a term that refers to the number of places a visitor can click, as compared to the number of conversion goals. Most landing pages should aim for a 1:1 ratio–meaning one conversion goal and one stand-out CTA button.
Make Yourself Useful After the Click
Here’s the thing–you can target the right groups using factors like age, location, and past behaviors and personalize the offer to meet the needs of that audience and still end up with a useless page that fails to convert.
The goal of any landing page is to make it easy for your audience to quickly decide whether they want to move forward with the offer.
Improve its usefulness by doing the following:
- Avoid using buzzwords or technical jargon. Instead, use easy-to-understand language.
- Use headlines that match the headlines used in the corresponding ad copy.
- Make your page scannable by using bullet points, white space, and headlines that stand out.
- Use images and infographics to help explain the offer.
- Reduce the number of form fields required to act on the offer.
- Address buyer objections.
Beyond those basics, consider what, exactly, your audience is looking for.
- Be specific if someone is searching for a particular item. If someone clicks an ad for men’s Nike basketball shoes, direct them to a page that only shows men’s Nike basketball shoes, not a general page for all types of sneakers.
- Be general if the query suggests that the user wants more options. Alternatively, if your ad targets a search query like “best road bikes,” they probably don’t want to land on a page that features one brand or model.
Stick to EAT guidelines here, and make sure your landing page is transparent about your offer and what your brand is all about.
A few tips from Google:
- Make it easy for visitors to get in touch.
- Clearly label ads, sponsored links, or affiliate content.
- If you’re collecting personal information, make it clear why you need it, and how you’ll be using that information.
- State what your business does and what you’re selling before asking visitors to provide their information.
Check Your Destination URLs
While this may sound obvious, make sure you check that all of your destination URLs are working and that they send your users to the right page.
Additionally, check your URLs for the following symbols, as they may prevent your links from working properly.
- Eliminate apostrophes and parentheses.
- Replace forward and backslashes with a blank space or a dash.
- Replace commas and ampersands with a dash or a blank space.
If you’re suffering from a low Quality Score, it’s not the end of the world.
Improve your standing by spending more time on keyword research, tighten up your ad groups, and optimize your landing pages.
Remember, while Quality Score won’t make your break your online business, it does help you gain an understanding of how well you’re meeting your audience’s needs matching intent with ad copy and landing page content.