If you're like many advertisers using Google AdWords you likely have a number of key performance indicators you monitor for your campaigns. Cost per click, monthly ad spend, and most importantly how much business the campaigns generate for you are just three of what you should be keeping an eye on.

One other aspect of your campaign you should also be monitoring are the Quality Scores of the keywords you're targeting with your campaigns. Quality Score is a number from 0-10 assigned to each of the keywords you're targeting in your campaigns, with the highest number being the most desirable. When you look at the Quality Score of your keywords, you should be concerned for any that have a score under 7. That's because lower Quality Scores negatively impact your campaign.

The main thing to know about Quality Score is that it impacts how much you pay for keywords and how often your ads show on Google.

According to Wordstream, "a perfect Quality Score can discount your CPC by about 50%; a heinous Quality Score can increase costs by 400%. "

Understanding Why Quality Score Is Important For Your AdWords Campaign

A Quality Score is a value given to each keyword in your campaign. To understand the importance of these scores you first must understand how Google decides to show ads in the search results.

Google doesn't show ads based simply on the highest bid, as in a true auction. Ads with high bids, but no clicks, however, don't make Google money. Instead they look for ads that they think will get clicks and then factor in the bid.

This is your AdRank, which is is your bid times your Quality Score.

This means that even if your competitor is willing to bid more, your ad could appear higher even if your bid is lower. Google wants two things. To have ads that get clicked on and that the person doing the search is satisfied with their results. This ensures that they make money and that searchers continue to rely on them for their research. This also means that advertisers with the highest budget don't necessarily dominate the search results.

Low Quality Score means your ads don't always run for that keyword
Google warns you if your Quality Score is an issue.

A high number means your ads will appear more often and potentially in the highest position.

This also means if your Quality Score is low, then your ad won't even run all the time. You'll even see a warning about this when you review your keywords.

If you've wondered why you see a note that your keywords are rarely shown due to low Quality Score, then you know the reason.

If you want to get more clicks for your money and a better response from those clicks, then you'll want a high Quality Score. This is also true for Quality Score on Bing Ads.

How To Find Your Quality Score

A Quality Score is not something that shows up when you first log into your AdWords account. You have to look for it.

One way to find it is to click on the keywords tab. Under the status heading you'll find such assessments as eligible, low search volume, etc. Next to each is a small icon that resembles those bubbles that appeared in comics when characters talked. By running your mouse over it, you'll get you're Quality Score for that keyword.

Google breaks down the elements of your Quality Score
Google alerts you to what is impacting your Quality Score

The advantage of viewing it this way is that you can get an assessment of your score. It will tell you not just the score, but also how your keyword fares in the three elements of your score. These are expected click through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. I'll discuss each of these elements later.

The other way to find your Quality Scores is to add it as a column when you are on the keyword page. To do this click Columns, then click Modify Columns. This will open a series of metrics. Look for attributes and here you can add Quality Score by clicking the arrow next to it. After hitting apply it will now show whenever you log in.

How Is Quality Score Determined?

As mentioned, Quality Score is predominantly based on three criteria. If you receive high marks for all three categories, then you'll likely have a better score.

Quality Score is dynamically generated. It’s constantly being revised, but only when your ads are running. Pausing a campaign won’t affect your score, but it could set you back if your competitor’s scores continue to improve. Even now many businesses may be seeing their scores drop because of Google’s changes and not something they’ve done.

Expected click through rate is what Google expects an ad to do in the position it shows up in the search results. It uses historical date to determine how many clicks an ad gets in a certain position. Obviously an ad showing up in the number 1 spot would have a significantly higher expected click through rate than an ad that appears in the 4th spote.

If your ads not meeting their expectations, then you'll be warned that it's lower than expected.

Ad relevance refers to how your ad relates to the keyword searchers are typing in. For example, if your ad targets the phrase plumbing emergency, but your ad is about leaky faucets, then searchers aren't as likely to click on it.

The third element is landing page experience. If your ad mentions a specific benefit or promotion, but then can't be found on the landing page, the result is a poor customer experience. Remember Google wants the searcher to be satisfied with the results their customers find when clicking on an ad.

What About New Keywords

When you first add a new keyword to a campaign you'll notice that is has no number. Google gives it a null number meaning you'll see a “—" in the table. As your ad runs and begins to generate impressions, you may start to see a Quality Score. Yet, even if you have a number of impressions, there is no guarantee you'll see a score. It's actually based on the number of impressions from exact matches of your keywords. Still you should begin to see a score.

Ironically you could see the null score appear later, even if the keywords have been showing for a while. That’s because the number of exact matches needed for the word is no longer enough.

How to Improve Quality Score

As mentioned Google often gives indicators of why your score is low. When looking to improve it, keep in mind that you're not doing this just to improve your score. It's to improve your conversion rate, as well, which is more important.

Of the three elements of Quality Score, click through rate gets the most emphasis. In previous articles I've written on how to improve click through rate on AdWords. Because there is so much involved in that I won't go into that here. The one thing I will advise is to look for phrases that don't apply to your business, but which can trigger your ad. By using negative keywords in Google AdWords you can lower your impressions dramatically, which in turn improves your click through rate.

To improve ad relevance, incorporate the keyword being targeted into your ads. And make sure that the ad copy addresses the issues being faced by searchers that caused them to type the phrase in the first place. Read my article on How to Create Successful Expanded Text Ads on Google AdWords to learn more.

The final element is your landing page, the page your ad goes to when clicked. Too many businesses simply send visitors to their home page, which often focus on a number of elements of a business. Instead it's better to have a dedicated landing page that focuses on the offer or benefit mentioned in the ad. To learn more about creating landing pages, read my feature on how to create effective landing pages.

Why the Same Keyword May Have Different Quality Scores

One would think that if you use the same keyword in more than one ad group, that the number would be consistent among all the groups. This isn't the case. This is because the landing page, the ad creative, or the targeting could be different for the words. So unless all the elements are the same, the scores will differ. This is why in one ad group a keyword could have a score of 7, while this same keyword could have a score of 4 in another ad group. This also means the first ad group will have more impressions for that keyword then the second will have.

Historical Quality Score in Google AdWords

In May of 2017 Google finally listened to all its ad agencies and marketers that had been asking for the ability to see their historical Quality Score. What this means is that you now can see how your Quality Score for specific keywords has evolved over time. Hopefully it has shown improvement, but if you find it's actually gone down, then its time to make some of the changes I suggested earlier.

And don't misunderstand all of this. Your bid is still an important part of where your ads appear. You might have a great Quality Score, but if your bid is significantly lower than a number of your advertisers you won't show that high. If you and a competitor have similar Quality Scores, then who has the higher bid will win.

If you want to get more out of your marketing dollar, then work to improve your Quality Score. It can take time to get results, but in the end you’ll see a much higher return on investment and you’ll connect with the prospects most interested in what you offer.

If you don't have the time or the experience needed to improve your Quality Score, then consider hiring a Google AdWords Consultant to help with your campaigns. Contact me today to learn how I can assist your business.