Google Ads

Google Quality Score: What Is It And Why Does It Matter?

Google Ads is an extremely powerful advertising platform. When you’re using Google Ads, you pay on a cost per click (CPC) basis. 

This means you don’t have to pay Google to have your ad shown, but only when someone actually clicks on your ad.

Only pay Google when someone clicks on your ad.

This means that Google is less keen to show un-relevant ads that no one clicks on. For that reason, it uses the Google Quality Score as a factor to decide the ad ranking.

This also means you can’t just blindly add irrelevant keywords to your account.

The Google ad auction works based on a difficult formula, where it takes into account:

  1. The bid that each advertiser puts in for click on a particular keyword.

  2. The relevancy of that advertiser to a particular search query (the Google Quality Score).

What is the Google Quality Score?

The Quality Score is a number from 1 to 10 that shows how relevant your keyword to a particular search query.

A low Quality Score shows that your keyword is totally irrelevant, while a high Quality Score means that it’s spot on and that you’re offering exactly what visitors are looking for.

To decide the Quality Score, Google looks at multiple factors including:

  • Keyword relevancy

  • Expected click-through rate (CTR)

  • Landing page experience

  • Historical account performance

  • Ad relevancy

  • Various relevance factors

Google Quality Score factors

Factors that decide the Google Quality Score


How the Google ad auction works

Everytime someone types something into the search engine, Google’s algorithm re-calculates the ad ranking.

To do this it looks at many factors, including:

  • The keyword in your account that could get triggered for the search query.

  • How relevant that keyword is to the search query.

  • The relevancy of your ad to the search query.

  • How relevant your landing page is to the search query.

  • Your maximum bid for a click on the keyword.

  • Ad extensions that get trigger by the keyword.

  • The maximum bid of a competitor on the keyword.

  • Relevancy factors of your competitor(s).

And much, much more. In total, Google uses hundreds of factors to decide the ad ranking and this is being re-calculated for each search query.

How Google decides the ad ranking.

In the example above there are 4 advertisers that are eligible to show for a particular search query:

  • Advertiser 1 has a bid of $4.

  • $3 is the bid of advertiser 2.

  • Advertiser 3 bids $2.

  • And advertiser 4 puts in a bid of $1 per click.

Based on the many relevancy factors that Google uses:

  • Advertiser 1 has a relevancy factor (Google Quality Score) of 1.

  • Relevancy factor of 6 for advertiser 2.

  • Advertiser 3 has a relevancy factor of 10.

  • And advertiser 4 has a relevancy factor of 8.

Based on the bid and the relevancy factor Google decides the ad ranking.
This means that:

  • Even though advertiser 3 only put in the third highest bid, it gets ranking in the first position because of their high relevancy score.

  • Then, Advertiser 2 gets the second ad position.

  • Advertiser 4 gets the third ad position.

  • And even though advertiser 1 put in the highest bid, it still gets ranked the lowest due to a low relevancy score.


Why is relevancy so important?

This is because Google wants to:

  1. Make users happy by providing the right answers to their questions.

  2. Make advertisers happy by not letting them pay for irrelevant clicks.

And it certainly makes Google happy.
Remember that you only have to pay for actual clicks? So by showing relevant ads higher in the ad ranking, more people will click the ad and Google will earn more as well.

So, even though an advertiser pays less for a click, the higher click-through rate (CTR) will make it more beneficial for Google.

How Google uses the Quality Score to decide the ad ranking

To decide the ad ranking, Google uses the following formula:

Google ad rank calculation

The formula that decides the Google AdWords ad ranking.

So, if you want to increase your ad ranking for a particular keyword there are two things you can do:

  1. Increase your CPC bids, which will increase your costs.

  2. Improve your Quality Score.

So in plain words: a higher Quality Score will give you a better ad ranking against lower costs.

How Quality Score affects CPC

The maximum CPC bid that you put in for a keyword is not necessarily the cost you actually have to pay Google.

You only have to pay Google the cost of what is needed to keep your closest competitor below you. This means you pay whatever is needed to maintain your ad ranking plus $0.01.

In the example we had before, this means:

  • Advertiser 3 ends up paying $1.91. It needs 19 to maintain it’s ad ranking (as advertiser 2 has 18), so the formula to calculate the actual cost per click is: (19/10)+$0.01 = $1.91.

  • Then, Advertiser 2 pays $1.51 (9/6 + $0.01).

  • Advertiser 4 pays $0.63.

  • Lastly, Advertiser 1 pays their maximum CPC, which is $4.

Note: all of these calculations are based on the information that is available. The actual formula that Google uses to determine ad ranking and cost per click is a secret.

How to improve Quality Score

If you can increase the relevance of your campaign, you will get higher Quality Scores.

This will significantly decrease your cost per click so that you can squeeze more clicks and conversions out of your budget.

There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Fine-tuning your keyword list. 
    You can run a search query report to see the search queries that triggered your keywords. Adding new keywords to your campaign will allow writing more specific ad copy’s.

  2. Adding negative keywords.
    You can add negative keywords to ensure your keywords won’t get triggered for irrelevant search queries and improve your click-through rates.

  3. Testing ad copy’s.
    You should write ad copy’s for each ad group individually and start testing them. Then, remove ad copy’s that have a low click-through rate and focus on the ones with a high CTR.

  4. Optimising landing pages.
    Send your visitors to a relevant page on your website based on the search query that they’ve typed in. Also, follow best practices for your landing pages.

Following these steps can improve your Google Quality Score, meaning you can get higher ad rankings and more value for your buck.



Jeroen Minks

With over 10 years experience in digital marketing, Jeroen helps businesses to get more results out of their online advertising budgets.