On a Scale of 1-10, How Important is Quality Score?
Quality Score is a measure of the quality, relevance and performance of individual keywords in paid search (PPC). Over the years, Google has been characteristically evasive when it comes to defining the precise metrics contributing to this mysterious benchmark, leaving search marketing experts to run their own tests and squabble amongst themselves. However, in June this year, Google attempted to dispel the controversy with a white paper that addresses questions such as: how important is Quality Score for PPC? Which factors does Quality Score take into account?
First of all, let’s break down the intention behind Quality Score in a little more detail. As with organic search, Google’s goal is to provide the user with the most relevant content available in response to any given search query. In order to measure the relevancy of paid ads, an algorithm is applied to rate how useful each ad is in relation to the search queries that bring them up.
However, unlike organic search, money is involved. And generally speaking, the higher your Quality Score the lower your spend, and the more prevalent your ads.
This has led many PPC experts to invest virtually all their time and energy in pursuing that magic number 10. But to what extent is ‘chasing the number’, as Google puts it, a good way to spend your valuable time and resources? How important is Quality Score compared to other performance metrics?
The Importance of Quality Score
According to Google, Quality Score is important insofar as a warning light is useful in a car’s engine. That is to say, it is useful as a signal, but it’s not the be all and end all, and should not be revered to the exclusion of individual KPIs such as click through rate, cost per click and conversions.
What Quality Score can tell us is how a given keyword is doing in terms of the ‘Big Three’ performance metrics– those which are said to determine the placement of paid ads in the sponsored listings. These include:
- Click through rate (CTR): how often (in percent) the ad is clicked on when it comes up in the search engine results
- Relevance: how relevant the keyword is to its ad group
- Landing page quality: how well targeted the landing page is, and how far it satisfies the user’s requirements
So in order to ensure a successful paid search campaign, the content of your ads and landing pages needs to be compelling, relevant and specific to the search queries you are targeting. In other words, your ads need to be crafted in such a way that people can find exactly what they’re looking for straight away and are compelled to click on your link rather than elsewhere.
For example, an ad that includes the keyword ‘asian fusion restaurant in leeds’ is likely to have a far higher Quality Score than one that employs a more generic keyword such as ‘restaurant in leeds’. A compelling call to action can improve the CTR, while a relevant and well optimised landing page tells the search engines that you’re providing users with the best solution to their search query.
Other Important Factors Contributing to Quality Score
Google has confirmed that geographical location is taken into account in the Quality Score, so if you’re a local business, it may be worthwhile mentioning this in the ad and landing page content. Historical account performance is also important, meaning that if you add a new keyword to your account, existing, related keywords will affect the rating of that new keyword. Another contributing factor is how well your ad is targeted to a given device. So mobile ads should be targeted specifically to mobile devices, and should lead to mobile-optimised landing pages.
There may well be other factors contributing to Quality Score. For example, there are rumours in the search engine marketing community that conversions might have an impact, but no definitive conclusions have been drawn on this matter.
So, in sum: Quality Score is an important tool to gauge the success and profitability of your PPC campaign. If you have good Quality Scores, chances are you’re getting a pretty decent ROI. However, it should be treated as a guide only as opposed to the sole indicator of your PPC performance. For the best results, I recommend that you follow Google’s advice: ‘give your users what they need, and a great Quality Score should follow’.
Source: Settling the (Quality) Score: Using Quality Score to Guide Optimizations. AdWords Best Practices Series, 24/6/2014. http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/settling-the-quality-score-whitepaper-final.pdf