This post is all about Quality Score (A.K.A – QS): What’s QS, how it is calculated, and how understanding it can help you save a lot of money.
Quality Score, according to Google, is “An estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing page”. In other words, quality score is the metric Google uses to tell you if they’re happy with your Keyword–Ad–Landing Page combination. They don’t explain exactly how they calculate it or what’s the balance between these three parameters, but most PPC managers have a pretty good guess of which one is the most important.
Anyway, here is a quick review on these 3 magical elements (Abracadabra):
- Expected CTR – try to think about your campaigns from Google’s point of view. Like any other company, Google’s goal is to make as much profit as possible. If nobody will click on ads, Google isn’t gonna get paid. So… basically, CTR is the main issue here (some say that it’s about 65% of the QS, others say it’s closer to 90% and some even say that CTR is all that matters).
- Ad Relevancy – which directly affects the CTR, when searching for a new cellphone to purchase you’re much less likely to click on an ad promoting a hair product.
- Landing Page Experience – from about a million tests I’ve done over the last 3 years I can tell you for sure that LP Experience has almost no effect on the quality score. Needless to say that a good LP experience will help you get more conversions (and if done wisely, even better conversions!), which is the whole purpose of your campaign.
[tweetthis]Like any other company, Google’s goal is to make as much #profit as possible. #PPC[/tweetthis]
Quick myth busting: I heard many PPC Managers say that the higher your bid is, the higher your Quality Score will be (because your position will be better, consequently increasing your CTR). It basically makes sense, except for the fact that Google compares your CTR with other advertisers competing with you on the same position. Long story short: your position (or bid) doesn’t affect your QS.
To begin with, why is Quality Score so important?
Quality Score is part of a term called ‘Ad Rank’. Ad Rank is calculated by multiplying your bid by your QS. Every time a user performs a search, each advertiser gets an Ad Rank. The advertiser with the highest rank goes to the 1st position, the second goes after him and so on.
Your actual CPC will be the result of:
(the Ad Rank of the ad below yours / your QS) + 0.01
This means that if your quality score is 1, you’ll pay about 10 times more per click (for the same position) than if your QS was 10!
[tweetthis]Improving your quality score has the potential of saving you a lot of money. #QS[/tweetthis]
Improving your quality score has the potential of saving you a lot of money, and that’s one great reason you should strive to do it.
Getting to the interesting part:
Everything I’ll explain from now on has been tested by yours truly many times (and you’re more than welcome to check it yourself). When I first tried it and it worked, I was certain that there was some sort of mistake or that I just got lucky. When it kept working repeatedly time after time, I figured out that I was onto something really cool. I found that the average QS in every campaign is somewhere around 5. It might be 4 or 6, but I never saw a campaign with average QS of much more or less than that. And that’s exactly the key for the way to manipulate Google to grant you higher Quality Scores.
Average QS in different accounts:
[tweetthis]When I first tried it and it worked, I was sure that there was some sort of mistake or that I just got lucky. #PPC[/tweetthis]
Average QS in a Google Grants campaign:
- Choose a large search campaign and download all of your keyword data, the time range doesn’t matter that much, but in order to keep it as updated as possible, use data from no earlier than 3-4 months ago (Make sure that the ‘Quality Score’ and ‘Max CPC’ columns are added to the report).
Why use only large campaigns? It’s recommended to use large campaigns so you won’t find yourself with a new campaign containing very few keywords.
- On an Excel spreadsheet, filter out any keywords with QS greater than 1. Why not use keyword with QS of 2? Well, what we’re doing here is we’re using a method designed in a way that can only improve or maintain your current status. QS 2 can be decreased to 1, yet, the worst thing that can happen to a keyword with QS 1 is that it can stay with the same score.
- Keep the keywords in the same ad group as they were before,
and upload them to a new campaign using the AdWords Editor.
- Download the old campaign’s ads data from AdWords.
- Choose the best performing ad (my method is – multiplying every ad’s CTR by its Conversion Rate – highest score wins) from every ad group that had a keyword with QS 1 and upload them to the new campaign you set up (don’t forget to add another variation for the ads you uploaded so you’ll have at least 2 ads in each ad group).
- Post the new campaign, wait a few days and check your QS.
- Be amazed.
Why does it work that way?
I’m afraid I don’t have a bullet proof answer. I tried to figure it out many times and never got a conclusive answer other than the fact that it just does. One of my theories is that when Google assigns you a quality score, it’s not just comparing you with other advertisers but it also compares keywords within your campaign itself.
One more cool thing you can show your client, boss or just use as an ego boost:
You can easily estimate how much money you saved by using the following steps.
Just one quick clarification before we’ll move on:
Theoretically, your Quality Score is calculated every time your ad gets an impression. Most of the time it doesn’t change your score, so there is no point in following these changes. If for some reason you’re running a script that’s tracking your QS changes – it will only drive you insane due to all the frequent changes.
Why did I tell you that? Because if you want to calculate what you saved, you must use your current QS and compare it with the first one (1). Yet, the fact that now your score is 5, doesn’t necessarily mean that it was 5 all along.
[tweetthis]You can easily estimate how much money you saved by using this Quality Score Optimization technique.[/tweetthis]
Here are the required steps to make the estimation:
- Download your all-time keyword data from the new campaign (make sure that your report contains the QS Column)
- On a new column, multiply your (Avg. CPC minus 0.01) by the number of clicks this keyword got.
- Multiply the number you got on the last section by your current QS minus 1 (which is the difference between your new QS and the old one)
- That’s how much money you saved on this keyword only. Sum up the numbers for all the keywords and you’ll get a great reason to feel pretty good about yourself.
Important: Make sure to leave the keywords in the original campaign as well. Since the average is always around 5, if you’ll remove the “bad” keywords from the original campaign, its average QS will improve for a day or two, but then it will get down to its original state, meaning that high QS keywords will lose some of their score in order to help the campaign get closer to 5 again.
I hope this technique proves useful for any of you who actually go ahead and try it out. Feel free to post any comments or questions you may have about it down here, at the comments section.
After you’ve successfully raised your campaign’s Quality Score – please be nice & share it with any colleagues or friends who may be struggling with upgrading theirs.
Also published on Medium.