If you’re running a search engine advertising (pay per click) campaign, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “quality score”. But like many small business owners, you may be wondering what quality score is, and what exactly it means to your search engine advertising campaign. Quality score is an important factor that affects your search advertising, so here are a few things you need to know about it.
What is Quality Score?
Quality score is a rank of how relevant and useful a search engine thinks your business is to someone searching for your products and services online, which impacts both the cost and rank of your pay per click ads. Search engines evaluate your text ad(s), keywords, and landing page, and the higher your score, the more relevant your business appears to be to a related search.
How Does Quality Score Affect My Search Advertising Campaign?
Your quality score affects a number of factors related to your search engine advertising campaign, including the actual cost-per-click of your keywords, the minimum bid estimates of your keywords, and the position of your text ad on the search engine results page. Higher quality scores tend to result in lower cost-per-click as well as lower bid estimates for your text ad to appear on the first page or in the top position on the page. A high quality score means it’s cheaper and easier for your ad to appear in a prominent position when someone searches for your keywords.
How is Quality Score Calculated?
Search engines evaluate a variety of factors when determining your quality score, including your keywords’ clickthrough rate (CTR) history, the quality of your landing page, the relevance of your text ad, and the relevance of the keywords you are bidding on. Google has recently addressed some of these factors that go into determining quality score:
Keywords play a major role in determining quality score. Google Performance Specialist Tanmay Arora addressed how keyword relevance is determined, including:
- Keyword Relevance: Keyword relevance is not just determined by a keyword's presence or frequency on the landing page, but also how appropriate Google thinks consumers will find the keyword in relation to the content on the landing page.
- Historical Performance: When you bid on a keyword, Google assigns it a base quality score based on its historical performance on Google’s search engine, looking at factors such as the keyword's clickthrough rate for other search campaigns. Quality score is re-evaluated over time as it gathers data from your campaign.
- Clickthrough Rate: Google takes into account the exact match clickthrough rate, or the number of times the keyword triggers a search ad when the keyword exactly matched a search term and was clicked on by the consumer who searched for the term.
Text ad relevance is also a key factor in determining quality score. In addition to bidding on keywords, you should also include a primary keyword in your text ad. Search engines like Google factor the overall effectiveness of your ad, including how often it is served in relation to a search query as well as how many clicks it receives when displayed on the search engine results page, into your quality score.
In addition, Google recently announced that landing page quality would have more weight in determining the quality score of a text ad. It’s extremely important for your landing page to display content that a user would expect to see after clicking on your ad, like content related to the topic of your ad such as product or service information.
According to Google’s director of product development Jonathan Alferness, Google’s intent with this factor is to improve the user’s experience when clicking the text ad and visiting the business’ website. According to Alferness, this change means “pages that seem to be about the topic of the user’s search will do better here [on Google’s sponsored results] than general landing pages.”
How Can I Improve My Quality Score?
Because there’s no public formula to tell us exactly how search engines calculate quality score – only an estimate – there is also no single way to improve your quality score. However, there are some best practices you can follow.
Search engines are looking to see how well your keywords, text ads, and landing page work together in getting a consumer to the right place. Because broad keywords are typically more competitive, it’s in your best interest to bid on some geo-targeted and long-tail keywords related to your business. Using local and product- or service-specific keywords in your text ad can help your ad appear in the sponsored results when someone searches for those terms.
For instance, if a consumer searches for “organic fertilizer Houston”, a text ad has a higher chance of showing up if the business is bidding on an exact or closely related keyword, rather than a general keyword like “gardening.” In this example, this likelihood is further improved if the text ad also contains content related to the topic of organic fertilizer in Houston.
It would also boost the campaign's quality score if the landing page linked to from that text ad is related to gardening supplies in Houston. If you include any offers on your ad, like “get a free lawn evaluation”, content related to that offer should also appear on your landing page to increase your text ad effectiveness.
Have you taken steps to increase your search engine quality score? What keyword, text and, or landing page tips have you implemented that have improved the performance your search engine advertising campaign?
Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media, and content marketing as a writer for the ReachLocal blog.
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