Quality score is an important metric when managing PPC campaigns. However, not every advertiser will be able to achieve 7/10 or 10/10 no matter how hard they try. This article is for those of you losing sleep over trying to achieve the almost impossible…

For some advertisers, achieving high quality scores is easy. They’re in a pretty straightforward industry, they’re a Ronseal type brand where search intent is single-minded and the user journey through to the site is one a searcher would expect. Bingo, and lucky you if that’s your business.

However, for many advertisers, they compete in search landscapes where the intent is not always easy to ascertain and they often find themselves competing against businesses that are not direct competitors. It is these advertisers that find themselves in the perils of low quality scores, struggling to work their way up the ladder or questioning whether they should.

To be pretty candid about search ad platforms, sometimes your keywords will never achieve high quality scores. Despite being right for the advertiser who is bidding on them, the ambiguity of the term will mean for any given search result the user choosing to click may be looking for something different to what is being offered in ads. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to bid on them, but you should manage your expectations on what is possible.

Quality score is calculated based on the combined performance of three components, and is a measure of how relevant and useful your ad and landing page is for a specific keyword, compared to other advertisers.

  1. Expected click-through rate (CTR): The likelihood that your ad will be clicked when shown
  2. Ad relevance: How closely your ad matches the intent behind a user's search
  3. Landing page experience: How relevant and useful your landing page is to people who click your ad

Within the ad platform it is possible to find out whether Google has graded your ad relevance, landing page experience and expected CTR as poor, average, good or excellent. If you find you have low quality scores you can usually deduce which component(s) are the culprit in order to address them.

Unfortunately, you may be in a situation where you don’t want to buy every click, you can’t improve your landing page or you can’t directly align to the search term in your ad. When this happens you will have to concede that you will need to pay for the privilege of appearing in ad results.

Here are a couple of examples:

A review company wants to attract business professionals to buy its review software. It targets phrases like ‘customer feedback’ and ‘reviews’ however not every click comes from a business professional. Unsurprisingly consumers are searching these phrases and clicking on ads to leave a review, costing the business money and raising their CPAs.

  • To deter some of these clickers the ad text has been given a commercial lens, in an attempt to put off consumers and attract only professionals. However, this leads to lower CTRs…


  • If we were to push for maximum relevancy and win every click possible we would be hiking up their click costs and ruining cost efficiency, which may in turn require them to revisit their CPA expectations

A KYC platform is looking to generate leads from people interested in KYC technology. Targeting [kyc] offers them a search audience who are aware of the topic but due to close match variant matching a single keyword is matching against 100s of different search terms. No surprise that this carries a 3/10 QS with exp. CTR ‘below average’, ad relevance ‘average’, and landing page experience ‘below average.’ Their ad text contains KYC, and their landing page communicates their business proposition connected to KYC and yet, how can they achieve a higher QS if they've done all they can to be relevant (within reason).

Perhaps these scenarios seem familiar?

Since Google is pushing for control over your campaigns and reducing your ability to control, it’s even harder to align keyword to ad to landing page on head terms, and ensuring optimum relevancy for your business, and thus making it even harder to achieve strong quality scores.

So what should you do?

Take a look at your account with a fresh pair of eyes and identify those keywords which carry low quality scores. Put these keywords, your ad text and landing page experiences into contextual situations and deduce whether you can improve your scores, but without unnecessarily buying clicks and misleading searchers with inaccurate information, just to achieve a better QS.

Set expectations on what scores you should aim for, and top any impression share deficit up with bid increases. After all, it would be better to pay more for the traffic you really want rather than pay less per click for lots of irrelevant traffic but spend more in the process.

Our approach to quality score

Our approach to quality score centres on the foundations of a good account build ensuring relevance in all elements we can control – keywords, ad text and landing pages. A good quality score is then a happy by-product of tending to these elements.

  • Avoid excessive broad/phrase matching, as these tend to carry lower quality scores, opting for an exact match preference. (Be mindful that Google is matching with more close variants than ever before even on exact match terms)
  • Negative keyword lists are regularly updated via search query report analysis to ensure money isn’t wasted on irrelevant terms and relevancy isn’t affected by poor matching
  • Campaign and ad group structures are well-maintained and clearly organised to improve account organisation and also reduce getting muddled with duplication and inter-account bidding
  • Landing pages are reviewed for relevance against the search term – we assess whether tweaks need to be made to the page title, body content or call to action that improves the on-site experience. With our inhouse technical team we can also review factors such as page speed which can also play a factor in QS and overall conversion rates

Our SEO team have been known to get involved here to aid in the optimisation of landing pages from keyword density, URL structure and asset optimisation through to technical signals and page layout.

  • Implementing fresh ad text at regular intervals when CTRs start to drop, or other advertisers have copy which is more impactful (regular ad text testing can help performance as well).

Above all, attention is always focused on the priority terms and campaigns first, as these will have the biggest impact on performance, the higher traffic terms will then naturally be second in line, then terms with high impressions but low clicks etc.

Ultimately, the biggest element of quality score is CTR which is determined by relevancy of what you sell to what someone is looking for. So being relevant and specific with keywords and ad copy is the priority. However, we always try to ensure that the traffic being received is the right quality, so whilst a high CTR (and high Q/S) may seem lovely, if it generates lots of traffic and no sales we would question its feasibility in the account.

Good luck optimising your quality scores, but don’t lose sleep over lower ones when you’ve done everything you can to buy the right clicks.

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Meet the author ...

Kherrin Wade

Strategy Director

Kherrin works with clients to develop effective marketing strategies, whether that's introducing brands to digital for the first time or pushing the boundaries with more ...