The importance of Googles quality score has become the single most important factor in maximising performance and profitability of ppc campaigns. The pay per click landscape has become more competitive than ever before and with Yahoos new Panama ad platform moving towards embracing a ‘quality’ based algo, understanding the quality score will become more essential than ever for search marketeers and businesses alike.

The difficulty in really understanding the Google Quality Score algo, is the lack of transparency shown by Google, especially with introductions such as the new landing page quality update. So what do we actually know about Quality Score? How can adwords Quality Score be maximised to increase profitability? How do I know what Google deems as ‘quality’? Lets look at this from the begining.

Quality Score

What is the Google Quality Score?

“Quality Score is the basis for measuring the quality and relevance of your ads and determining your minimum CPC bid for Google and the search network. To encourage relevant and successful ads within AdWords, our system defines a Quality Score to set your keyword status, minimum CPC bid, and ad rank for the ad auction”.

What factors influence Quality Score?

  • CTR on Google.com
  • Ad Copy
  • Ad text relevance to query
  • Historical keyword performance
  • More recent history (Google places more emphasis on recent history or CTR data than long term data)
  • Landing Page Quality (This only directly effects minimum cpc)
  • Other relevancy factors. “There are over 100 factors that can affect quality score. However, not all will be triggered depending on the conditions involved.”

What is the Quality Score forumla?

Quality Score = (keyword’s CTR, ad text relevance, keyword relevance, landing page relevance)*

Multiple Quality Scores

Although Google speak of a ‘Quality Score’, many advertisers do not understand that QS is actually held at multiple levels which act in different ways. Quality Scores are held at the following levels -

1) At Account level – Determined by combination and overall peformance of keywords including (CTR) and history. Quality Score is held here for individual keywords, so if they are moved from campaign A to campaign B, it will still have the same past QS. Spend has been rumoured to be part of the equation, I don’t buy it personally…

2) For the Google Search Network – A Quality Score is held seperately for the search network which inturn applies to keyword & minimum cpc quality scores (below).

3) At Adgroup level for Content – Determined by ad groups overall average keywords performance, along with CTR, ad copy, history and other relevancy factors.

4) At Keyword Level – A Quality Score is given and held by individual keywords weighted by their individual performance to the QS factors above.

5) Quality Score Based Min CPC- This is measured by evaluation of keywords in your account, the relevant adgroup, advert relevance, CTR and history. More and more importantly, landing page quality has become a major factor in determining minimum bid prices.

6) Landing Page Quality Score – Google have introduced landing page quality score that directly influences your keywords minimum cost per click.

The New Landing Page Quality Score

Currently landing page quality only influences minimum cpcs and is not part of the ad rank algo (we will get to that). If you read my interview with Graywolf about the whole landing page quality update, you will know that having the landing page quality as a independant factor which only determines min cpc means that advertisers can still rank if they were prepared to pay the price for it.

So how is landing page quality calculated & how can I improve it?

It’s the million dollar question of the moment. Take a read of Googles guidelines for creating a high quality landing page. Their emphasis is on user experience, responsibility & security to the user. Tips include -

  • Provide relevant, unique and substantial content on the product or service.
  • If your site displays advertising, distinguish sponsored links from the rest of your site content or think about removing completely.
  • Add an ‘about us’ page
  • Add a short privacy policy
  • Add details on returns / refunds
  • Add a contact details page
  • Think about linking out to relevant respectable authority sites

Quality Score, Ranking and CPC

So Google has applied and measured a Quality Score to just about everything, how does this fit in with ranking and the price I pay per click?

Ad Rank

How does Google rank Adverts for Search?

“Keyword-targeted ads are ranked on search result pages based on their maximum cost-per-click (CPC) and the keyword’s quality score on Google.com. (For the top positions above Google search results, we use the actual CPC.)”

What is the Forumla for Search Ad rank?

Ad Rank = CPC X Quality Score

So is ad rank for content different?

For a keyword-targeted ad’s position on a content page, Google looks at:

  • The ad group’s content bid or, if content bids aren’t enabled, its maximum CPC.
  • The ad’s past performance on this and similar sites.
  • The relevance of the ad’s landing page.

Actual CPC

So how does ad rank and Quality Score effect the actual price I pay?

In determing the actual cpc you pay for a click (rather than the max cpc), Google will look at your ad rank and quality score against those in direct competition.

“The actual CPC that each advertiser pays is the minimum amount needed to maintain a rank number higher than the next lower ad”.

What’s the forumla for actual cpc?

Actual CPC = Ad rank of below advertiser / Your Quality Score + 0.1p

The actual cost per click calculation is determined by the ad rank of the advertiser directly below you, divided by your own Quality Score + 1p.

Take a look at Googles own actual cpc example here. As you can see, the actual cpc you pay can be lower than those who rank below you, as in the case of advertiser B.

The Future of Google Quality Score

Google are testing the introduction of a visible Quality Score, to help advertisers understand where they need to improve. But will this really tell us anymore than we can probably already work out ourselves? Will this clear up the lack of transparancy in some aspects of the algo such as landing page quality? Undoubtably no.

Another big change for Quality Score will be the inclusion of landing page quality into the algo for ad rank rather than just setting bid prices. The landing page algo update has mystified many advertisers, so how will this impact ad ranking when its included?

Are we getting to pent up about Quality Score? Should we just concentrate on user experience & good business practices which will in turn maximise profitability anyway? Heh.

Still confused about Quality Score? I have listed some great links from Google that should provide light on each key area further.

Quality Score

Quality Performance overview
Quality & Performance Factors

Landing Page Quality

Landing Page Quality Overview
Landing Page Quality in the Learning Center

Ad Rank

Ad rank & Ad Position Overview
Ad ranking in the Learning Center

Actual CPC Formula
Actual CPC Forumla Explained
Pricing & ranking in the Learning Center

TroubleShooting – Keywords, Ads, Landing Pages & minimum CPC.