Have you ever asked your marketing agency, “How is my paid search account performing?” and been bombarded with what feels like hundreds of different metrics that are all insightful but take a Ph.D. in analytics to fully understand? If you answered “Yes!” to that question, this article is for you. I’m going to break down quality score — a critical score that can tell you a lot about how your account is set up and is typically indicative of the performance and efficiency of your paid search campaigns.
Quality score is a 1-10 score that is assigned to every keyword within your paid search account on Google and Bing. The purpose of quality score is to help the search engines weed out poor-performing advertisers that deliver sub-par experiences for online searchers, and reward those that provide an outstanding experience. As you can imagine, 1 is the lowest score possible and 10 is the best.
For example, a quality score of 1 might look something like this: Janet is searching for a new 2019 Toyota 4Runner on Google. She is served an ad that reads: “Ford Repair Shop — Factory-certified technicians and genuine OEM replacement parts.” The ad then lands on a service specials page for a Ford dealership. This would clearly be a poor user experience if Janet clicks on the ad, as she would be landing on a completely irrelevant landing page and would likely bounce off the site. On the flip side, a 10-quality score experience would be if Janet searched for a new 2019 Toyota 4Runner, and was served an ad that read something like: “New 2019 Toyota 4Runner — Over 100 new 4Runner SUVs in stock. Choose from the largest inventory in San Francisco today!” This ad then clicks through to the inventory listings page of all the new 4Runners in stock.
At the end of the day, Google and Bing can only make money if they keep users coming back to use their search engines. Poor user experiences like the 1-quality score example above will wear down consumers, and over time they will find alternative search engines to find the information they need. This is why Google and Bing both utilize the quality score system.
The primary factors that influence quality scores are historical click-through rate, keyword relevance as it relates to the ad group, ad text relevance and the relevance and quality of the landing page. All of these factors can be easily optimized on the advertiser’s end, and Google/Bing will let you know if there is a particular factor that is negatively impacting your quality score. So, if you are looking to improve your quality scores, dive into the ad, keyword and landing page relevancy rankings at the keyword level.
Why is this important to you, as the advertiser? Quality score is a major influencer in where your ad is placed on the page, relative to other advertisers within the auction. This is called Ad rank. Ad rank is calculated by multiplying the quality score by the max CPC bid for a given search query. So, if your quality score is a 10, and you are bidding $2 max CPC, your ad rank is 20. Another advertiser might have a quality score of 4 but is willing to pay a $4 max CPC, putting their ad rank at 16. In this example, your ad would rank above theirs. Not only would your ad have ranked above theirs, but you would pay less for the click, despite the other advertiser bidding 2x your max CPC. This is due to the second-price auction that both Google and Bing deploy for their paid search auctions.
So, how do you see your quality scores for your paid search accounts? First thing’s first, it is important to note that Google and Bing report on quality score differently. Google only provides quality score data at the keyword level, meaning you cannot see a rollup at the account or campaign level. So what you would need to do is pull a keyword report containing impressions and quality score, and get a weighted average for quality score by impressions. This will give you the best picture of how a particular campaign ranks for quality score, based on the keywords that actually garner search activity.
Bing, on the other hand, reports on quality score all the way up to the account level, so you can easily pull quality score into an account, campaign, ad group or keyword-level report. If you would like to analyze the quality scores of your campaigns, you will need read-level access to your accounts. If you have built your own accounts, you already have the access you need. If your account was built on your behalf, you might need to request read access from your agency or ask that they provide you with a weighted quality score analysis.
I’d encourage you to dive into the quality scores for your paid search efforts. As Google is removing average position as a metric from its reporting, it is only getting more difficult to get a solid picture of where your ads rank on the SERP and how they are performing. That said, quality score is not the end-all-be-all. As any good marketer will tell you, follow the conversions! At the end of the day, sales, phone calls, form submissions and chat/text conversations are the goal, so follow those KPIs and you will be in good shape.