Guide to Reverse-engineering Your Google Ads Quality Score

I use no-nonsense and established methodologies that I have tested for YEARS to improve the bottom line of my clients

Guide to Reverse-engineering Your Google Ads Quality Score

“Quality Score” might sound like a fake term someone came up with just to mess with advertisers. But on Google Ads, it’s a very real thing, and it’s an important part of determining your ad’s performance.

If your Quality Score dips too low, for instance, your click-through rate (CTR) and your rank in search results can seriously suffer. On the other hand, a high Quality Score can forecast a better ad position and lower cost-per-click, resulting in bigger returns for less money.

No matter how enigmatic this whole Quality Score thing might seem, it’s important to understand exactly what it means, how it impacts your budget, and what you can do to score big.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Your Quality Score, Really?

Your Quality Score is a number from one to ten, with ten being the best score you can get. It’s assigned to each keyword individually, and it is generated every time a keyword matches a user’s search query. Breaking this down further, your Quality Score provides an overview of your ad performance based on three elements, which are assigned a status of above average, average, or below average. These elements are:

  • Expected CTR: How likely it is that people will click on your ad
  • Ad relevance: The relevance of each keyword to its ad group
  • Landing page experience: Measures the users’ landing page experience

Altogether, these components really boil down to one thing: user experience. Do your ads answer users’ search queries? Do your landing pages follow through on the promise of your ads? Are your ads high-quality enough to generate clicks? Put user experience first, and you should be rewarded with a high Quality Score.

Why Is Your Quality Score So Important?

A high Quality Score can mean lower costs and better rank. But here’s the tricky part: your Quality Score isn’t meant to tell you how your ads performed. Rather, it should show you where there’s room for improvement, and help you anticipate how your ads might perform if you don’t make certain changes. As Google notes, it’s “like an engine warning light that shows how healthy your ads and keywords are.”

That being said, these three components that make up your Quality Score can affect your Ad Rank. (A refresher: your Ad Rank determines your ad position, and it’s calculated every time someone’s search triggers your ad.) For instance, even if you bid higher than your competitors, Google might reward you with a low cost-per-click if you have a high expected CTR and a super-relevant ad.

It should be noted, however, that these three components aren’t the end-all-be-all for your Ad Rank. Some other factors are also taken into account, including the device, time, and location of the user’s query.

Quality Score is factored in to determine ad rank in three different way:

  1. Ad Rank = CPC bid × Quality Score
  2. Ad Rank = Display Network bid × Quality Score
  3. Ad Rank = Bid × Quality Score

How Do You Check Your Quality Score?

You can check your Quality Score quickly as follows:

  • Sign into your Google Ads account.
  • Choose the “Campaigns” tab.
  • Click “Keywords.”
  • Select the speech bubble icon next to any keyword’s status.
  • View the breakdown of your keyword’s Quality Score.

To make this easier going forward, you can add a Quality Score column to your table by doing this:

  • Choose the “Campaigns” tab.
  • Select “Keywords.”
  • Click the “Columns” drop-down menu.
  • Choose “Modify columns.”
  • Click “Attributes.”
  • Find “Qual. score” and click the arrow button to add it.
  • Save your settings.

As a note, new keywords might not have Quality Scores because they don’t have enough performance data yet. Their Quality Score will simply show up as “—”.

How Do You Reverse-engineer Your Quality Score?

Not happy with your Quality Score? Don’t worry. There are several strategies you can use to bump up that number and improve your ad health. To focus your attention in the right place, check out which of your three Quality Score components are listed as “average” or “below average,” and start from there.

Just remember: In the end, this isn’t about scoring a perfect ten. It’s about creating the most relevant and user-friendly ads that drive high-quality clicks and conversions for your business. And even if you already have a perfect ten, there are always ways to improve your ad performance.

Here’s how you can do it.

Pause Low-Performing Keywords

Since each keyword is assigned a Quality Score, it’s easy to find the ones that aren’t pulling their weight. Start by pausing those keywords right away and moving them to their own ad group. Here’s how:

  • Sign into your Google Ads account.
  • Go to “Campaigns” and then “Keywords.”
  • Check your Quality Score for each keyword.
  • Find a keyword with a below average CTR and ad relevance.
  • Choose the green dot next to the keyword and click “Pause.”
  • Copy the keyword.
  • Click the “Ad groups” tab.
  • Select the red “+ AD GROUP” button.
  • Choose a campaign.
  • Create your new ad group built specifically around that keyword.

In layman’s terms, this keyword now has room to shine. In the other ad group, it was buried by high-performing and highly relevant keywords. It just wasn’t working , and it was pulling time away from the keywords that were working. By giving this keyword its own group, you have a chance to build an ad specifically for this keyword. If the keyword performs and generates an average or above average CTR or ad relevance, then great! Keep the ad group running and try adding similar keywords. If not, it’s probably time to scrap the keyword altogether.

Group Relevant Keywords Together

Speaking of suitable groups, it’s a common mistake to include too many keywords in one ad group (5-20 is usually recommended). In this case, you might be working with the right keywords for your brand, but they’re just not organized effectively.

For example: you created an ad that’s marketed to millennials. Don’t use an ad group that includes keywords for baby boomers and Gen Xers. Those keywords won’t perform well in this group because they won’t match up with the ad copy that’s written for millennials. Instead, split your ad groups up by factors such as demographics and product types.

If your company sells bathing suits, for example, you might split up your ad groups as follows: women’s bathing suits, men’s bathing suits, women’s athletic swimwear, and men’s athletic swimwear. This way, each ad can be specifically targeted to users who search for those terms. This will help increase your ad relevance and CTR, and improve your Quality Score.

Refine Your Ad Copy

In order to have an above-average ad relevance and expected CTR, your ad copy must match up with your customers’ search queries. This way, when people see your ad, they’ll be more likely to click on it. It’s a simple rule, but one that’s easy to gloss over when going through the complex process of setting up your ads.

When it comes to ad text, it might seem like you don’t have a lot of real estate to work with. That’s why it’s important to make sure you can get a strong message across in just a handful of words. As a refresher, here is a template for your ad copy, including the landing page URL, headlines, and description:

So, how do you create more compelling ad copy? Here are a few things your can do:

  • Tell customers how they can take action.
  • Ex: “Click to read more,” “Order today!”
  • Share what makes your brand unique.
  • Ex: “Rated #1 in the industry,” “24/7 customer service.”
  • Integrate keywords into your copy.
  • Ex: “Men’s work boots to keep you on your feet,” “Music wherever you go with wireless bluetooth speakers.”
  • Advertise special offers and deals.
  • Ex: “30-day free trial,” “10% off this season.”
  • Address the customer directly.
  • Ex: “Find your perfect gift now,” “The solution you need.”

If your CTR is still below average, your competitors might be getting those missing clicks. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to see how your ads looks in search results compared to your competitors’ ads. When you go to check your Quality Score for a certain keyword, a pop-up box will show you the breakdown of your three main components. Underneath them, click “Ad Preview and Diagnosis.”

Here’s an example of a preview for the keyword “content marketing platform.”

Once you see your ad preview, check out the copy your competitors are using. Are their keywords more descriptive? Are they offering special deals or lower prices? Are they getting higher ranks because of their compelling copy? Of course, you don’t want to steal their messaging. But you can study it to get a better idea of how you can level the playing field and beat the competition.

For instance, if you’re responsible for the fourth ad in the image above, you can quickly see that the three ads above yours all include the keyword “content marketing,” but yours doesn’t. Try inserting that keyword into your copy. It should improve your ad relevance and CTR.

Optimize Your Landing Pages

Your landing pages should load quickly and be easy to navigate so users don’t get frustrated and leave your website. This is especially important for mobile devices when people have an array of apps in the palm of their hand. If they’re giving you a chance to capture their attention, make sure you’re ready to deliver what they want.

To find out if your site is mobile-friendly, run it through Google’s testing system.

Once you know that your site is mobile-friendly, take these steps to polish your landing page:

  • Match your page with your keywords and ad copy. If someone searches for women’s motorcycle jackets and sees an ad for women’s motorcycle jackets, they should be taken to a landing page with more information about women’s motorcycle jackets.
  • Don’t overload your page with graphics, text, or pop-ups. Keep it simple and easy to understand.
  • Make sure your information is up-to-date. This includes product availability and timely promotions.

For instance, I started a Google search for “car insurance quote.” The first ad that popped up was from Geico. The headline read: “GEICO Car Insurance – GEICO could save you over $500.” I clicked the link and was taken to this landing page:

It’s simple, informative, and easy-to-navigate. With just one box in the center of the page, it draws me right to the information I need. It has the company name, so I know I’m in the right place. It says “car insurance” and “start your quote,” so it matches my search query. And it even includes a few follow-up facts about how the brand can help me save money. Perhaps most importantly, the next steps are clear. All I have to do is fill in my zip code and click the button, and I’m on my way to getting my quote—exactly what I asked for.

For more guidance, check out our breakdown of what a perfect landing page looks like.

A/B Test Ads for Higher Click-through Rates

You can invest hours of research time, but there’s no way to know how many clicks your ad will get until you put it out into the world. That’s where A/B testing comes in. A/B testing involves launching two different ads, each with a small variation, such as the headline, description or call-to-action. They’re easy to launch, and can be done on a budget. All you have to do is put a bit of money behind each ad, and run them for a day or so. After this short amount of time, you’ll have generated hard data about how your creative is performing. From there, you can phase out the underperforming ads or fix them until they engage your customers.

For example, if you want to A/B test your ad headline, you might want to see if customers respond better to a statement or a question. So, run both at the same time and see which has the most clicks.

Once you understand what your audience responds to, you can start to customize your ads to their interests. Not only will this help improve your CTR, but it will also give you the information you need to write better ads going forward.

Creating High-Quality, Relevant Ads

Your Quality Score can be an incredibly helpful tool for understanding your ad health. After all, it takes something pretty complex and distills it down to a single number from one to ten. Thankfully, there are a handful of strategies you can use to reverse-engineer your Quality Score and optimize your ad experience, thus creating a win-win situation for both you and your customers.