So what is Quality Score? People Keep Asking!

Mon 21 December 2009 15:14, Jon Myers

So what is Quality Score? People Keep Asking!

Paid Search is maybe one of the biggest industries world wide. Yet there is not much really good content on the topic if you want to know more about it. Luckily we have Jon Myers who can write about the topic extensively. In his posting "So what is Quality Score? People Keep Asking!" he adresses Quality Score in a way even those doing nothing with Paid Search will understand and like.

So what is Quality Score? People Keep Asking!
Originally posted on May 19th 2009

Every conference I go to and talk about Paid Search people still keep asking the question “What is Quality Score?, how does it work again?, what is included in it?” It seems like it has been around for so long but people are still wondering what exactly gets included in the Google search blender to come up with the scoring. I am even at the point where I am waiting for Google to ask me what I think is in it!....more than happy to tell you Big G ;)

So for my next Search Cowboys post I thought I would take it back to the start and work through to the present and along the way give you my take on exactly what Quality Score is and what you have to consider to get the most out of your Google advertising.

Paid Search has existed in the UK since 2000 and globally since 1998 in the US with a company called (remember them) now Yahoo Search Marketing. For those of you that missed it, here is where it all started. So simple yet so YELLOW!

Over the years we have seen the model move and change more rapidly than any other media available. Originally both Yahoo and Espotting (now MIVA or should I say what was MIVA L as they finally closed the other week in the UK) operated on a pure pay for position model i.e. highest bid gets the position and Microsoft did not exist in its own right for search and was powered by Yahoo….never did figured that one out. Google was the only one to adopt a model of Price v Relevancy.  

Finally from 2007 onwards Microsoft decided to operate its own Paid Search platform and all of the engines have now moved to the Price v Relevancy model. For me this present great opportunities for Search Engine marketers who are prepared to make there campaigns more structure and optimised adding great value and ultimately being rewarded for higher positions at lower Cost Per Clicks (CPC). 

I know I keep saying it, but I truly believe it! Paid Search is all about ‘Unity’ and the ability to tie your keywords to your creative’s and ultimately the Landing Page. If you can get these main three facets working with each other and not against you will see great rewards financially and in conversion allowing you greater scope within your search campaigns.

The relevancy as we have been discussing is what the likes of Google refer to as ‘Quality Score’!

Ok, search history lesson over. So what is ‘Quality Score’? As I mentioned this is a question being asked frequently to Search Marketers. Once upon a time, Google used a straightforward CTR (Click through Rate) X CPC (Cost Per Click) method of determining advertising rank.  This model has moved forward and now also includes Quality Score as part of the algorithm to determine the position (Ad Rank) and price of the click of your advertising. So how does this break down?

  • Ad Rank = CPC (Max CPC) x Quality Score
  • Keyword Quality Score for Search is determined by:

                + Click through rate
                + Overall account performance history
                + Most recent history
                + Ad copy (creative)
                + Landing Page Copy, Relevancy and Load Time
                + Other relevancy factors  (or the secret sauce as Google calls it)

OK as we all know Google has a big, you could say huge piece of not only the UK marketplace (84%) but globally as well. So sorry Yahoo and Microsoft but I am going to focus on the Big G. Google Quality score is taken and calculated from landing page relevancy, webpage loading time, Click Trough Rate (CTR), keyword relevancy & creative ad relevancy.  On top of this Google has been known to make the following statement:

“There are over 100 factors that can affect quality score. However, not all will be triggered depending on the conditions involved.” – Google Engineer.

These other factors (go figure them out if you can as I am not sure if even Google knows!) are items which you will have little or no control over, and won’t even be used at all times, therefore, it’s important not to get too concerned about this ambiguous statements as the core of PPC optimisation lies in relevancy. 

Quality score is then used to calculate CPC’s in your search account. Your CPC for a certain position will then be lowered depending on the strength of your quality score which with Google range’s from Poor, OK and Great. As mentioned Google scans the landing pages for content based on the keywords, the more relevant the keywords and the creative’s, the higher your quality score becomes and the lower your CPC can be for the same advertising position or even a higher position for a lower CPC. To prove the relevancy theories here is an example of a brand search for an advertiser directed to there landing page and then the same landing page with a generic term and then a competitor brand bid.


As you can see the brand term was £0.15 and the competitor brand £1.75 and Google states that the keyword was not highly relevant. Google presents you the information about your Quality Scores which will enable you to tie it all together. In 2007, Google introduced a Quality Score Rating box which gives a simple top overview from Great, OK, to Poor, most of the time you should  get a “Great” and around at least  in the 6 out of 10 range in a well-maintained account. On top of this think about using the Google Keyword analysis tool within your Adwords account as well, this will enable you to see what Google suggests as keywords to match your ad creative’s. You should always be thinking about unity and this practice coupled with a good negative keyword strategy and Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) will keep you advertising relevant before you send it to the designated landing page.

As we all know, Google never stands still and in 2008 they made two further updates to the Quality Score (QS) metrics. In March 2008, Google announced site speed / performance would be incorporated into it as well. This is pretty hard to fail on as they take and average across the verticals so you have to have a pretty poor performing website to fall foul of this one K

In October 2008 they made some updates to the QS which made some positive and negative changes in my mind:

   1. Google will now calculate the quality score of your keywords at the time of the search query.
   2. Google has replaced the “minimum bid” metric with “first page bid.”

In the long term, it will be interesting to see what direction these changes take. For now, let’s just run down the pros and cons for you, the advertiser.


  • Ability to appear on more “tail terms” that previously had high minimum bids if you are employing exact match strategies.
  • Better ability to forecast, since Google will be providing better transparency of the CPC required to hit Page 1 on individual keywords. But possible price inflation on generic terms
  • Improved granularity of the Quality Score metric giving more focus to higher optimised account i.e. rewarding good work


  • Increased competition for positions 5-11 (there are usually 11 ads displayed on the first page on Google)  as your competitors get insight into which first page terms are more accessible  and nudge their terms on second page of the results onto the first page.  Which ultimately can drive up the price in the marketplace and make Google more money ;)

Well I hope that was something you could all follow, if not drop me a line and I can expand on it as this was getting to be a lengthy blog post! Your quality score is one of the most important factors you can influence to help your AdWords rankings. Treat it with respect and the time and effort that it deserves, because the higher your quality score, the less you are going to pay per click, and the more potential exposure and ROI you will gain.

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