Google Ads Quality Score is used to rate the quality and relevance of keywords for PPC ads. This rating is meant to help determine how significant your keywords are across all avenues they’re applied in.

Here, you’ll find:

  1. What is a Quality Score?
  2. What is a “good” Quality Score?
  3. Types of Quality Scores
  4. How to determine your Quality Score
  5. How to find your Quality Score
  6. 14 strategies to improve your Quality Score
  7. Things that might affect Quality Score
  8. Pitfalls to avoid when optimizing your Quality Score
  9. Common misconceptions about Quality Score
  10. Why Quality Score matters to marketers

Each day, people conduct more than 3.5 billion searches on Google alone. And with nearly 2 billion websites in the world vying for viewers’ attention, PPC ad campaigns help set companies apart from the competition. 

And while it’s impossible to tell how (or when) the algorithm will change over time, Quality Score remains one of the most important factors that contribute to the success of an ad campaign.

quality score

The Quality Score of your PPC ad will dictate how much you need to bid on keywords to ensure an optimal position in search engine results. (Image: Unsplash)

 What is a Quality Score?

Quality Score is a metric used specifically in Google Ads that measures ad quality, relevance, and keywords. The benefit? Higher-quality ads can snag lower costs and better ad positions.

Google emphasizes that this score isn’t an input on the ad auction, it’s a diagnostic tool. 

The metric is used to measure the relevance and quality in your advertisements and keywords. Plus, it’s an important factor for determining where your ads will appear on the SERPs and how much you’ll pay per click. 

 What is a “good” Quality Score?

Quality Scores range from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.

Fun fact, Google doesn’t provide specific benchmarks for what is considered a “good” score. A good range to shoot for is 7-10, but this can vary depending on competition, industry, and what keywords you’re targeting.

For example, what’s considered a good Quality Score for branded keywords (8 to 10) and high-intent commercial keywords (7 to 9) is higher than a good score for, say, competitor keywords (3+). 

Historical performance also plays a significant factor. For instance, Google explains that if impressions for a keyword match are under 10,000, this may result in a low score.

Here’s a look at the Quality Scores based on keyword type:

  • Branded keywords 8+
  • High-intent keywords 7-9
  • Low-intent keywords 7
  • Competitor keywords 3

Branded keywords

These keywords include your brand name or company-specific products. They’re high-intent with low competition, so it should be easy to perform well with your own branded keywords.

When targeting your branded keywords, aim for a score of 8 or higher.

Remember, your competitors may bid on your branded keywords at ad auctions. If competitors bid on your keywords, users could see a competitor’s ad when they search for your business, allowing them to steal leads and sales.

High-intent keywords

High-intent keywords are specific search terms that show an intent to purchase or take action.

To get conversions, command the attention of high-intent audiences. Since many brands do this, it can become expensive and competitive.

The benchmark for a good Quality Score on high-intent keywords is slightly lower than expected. A Quality Score between 7 and 9 is pretty strong.

A Quality Score of 6 means your ad content is good, but has room for improvement. 

If your high-intent keyword Quality Score is 5 or below, do an ad campaign audit to prevent draining your ad spend with ineffective targeting or ad creation.

Low-intent keywords

Searchers use low-intent keywords when looking for information rather than to make a purchase.

If you’re in an audience-building phase, low-intent keywords can establish authority and gain customers. But if you have a new product you’re selling, go after high-intent keywords.

Since expected CTR drives your Quality Score, these keywords score a bit lower. So aim for a Quality Score of 7.

Competitor keywords

Just like your competitors can bid on your brand’s keywords, you can (and should) bid on theirs.

And just as the bar is extremely high for branded keywords, the benchmark for competitor keywords looks quite low.

If you get a Quality Score of 3 or better on a competitor keywords, you’re doing great. Since users are specifically seeking your competitor’s information, any attention you grab relies on the effectiveness of your ad. 

 Types of Quality Scores

When you log in to your Google Ads account, you can access information about your ad campaign’s Quality Score. Google hasn’t confirmed it, but it likely has multiple Quality Scores operating at different levels.

Here’s a summary of the different types:

  • Keyword ad score: This score is visible on your Google Ad interface. It’s the only confirmed type of Quality Score, based on the expected CTR, relevance of your ads, and landing page experience.
  • Account-level score: Your account-level score is based on the historical performance of all the keywords in your account. While Google doesn’t confirm that it issues a Quality Score at the account level, this explains why account performance improves over time.
  • Ad group score: Ad group score is another unofficial Quality Score, but it’s easy to calculate: just average all the keyword scores within a particular ad group. Ad group is especially useful because it shows where to focus your efforts. If your overall QS is an 8 but your score for one ad group is a 3, then focus on the latter group first.

And that’s just the start. Google uses Quality Score to assess various factors, including your campaign’s optimization for mobile devices and the Google Display Network.

Google only confirmed the existence of keyword ad scores. But Quality Scores impact your campaigns at the account and ad group levelso you can expect that SEO best practices will serve you well at every level.

What determines your Quality Score?

Google uses this data to show more effective keywords to users each time a search query takes place. Your score is determined by three factors:

  • Expected click-through rate (CTR) – Estimates how likely your ad will be clicked on when shown. Ads with higher expected CTR tend to get higher Quality Scores.
  • Ad relevance – Measures how closely your ad matches the intent behind a user’s search query.
  • Landing page experience – Assesses how relevant and user-friendly your landing page is once the user clicks on an ad.

This information benefits advertisers because it helps determine what to optimize. You can see which search terms people are using, what’s driving search results, and specific keywords to be re-evaluated. A higher Quality Score can lead to benefits like higher ad positions and lower costs.

Overall, maintaining a high Quality Score is crucial for both optimizing the performance and cost-effectiveness of your Google Ads campaigns.

The score of PPC ads will dictate how much you need to bid on relevant keywords to ensure an optimal position in the SERP. Basically, the better your score, the less you’ll have to pay for your ads to show up in your preferred position.

Recent data suggests raising your Quality Score from 5 to 7 can result in a CPC decrease of more than 28%.

When people who see your ad click on it, Google views your ads as relevant. Their click signals to the search engine that the ads are meeting your potential customers’ needs.

As a result, you earn higher ad rankings and a lower CPC. By optimizing your score, you increase your return on investment (ROI).

Ready to take your digital marketing plan to the next level? We can help.

 How to determine your Quality Score

Tracking your Quality Score helps you assess ad performance and ensure your budget makes sense. To do this, you’ve got to start by identifying your current score. 

First, log into your Google Ads account and create a new report under the Reports tab. Your report type will be Placement/Keyword Performance. There, under Advanced Settings, you’ll select Add or Remove Columns. 

Choose Keyword Quality Score Detail and then select your other report settings. Locate the Templates, Scheduling, and Email area and select Create Report. You’ll then be presented with your keywords’ Quality Score results. 

If you run into issues, you can follow more detailed instructions in Google’s Help Center.

Pro tip: Adding a Quality Score tracker script to your Google Ads script dashboard will create a document that automatically updates daily. This can help you track ad relevance, user experience, and Quality Score. There’s a Bing Ads script as well.

 How to find your Quality Score

It’s simple to locate your Quality Score:

  1. Open Google Ads. Select “Campaigns,” and choose “Audiences, keywords, and content.”
  2. Click “Search keywords.”
  3. Select the columns icon on the table.
  4. Open the Quality Score column under “Modify columns for keywords.” This will allow you to access both current and past Quality Score statistics for overall Quality Scores:

Analyzing your ad’s performance in each of the three components can improve your campaigns. Most Google Ads experts agree that expected CTR and landing page relevance are the two most important metrics, followed by ad relevance. 

 14 strategies to improve your Quality Score

  1. Target your ad groups
  2. Research keywords (and negative search terms)
  3. Publish high-quality content
  4. Craft highly targeted ad copy
  5. Use ad extensions
  6. Test different messages and formats
  7. Incorporate emotional and persuasive elements
  8. Keep ads current
  9. Regularly optimize your landing pages
  10. Optimize (and test) your whole campaign
  11. Keep your landing page directly related to your ad
  12. Improve the technical experience of your landing page
  13. Prioritize scannability
  14. Monitor your keywords’ performance

Quality Score determines where and how often your ads are shown. That’s why it’s important to work on boosting your rankings by continuing to improve your ads. 

Google doesn’t exactly lay out their specific formula for calculating your score. But when you know the core components, you can take action to improve each one.

Here are 14 main ways you can work to boost your Quality Score:

 1. Target your ad groups 

Increase the relevance of your ad by targeting your campaigns into clearly defined groups. 

Tightly structure your ad group for specific targeting. Ad groups should use keywords that relate to one another. 

So, organize ad groups by grouping related keywords together and avoiding keyword clutter.

Assign each group of ads its own set of related keywords to effectively target groups you want to reach. This may include experimenting with different match types, negative keywords, and keyword levels.

 2. Research keywords (and negative search terms)

Keywords are one of the most important factors in Quality Score success. 

This means you’ll have to do some homework to determine how those search terms (and different keyword combinations) are performing and whether they’ll be effective for your campaign. 

Keyword research can reveal what keywords users search, their importance to the searcher, and how likely they are to drive traffic to your website (not to mention improve SEO performance).

Conduct thorough keyword research to identify relevant keywords with high search volume and commercial intent. This is also a good place to leverage negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing for irrelevant search queries.

Building a negative keyword list can increase the Quality Score across your campaign. Negative keywords are search terms you don’t want your ad to appear for. They keep irrelevant traffic to a minimum, so your ads are only shown to the right people.

For instance, if you sell luxury watches, add “cheap” and “affordable” as negative keywords to avoid showing your ads to users looking for inexpensive options. 

Also, Google rewards you with a higher Quality Score when you match your users’ search intent, so take advantage of the keyword tools available.

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that simplifies finding keywords that appeal to your target audience. Paid tools like Semrush or Ahrefs are also great options.

 3. Publish high-quality content

A good best practice for ad copy is to streamline the content so it focuses on one product or service. 

Not only will this help target a more specific audience, but it will likely yield better results (and a higher Quality Score *wink*). Readers want to digest easy-to-comprehend information.

Ads with too many areas of focus or calls to action (CTAs) can be ineffective, resulting in someone bouncing or continuing to scroll without clicking.

 4. Craft highly targeted ad copy

Effective ad copy should be written with your target audience in mind. Write your ad for one reader, and you’ll be far more likely to convert them into a buyer.

Crafting highly specific, extremely targeted copy makes it easier to convince an ad viewer you’re the right solution to their problem. Plus, it’ll boost your Quality Score to get your ad in front of more customers. As we’ve seen, Google rewards specificity and relevancy.

 5. Use ad extensions

Ad extensions make your ad more useful. Use ad extensions to include phone numbers, callouts, and snippets within your ad. 

Ad extensions also expand the real estate of your ad. Quality Score doesn’t take the amount of screen “real estate” an ad takes up into account, but there’s no denying a larger ad commands more attention.

 6. Test different messages and formats

To find the messages and formats your audience prefers — test them. Use A/B testing in your ad campaign to gain valuable insights about what sort of ads appeal most to your audience. 

For example, maybe your audience prefers ads with an image, or that offers a promotion. 

 7. Incorporate emotional and persuasive elements

Ads that tap into human emotions perform better. And the more relevant your ad is, the better it’s likely to perform. Hit two birds with one stone by A/B testing different persuasive and emotional elements within your ad. 

Touching on pain points and establishing trust are effective tactics for establishing ad relevance across the board.

For example, you can drive action by:

  • Highlighting how your product solves a common problem or fulfills a desire
  • Evoking emotions that resonate with your audience
  • Using persuasive language to convey urgency or exclusivity

These encourage viewers to take immediate action and experience the benefits firsthand.

 8. Keep ads current

Markets and customers are always changing – and so should your ads. Stay up-to-date on trends to keep your ads fresh and relatable.

Your ads should also reflect the current state of your product. Don’t run ads for an out-of-date promotion or version of your product if you’ve launched an updated edition.

 9. Regularly optimize your landing pages

Your landing page is often a potential customer’s first impression of your business. Right away, it sends a message about your company. 

An often overlooked element of a great landing page is mobile optimization. Sixty percent of all eCommerce sales occur on mobile devices — so test your landing page’s mobile optimization.

Make sure your landing page is responsive, loads fast, and has call-to-action buttons front and center. Test it out on different devices to ensure a smooth experience and boost those conversions.

Quick load time, landing page quality, relevant keywords, and clear, easy-to-read information can increase user engagement and earn you a higher rating (and better conversion rates). 

Pro tip: It’s worth paying special attention to page load. Research shows that 82% of consumers say that slow page speeds impact their purchasing decisions.

 10. Optimize (and test) your whole campaign

Quality landing pages help gain viewer’s trust, but it’s also important to zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture.

Make sure you’re continuously monitoring and optimizing campaigns for performance and making adjustments to ad copy, keywords, and targeting as needed. This may include split-testing ad variations, landing pages, and targeting options to pinpoint strategies for improving Quality Scores.

For example, send some ad groups to one landing page and other ad groups to another. Then review the Quality Score data to see if one page has a higher Quality Score. If so, see what elements may be the cause for the increased rating.

 11. Keep your landing page directly related to your ad

Establish a clear connection between your ad and landing page content by incorporating the same message and keywords.

When a searcher clicks your ad, the landing page should be a seamless extension of what drew them to your site. Mirroring keywords is helpful for the Google algorithm, plus the user experience.

 12. Improve the technical experience of your landing page

Technical optimization is a large part of Google’s assessment of your landing page. It should have quick load times, clear graphics, and working URLs. If the page isn’t crawlable or easily navigated, you’ll get a lower Quality Score. 

Use this list of potential error messages as a checklist when reviewing your page.

 13. Prioritize scannability

An easy-to-read or “scannable” landing page is a huge plus when Google is assessing the user experience of your landing page. Google wants to lead users to pages that are easy to read and delivers the information they are searching for.

To make your page scannable:

  • Craft concise and clear subheadings that are easy to skim
  • Choose easily readable fonts and colors
  • Break up text with headers, subheadings, bullet points and lists
  • Use images and videos to support your message
  • Make the call-to-action clear and easy to find, such as a large, yellow button

 14. Monitor your keywords’ performance

Monitor key metrics, such as click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and cost per conversion to gauge the effectiveness of your keywords. Then make data-driven decisions to improve campaign performance. Use the data to adjust bids, ad copy, and landing pages  to increase sales. 

Free and paid tools are available to track high performing keywords, like Google Analytics, Ahrefs Rank Tracker, and Glimpse.

Here at HawkSEM, our team uses ConversionIQ, our proprietary software, to follow the user from lead to conversion. Our platform delivers unprecedented insights into the buyer journey, providing a great foundation for ad strategy development.

 Things that might affect Quality Score

Aside from the aforementioned factors (expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience), there are a number of other tidbits you’ll want to keep your eye on where Quality Score is concerned. Here’s a quick rundown:

Keyword relevance: The closer your keywords match a user’s search intent, the better your score will be.

Ad format: The quality and relevance of your ad extensions (think, sitelinks, callouts, and structured snippets) can impact your score. Take care to use ad extensions that provide additional value to users and are relevant to your ads.

Historical performance: This one’s a biggie. Your account’s historical performance, including click-through rate, conversion rate, and other metrics, can also influence Quality Score. Consistently optimizing and improving your campaigns can positively impact your score over time.

Geographic performance: Believe it or not, the performance of your ads in different locations can also affect your score. Tailor your ads and targeting strategies to specific geographic regions for better performance.

Device performance: The performance of your ads on different devices, such as desktops, and various mobile devices, can impact your Quality Score. Be sure to optimize ads and landing pages for different devices to improve performance.

 Pitfalls to avoid when optimizing your Quality Score

Now that you’ve got a grasp on how to improve your Quality Score, let’s take a look at some common errors to avoid:

  • Overemphasizing Quality Score above all else
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Ignoring the landing page experience
  • Looking for immediate ad results after a Quality Score boost
  • Lack of campaign maintenance
  • Prioritizing all keywords’ Quality Scores the same
  • Not making data-driven goals and assessments

Pitfall #1: Overemphasizing Quality Score above all else

Quality Score is an important component in determining ad rank and performance — but it doesn’t tell the whole story. When you gauge a campaign’s success or failure, monitor multiple key performance indicators, including:

  • Click-through rate  (CTR)
  • Cost-per-click (CPC)
  • Conversion rate
  • Landing page bounce rate
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS)

Google has said that the Quality Score is not a key performance indicator. Quality Score is based on a comparison to other advertisements using the same keyword, not the performance of your campaign alone.

So aim for a high Quality Score, but don’t lose sight of other important metrics.

Pitfall #2: Keyword stuffing

Several parts of Google’s Quality Score relate to keywords and keyword research. It’s easy to think stuffing in all the keywords you can get is the best way to keep your ad relevant, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Studies repeatedly show that keyword stuffing is not an effective way to improve your ad’s search engine optimization (SEO). Keep keywords targeted and organically incorporated (aka your copy should sound natural when read aloud).

Pitfall #3: Ignoring the landing page experience

When considering how to achieve a highly ranked ad, don’t focus exclusively on the ad. Ignoring the quality of your landing page experience can be damaging.

When we collaborated with our client Zephyr to boost its landing pages, we saw improved conversion rates and lowered bounce rates. Prioritizing landing pages is about more than raising your Quality Score — it improves the user experience and drives higher conversions for your business.

Pitfall #4: Looking for immediate ad results after a Quality Score boost

After receiving a strong Quality Score, don’t expect immediate results in other metrics. It takes time for your ad’s traffic to improve.

That’s because Google Ads Quality Score isn’t the only determinant of your ad position. To truly optimize your campaigns, focus on all the metrics we’ve discussed – not just your QS.

Pitfall #5: Lack of campaign maintenance

It’s easy to think that once you’ve achieved a good Quality Score, you’re set for the remainder of your campaign. The truth: your Quality Score can quickly fall below average due to market changes. Prioritizing campaign maintenance will keep your Quality Score in good graces.

Pitfall #6: Prioritizing all keywords’ Quality Scores the same

If you had unlimited resources for optimizing your ad campaign, you’d maximize the keyword Quality Score for each of your keywords. But chances are you have a lot on your plate – and not all keywords are worthy of equal attention.

Highly competitive, high-intent keywords should have most of your attention. These are the keywords that drive the most clicks and conversions, making the biggest impact on your bottom line.

You should also bid on branded keywords and incorporate them into your ad campaigns. For example, when we search for our client HomElectrical, they’re in the top spot.

Pitfall #7: Not making data-driven goals and assessments

Data should drive all the decisions, goals, and assessments for your Quality Score. You should be familiar with benchmark Quality Scores for different keyword levels and expected timelines.

For example, Quality Scores for competitor keywords range around 3 – or even less. Pouring resources into reaching an 8 is a misinformed goal. Rely on data when you’re constructing goals and assessing the success of your campaign.

 Common misconceptions about Quality Scores

Time to do some myth-busting. Monitoring your score is essential to making your ad campaign the best it can be – but there are some common misconceptions that can get you in a real pickle if you’re not careful.

Myth: “Quality score is the only factor that determines ad position and cost.”

Busted: We’ve spent this entire article saying that your score is an important factor – but it’s certainly not the only one. 

Google Ads uses a combination of factors, including ad relevance, bid amount, ad extensions, and more to determine ad cost and position. Focusing only on Quality Score probably won’t get your campaign where you need it to go.

Myth: “A high Quality Score guarantees top ad placement.”

Busted: Not so fast! Ad position is also influenced by things like bid amount, competition, and ad extensions. Achieving a high score should be part of a broader optimization strategy.

Myth: “Quality Score directly impacts organic search engine rankings.”

Busted: Remember, Quality Score is specific to Google Ads, so it doesn’t directly impact organic search engine rankings. Improving ad relevance and landing page experience may indirectly benefit organic search performance by providing a better user experience.

HawkSEM: How to Find Your Quality Score

Quality Score is an integral part of Google’s process when it comes to determining which ads to promote — and how to rank them. (Image: Unsplash)

 Why Quality Score matters to marketers

Advertisers care about Quality Score because it’s one of the most important factors used to determine how ads are ranked and what advertisers’ cost per click (CPC) will be. 

A higher score generally means better ad positions and lower CPC. This means you can achieve greater visibility for your ads while maximizing ROI by attracting more clicks (and conversions) for the same advertising budget.

Additionally, Quality Score serves as a competitive advantage, allowing marketers to outperform competitors by securing top ad positions at lower costs, ultimately increasing market share and brand visibility.

Moreover, this scoring system incentivizes marketers to create more relevant and engaging ads, which improves the overall user experience. By delivering ads that match users’ search intent, marketers can attract more qualified traffic and increase conversion rates. 

The takeaway

Quality Score is an integral part of Google’s process when it comes to determining relevant ads, ads to promote — and how to rank them. 

Tracking whether your scores are above average, below average, or right on the money, increases your chance at a higher ROI – plus it can save you money in advertising costs.

Marketers use this score as a guideline to shed light on what’s working, and it can impact the way you develop your paid advertising campaigns. Ultimately, the tool helps make your campaigns as effective as possible, resulting in a stronger strategy overall.

And who wouldn’t want that?

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2020.

Saphia Lanier

Saphia Lanier

Saphia Lanier is a content writer and strategist with 16+ years' experience working with B2B SaaS companies and marketing agencies. She uses an engaging journalistic style to craft thought leadership and educational content about digital marketing, technology, and entrepreneurship.