Google AdWords Quality Score Explained

adwords quality scoreGoogle AdWords Quality Score can make the difference between paying 75 cents a click or paying 1 dollar a click. It can determine whether your ad shows up first, second, or third in Google’s paid search placements. It can also send signals to Google about how often your ad should be showing up compared to your competitors.

Not all Google ads are seen as equal — having a high AdWords quality score gives you a significant competitive advantage in paid search. Conversely, having a low quality score means you could be overpaying for ads, with your ads showing up less frequently and in lower positions.

What is quality score and how is it determined? Quality score is all in the hands of the advertiser, Google is just assigning the grade. Think of it as a report card for the performance of your AdWords campaigns.

In this post, we’ll go over the three main factors that go into creating a quality score so you can have a better understanding of how Google determines when and where to serve ads.

How AdWords Quality Score is Calculated

In a nutshell, here’s how a typical AdWords campaign works:

  • Create an account
  • Select your ad units
  • Select the keywords you want to show up for
  • Write your ad copy
  • Put in a destination URL

After the above steps are complete, your ad campaign is ready to go live. After your ads are live for a period of time, Google collects data about them which is used to calculate your quality score.

Google looks at how many clicks your ads are getting, the quality of the content your ad is linking to, and how relevant the ad is to the landing page it leads to. Now let’s look at all three of these components individually and discuss why they’re used in calculating quality score.

The 3 Main Components of AdWords Quality Score

1. Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR)
After your ads have been running for a period of time, Google will be able to analyze the data and fairly accurately predict how many clicks your ad is expected to receive in a day. If your ad is expected to receive high CTRs, that will positively impact your AdWords quality score.

There are several reasons for this, arguably the number one reason is because the bulk of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. As a company, it wants to serve ads that are likely to get clicked on because Google makes money from each click. Another reason is because Google wants to deliver the best results for users. When ads are clicked on more frequently, it’s a signal to Google that the ad is satisfying people’s queries.

If your ads have high CTRs, they have greater potential to be served more frequently in more favorable positions. If your ads aren’t getting getting clicked on enough, it will negatively impact your quality score, which means you’ll ultimately have to pay more to show up more often in the higher positions.

2. Landing Page Experience
When Google assesses AdWords quality score, it doesn’t just look at the ad itself, it looks at what the ad is linking out to. Some of the same rules apply to paid search as they do to organic search, with one of them being Google wants to serve the highest quality content. Whether it’s paid for or not, Google wants to deliver pages that provide complete solutions to a person’s query.

If your landing pages are light on content, or they’re poorly written, or they don’t describe your product or service well enough — those could be signals to Google they’re poor quality. Don’t get into the mindset of thinking just because you’re paying to rank the page that it doesn’t matter what you put on there.

Since you’re paying for them, the work you put into your landing pages matter as much if not more than the work you put into other pages on your site. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away when your ads could be performing better with higher quality landing pages.

3. Ad Relevance
One of the biggest AdWords quality score factors that advertisers need to pay attention to is ad relevance. While assessing landing page experience, Google also considers how relevant the ad is compared to the landing page it directs searchers to. Advertisers can get their ads rejected if the landing page isn’t relevant to the ad itself. In extreme cases, advertisers can get their accounts banned if they routinely try to create ads for irrelevant pages.

Some advertisers do this maliciously as a ‘bait and switch’, but some advertisers who are new to AdWords make this mistake unintentionally. Without knowing how to properly segment your keywords, you could end up with all your ads going to the same landing page. Or you might think it’s OK to create the same generic ad for all of your landing pages, instead of creating unique ads for each landing page. The more relevant your ad is to the landing page, the higher your quality score will be.


When you optimize your AdWords campaigns for the top three factors we just covered above, you can expect to achieve higher quality scores which can lead to better ad positions at a lower cost. Above all, keep in mind that ads need to be optimized to deliver the best experience for the user. If you’re keeping users happy, you’re keeping Google happy.

One thing we didn’t mention yet is one of the most confusing things about AdWords quality score is where to find it. Google doesn’t make it immediately obvious where to locate quality score unless you specifically know where to look. Quality score needs to be added as an additional column at the keyword level, or you can look in the status column of the keyword itself.

Better yet, let us do the work for you. With a complimentary Google AdWords audit we can provide a report on the quality scores for your current AdWords campaigns and let you know where there is room for improvement. Contact us today to get started.

Pam Aungst Cronin
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