Optimise your quality score to get more bang for your buck

August 24, 2017



Whether you’re an experienced PPC practitioner, or a direct advertiser digging deep into your pocket for PPC funds, you know the importance of Quality Score. Simply put, the higher your Quality Score the more “bang for your buck”.

We know that Google uses Quality Score to calculate both Ad Rank and your actual Cost-per-Click. Google says that “the higher the ad quality, the lower the CPC threshold.”

This post will aim to not only highlight why Quality Score matters, but also how increasing your Quality Score of your most valuable Non-Brand keywords can result in measurable, significant cost-savings and improved overall account performance.

Optimise your Quality Score

More often than not, your Quality Score for Brand keywords will naturally be healthy, without much optimisation needed (you couldn’t be more relevant to any other keywords than your own brand terms!). Therefore, your average CPC tends to be quite cheap for your core Brand keywords, particularly if there is little-to-no competition.

Non-Brand keywords, however, can vary greatly in terms of Quality Score. Whilst it would be very difficult to get a 10/10 Quality Score for all your Non-Brand keywords, focusing on your several most valuable keywords can generate incremental cost savings and improved overall performance in the long run.

How to optimise

Our approach to optimising Quality Score is to focus on the aspects that you can influence directly. Quality Score is made up of three components:

  • Expected CTR
  • Ad Relevance
  • Landing Page Experience

The latter two will be easier to influence and is where we should start when looking to increase QS.

We also focus on the high volume core keywords which generate the majority of conversions and hence their performance is critical to the overall account.

In a recent example, we raised the Quality Score for a Non-Brand keyword from a 6 to a 10 by using this approach. Initially, the keyword’s QS component ratings were:

Quality score (hist.) Ad relevance (hist.) Landing page exp. (hist.) Exp. CTR (hist.)
6/10 Below average Above average Average

The first step was to isolate the keyword so that it sat on its own in a dedicated Ad Group. This made it easier to implement relevant Ad Copy.

Getting the right Ad Copy that will improve the rating requires some testing and experimenting with different variations. The most important part was ensuring that the keyword was as present as possible in all Ad Copy variations. Over time the Ad Relevance rating increased to “Average” and then “Above Average”, raising our QS to 8.

The second component to optimise was Expected CTR. This component is harder to influence directly but increasing the Ad Relevance can have a knock-on effect: As your ads have become more relevant, users are more likely to click on them.

Expected CTR is also influenced by past performance, so pausing our lowest CTR Ad also helped towards increasing the rating.

Over time the Expected CTR rating was raised to “Above Average” and the keyword achieved a 10/10 Quality Score:

Quality score (hist.) Ad relevance (hist.) Landing page exp. (hist.) Exp. CTR (hist.)
10/10 Above average Above average Above average

The benefits of having this keyword at a QS of 10, specifically, can be demonstrated through the cost savings achieved from a reduction in average CPC:

Graph with cost savings achieved when Quality Score reaches 10

This essentially means we were able to maintain similar positions but at cheaper costs. If we take this further, we can quantify the cost savings from a reduction in average CPCs as our keyword went up the ranks of QS:

QS Avg CPC %Change
6 £6.66
7 £6.15 -7.7%


10 £5.42 -9.6%

Overall our average CPC decreased by 19% by raising the QS of the keyword from 6 to a 10.

What to keep in mind

In short, there are a few things to keep in mind when trying to optimise your QS:

  • Focus on your high volume (and thus most valuable) keywords. These will be your bread & butter any improvements gained here will impact the account as a whole.
  • Separate your keywords into tightly themed Ad Groups. For the purposes of optimising QS, the more specific the better. This will make Ad Copy writing much easier.
  • Use the keywords you are targeting in ALL variations of the Ad Copy, whilst still conveying all your USPs in a clear and concise format.
  • Ensure that your keywords are getting a healthy CTR by pausing all Ads with a low CTR. This will help increase your Expected CTR Rating.

Our approach has always been to prioritise cost efficiency and ensure you are getting the highest return on your investment. Only then will we be able to grow the account whilst still maintaining a healthy CPA. As such, optimising QS is an integral part of achieving these cost efficiencies.

This is even more so the case when considering that the keyword used in the example above runs in one of the most competitive PPC sectors: Finance, and more specifically, the extremely aggressive Loans market. We manage a number of clients in the Finance and Gambling sector, so mastering the art of refining Quality Score is fundamental to our clients’ success.

The data tells us that increasing QS can result in a decrease in average CPC, and by using this strategy on your most valuable Non-Brand keywords, the cost savings would ultimately translate into lower CPAs and improved overall account performance.

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