October 8, 2021
The Ideal QA Process in Digital Advertising
Google’s Quality Score metric is one of the more important determinants of paid search performance. Having a high Quality Score can help you show your ads at a higher position on search pages for lower cost than competitors. A low Quality Score can force you to inflate your bids and shell out more of your budget for an uphill battle toward impression share. Diving into the factors and the levers advertisers have to improve Quality Score can go a long way to sending ads higher up the search page at lower cost.
At its core, Quality Score is part of the equation for determining if an ad shows. Google shows ads based on a calculation it calls Ad Rank. This used to be a simple formula:
Ad Rank=Keyword CPC Bid x Keyword Quality Score
However, Google’s outgrown that definition and now says that it determines it from a larger set of criteria that isn’t exhaustively defined, much like its search algorithm that SEO professionals try to optimize against. The mathematical nature of Ad Rank has been loosened to accommodate Google experimenting with ads in different spots and to give a bit more weight to bidding.
As the gap in ad rank between two advertisers’ ads grows, the higher-ranking ad will be more likely to win but also may pay a higher cost per click for the benefit of the increased certainty of winning.
Some factors, like the “context” of the time and location of the user are unrealistic or impossible to optimize for. Others, like the presence of ad extensions, are well within your control. Quality Score falls somewhere in between those two in terms of your level of control.
Despite being less of a factor than It’s still an important aspect of Ad Rank, and worth working to improve, especially in cases where your Quality Score is low. Only 1 to 3 ads typically show above organic listings and get the majority of ad clicks, so even a small change in Quality Score can boost your Ad Rank and really impact your potential on SEM.
Quality Score is provided on a 10-point scale based on three criteria:
In the Google Ads interface, visibility for these three components is limited to its grouping of “Above Average”, “Average”, and “Below Average”. By diving into keyword reports and data, you can better understand where to focus improvements.
First, you’ll want to organize the data at a high level. You can aggregate Quality Scores by campaign, by ad group, weight them by contribution to the account, or simply look for key areas of opportunity where Quality Score is low to create an action plan. In general, brand keywords (for your brand) will have the highest Quality Scores, followed by generic (non-brand) keywords, and then competitor keywords with the lowest scores, but all might be worth addressing for various reasons. If you have consistent issues with one factor or another, you can use that information to create more holistic strategies to address weaknesses across the board.
Once you find your starting point, brainstorm potential improvements based on which of the Quality Score components Google lists as “Below Average”. If all components of Quality Score are already listed as stronger than that, focus on improving components from “Average” to “Above Average”. Below is a non-exhaustive list of action items by component:
Quality Score isn’t always easy to improve, but given its importance in determining impression share, ad position, and traffic cost, advertisers that work to better analyze trends and make improvements will have an advantage. This advantage can result in more ad impressions for lower cost, and thus more budget for existing efforts and net new expansion.
For more in depth help on SEM strategy, contact our team.