PPC Myth Busting! Myth 6: Quality Score is All About CTR

By , Senior Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing


Our next myth is about quality score. I think there are a lot of myths about quality score out there because it’s sort of a mysterious algorithm that Google doesn’t readily share with us. The one I hear most often is that click-through rate is what Quality Score is all about, and that’s the only thing you really need to focus on when trying to fix it. This just isn’t true, so let’s get to bustin’!

You can click the little speech bubbles by your keywords to get more information about its quality score and what comprises it.

You can see CTR plays a part, but so does ad relevance and landing page experience. Not on this little snapshot, however, is the campaign and account quality scores as well as any quality score limitations set on your industry, all of which also influence a particular keyword’s quality score.

Since this myth is based on people focusing on CTR to fix quality score, I won’t go into that, but ad relevance can be manipulated through using keywords in your ads and having super tightly themed ad groups. This allows you to write ads that all keywords in the ad group are highly relevant to. For instance, if you write an ad about purple coffee mugs, but you have keywords about purple coffee cups, that keywords isn’t super relevant to the ad anymore. Google might give it a lower quality score.

The landing page experience looks at the site’s load time (which you can look into in Analytics), keywords found on the page through Google’s web crawling spiders, and bounce rates (which you can also look into in Analytics). You basically want to have a fast loading site that uses the keywords you’re bidding on and people seem to like.

Having a lot of crappy quality score keywords in the same campaign will cause Google to lower your campaign quality score, which will make new keywords in that campaign start with lower quality scores. The same logic applies to the account as a whole. If you have loads of low quality score keywords in the account, the account wide quality score will look bad. Any new keyword, even if you break out a new campaign in efforts to break out more relevant ad groups and increase quality scores, will start out crappy. And further more, some industries have been given a crappy quality score to start with. Google is Zoidbergin’ it like “Your industry is bad and you should feel bad”. I know that I have a client in pharmaceuticals and have spoken with others who have clients in that industry, and we’re all suffering from super low quality scores despite having all of our other quality score ducks in a row.

So, you can see, there’s a LOT more than just CTR that goes into quality score, and you have to work on all of it to see increases in your quality scores!

See our own ULTIMATE guide to quality score here.

See Brad Geddes show you how to use pivot tables to analyze quality score in your account and find out exactly how it’s affecting your account here.

Looking to bust more PPC Myths? Check out Myths 1-5!

Analytics is complicated to use

Display is really expensive

Display is terrible for direct response

adCenter isn’t worth my time

Broad Match isn’t worth pursuing

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11 thoughts on “PPC Myth Busting! Myth 6: Quality Score is All About CTR

  1. Justin Sous

    And it doesn’t help that there’s a quality score bug right now! If you see quality scores shoot from a 7 to a 2 as soon as you make a change, in 24 hrs it should change back to a 7. It’s that same reporting error that occurred last year or so. A few top contributors in the adwords community confirmed it.


  2. ChrisPantages

    The whole ‘industry penalty’ is so amazingly frustrating. I honestly didn’t believe it existed until I worked with a company that sold networking memory and equipment (kind of like a smaller CDW) and no matter what I tried the majority of their quality scores were 3s and 4s. I can honestly say when their Google rep told me that I thought they were lying. I felt like I was taking crazy pills.

    1. Amanda West-Bookwalter

      I know! I was so frustrated with my pharma account. When I found out about the industry caps, I was just flabbergasted!

  3. Dave W

    I must say I think this post creates a lot of confusion about Quality Score and actually perpetuates some of the myths.

    There’s two things that are hinted at her that I’d wonder if the author could clarify:
    A. Google performs some sort of semantic analysis in order to identify relevance. This has previously been stated not to be the case by Google Engineers.

    B. Campaign Quality Score exists. I’ve never seen anyone suggest this before. Are you sure that you’re not just using the same Display URL, which is tying into lower Quality Scores from the start. Are you suggesting that if you create two identical ads, for identical keywords, that have never been used in the account before, that they will have different QS’s in different accounts?

    1. Amanda West-Bookwalter

      Hi Dave! Sorry if my article confused you. I just wanted to highlight that QS is made up of so much more than CTR. I link to our ultimate guide on QS, so I didn’t go into great detail other than hitting some key points. But, let my address your questions!

      A. Websites are crawled every six months for relevancy according to articles I’ve read and conference talks I’ve attended, including Brad Geddes’ talk at our HeroConf on quality score.

      B. We talk more about campaign quality score in our ultimate guide, but is for sure a thing! Not just because I’ve heard people in the industry talk about it and heard Goggle reps talk about it, but because I’ve seen it in my accounts! Like you said, I will see different QS for the exact same keywords with the same ads and bids in different campaigns. True story!!

      1. Dave W

        Thanks for the reply!

        In relation to A:
        Surely that just relates to Landing Page Quality score? No doubt that they play a role (since the last update anyway), but your post was about purple coffee mugs:

        “For instance, if you write an ad about purple coffee mugs, but you have keywords about purple coffee cups, that keywords isn’t super relevant to the ad anymore. Google might give it a lower quality score.”

        That seems to be suggesting some sort of semantic analysis between the keyword and ad copy. Is that what you mean?

        In relation to B:
        I had a look there at the Ultimate guide, can’t see any reference to Campaign QS. There’s a mention of Ad Group QS, but it seems to just be saying you should focus on lower performing QS. It doesn’t state that Ad Groups have historical QS. Am I missing it somewhere?

        1. Amanda West-Bookwalter

          Hi again, Dave! Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss your questions with me today.

          I meant that mugs and cups are different words, so while the two seem close enough to us, Google will see that they are different and assign a lower QS.

          I guess it doesn’t really call out campaign level QS, but it works the same as the ad group’s, basically. I found this article browsing some Google results on the subject: http://ppcwithoutpity.com/fixing-adwords-quality-score-issues-part-2-of-4/

  4. ppcheroine

    This post is pretty vague. You haven’t really said much about what goes into QS. All you’ve really said is if you add a lot of new keywords at once, your overall QS will look low… and that certain industries have lower QS to start, yes but you should still be able to raise them.
    That still doesn’t really mention what goes into the QS algorithm. Tons more things go into QS than CTR but the factors you mentioned above aren’t the main things. Sounds like a cop out.

    1. Amanda West-Bookwalter

      Well, “ppcheroine” (btw, I feel like this is copyright infringement, yes?)–as I told Dave, below, my goal for this post was just to shed light on the fact that CTR isn’t all that goes into QS. I did that by highlighting some factors that I deal with when trying to increase QS. I linked to our ultimate guide on QS for a more in depth analysis if you want more information, since I didn’t want to just re-state all the great info in that guide. So, while you say “cop out”, I say you just misunderstood the point of the post. You should for sure check out the guide for the in-depth algorithm overview you seem to be looking for.

      Thanks for reading!!

  5. Alan Mitchell

    Hi Amanda,

    I think ‘relevancy’ is the part of Quality Score which I think is most often overlooked (probably because it isn’t as tangible as a CTR statistic). After carrying out some analysis on the relevancy of PPC ads, even with the increased competition on Google over the years, I still think there are massive opportunities for all PPC advertisers to improve the relevancy of their ads and boost their Quality Scores and conversion rates:




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