Three Things Google Doesn’t Want You to Know About Quality Score

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As most online advertisers know, Quality Score is a key determinant in how high your ad appears in Google search results. A high Quality Score (say between 7 and 10) will push up your ad, while a low Quality Score (say between 1 and 4) will bring it down—or prevent it from showing at all, unless you raise your bid. Your exact ad position is determined by both your Quality Score and your keyword bid.

Google has communicated a fair amount about its Quality Score algorithm, and the importance of the metric. Still, Google has kept mum on a number of topics related to Quality Score. Here are three things Google doesn’t want you to know:

  1. What “other relevance factors” are
  2. Google provides the public with eight Google and Search Network Quality Score factors, and four Display Network Quality Score factors. Most of those factors are pretty specific, but one—which applies to both the Google and Search Network, and the Display Network—is pretty vague. That’s “other relevance factors.”

    Users don’t know if Google is referring to relevant inbound links, an ad’s bounce-back-rate, conversion rates, or something else entirely.

    One reason Google likely keeps this information secret is so potential competitors don’t copy its Quality Score algorithm. Another reason may be to cover itself in case the algorithm doesn’t work perfectly. A third reason may be that it keeps people guessing, hoping and spending more money.

  3. The main purpose of Quality Score
  4. Over and over again Google communicates that Quality Score is all about the user experience. The more relevant ads and landing pages are to search queries, the happier users will be. They’ll find what they’re looking for, and all will be well in the world.

    Google also emphasizes that advertisers will benefit from relevant ads. Users will spend more money, the ads will get more exposure, and minimum bids will drop.

    But Google tends to gloss over its own interest in Quality Score, which is greater than that of any individual user or advertiser. When users find what they want and convert more, Google earns big. That’s because advertisers keep advertising, users keep clicking, and AdWords revenue keeps coming. Also, when the most relevant ads are at the top of the search results, they are clicked on more, bringing Google more money.

  5. Low Quality Score keywords aren’t always bad
  6. As I detailed in a previous guest post on the PPC Hero Blog, sometimes low Quality Score keywords are OK. Google wouldn’t want you to know this, as it undermines its whole paid search philosophy.

    But it makes sense when you think about it. Think about, for example, if you had some low Quality Score keywords whose corresponding ad was garnering a hefty net profit (possibly due to a low click-through rate and high conversion rate). It might be wise to put up with the low Quality Score keywords for the overall monetary benefit.

    Or, imagine that your ad’s main purpose is brand exposure. You don’t really care if people click on it, so long as they see your product or company name. In this case if you have low Quality Score keywords it’s not the end of the world.

    Since Google doesn’t reveal everything there is to know about Quality Score, it’s your job to learn as much as you can from other outlets. Some helpful information can be found on the PPC Hero Blog, the Red Fly Marketing Online Marketing Blog, and Search Engine Land.

About the Author

Christine Laubenstein is a Marketing Associate at WordStream, a provider of advanced PPC management software designed to improve Quality Score in your AdWords campaign.

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3 thoughts on “Three Things Google Doesn’t Want You to Know About Quality Score

  1. Alex E

    Generally speaking we’ve noticed that – long term – CTR is the biggest contributor to your quality score. Makes sense that the most relevant (i.e. most clicked on) ad would receive the highest quality score. High quality score coupled with tight ad to keyword relevancy will ensure that you can remain in top position and still pay less than your competitors in 2nd or 3rd position. Every paid search marketer is looking for that magic combination.

    The notion that staying in a lower position will result in a higher ROI is true but misleading. If you don’t have scale, measuring ROI won’t give you an accurate view of campaign performance. This of course depends on what industry you’re in and how high CPCs are. If you have low margins, you need scale.

  2. sasha

    Thanks for the post. Great explanations, especially why low quality score keywords are not that bad of a thing. I guess when anything is rated, you always feel the urge to get the best score but if you think about it sometimes, you don’t need to do that.

  3. Rob McCance


    Great post.

    Regarding #3, you are dead on. The thing is, Google wants your money, that’s the bottom line.

    I have over 3,000 KWs spread across 25+ Ad Groups, pointing to over 70 landing pages.

    Each Group has a 1-5 KWs with Quality scores like 7-10. All the rest of the 3,000 are 4-5-6, that kind of QS.

    Those lower ones make up the bulk of my CTs and they are at super low CPCs.

    Also, I have some of the super high dollar KWs and randomly, those will get CTs at MY low minimums, like $.18, not the $1.50 that everyone else is paying.

    So I think the “other relevance factors” kick in from time to time to make sure everyone’s accounts are being routinely drained.


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