Over the past few years, automated bidding on Google Ads has become more consistent and offers strong performance to advertisers on the Google network.
Advertisers no longer need to choose a CPC (Cost Per Click) bid for each keyword and can instead set CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) or ROAS (Return On Ad Spent) goals and let machine learning calculate the correct bid to meet the stated goal for each search query performed.
But even with this evolution towards more autonomous campaign management, it is still useful to know the system in detail.
There is money to be saved for advertisers and their advertising budget by working hand in hand with the automation processes offered by Google, in order to get even better results than the machine can provide by itself.
There are several strategies and levers to optimize campaigns and automated bids on Google Ads, and in this article we will try to explain how it is possible to use Google’s quality score to increase the exposure of an ad while reducing its cost.
The functioning of the Google Ads quality score (QS) may be a mystery to you if you have never used the advertising network of the famous search engine.
With thousands of advertisers competing for top rankings on the same keywords and many using the same tools to automate their bidding, how does the search engine decide in less than a fraction of a second which ad deserves the top spot?
A big part of the answer lies in the “QS”, Google’s quality score, and it is actually a lever that advertisers can use to optimize their campaigns, even when they have lost control of the other factor that comes into play: the bids.
What is the quality score? Why does Google use QS? How is it calculated and how can advertisers improve it?
That’s what we will see in the following article.
What is the quality score?
The quality score is Google’s measure of a keyword’s relevance based on data collected from previous ad auctions.
Once Google has enough data, keywords in an advertiser’s account are assigned a “QS” number between 1 and 10, 10 being the best possible.
This indicator corresponds to the overall relevance of the keyword in the many auctions with which it is associated.
The quality score is intended to guide advertisers, but it is not used by Google to rank ads.
What is used to rank ads, behind the scenes of each ad auction, is the QS at the time of the auction, which takes into account many additional factors.
While the 1-10 metric helps advertisers assess how well they’re doing at choosing the right keywords, writing effective ads and also directing users to useful landing pages, it’s the real-time SQ that really counts.
The SQ at the time of the auction is therefore finer than a number between 1 and 10, but it is not shared with advertisers, as it fluctuates all the time.
It is also different for each search performed on Google and depends on the context of those searches:
The time of day
The location of the user
The nature of the search term and its relationship to your keyword
And so on.
It is also worth mentioning that Google has two types of automatic bidding tools: “Automated” and “Smart”.
Here is the main difference between the two: Smart bids can set different bids for each auction, thus taking into consideration the QS factor in real time and setting “smarter” bids and therefore more likely to match the advertiser’s target.
Why does Google use a quality score?
Google uses quality score to show the most relevant ads possible to users each time a search is performed.
The world’s largest search engine depends on advertising revenue, so it has a vested interest in making sure users find and click on ads that interest them.
Google’s ad bidding is based on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, which means that Google only makes money when users click on an ad.
Basically, if Google gives low-quality ads the opportunity to take up space that could be filled by more relevant ads, they make less money.
While it can sometimes be difficult to improve your quality score, it is obviously the goal of every advertiser to get the highest quality leads possible with Google Ads.
To keep those leads flowing to their website, blog or online sales platform, advertisers must first do their part by choosing relevant keywords, writing compelling ads and directing users to useful, high-quality landing pages.
By following these guidelines, advertisers can expect big returns on their investment by reducing their CPCs.
How does Google calculate the quality score?
Google has tons of data on how users interact with search results, and with their unparalleled big data analytics capabilities, they are able to get a measure of how relevant each ad, keyword and landing page is expected to be to each search that occurs.
The search engine’s powerful algorithms monitor user interactions on search results pages (SERPs) to make predictions about future interactions.
Back in the days of Google AdWords, the forerunner of Google Ads, SQ did not exist. Google used CTR (Click Through Rate) to determine if keywords were irrelevant and should be disabled, or if advertisers should pay more to participate in the ad auction.
As machine learning techniques advanced, Google began to take more factors into account when determining the expected CTR, and the term quality score was introduced to replace the CTR component that was previously part of the ad ranking mechanism.
Why is the quality score important for advertisers
Advertisers care a lot about their QS, as it is one of the factors used to decide:
Which ads are eligible to participate in a given ad auction
How eligible ads are ranked
What actual CPC the advertiser must pay
Google doesn’t want to show irrelevant ads, and it’s easy to see why.
They charge advertisers primarily for clicks on their ads. If an advertiser uses a very high bid to occupy a high position on a page with an irrelevant ad, it will not be “clicked” and Google will not make any money.
When Google predicts that a particular keyword is very irrelevant and assigns it a very low SQ, that ad is highly likely to not participate in the auction for most searches.
On the other hand, having a high SQ ensures that an ad is eligible to participate in more ad auctions, so it moves to the ranking stage.
Once Google has selected the keywords and ads that are likely to be relevant to a given search, they are included in the ad auction.
This is a split-second auction where Google evaluates three main factors:
The amount each advertiser bids (CPC max)
Other factors, such as ad extensions, can give a boost to CTR
Each ad gets a score, and the resulting ranking determines who sees their ad displayed in the best locations and who misses the first page of results.
How to improve your quality score?
You can optimize your QS by improving the relevance of your keywords, ads and landing pages.
To start, look at the relative score of the three subcomponents of the QS:
Expected click-through rate (CTR)
Landing page experience
The value of each component will be displayed by Google as “Below Average”, “Average” or “Above Average”, which can guide you to what to optimize.
The expected click-through rate is the probability that your ad will generate a click when the search term is exactly the same as your keyword.
If it is low, make sure the keyword is specific and relevant to what you are offering.
If your keyword is relevant, but this score is low, try writing a more compelling ad by highlighting its relevance to the keyword or by including a stronger call to action or a powerful unique value proposition.
Next, ad relevance is a component that indicates how well your ad’s message matches the keyword.
If this component is low, it’s probably because your ad groups cover too broad a range of topics.
To remedy this problem, divide your ad group into smaller, themed sets.
By having too disparate a list of keywords grouped together in an ad group, you will either display an ad that is too generic or be off-topic.
Don’t rely solely on dynamic keyword insertion, and take the time to properly structure your account by creating separate ad groups for each set of closely related keywords.
The landing page experience, on the other hand, is about what happens after a user clicks on an ad.
What happens when they arrive at your landing page? Are they satisfied with what they see? Or do they quickly close the window?
If this component is too low, make sure your landing pages are closely related to what the user is looking for and delivers on the promise in the ad.
Also keep in mind that deep links are preferable to redirecting users to your homepage.
Also consider making the landing page easy to use on mobile devices, and make your page load as quickly as possible.
Finally, it’s essential to offer unique and quality content inside your landing pages.