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Quality Score is how AdWords determines what you can pay per click.

The better the score, the cheaper the click.

August 17, 2016.Finn.0 Likes.0 Comments
Home/Blog/AdWords/Quality Score is how AdWords determines what you can pay per click.

Clients I talk to get so caught up in “how much does AdWords cost,” and “how much is it per keyword,” they miss out on how to get a positive ROI from their efforts, and how their efforts will be rewarded.

To know where best to put your AdWords effort, it’s best to look at how AdWords determines what you pay.

Adwords uses two formulas to determine how much someone pays and whose ad gets the premium position: Quality Score and AdRank.

Quality Score is what you’re offering for each keyword.

AdRank takes what you’re offering and compares it to what others offering on the same keyword, and places the ad on the page top-down based on the best AdRank.

Why top-down?

Because the web page loads top-down. The closer you are to the top of the screen, the more like you are to get viewed by a searcher. The top of the page gets the best chance to be seen. Therefore, it is the most valuable position in most but not all cases.

We’ll start with Quality Score.

Google does more than just look at your:

  • keywords
  • ad copy
  • bid per keyword

Google also looks at your:

  • landing page: where you send the traffic
  • your budget

Google uses their Quality Score software to evaluate these elements each and every time a user searches for anything you are advertising for. Before we discuss how to optimize these elements, let’s make sure we understand first how Quality Score works. Do right by the searcher, and Google will reward you.

Remember this mantra: Google is your broker.

Google does their job without prejudice in theory. Google is also the broker for everyone who uses their services. They are the middle man for their advertisers and their searchers. Everyone is a client to Google.

Google likes to keep it fair for advertisers, too

Just like how anyone with an internet connection can use Google to search for products, have an email account etc…, Google likes to keep it fair for advertisers (remember: Google is your broker and everyone is a client to Google.). Otherwise, large advertisers would be able to spam smaller advertisers under the suffocating weight of deep pockets.

AdWords uses both Quality Score and AdRank to keep the playing field level so small advertisers can compete with the big advertisers and give everyone the best possible Google experience.

What is AdWords Quality Score?

Quality score is the software AdWords uses to rate the quality of your offering on each keyword. Once it evaluates your score, it will give you a score ranked from 1-10. 1 is terrible. 5 is average. 10 is the best.

  • The Quality Score is unique to each keyword you use.
  • Your keyword’s quality scores do not relate to each other.
  • Each of keyword’s quality score is treated separately.
  • Your quality scores are compared to all other competitors bidding on the keyword.

Three elements of Quality Score

Adwords won’t give you specifics, but they will tell you how you’re doing based on their three criteria of Quality Score.

  1. expected clickthrough rate: how good your ad is as well as how long your budget will let you bid on this keyword
  2. ad relevance: how relevant your ad is to the keyword
  3. landing page experience: how relevant your page is to the keyword, how easy it is to find the information, how easy it is to perform a user’s desired action, trustworthiness of the page / site, how fast the page loads…

Each of those three get one of the following self-explanatory ratings:

  • Above Average: Pretty good, especially when compared to others on this keyword
  • Average: They’ve seen better, they’ve seen worse but nothing glaring is an issue
  • Below Average: Time to make upgrades

Quality Score was put in to help keep companies from spamming Google with shitty ads and content. Those who try to spam will have to pay a pretty penny. Here’s how:

How Quality Score Works

This score will determine how much you pay per click in relation to the market rate for the bid. Those keyword, ad, and landing page are closely related, well done, and provides great information will get closer to a 10. Those who don’t, well get closer to that 1.


Say you have an average quality score on a keyword you want to bid on, a 5. Google says it’s not great, but it’s not bad. According to Google, you will have to pay no more, no less per keyword. So, for those keywords with a 5, if AdWords says that the bid for the top spot is $2, it’s because the market rate is also $2.

“Big deal.”

True. You get what you pay for. But, let’s say your quality score was a 1. You can pay up to 400% more per for that click. Now that $2 bid at market rate will cost you $8 each time someone clicks on it.

“Oh. Damn.”

Conversely, those who have a quality score of 10 on their keyword can pay up to 50% less than market rate. Now, that $2 bid at market rate will only cost you $1. This means you can pay for twice as many clicks as before, and for about 8 times as those with a quality score of 1.

“Oh. DAMN!”

Now you’re getting it. The higher the quality score, the more clicks you can get. The lower the score, the less clicks you get.

Example of Quality Score’s estimated impact on bid

ElementsQuality Score 1Quality Score 5Quality Score 10
Budget:$1,000.00 USD$1,000.00 USD$1,000.00 USD
Keyword Bid:$2.00 USD$2.00 USD$2.00 USD
Estimated Adjustment:+400%Null-50%
Estimated Actual Bid:$8.00 USD$2.00 USD$1.00 USD
Estimated Clicks. $1,000 Budget:1255001,000
Source: 2013

There are those who think they’ve cracked the actual savings claims the following when the beginning default keyword score became 6 in Spring of 2016:

  • Quality Score 1: +600% markup
  • Quality Score 5: +50% markup
  • Quality Score 7: Null
  • Quality Score 10: -30% markup

And respected online publication claims it might vary, but to what degree, no one is certain.

That default score changing back to null (not 0, but not given a score) in September 2016 for new keywords until data is collected.

For me, any other assessment from the traditional marks is like trying to measure the heat of the sun by how quickly it heated up in your backyard. Until Google gives out marks, you’ll never know aside from guessing because of the observer effect: you’ll never be able to measure because the moment you look, you enter your own observation and affect the rankings. Once you place a bid, the quality score changes for everyone. It’s an incredible, cohesive algorithm. So, I stick with the originals. So far, so good.

Regardless of who is right, the points are still the same

The better the quality score, the more clicks per budget.

The better the quality score, the more clicks per budget.

The more searchers find you, the more chances you have to sell business or services.

And to sell business and services are, afterall, why we’re here.

Now that you’re starting to understand how to get the most out of your account, it’s time to talk about how compare it with others.

Categories: AdWords, PPC
Tags: #101
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