AdWords quality score – How to improve the quality of your AdWords campaigns

Last updated on Jul 20, 2015

It is important to meet a certain quality standard when creating AdWords campaigns: well built campaigns are more efficient and therefore save you money. Here are some simple rules that will help you improve the overall quality of your search campaigns in Google AdWords.

How important is the AdWords quality score?

AdWords professionals argue about whether or not the AdWords quality is an important metric. Some believe it’s just another way for Google to make more money, others say they ignore it completely and still achieve a good campaign performance.

I think that the AdWords quality score is a very good indicator for the overall quality of an AdWords account and of the website it is driving traffic to: When your quality scores are low, there is potential for you to improve things and reach a better performance in the long run.

There is no excuse for not trying to improve your quality score and thereby the quality of your AdWords efforts.

All the tips in this article have proven to affect the AdWords quality score directly or indirectly, and they will definitely help you achieve better results in the future.

Make sure to always include the search query in the ad headline.

This is probably one of the most important rules for creating AdWords campaigns. But how can you achieve it? You will need:

  • Tight keyword matching options. Broad match is a no-go!* Broad match keywords are triggered by so many different search queries that you cannot guarantee that the search query will appear in the ad.
  • A small number of keywords per ad group. All keyword combinations in one ad group should have at least one element (the more, the better) in common. This is the only way of making sure that a big part of the user’s search query appears in the ad headline.
  • Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is NOT an option. You will achieve a better quality score if you avoid DKI.

*Broad match can be handy for collecting search query data in the early stages of a campaign, but there is no place for it in an optimised and performance-oriented campaign.

By including the search queries that can trigger the keywords in an ad group in the ad headline, you will directly be awarded with a higher quality score, and also improve it indirectly, by positively influencing the click-through-rate (CTR), which itself is the most important direct factor for the quality score.

End the first line after the headline with a full stop or an exclamation mark.

Every ad’s first line after the headline should end with a full stop or an exclamation mark. When you do this, the first line after the headline will be pulled up into the headline when the ad shows in a top position. This provides extra power for your click-through rate and will therefore boost your quality score.

This is also a very good way to make sure that even long search queries can appear in the headline. By having a headline that is 60 characters long (25 from the normal headline plus 35 from the first line after the headline), you can place even the longest search queries you are targeting in the headlines of the corresponding ads.


Focus on relevant keywords.

One mistake lots of AdWords marketers make is to bid on the wrong keywords: If your website or product is not able to directly respond to the user’s need expressed in the search query, then there is no point in showing him an ad.

Here’s an example to clarify what I mean by focusing on the relevant keywords: If you have an online shop that sells car seats for babies, the brand and model names of the different car seats you sell are obviously very relevant keywords for you and you can use your product pages as landing pages.

Keywords like “how to choose the right baby car seat”, on the other hand, are only relevant if you have content that answers this question. If your online shop only consists of product pages and does not have a counselling section, then you should probably not target search queries from users that are looking for advice and that aren’t ready to buy yet.

Make sure that you only use keywords you can respond to with a perfectly matching landing page.

This piece of advice is strongly linked to the following tip:

Make sure the landing page provides an answer to the search query.

You can put as much effort as you like in creating a well structured campaign with high CTRs: If the landing page does not meet the user’s expectations, your campaign is bound to fail.

Make sure to answer directly to the the user’s need expressed in the search query on the landing page you send him to. You will be rewarded with a higher quality score, low bounce rates and more goal completions.

Use all relevant ad extensions.

Ad extensions such as sitelinks, callout extensions, call extensions, location extensions, reviews and app downloads help you stand out from your competitors and improve your CTR, which, as we know, helps boost your quality score.

You should choose the ad extensions that are relevant to your business. A call or location extension might not be interesting for a non-local business; sitelinks and callout extensions, on the other hand, are suited for almost every campaign.

Don’t bid too low.

So now you have created a shiny and well-structured campaign with all the fancy ad extensions. Do you really want to hide your ads on the bottom right hand corner of the Google search results?

In the past, I often optimised AdWords campaigns for cheap traffic, meaning that I tried to lower the bids as far as possible in order to push down the average CPC as far as I could. I don’t believe in this strategy any more.

My new approach is the following: With a really well optimised campaign, whenever a search query triggers one of my highly relevant keywords, I absolutely want the user to click on my ad. And where do I achieve this? At the top of the search result page!

Your ads will get more exposure on the top positions, most types of ad extensions only show there and also long headlines only work at the top of the page. It doesn’t always have to be position 1, though. Tests in the past have shown that you achieve the best conversion rates with an average position of around 3.

Optimise the title tags, headlines and content of your landing pages.

The Google AdWords bot checks your landing pages and rates their likelihood of satisfying the users that click on your ads. The quality of your landing pages is a very important factor for your keyword quality score. We have discussed above that it is important to answer to the questions your visitors pose with their search queries. But there are some simple optimisations you can execute on your page that might seem familiar to you if you have ever heard about the basics of SEO.

In order to boost your quality score a bit more, you should make sure that the search queries that trigger your ad impressions don’t only appear in the ad headline, but also in the title tag, headlines and content of your landing page. The positive side effect of this optimisation will be that your SEO performance will also benefit from it.

All in all, it is always a good idea to look at your AdWords campaigns from an SEO point of view: If your landing page ranks (or could rank) for a certain search query, then you will also have good chances of reaching a good quality score and overall performance with the matching keywords. If, on the other hand, you have no chance of ranking for a keyword organically, then it is also not a good idea to include it in your AdWords campaign.

Implement conversion tracking and use it for optimisation.

Several times in the past I have observed that my quality scores went up after I had implemented conversion tracking in Google AdWords. It does not matter whether you use AdWords conversion tags or import conversion from Google Analytics, but Google seems to reward the mere fact that you are using conversion tracking with better quality scores.

Of course, your main motivation for conversion tracking should be optimising your campaigns for the right goals. If you don’t have a “real conversion” like a sale or a lead generation on your website, you should use a dummy conversion like “three pageviews” or “two minutes on site” and import it to AdWords. Along with the positive side effect of enhancing your quality score, this type of dummy conversion, if chosen wisely, will also help you increase the quality of your website traffic by optimising your account for a better conversion rate.

Be active and keep optimising!

One other factor that Google seems to adduce when calculating your quality score is account activity. I have made the unpleasant experience that the quality scores in a perfectly optimised account will gradually drop if you stop optimising your account regularly. So you should never rest on your oars when you have reached a good performance, but keep working in order to make it even better!

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