What Is Quality Score?

How Quality Score Affects Your Business

In my introductory tutorial, I tried to place Google’s Quality Score in historical context as a technical solution to a then-new business problem. This time, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and answer the question, “How does Quality Score affect my business?”

Your Quality Score is directly related to your costs and revenues in three ways. On the cost end, it affects your actual CPC and a keyword’s first page bid minimums. On the revenue end, it determines where your ads appear on a page.

1) Quality Score and Ad Placement

Your quality score comes into play every time a user’s keyword search triggers one of your ads. Every time an ad is displayed, Google multiplies the advertiser’s bid by its Quality Score, and ranks the advertisers based on the results. Therefore, an advertiser with a maximum cost per click (CPC) bid of $2 might be trumped by one with a maximum CPC of $1, if that second advertiser’s Quality Score is much higher. Along with your bid, the Quality Score determines where you show up on a page (or, as we’ll see below, whether it appears at all).

2) Quality Scores and CPC Bids

Here’s an even more direct impact on your costs: the Quality Score is the value Google uses to turn maximum CPC bids into actual costs per click. After Google ranks ads, it charges the lowest amount possible to keep advertisers in the order it has determined. Let’s say the #10-ranked ad on a page ends up with an actual bid of $1.62, based on its maximum CPC and Quality Score. The #9-ranked advertiser then needs to pay the lowest amount possible to keep its position: $1.63. And so on. (Not to worry though: you’ll never pay more than your maximum CPC.)

3) Quality Scores and First Page Minimums

To help you set realistic bids, Google provides First Page Bid Estimates for every keyword. This is the lowest amount that you can bid, based on your Quality Score, to show up on the first page of search results. It’s not an exact value: in a live auction, the CPC bid you’d need to appear on the first page of results might be slightly higher or lower. But the important thing to keep in mind, is that the higher your Quality Score, the lower your first page bid minimum. Of course, if your Quality Score is extremely low (or if your bids are unrealistically low) your ads will not be displayed at all.

It should be clear by now that the quality score isn’t just another random metric, but an absolutely crucial factor in any search marketing campaign. As mentioned earlier, the Quality Score is a measure of relevance, so the best way to improve it is to choose keywords relevant to your business, write ads relevant to those keywords, and keep your landing pages relevant to both. Those are only general principles, though.