Using Quality Score to guide optimizations: Google Best Practices

Connect ad quality to better performance

Understanding ad quality gives you important insight into the Google Ads auction. To truly take advantage of that insight, follow these best practices.

Make sure your most competitive ads can serve for each auction

A lot goes into creating and delivering excellent ads. There are some straightforward steps that everyone can, and should, follow to deliver the best messaging possible. First, rotate your ads to optimize for clicks. This allows Google Ads to consider the specific user and query context of an auction, then deliver the right messaging for that moment.

To take full advantage of optimized ad serving, you also want to give the system plenty of options for your ad text. Implement 3-5 ads per ad group. The ad that ultimately serves in an auction will be one that is projected to be the best for that situation. It’s a quick way to make your ads more relevant and better suited to a user’s context.

Along with your ad text, also try to give the system as many ad extensions as possible. Set up all the extensions that make sense for you. Ad Rank factors in the impact of those extensions. Extensions make your ads more prominent, which generally translates to more clicks. Note that the quality of your ad extensions can impact the overall increase in clicks that you receive. The influence of ad extensions on expected CTR is removed from the determination of expected CTR, so you should not expect to see an improvement in Quality Score by adding extensions.

Set bids that align with the value of your clicks

Average CPC is often not the price you’re paying for each of your clicks. Because the system is dynamic, the CPC you pay for each click can vary a lot from auction to auction. It varies depending on competition and the context of each query (things like the exact query, the user's device, the user's location and more). 

Also, there are plenty of reasons your averages might be shifting at any one time — including seasonality, changes in consumer behavior and competition. And that’s without considering changes to the search results page or improvements to the ads quality system. Even for advertisers that don’t experience a lot of seasonality or competition, it’s not unusual for CPCs to change over time.

The key is to set bids that don’t expose you to extreme outliers. Your average CPC could be very different from what you see as an actual CPC from one click to another. Here’s a simple example:

Max CPC Total Clicks Clicks @ $0.10 Clicks @ $1.10 Avg CPC
$1.10 10 9 1 $0.20
$0.90 9 9 0 $0.10

In this case, an 18% decrease in bid would result in an average CPC drop of 50%, but clicks would only drop 10%.

A great way to get insight into this behavior is by segmenting your different reports. Top vs. other can be particularly meaningful, as the top slot is often much more expensive than the bottom slot. Days of the week, devices and geography can also help you get a more nuanced look at average CPC. These segments should help you find any outliers, and once you find them, you can reduce bids or make bid adjustments to ensure that you’re always bidding to the value of a click.

Tip

Smart Bidding is a subset of automated bid strategies that use machine learning to optimize for conversions or conversion value in each and every auction—a feature known as “auction-time bidding.” Smart Bidding allows you to set performance targets and customize settings to your unique business goals.

Tip

One of the components of your Ad Rank are the Ad Rank thresholds, which set a minimum cost for your ad to show. Ad Rank thresholds are determined by your ad quality and are adjusted based on various factors, including ad position, the topic and nature of the search, and user signals and attributes such as location and device type. So, higher quality ads will have a lower minimum bid to show. Read more here.

Optimize to the right metrics

Just like Quality Score is only a guide in your account, impression share and average position should be used as complementary metrics. Impression share is the sum of all auctions where your ad showed and all auctions where your ad could be competitive enough to show. For example, it could include auctions where your ad could show at twice its current bid, but could exclude auctions where your ad is estimated to need a 1,000% bid increase in order to appear. You might understate your account’s potential if you look at impression share alone. Combine insights from there with the Keyword Planner and bid simulators.

Average position also runs the risk of giving you an incomplete picture of how you’re doing across auctions. When reviewing it, be sure to review segment-specific performance. Top vs. other and Google search partner site performance are particularly valuable to review.

Tip

For more on average position, check out this 2011 blog post (from our English Google Ads blog) from Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian. It may be an old post, but it’s still applicable and relevant today.

Track trends over time, but value current performance most

There are columns that alert you to historical quality ratings in your account as you make changes. Our advice about ad quality from earlier in this guide applies to those columns: the quality component columns are far more important than the 1-10 number, and you should only use them alongside other, more business-critical metrics. Don’t lose track of your account’s history, but don’t get bogged down in the past, either. Your current performance matters the most.

Conclusion

The old advice to college graduates is, “Do what you love and all else will follow.” In the world of Google Ads, the advice is “Do what’s best for your users and your bottom line, and all else will (or at least should) follow.” Those business fundamentals are more important than Quality Score. Remember, too, that there are differences between auction-time quality and the 1-10 Quality Score number that appears in your account. Your Quality Score will give you insight into how you’re performing, but “chasing the number” shouldn’t be the focus of your optimizations. Be relevant, be compelling and drive traffic to landing pages that deliver on what you promise in your ad, and you can feel confident your score should reflect that quality.

 

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