Quality score is a key term in the paid search realm. While it may sound innocuous, understanding how quality scores are calculated and the impact they have on your campaigns is integral to running a high performance paid search strategy.
A quality score is what influences the rank and the cost of your paid search ads. Google’s Adwords and Microsoft’s Bing Ads both assign quality scores with values ranging from one to 10, 10 being the highest. While quality score is assigned at the keyword level, it is an estimation on the quality of not just your keywords, but also your ads and landing pages, and is a general indicator of how well your overall account is structured.
Your quality score’s numerical value is calculated by a function. While Google and Microsoft have their own unique formulas (which we’ll get into below), both search engines evaluate the following key areas:
- Estimated click through rate (The likelihood your keyword will lead to a click on your ad)
- Ad relevance (How well the keyword matches the message in your ads)
- Landing page experience (The likelihood your landing page will provide a good experience to customers who click your ad.)
Each area is assigned a grade (above average, average, or below average) and those individual grades are factored together to aggregate your quality score, which can impact your account’s performance in a variety of ways -- one of the most important being your ad rank.
Your Quality Score’s Impact on Ad Rank
Ad rank is where your keyword shows up on the page and is determined by your keyword bid, quality score, and the expected impact of ad extensions and other ad formats. This means that even if your bid is identical to a competitor for the same keyword, having a higher quality score will give you a higher rank on the page. With an exceptional quality score, your ad can even rank higher than other keywords that are bidding higher amounts. Generally speaking, a high quality score translates into a lower cost-per-click (CPC), which in turn leads to lower cost-per-acquisition (CPA) and higher return on ad spend (ROAS).
Conversely, if you have a low quality score, even an exceptionally high bid may not help your placement on the page and may even exclude you from entering the bid auction.
It is clear that when running a high performance paid search account, special attention has to be paid to your keywords’ quality scores, making it particularly important to understand what the quality score is telling you. As noted above, while the areas Adwords and Bing use to aggregate a quality score are similar, they align in subtlety different ways.
Adwords Quality Scores
Let’s start by looking at quality scores in Adwords, the originator of the concept. Below is an example quality score for a keyword that earned the highest possible score of 10, achieving an “above average” rating in all three areas:
If however, a keyword receives less than “above average” in any of the three areas, the highest score that keyword could earn is a nine:
In the example above, the keyword’s “average” rating in ad relevance limits the keyword to a score of nine, but luckily ad relevance is one of the easier areas to fix and would take little more than an ad copy update to push its score up to a 10. Beyond nines and 10’s, the calculations get a bit more abstract, but the key takeaway is that if you have a quality score of 10 in Adwords, you know your keyword has the highest possible potential.
Bing Ads Quality Scores
Quality score representation functions a bit differently in Bing Ads. Unlike Adwords, a keyword can have an “average” rating for one of the criteria, but still receive an overall quality score of 10.
However, this is not a cut-and-dried formula, as a different keyword with the exact same ratings may have a different quality score:
Additionally, “above average” ratings across the three criteria do not necessarily guarantee a quality score of 10, as can be seen below:
Making Improvements in Bing
In Adwords, it is clear what area need improvement to increase a keyword’s quality score, but in Bing it becomes a bit more nebulous. If every criterion is listed as “above average,” but your quality score is less than 10, how do you know which area to improve? Do you focus on just one area, or all three? Updates to these areas aren’t necessarily instantaneous, and spending time testing out changes can be laborious and ultimately cost time and money. In the ever changing world of paid search, efficiency in both performance and execution is key.
At Rise we always strives to push our performance to the highest levels, so we dug in a bit more to understand these observations around Bing’s quality scores and gain better insight for our clients. What we learned is that since Bing’s keyword-level insights are a fairly new feature and the functionality is in an ever-evolving state, meaning there isn’t necessarily a straightforward response.
While Adwords evenly weights click through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience, Bing takes a different approach. Ad relevance and landing page experience are factors that function on a threshold level, so once you cross the threshold for “above average” in these areas, they don’t need any further improvement. Click through rate, on the other hand, can be listed as “above average” even though it can still be improved beyond its current performance, which will push your keyword to that coveted score of 10.
Overall, when it comes to quality scores, your Bing Ads may require a little more attention to achieve optimization. By understanding quality scores in both Bing and Adwords, as well as how to optimize your scores in both, you are setting yourself up to be most efficient and achieve the greatest ROI in your paid search campaigns.
To learn more about quality scores and how you can best optimize your paid search program, reach out to Rise.