How To Improve Your Quality Score From 1 To 10

AdWords Quality Score
Oooh… That looks so nice!

Shh… Don’t tell anybody, but I have found the secret to improving AdWords quality score. As a thank you for stopping by the website and taking a look, I’ll share it with you! So, what’s the big secret?

The Quality Score Myth:

I know you’ve heard it all before – Quality score is all there is to AdWords. If you don’t have a quality score of X then your advertising is not working. And, of course if you pay someone enough money they will “guarantee” you a quality score of 10 for every keyword in your account! Then your AdWords advertising will be effective, you’ll get rich and famous, beautiful people will flock to you, all your problems will be solved and all your ills cured. Couldn’t be simpler right? Facetious? Me? Never…

The truth is that your quality score can improve over time, but the idea that there is a button you can press or a switch you can flip to improve quality score immediately is a complete myth.

The Reality of Quality Score:

Over the course of a year I have kept a weekly quality score log for one specific exact match keyword in our company account – AdWords Specialist. I began the campaign on January 12, 2012 with only this one keyword term. At the time, the QS was hovered around 3-4 for the first couple of weeks, then hit an all time low of 1 on January 25. A year after the all time low, as of January 25, 2013 the QS went up to 10. It’s now steady at 10 and has been for some time. It didn’t happen overnight though.

For the first three months (through March 2012), the QS hovered around the 3-4 range fairly consistently. In April it went up to 5, and for the next several months the roller coaster continued. Up to 7, down to 4, some five’s, some sixes… Then at the end of November 2012, I finally saw that magic number – 10. Where the quality score has remained ever since.

I did absolutely nothing, over the course of the year with the implicit intent of trying to improve quality score. Nothing, and I was rewarded for my lack of efforts with a quality score of 10!

The Quality Score Optimization Process:

So the performance of that single keyword campaign must have been awesome right? Nope. To be completely honest, it kind of sucked – Or at least is far from my finest work. 🙂


Yep, there’s an entire year of data, that’s it. Not very impressive at all. 🙂 Not a whole lot of interest or engagement. Pretty terrible CTR and average position. Absolutely horrendous website engagement.

It seems as though the mantra of high CTR equals good Quality score is a myth. The one caveat is that this is a highly competitive term.

In order to have an average position of lower than 4, there has to be at least five ads on the page, more or less on average. It’s not just historical CTR, but historical CTR as a matter of context in relation to other advertisers historical performance that is (rumored to be at least) one of the primary factors in quality score.

I can’t help but wonder – If I get a quality score of 10 for this terrible performance, just what the heck are our competitors doing with their own AdWords accounts? 🙂

Improved Quality Score Benefits:

So, I’ve got a quality score of 10 for a specific kw term now. I must be rich, famous and all that right? Nope.

Surely I must get a much higher position for much lower cost? Nope, not really.

Remember, adrank is about more than just quality score. QS X Bid = Adrank. Even with a quality score of 10 I still have to be able to outbid the competition to win a higher position. Take a look at the same data set for the first 14 days of February 2013:


If you are just looking at adrank and the effect quality score can have, and increase in average position of .3 isn’t much of a boost. Bid is of course part of the equation that is absent, but the bid has been actually increased by 25% since February.

In order to get an increase in average position of .3 I actually had to increase the bid with a quality score of 10!

(Yes, CTR, pages viewed, and visit duration are much better. However, I did not work to improve those metrics over the course of a year to improve quality score. Whatever improvements have been made were done in an attempt to improve the overall holistic performance of the AdWords account and the website.)

The Real Secret To Quality Score:

This is the real secret to improving quality score: Try to improve everything other than quality score, and see if maybe, eventually, quality score improves!

If or when it does, don’t expect an increase in quality score to be a magic bullet. Competitors can still outbid you for top position, and ad position has nothing to do with what happens after the click. Not to mention the fact that you have to write an ad that people actually find engaging enough to click on. Even if you are not in the top position, if you have the most compelling ad in the eyes of that unique individual user, they may still click on it!

Always remember, quality score is the one aspect of your AdWords account that you cannot control.

Maybe Google “rewards” you with a high quality score, maybe they “punish” you with a bad one. Who knows, maybe quality score is just a big scam by Google to try and increase CPC revenue for the big G. 🙂

Whatever quality score is in your mind, it’s certainly not all there is to AdWords!

Focus first and foremost on writing more effective ad copy, developing your website content, and offering a better value than your competitors for your products or services. Over the course of time, focusing on everything and anything other than just quality score may very well be the secret to getting that magic number 10.


Alistair Dent had a great piece recently echoing some of these same sentiments. Then again, Larry Kim might call us “quality score haters”, 🙂 given the benefits that an improved quality score can have on cost per conversion.