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Quality Score Is the Elusive Metric Retail Marketers Need to Get Right

Belle Phanawat

Quality score is a critical part of a successful Google paid search campaign. It determines how relevant retailers’ ads are. The more relevant the ad, the higher that ad appears in search and the lower the CPC. Google penalizes irrelevant ads that have a poor user experience with a lower score and higher CPCs. While that may seem cut and dry, quality score is an elusive metric. There is no clear formula to hit a certain quality score, but rather a variety of tactics retail marketers can implement to improve scores over time.

In this article, we’ll define what quality score actually is, why it’s so important for driving sales on paid search, and outline some of the most valuable steps retail marketers can take to raise their score.

What Is Quality Score?

Google defines quality score as “an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages.” It is a score from 1-10, with 1 being the lowest score, and 10 the highest. Google emphasizes that quality score is not a key performance indicator, but rather a diagnostic tool that marketers should use to check the health of their campaigns. Retail marketers can view their quality score in the keywords’ “Quality Score” column.

Specifically, quality score takes into account:

  • Keyword relevance in each ad group
  • Landing page quality and relevance
  • Ad copy relevance
  • Historical Google Ads performance
  • Expected click-through rate

Google reports that the three most important components of quality score are ad relevance, expected click-through rate, and landing page experience. When marketers view the quality score of a keyword, they can also view scores for these components. While Google does not take quality score into account at auction, it does weigh these three metrics, making them the most important areas to focus on.

How to Improve Ad Relevance

If a keyword has a low quality score of 3, for example, marketers should take a look at how their ad relevance, expected click-through rate, and landing page experience are ranking. If one or more of these metrics is “below average,” marketers should focus their energy on that metric first.

If ad relevance is low, marketers can take several approaches to improve it. Marketers should make sure the language of the ad matches the search queries it receives. Review the search query report to identify more relevant terms that should be included in the ad copy.

Alternatively, marketers can group below average keywords into smaller ad groups that have more targeted and relevant ad copy. Remove keywords from ad groups that speak to disparate products or features and don’t relate to the ad copy.

Negative keywords are also a powerful tool that prevent ads from appearing for unrelated search queries. If, for example, a retailer is selling kayaks, it may want to negate terms like “kayak repair” or “how to kayak” in order to avoid appearing in searches where the searcher’s intent is not to buy a kayak.

How to Improve Click-through Rate

If an ad is appearing for the right search queries, then improving click-through rates is all about the ad copy. Marketers should make their copy specific and compelling. It should highlight the benefits or key features of a product or speak to a customer’s pain point.

For example, a mattress company that’s competing with a top-performing brand like Casper may want to set apart it’s ad with this promise: “We sell the same high quality mattresses as the leading brands for 25% less.”

It’s also important to remember that while click-through rate is an important component of quality score, a high click-through rate may not always be the most important metric for a retailer. If conversion rates are high on a targeted, specific ad, it may not matter that click-through is low.

How to Improve Landing Page Relevance

The key to improving landing page relevance is sending the user to the landing page that best reflects his or her query. A consumer who searches for “hiking boots” should be directed to a page with multiple hiking boot brands and styles. Someone looking for “North Face hiking boots,” on the other hand, should be directed to a page only featuring that boot brand.

Aside from products, marketers should ensure the ad copy and landing page copy align. For example, if the paid search ad promises free shipping or 15% off, make sure that benefit is visible on the landing page as well.

Landing pages should also be responsive and easy to navigate so that regardless of device, the user can easily find what they are searching for.

Quality score will never be solved for retail marketers. Rather, it’s an ongoing process. Marketers must continuously evaluate their ads, landing pages, and keywords to make sure they are providing the best experience for shoppers. While that may seem like a lot of work, quality score is like the rising tide that lifts all ships. As it increases, it will improve retailers’ ad rank, costs, and conversion rates, and that is well worth the effort.

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