Search Marketing

Google Settles the (Quality) Score with New Whitepaper

July 1, 2014

While Quality Score is a key component of Ad Rank that can impact position, price and even ad extensions, advertisers have generally had only a vague understanding of how it works. Google recently released a guide to Quality Score and how to best use it when optimizing an account, along with an updated video on the AdWords Auction starring Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian.

Google describes Quality Score as a “helpful diagnostic tool, not a key performance indicator,” which is the very reason why we launched our Digital Nervous System earlier this year. 360i’s DNS is a data-driven technology platform that monitors the health of paid search campaigns and reverse engineers Quality Score.

The whitepaper, called “Settling the (Quality) Score: Using Quality Score to Guide Optimizations,” highlights the key factors that ultimately determine where, when and at what cost your ad will serve. Much like Google’s emphasis on creating relevant content for SEO, the paper actually emphasizes that advertisers need not stress about the score for every keyword, but should rather “give your users what they need, and a great Quality Score should follow.”

Google provides a short list of things that do and do not matter when it comes to Quality Score; and not by coincidence, the first on the list is the user’s device. With Google’s rollout of Enhanced Campaigns and the ubiquity of the mobile devices in the market, it makes sense that this gets first billing. The guide stresses the importance of a site experience that is optimized for mobile and making sure information is easy to find and navigation is intuitive.

One benefit of a good Quality Score that is highlighted in the guide is the higher likelihood of being able to share more information and take up more real estate on the results page with Ad Extensions. However, the paper later states obtaining a high Quality Score and serving the extensions does not then perpetuate a dominance in that position. Google explains that because they “normalize for other factors that affect visibility,” an ad that has been showing lower on the page and gets the expected lower CTR than the top-of-page ads showing with extensions, can still ultimately compete assuming it improves its quality in other areas to reach the same level.

Both newbies to the field and experienced search marketers alike should also take a few minutes to watch the video Google released in tandem with the whitepaper. Varian walks through the auction process as clearly and concisely as possible, in a way that previous Google training videos have not been as successful at doing.


While some questions are left unanswered, the importance of Quality Score remains, and it is key for advertisers to unlock as much information as possible to not only improve the user’s experience, but meet campaign objectives as well.

David Mataranglo contributed to this post.