The ROI Revolution Blog

Introduction to Google’s Ad Auction, Part 1: Quality Score

March 24, 2009

ctrpie.JPGLast Wednesday our agency’s Google rep sent over a video put together by Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian that very clearly explains Google’s Ad Auction and Quality Score. The 9 minute video is definitely worth viewing at least once to get a better understanding of two large parts of the AdWords system that were, until now, pretty hard to quantify.

In this two part blog series, I will explain what Quality Score actually is, how the ad auction works, and how Quality Score determines your ads’ positioning and costs per click using the video as my guide. Today’s article will cover the ever elusive concept of what Google’s Quality Score really is.

Google’s reasoning for creating Quality Score is to make sure that the best interests of all parties included in the search experience (the advertiser, the user, and Google themselves) are taken into account when a search is performed on Google.com. Below, I’ve explained the motivation to appeal to each party’s interest:

  • Advertisers want to show relevant ads so that users will click on their ads and land on their site, hopefully intending to purchase something.
  • Users want to see relevant ads so they can easily find what they’re looking for in the shortest amount of time.
  • Google wants the best experience for both advertisers and users so that advertisers continue to use the AdWords program and so users continue to use Google.com and Google’s other host of products.

Until recently, Google’s “Quality Score” was an abstract concept with little to no definition. Advertisers wanted to get the highest Quality Score possible, but didn’t really know what they were striving for.


Towards the end of 2008 and even more in Q1 of this year, Google has been slowly revealing what is included in Quality Score. The video explains that Quality Score consists of clickthrough rate (CTR), relevancy, and landing page quality. The reasons Google places emphasis on each of those components is outlined below:

  • CTR is the most heavily weighted component accounting for over 50% of Quality Score. Google looks to CTR as a means of getting users’ feedback on ad text. If an ad has a high clickthrough rate, this must mean that many users are finding it relevant and useful to what they’re looking for.
  • Relevancy is the second largest component. Google takes into account the relevancy of a keyword to an ad as well as to the user’s search query. Relevancy is Google’s way to display only useful ads to users. It also prevents advertisers from simply buying their way into an ad auction, when their product or service is irrelevant to the search.
  • Landing Page Quality is the third component of Quality Score. It holds the least weight, but is still a very important part of the equation. The video lets us know that, in Google’s opinion, a landing page that is high quality contains relevant, original content, is easily navigable, and has quick load times, with minimum pop ups or pop unders. It should also be completely transparent about the nature of your business, how your site interacts with the visitor’s computer, and how you intend to use the visitors’ personal information.

It is very helpful for us to now see exactly what we should be working on in our clients’ AdWords accounts to improve their Quality Score. We’re also able to focus our time on areas where we feel we can be the most productive.

The high emphasis placed on CTR shows me that testing ad text and ad headlines in an effort to improve the relevancy to keywords and the user’s query is of utmost importance. While focusing on improving the relevance of your keywords to your ads and your ads to high quality landing pages will certainly pay off, it is now clear what Google wants from us the most.

In tomorrow’s article, I will use the video to explain how Google determines your Ad Rank as well as each advertiser’s click cost. We’ll also delve into how improving your Quality Score can help achieve higher positions for less cost.

Stay tuned…

Click here to read Part 2, AdRank and CPC

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