There are many elements of an effective paid search campaign. While much of the discussion often centers on bidding, there is an equally important component: quality score.

Quality score was introduced by search engines looking to receive maximum yield from advertising. By understanding the search engines’ approach, search marketers can take steps to improve their ROI, independent of their bidding strategy.

Every paid search ad that goes unclicked represents a lost opportunity for the search engines to make money. The search engines use quality score to minimise this loss; ads with a higher clickthrough rate receive a higher quality score. This incentivises marketers to optimise the relevance of their ad copy to specific keywords, allowing search engines to increase yield and paid click rates.

Visitors are more likely to click on ads that are relevant to their keyword search. Hence, more clicks lead to a higher quality score. This whole act in itself is completely independent from your bids, making quality score vital to one’s search campaigns.

Boosting quality score is easier said than done. Therefore, I’ve proved a couple of useful tips that will help deliver a clear competitive advantage.

Maximise your Keywords Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
Clickthrough rate is one of the most important factors contributing to your overall quality score. One of the simplest ways to dramatically increase CTR is to cut out the irrelevant impressions that your keywords are being exposed to.

To do this you should regularly review 'raw search queries' that drive traffic to your site. These are the actual queries that visitors type into the search bar before clicking on your ads. You may find clicks on your ads triggered by keywords unrelated to your business, resulting in a low CTR and a lowered quality score. To prevent these unwanted clicks (and cost), add negative keywords to cut out these unwanted impressions.

Protect your star performing keywords
The overall CTR and relevance of keywords within your ad groups contribute to your quality score. Your best performing keywords could easily be dragged down by other keywords that are not performing as well. Once you have identified these star performers, protect them by removing other lower performers from the group and placing them in their own ad group. This will leave your star keywords to flourish in the existing ad group.

Expand to all match types
Reviewing raw search queries can also determine which match types drive the most traffic. Broad or expanded match keywords are an easy way to grow volume quickly. But, achieving a high quality score comes from a tight alignment between keyword, ad group, and creative.

Improve this alignment by adding new keywords you discover and setting them to phrase match. For example, let’s say the BROAD matched keyword 'womens golf clubs' generates a click from the search 'womens golf driver'.  Assuming you sell women’s drivers, add 'womens golf driver' as a new keyword on PHRASE match. 

By closely matching what visitors are looking for, this new keyword has a better chance of garnering a higher quality score and making better use of your marketing spend.
Top Tip
This is a simple one but can make a huge difference if you receive a significant amount of traffic through your brand terms.

Create a new ad group and have only your brand term in this ad group on exact match. Now create a second ad group with just your brand term in it but this time on Broad match. Now add the very same term to this second ad group as a negative exact match keyword. 

By doing this, all the queries from customers that are looking for your brand (and only your brand) will be presented with the ad in the exact match ad group. Due to the high relevance and high expected CTR you should see a dramatic decrease in the cost-per-click for this traffic through the improved quality score.

If the user typed in something else that included your brand term it will be directed to the second ad group. The performance of this ad group will initially fall because you have taken out its most relevant queries, so combat this by adding negative terms and new phrase and exact match keywords to refine this traffic until you are comfortable it is relevant to your business.


Clearly, boosting relevance and CTRs throughout your campaign can dramatically improve performance. Applying these techniques to your search campaigns can be a cumbersome task. And just like with bidding, automation can scale these efforts far beyond what a team of search marketers could do manually.

With the vast scale of many paid search accounts today, improving quality score requires tools, machine intelligence and automation. A search engine marketing tool can analyse your raw search queries, suggest new negatives, split ad groups as well as measure relevance and performance. Combining automated techniques to boost quality score with effective bid management is a potent combination with the potential to deliver results that will not only maximise ROI, but give the marketer a strategic advantage over their competitors.

Ed Stevenson

Published 25 August, 2009 by Ed Stevenson

Ed Stevenson is Managing Director (Europe) of Marin Software, a paid search technology firm, and a contributor to Econsultancy. He also writes the Big Search blog. 

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Comments (8)

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Craig Danuloff

Interesting article with some good points. But neither your 'Expand to all Match Types' nor your 'Top Tip' will have any effect on Quality Score. They're both good ideas in general, but unrelated to Qualitiy Score.

Quality Score is only calculated when the search query exactly matches the keyword, regardless of match type. (see AdWords help for documentation) There is no impact to Quality Score from queries that don't exactly match keywords so there isn't anything about the application of Match Types that will improve Quality Scores.

There are other benefits to the tactics your recommend, and I would suggest everyone implement them. But suggesting that they'll help quality score is misleading.

almost 9 years ago



Thanks for the info Ed and Craig.  I don't mess much with pay per click but I find the information interesting.

almost 9 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50 India

Nice article. :-)

almost 9 years ago

Jayne Reddyhoff

Jayne Reddyhoff, Director at Zanzi Digital

“Protect your star performing keywords . . . by removing other lower performers from the group and placing them in their own ad group. This will leave your star keywords to flourish in the existing ad group.”

I would go further than this and suggest that you move your star performing keywords into their own campaign. There is plenty of evidence that poorly performing keywords can have an impact on the whole campaign and not just their own Ad group. We also recommend putting all your broad match keywords in their own campaign.

I agree with Craig Danuloff’s comment that these actions will not improve your quality score, but they will have a positive impact on your campaign.

almost 9 years ago


Blake Denman

Nice read,

I would also suggest maybe some landing page tips in this post as well.  Even though landing page optimization (in the SEO sense) is not a major contributing factor to quality score it still is.  Loading times of your landing pages is also a contributing factor (again, not so big).


almost 9 years ago

Ed Stevenson

Ed Stevenson, Managing Director - Europe at Marin Software

Thanks Craig, Jayne, and Blake for your comments, all are valid and useful points.

There are a number of different ways of improving Quality Score – relevancy, for example, is always going to be important. But it is often a very complicated process for an advertiser to improve their relevance - for example, amending landing pages. My aim for this article is to give a few examples of some relatively simple, executable tasks to improve CTR (a key contributor to Quality Score).

Thanks for reading and for your feedback.


almost 9 years ago


Alan Mitchell

Thanks for the article. I'm generally against moving keywords into their own ad groups / campaign just for the purpose improving Quality Score, and agree with Craig - it doesn't really do anything for Quality Score. In my experince separting ad groups causes more problems than it solves (bloating of account, diluted ad group data). I would only give keywords their own ad groups if it is possible to write a more relevant ad for them.

almost 9 years ago


Weight Loss New York

It's well defined by google that keyword quality score is defined by exact match, so phrase and broad are only doppelgangers sharing the same score.

over 8 years ago

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