Landing pages have been evaluated by Google as part of Quality Score since 2005, which has an affect on CPCs and ad positions. 

In this excerpt from our PPC Best Practice Guide, here are four ways to improve landing page Quality Score...


What is quality score? 

According to the big G: 

Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing page. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.

Landing pages are one factor in Quality Score, along with things like ad quality and previous CTR, and the overall score can affect: 

  • Ad auction eligibility.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC). 
  • Your keyword's first page bid estimate.
  • Your keyword's top of page bid estimate. 
  • Ad position. 
  • Eligibility for ad extensions and other ad formats

In summary, a better Quality Score can mean lower costs and better ad positions. 

Here are four ways to improve your landing pages... 

1. Relevant and original content

Google’s advice on Quality Score starts with content. Landing pages should clearly be 'about' the search query which led to the paid search ad.

Making sure the exact search query is present on the page, and perhaps even part of the titles or headings is clearly a good move.

So in developing your landing page, we advise that you tailor your content, in particular page titles and headings to the search queries your visitors will be using. Don’t get too hung up on keyword density, but make sure the exact search query is in there, and make it clear to users (and hence search engines) that this is a page about the search query.

Google includes 'originality' here, not because it will try and rank the quality of your content but because it wants landing pages that do have value. If you’re using a low quality doorway page that has no real content on it expect to be penalised.

This is, of course, good practice if you're looking to improve conversions. Unlike casual visits by browsers, paid search visitors arrive on a landing page with a directed goal or intention in mind. So the first thing you have to do is instantly show relevance to help visitors achieve that goal. 

2. Transparency

This point is about user security as much as anything else. Google clarifies it with three points:

  • Is your business and contact information easy to find?
  • Are you upfront about any information you're collecting from visitors?
  • Can people easily tell what'll happen when they perform an action on your site?

Essentially if you’re collecting user data on the landing page, a tactic that can be very successful, make sure you implement it carefully.

Obviously you’ll need content around the form so people know what they’re getting; you can include your relevant keywords from point one, but also make sure you have a link to your privacy policy, and clear contact details.

Here, the Carphone Warehouse landing page for iPhone 6 contains clear contact details, with links to other information in the footer: 

Like much of Google’s advice, this is crucial for user experience. If ads give a good user experience people will be more inclined to click them.

3. Ease of navigation

Don’t baffle visitors with a million links going off to other parts of your site or (especially) other sites. They have come with a need: answer it.

From a conversion perspective you want to keep people in the funnel anyway, do this with clear navigation as suggested earlier in this section. Again affiliate style 'doorway pages' will fall foul of this.

This is just good UX and, for broad search terms like 'compact camera', visitors need to be able to filter and sort the products presented: 

4. Landing page load speed

In 2008 Google incorporated landing page load time into the Quality Score algorithm. I makes sense that it would want people to click to through to results from its search page (both paid and natural) in the quickest time possible.

From a user perspective it’s obvious that if you keep people waiting for your page to load they will simply press the back button and go elsewhere. Google compounds that problem for slow websites by penalising them through Quality Score as well.

With the amount of traffic most websites receive from mobile devices increasing, it becomes even more important to have a faster, lighter, website for your users.

Google gives you the tools to evaluate your page speed and tips to improve it. Our advice is to always have the fastest experience possible, and this is especially true when creating bespoke landing pages for paid search. 

You can check your pages using Google's own Page Speed Insights tool: 

Here, James Gurd has some excellent tips for improving page load times

For much more on paid search, check out our 300 page PPC Best Practice Guide

Graham Charlton

Published 4 February, 2015 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert, CEO at Brainlabs

4 is becoming more important for QS, 1,2 and 3 are not (that's not to say that they're not important in general, just not for QS).

We've tested this many times and never seen a shift in QS when playing with those 3 factors. If anyone has any data to the contrary feel free to share!

Makes sense that LP quality is down-weighted in QS - AdWords is Google's monetisation platform - it's not internally driven by quality content but by Auction Depth and Revenue per Search (both of which are driven up by CTR). Long term it's in Google's interest to benevolently force advertisers to drive more conversions with better LPs, hence the indication that it's important for QS. But this is not the realm of content/SEO.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Daniel, 1,2 and 3 are all factors which Google itself advises businesses to look at in order to improve QS.

In any case, relevancy, transparency and ease of navigation are all things which should help to improve QS by increasing CTR.

over 3 years ago

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert, CEO at Brainlabs

Hi Graham,

Thanks for reply!

They do advise that for sure. But that's what I mean by "benevolence" - they push you down that route because overall it's beneficial for both - but that doesn't change the fact that it's still a very small part of how QS is actually calculated. Historically (up until about 3 years ago) LP wasn't even a factor at all - it was just a binary yes/no decision on whether or not a site passed policy guidelines.

Don't see how any on-site content could directly affect CTR? You don't know what the page looks like until you're there?!

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Sorry, meant conversion rate on site. Got a little confused there ;)

Out of interest, how do you test whether these factors make a difference? Aren't some of them, like ease of navigation, fairly subjective?

over 3 years ago

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert, CEO at Brainlabs

Agree that ease of navigation is subjective - even more reason that it's an unlikely candidate for QS calculation.

Testing something like navigation is very difficult but on the occasions we've seen clients release new sites (with supposedly superior navigation) we've never tracked any material difference to QS or CPCs.

We've also tried more scientific split testing of landing pages with high vs low keyword density (and sometimes none) and still not been able to link this back to any QS shift.

Will grab you for a coffee and share more detail!

over 3 years ago

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