17 Feb 2010

AdWords Quality Score…. What is Relevance Anyway?

February 17, 2010PPC Advertising



Occasionally I can actually find time to work on my own AdWords campaign. And like everyone else I have to work with, in, and around the infamous Google AdWords quality score.
And like everyone else I come up with some real head scratchers occasionally. Here is a good example.
I have a FaceBook keyword campaign. In one of the ad groups, I bid on the keyword(s) — [facebook ad management]. So obviously I was disappointed and a little irritated when I saw that Google had determined that my quality score for that keyword was 2. 
Hang in there, I promise this will get interesting in just a couple minutes.

Here is the basic information that I saw:


siteproppc adwords quality score



As any Google rep will tell you, the quality score is primarily influenced by CTR, but is also affected by ad copy, and website landing page. Since the CTR for this one was pretty good (11.11%)…the ad copy and the landing page must really be bad….well take my word for it, the ads were OK and in fact one of them actually had the terms FaceBook Ad Management in it, so we are probably not too far off there. 


Normally when you get a 2 quality score something has to be really bad. So I slid my mouse over the little dialog box in the status column and got this typical message:

adword quality score mouse over


So the Google AdWords algorithm has determined that the relevance for that keyword is poor. It must be that the relevance for that keyword to my landing page is very poor….right? (Remember that the CTR was pretty high, so the ‘relevance’ to the searcher must be OK).
Here comes the head scratcher…..if you do a Google search on the exact term FaceBook Ad Management you will see that my site comes up high in the organic search results….in fact at the time I wrote this blog it was in the #2 spot.
Like I said, I am still scratching my head….if anyone has a good explanation, I would love to hear it!




  • Matthew Umbro Feb 17, 2010

    I don’t have a good explanation, but I constantly see issues like this is my campaigns. Keywords will have a double digit CTR and be getting conversions, yet Google will assign them poor quality scores. I can understand Google not paying attention to conversions and conversion rate, but if your CTR is really good then obviously searchers are finding your ads relevant to their queries.

  • netmeg Feb 17, 2010

    You don’t show your ad. I suspect that that is where the issue is.

  • admin Feb 18, 2010


    Thanks for the response….I agree, I see this all the time in my clients accounts as well. But it was unusual to have the organic search results for the same keyword. I suspect that there is an overall score in the cloud that Google has for those keywords (which happens to be low in this case) and they tend to apply a major weighting to that overall QS when calculating the QS for those words in any particular persons campaign….the mystery continues.


  • admin Feb 18, 2010


    Here is one of the ads:

    Facebookâ„¢ Ad Managment

    We can help set up your new

    PPC Account. Pricing from only $99


  • netmeg Feb 23, 2010

    When I looked at your landing page, I had to kind of hunt to find the reference to Facebook. I don’t know if you want to bother, but if it were I, I’d make a landing page more devoted to Facebook in particular.

    I’ve been told that AdWords isn’t thrilled with forms asking for information on landing pages these days, but I don’t run any myself so I don’t have any personal experience.

  • admin Feb 24, 2010


    The ad copy I showed you was a little misleading…it only shows the display URL…the landing page is

    http://www.siteproppc.com/facebook…..so it has a dedicated page.

    I didn’t think about the contact form on each page, but I would rather keep it that way and take any QS penalty on that. Thanks, Al

  • Dan Perach Mar 09, 2010

    Its a real conundrum…

    I originally believed that one needed to “buy relevance” on highly competitive kws, but you’ve shown that even with high CTR, over a long period?… your QS stays low, correct?

    So, the explanation that the overall CTR for a keyword, in certain circumstances has a flawed over weighted importance, seems the answer to the riddle, a bug of sorts.

    Lets hope that our high CTR will trump this glitch soon.

  • Hunter Mar 09, 2010

    I’ve run into the same thing. A primary key phrase showing as a QS of 3, but the organic ranking is good for it, CTR is good, conversion rate is high, landing page is targeted. The contact form question is interesting, but every landing page that every other keyword is pointing to has a form and most have a QS of 7 or 10. My example: “cosmetology school” has a QS of 3, but “cosmetology school [city]” has a 7 or 10 and they point to the same landing page with the same ads.

    The discrepancy is frustrating and costly, since I know we aren’t getting the price break that can come with a higher QS on the term and it’s one of the highest volume KW. Sometimes I think it may be just to make us bid higher on it, because nothing else seems to make sense.

  • admin Mar 11, 2010

    Dan and Hunter,

    Thanks for the comments. For what it is worth, I have come to the conclusion that Google is using the term relevance pretty loosely. My guess is that the true relevance that they are talking about is universal CPM and not relevance to the searcher or the advertiser.

    Using Hunters example “cosmetology school” probably has a low universal click thru rate. So Google assigns a low quality score to that keyword regardless of who’s bidding on it, how your landing page looks, campaign CTR for that keyword, etc. You can vary your individual QS in a narrow range, but you will never get a 10.

    That keeps Google’s CPM up because if forces advertisers to bid more than they normally would for those keywords compared to what they would bid if there were no such thing as QS.

  • Thomas May 04, 2010

    It seems, that you are using ad positioning (bidding for a certain position). May this be the problem for Google in the end, not to be able to calculate the QS on the keyword’s “real” position?