How to Increase Google Ads Quality Score from 5.56 to 7.95 in 90 Days [Case Study]

Have you tried everything to increase your Quality Score only to find that it just won’t budge?

Are you stuck with the same average Quality Scores of 5 and 6?

How would you like your Quality Score to look like this in the next 90 days?

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In this article, I’m going to show you the exact strategy that allowed us to increase our PPC management client’s Quality Score from 5.56 To 7.95.

And cut their cost per conversion by 37.5% in under 90 days.

As you probably already know, Quality Score is important.

Research from WordStream showed that increasing your Quality Score can cut your CPC by as much as 50%.

It also found that by increasing your Quality Score from 5 to 10, you decrease your cost per conversion by 80%.

Here is the company’s analysis of several hundred million dollars of Google Ads spend.

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-02-08-36

Our methodology for increasing Quality Score

From WordStream’s research, we knew that click-through rate (CTR) was by far the most influential factor in increasing Quality Score.

You will see from the graph below that there is a direct correlation between Quality Score and CTR. As CTR increases, so does Quality Score.

The vast majority of our strategy therefore focused on increasing CTR.

quality score vs. click through rate

We also knew from Adalysis’s research that landing page experience is gaining weight in Google’s algorithm.

Its research showed that landing page experience was now 39% of the Quality Score algorithm.

So, we also put emphasis on improving our client’s landing page experience, too.

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Before I get into the exact strategies that we used, you need to do one thing: download this script, which allows you to track your Quality Score and produce a graph like the one below.

This allows you to see your progress and analyse whether what you are doing is working.

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Once you have done this, you need to follow the exact strategies that we used, as described below.

1. We implemented single keyword ad groups

The key to getting really high Quality Scores is to get a good match between your advert and what the user has typed into Google.

What the client and most advertisers I see do is put lots of different keywords in an ad group.

The problem with this?

It’s impossible to write an advert that matches each of the keywords exactly, because several keywords share an advert.

The solution:

We put all of the client’s 3,945 keywords in their own single keyword ad group.

So, each ad group looked like this, with one keyword (in the three match types) and two adverts:

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Unbounce

We then wrote adverts that contained the exact keywords within the ad group using this template:

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So, when users searched for “3D Studio Max Training”, they saw this advert:

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You will see that it contains the keyword “3D Studio Max Training” in the headline and also in the display URL.

The reason this advert performed so well is because it would always match what the user was searching for.

Higher relevancy = higher CTR = higher Quality Score

In the account, we found that by implementing single keyword ad groups, we saw:

  • An increase in CTR of 14%
  • A decrease in cost per conversion of 21%

Just put your keywords in their own ad groups and then write ads using the template above, and you will be well on your way to achieving higher Quality Scores.

2. We implemented a split testing strategy

One of the key problems I see when people are struggling to increase the Quality Score is that they are not split testing adverts.

Or, if they are split testing, they are testing the wrong things… I’ll come to this in a moment.

We knew that if we wanted to get high Quality Scores, we needed a high CTR, which meant split testing a lot.

In fact, we tested 24 different ad copies before we managed to achieve a Quality Score of 7.95.

A study by WordStream showed that, on average, you need to split test 20 times before you get an advert with 3x the average CTR.

This is what you need if you want to start constantly achieving Quality Scores of 7 and 8.

Above Average CTR

If you want to start split testing effectively, you need two things:

  1. A way to accurately track your split tests.
  2. A solid split testing strategy.

Tracking your split tests

To split test effectively, you must have some sort of software or script to track when your tests are completed.

This is especially important on larger accounts with thousands of adverts, where it is almost impossible to keep track of your tests manually.

To keep track of our tests, we used this free script.

It allowed us to automatically track when adverts had reached a 95% confidence rating and were ready for a new split test.

It also sent us an email every time this happened, so we could go into the account and create a new advert straight away.

Split testing strategy

When it comes to split testing, we used a simple but effective strategy: start wide and then go narrow. Let me explain what I mean.

So, at first, we made big changes to the adverts.

Big changes to the ads = Big changes to the performance.

For example, here is our first split test. As you can see, we completely changed to USP/offer.

Ad copy 1 (this focused on the advertiser’s strong customer satisfaction)

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Ad copy 2 (this focused on the free 18-month class retake USP)

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We then went on to test around six different ad copies with different USPs to see which one performed the best.

Once we narrowed down which offers worked the best, we then started to refine the ads further by testing things such as:

  • Displaying trademarks within the ad copy
  • Utilising seasonal headlines
  • Capitalising the first letter of every word
  • Using different punctuation
  • Using localised keywords
  • Using dynamic keyword insertion
  • Using synonyms of words: for example, changing “low cost” to “cheap”, or “sale” to “discount”.

By testing these smaller points, we didn’t get the big increases in performance that we saw with the large changes.

But we did get small incremental increases in CTR, which all added up.

3. We wrote compelling ads

For a high CTR, your ads need to be relevant and compelling.

We already had relevancy covered, because we were using single keyword ad groups and were placing the keywords within the headline of the adverts.

We then turned to this formula, devised by MECLABS, which is designed to maximise conversions (in our case, a click).

(I know it looks complicated – don’t worry, I’ll explain exactly how to apply it.)

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Image source: Search Engine Watch 

The formula shows that there are four elements that make up a conversion: 

the motivation of the user, the clarity of the value of the proposition, the incentive to take action, and the friction of taking action.

Here is an example of how Purna Virji suggests that this might be applied to a Google Ads advert:

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Image source: Search Engine Watch 

Our aim was to include the four elements within the ad copy to improve the likelihood of a click (conversion).

Here is how we applied this formula to the client’s adverts:

annotated-ad-copy

We included the client’s value prop (18-month free retake, which is the longest on the market) in the headline.

We also used this to remove the friction that somebody might not want to spend several hundred pounds on a training course and not pass.

We included the word “certification” to add credibility and included “widely recognised” as an intensive along with the free retake.

This helped us increase CTR from 3.42% to 4.01%, simply by writing more compelling ad copy.

4. We used the full range of ad extensions

Using the full range of ad extensions is an easy way to significantly increase your CTR and Quality Score.

We made sure that the client implemented the six main ad extensions that affect CTR the most.

With it being a larger account, we used this script, which helped us find ad groups and campaigns with extensions missing.

ad-extensions

Source

Here are the expected CTR gains you can expect from adding different ad extensions:

By implementing all of these extensions, you should increase your CTR by 67% on average.

To learn how to implement ad extensions, read this article by Sam Owen from PPC Hero.

5. We focused on commercial intent keywords

Choosing the right types of keywords is key to getting a high Quality Score.

Heck, choosing the right types of keywords is fundamental to Google Ads success.

WordStream found that the highest performing accounts focused on three types of keywords:

  • High commercial intent keywords (product terms and substitute product terms)
  • Branded keywords
  • Local terms

They also found that they avoided informational keywords.

This diagram explains the different levels of commercial intent:

keyword-research-target-model

As mentioned above, informational keywords should generally be avoided within your campaigns.

The intention of these searchers is to find out information, as opposed to purchasing from you. Examples of these are “How do I increase my Quality Score?’’ or “What is Quality Score?”

Based on this, we did the following:

  • We added a branded campaign to bid on our client’s branded terms, such as “academy class”.
  • We went through their campaigns and removed all of the informational-based keywords, provided they weren’t profitable.

The key point to take away from this is to focus on branded, commercial and local keywords. Remove any informational keywords from your own campaigns.

6. We optimised for mobile devices

It’s no secret that over 50% of searches now come from mobile devices, so it’s fundamental that you optimise your ads for mobile, too.

This eye-tracking study by Bing shows how important it is to have a full set of ad extensions on mobile devices.

Ads with multiple ad extensions have a 15-30% higher click-through rate than ads that just have sitelink extensions.

So, we ensured that we had the full set of mobile-optimised ad extensions in place.

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To show multiple sitelinks on mobile devices, you need to limit their length to just 12-15 characters.

By using these shorter sitelinks on mobile devices, we found that this can increase click-through rate by as much as 15%.

Here is a good example an advertiser using mobile sitelinks effectively:

You do, however, still want 25-character sitelinks for desktop devices. So, create a separate set of sitelinks for mobile and use the mobile preference setting to only show them on mobile devices.

7. We improved load speed

One of the things that our client was seeing a lot of was “landing page experience below average”.

To track if we were improving it, we used this script, which I strongly suggest that you implement, that gives you this dashboard in Google Sheets:

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You will see the pie chart in the top-left shows you how many ads have below average landing page experience.

There are four areas that Google states make up its algorithm:

  1. Relevant and original content (not important)
  2. Transparency (not important)
  3. Ease of navigation (not important)
  4. Website speed (very important)

However, we and other agencies have found from our tests that only website speed is important.

In fact, when Daniel Gilbert tested different keyword densities and even sending people to irrelevant pages, this made no difference to Quality Score.

(However, I strongly suggest you send people to relevant pages, because this helps increase conversion rates, but it doesn’t affect Quality Score.)

As we knew that website load speed makes the biggest impact on Quality Score, we ran the client’s website through this free tool from Google that allows you to test your page speed.

It then gave us several suggestions for what we could change to improve the page speed:

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In this case, we spoke to the client’s web development team and asked it to implement Google’s suggestions to improve the load speed.

Conclusion

And there you have it: If you carefully follow the strategies that I have outlined within this guide, you will be well on your way to achieving high Quality Scores and significantly reducing your cost per conversion.

In simple terms, the number one factor that you need to focus on to improve your Quality Score is CTR.

So, if you do nothing else, work on your ad relevance and ensure that you have a full set of ad extensions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below, and I will do my best to answer them.


About Wes

Wes is the Managing Director of DemandMore. He is columnist for several leading marketing publications including Campaign Magazine, Econsultancy and Search Engine Land where he shares his expertise in search marketing.