Quickly Understand How Quality Score
And Ad Rank Are Calculated

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new information.
Original Publication Date: June 27, 2013

One of the biggest (and most annoying) things PPC advertisers have to deal with is understanding how Google Ads quality score and ad rank are calculated.

We often ask ourselves: “What can I do to improve my quality scores and ad rank, and also benefit from lower CPCs and lower CPAs?”

I have answers for you.

And I’ll also give you the steps you can use to start improving your quality scores. Starting today.

The ways in which quality score and ad rank are calculated can be tricky and hard to understand and even harder to master. After reading this, though, you should feel better about it 🙂

How Google Ads Quality Score is Calculated

Quality score is calculated every single time your keyword receives an impression. This means that both your quality score and ad rank are calculated multiple times a day, depending on the number of impressions your keyword receives.

Remember that each keyword has its own quality score, and Google only allows you to see quality scores at the keyword level. (I’ll give you a trick to see your ad group, campaign, and account quality score in a little bit.)

Many factors involve the creation of a quality score, but here are the main big ones that dominate the increases and decreases in quality score:

#1) Click Through Rate…

…of both your ad and keyword. The higher the CTR, the higher your quality score, and the higher your quality score, the higher your ad rank.

This is the BIGGEST factor in quality score calculations. Bar none. And the biggest factor in how quality score and ad rank are calculated.

So what do you do?

Test out different ad variations that are extremely specific to the keywords you’re bidding on.

And your best option for that?

Single Keyword Ad Groups.

One keyword per ad group makes your ads insanely relevant to the keyword.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a bounce house rental company called “Jumper Castles,” and your keyword is ‘bounce house rental’.

The keywords in your one ad group would look like this:

  • Broad Match Modifier (+bounce +house +rental)
  • Phrase Match (“bounce house rental”)
  • Exact Match ([bounce house rental])


And your ads would look something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 16.49.02

how quality score and ad rank are calculated

how quality score and ad rank are calculated

Notice how the keyword is in the ad title and the display URL.

This is often enough to increase your quality scores right away, as long as you take the visitor to a page regarding your offer.

If you advertise 20% off, for example, then make sure the 20% off is visible on the landing page. Relevance is most important to Google. If they see consistent relevance from the keyword to the ad and from the ad to the landing page, they’ll reward you with a higher quality score.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Want a quick fix for too many keywords in one ad group? Try the Dynamic Keyword Insertion tool. It adds any of your keywords to your ad copy dynamically (as long as it fits the character limit).

You can read more about it here from Google.

Now, couldn’t you just increase your bids to increase your ad rank, and then increase your click-through-rate, which in turn might increase your quality score?


But is that sustainable?

Not really, since you’ll be paying for higher cost-per-clicks. Plus that’s just a lazy way of doing things.

#2) Historical Click-Through-Rate

Whether it’s fair or not, Google takes input from your competitors’ bids on the same keywords to determine the quality score you receive. It also looks at the history of that keyword from other accounts, and the general history of that keyword in its entirety.

If your competitors’ CTR has a stronger history than yours, then you have some work to do.

#3) Relevance

Both quality score and ad rank are calculated in regards to relevancy. As mentioned in #1, relevance plays a huge role in how you’re positioned and how much you’re paying per click.

Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense for you, Google, or the person looking for you, if your one ad group is filled with these keywords:

  • bounce house rental
  • bounce house
  • bounce house for sale
  • bounce houses for rent
  • bounce house buddies
  • bounce house blower
  • bounce house birthday party
  • bounce house business
  • bounce house company
  • bounce house buy
  • bounce house business plan
  • bounce house birthday


How can you possibly be sure that every ad impression is right on the money based on the keyword that was typed in? You can’t!

Make sure your keywords are in their own ad groups with their own ads. Then take it one step further by making the landing page relevant to the keyword and the ad.

#4) Account History

In my experience, account history is not a HUGE factor in quality score. It may help with very minor changes, but it isn’t something you can’t combat if you have a new account. Simply follow #1 & #2.

If you’re trying to improve a 10-year-old account suffering from quality score neglect, however, it might be difficult to dig your way out.

Google recommends that you don’t create a new account if that is the case. I agree with them on that point. Your long term history will help you later once you start making the right changes.

#5) Landing Page Quality

Google mentions that there are 3 factors they use when grading a landing page. These are:

  • Relevant, useful and original content
  • Transparency and trustworthiness
  • Ease of navigation


These scorecards work with any website or landing page that you create. This should always be your guide.

One major idea you can draw from this is ease of navigation.

Sending a PPC visitor to your homepage instead of the specific product or service landing page hurts your ease of navigation because the visitor has to search for the information.

Remember that any visitor on your site is like a Cinderella trying to get home before midnight. It’s a time crunch!

Your carriage would turn back into a pumpkin, your dress would disappear, and the prince would know you’re poor.

Take the visitor directly to the product or service your ad is mentioning, and make sure that the copy in the ad is consistent with the messaging on the landing page.

A great way of looking at it would be to exaggerate quite a bit and ask what would happen if you took a mom looking for a bounce house rental to a landing page about hardcore punk music?

They’re obviously completely different and have nothing in common. Your quality score would be crap and your ad rank would suffer.

It’s therefore important to understand how landing pages affect how quality score and ad rank are calculated.

Quality score and ad rank are calculated in many more ways than what I’ve covered here, but these are the biggest things you can change right now to improve your quality score.

How Ad Rank Is Calculated

Ad rank is much easier to understand than quality score. Also, it doesn’t have 236 unknown factors like quality score does.

It’s the simplest thing. Ad rank is calculated based on your quality score and your max bid. That’s it.

SEOServicesGroup published an interesting formula to determine what your bid and quality score should be to rank in your desired position. You can read about it here.

Take it with a grain of salt, though. The Google Ads landscape is so dynamic that a formula like this can never guarantee any position. Bid modifiers and strategies from new enhanced campaigns must be considered as well.

Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, does a great job at explaining exactly how ad rank is calculated in this 1997 YouTube video.


A Quick Note On Quality Score For Facebook Ads

If you’re expanding your PPC efforts into other platforms like Facebook Ads, it’s important to understand that not all metrics are measured in the same way as Google Ads.

For example, Facebook also offers a version of quality score; however, it doesn’t have the same impact on your ad position as Google Ads quality score does. Facebook offers the metric as a “diagnostic” to improve your ad but doesn’t factor it into your ad’s auction performance.

In 2019, Facebook also announced that they were eliminating their single relevancy score and replacing it with granular and “actionable” insights that include an updated quality score. Now “Quality Ranking” scores your ad’s perceived quality with ads competing for the same audience.

So now that you understand how quality score and ad rank are calculated, it’s time to put your knowledge to use and test it for yourself!

Let me know if you have any questions!