Why Your Quality Score Matters More to Google Than It Does to You

by Aden Andrus June 11, 2015

What does your company need most?

It’s an important question, one most companies should contemplate on a regular basis. There are a million possible answers to this question, ranging from increased sales to lower overhead to less drama at work.

At Disruptive Advertising, this is one of the first things we try to determine for a new client. I’ve heard all sorts of answers to this question, but I’ve yet to hear anyone respond, “Quality Score. Forget making money, I want a good AdWords Quality Score!”

Quality Score

The irony is, for many advertisers, metrics like Quality Score end up becoming the goal of a campaign. After all, metrics are how we determine what’s working and what isn’t, so it’s easy for metrics to become surrogates for success, especially if more concrete measures like profitability aren’t readily available.

Quality Score Bobber

Unfortunately, Quality Score and most other metrics are like bobbers on a fishing line. Bobbers give you an idea of what’s going on under the surface, but they don’t tell you whether you’ve hooked a minnow or a shark.

That’s not to say that your Quality Score isn’t important. It just isn’t tied directly to your key business metrics or objectives. You can have a 10/10 for every keyword and still lose money.  In fact, you’d be surprised how many campaigns have great Quality Scores and terrible return-on-investment.

There’s a simple reason for this.  Quality Score is tied to Google’s bottom line, not yours.

Why Quality Score Matters to Google

What does Google need most?  It boils down to two things:

  1. Make money
  2. Maintain user trust

That’s it.  Just two needs.

Okay, I’m sure they have more than two objectives, but they all ultimately revolve around these two needs.  Let’s take a look at why these are Google’s top 2 business priorities.

1. Make Money

Google is a publicly traded company. As such, it is financially obligated to its shareholders to make money. Once a company goes public, profit becomes its top priority. Since advertising represents 96% of Google’s revenue stream, Google wants AdWords to be as successful as possible.

Google MoneyIn some ways, that’s good for you. Google makes money every time your ad gets clicked on, so the two of you have a potentially symbiotic relationship. This symbiosis starts to break down, however, when you consider that Google makes money when someone clicks on your ad, not when you make money.

As long as you can pay for it, Google is just as happy to charge you for 1,000 clicks that generate 1 lead as it is to charge you for 1,000 clicks that generate 500 leads. They make the same amount either way, so the onus is on you to make the relationship symbiotic.

Fortunately, this is tempered somewhat by need number 2.

2. Maintain User Trust

For AdWords to continue making money, Google’s users have to trust their clicks are being guided to relevant content. This applies to both organic and paid results, but we’ll leave Google’s SEO theory for another day.

When it comes to paid advertising, Google is sticking its neck out a bit for the advertisers. If your ad gets a lot of clicks and your website fails to deliver, that violates users’ trust in Google. However, to make money (priority #1!), Google needs people to pay for clicks, so they have to risk that some ads will let people down.

To mitigate this risk, Google assigns a Quality Score to ads. The point of Quality Score is to encourage advertisers to maintain user trust. A high Quality Score means that your ad fits Google’s business objectives, a low score means you are violating user trust.

If your ad is good, Google rewards you with a lower cost-per-click. If your ad is bad, Google punishes you, hopefully to the point where you remove or change the trust-breaking ad. Even if you leave the ad up, Google charges you a high enough premium for a low Quality Score that it offsets their risk of losing some user confidence.

For Google, your AdWords Quality Score measures how well your ad meets their primary business objectives. Google still doesn’t care if you meet your own business objectives, they just want to make money without losing user trust. If you happen to make money too, well, won’t that be nice…

won't that be nice

Why Quality Score Doesn’t Matter to You

Quality Score is Google’s metric, not yours. Since you and Google do have something of a symbiotic relationship, having a good Quality Score is in your best interest, but it shouldn’t be one of your company’s (or even your campaign’s) top goals.

This highlights the importance of knowing what your company needs most. It’s easy to confuse successful metrics with success. You can have an awesome Quality Score, cost-per-click and conversion rate; but, if your leads are poor, you could be bleeding money.

If, like Google and most companies, your top company need is to make money, don’t look to Quality Score to fill your bank account. You need to get to the heart of your advertising strategy.

Questions that matter:

Answering these questions and integrating those answers into your AdWords campaigns is a much better use of your time than Quality Score optimization. The right customers seeing you at the right time with the right message in the right place will drive a lot more business than a 10/10 Quality Score. Plus, advertising that offers value builds user trust, which should improve your Quality Score!

[Tweet “High Quality Scores are the result of high quality campaigns, not the other way around.”]


So, what does your company need most? It certainly isn’t Quality Score. Even for Google, Quality Score is simply a tool to help them meet their business needs. Whatever the answer is, market for your needs, not for metrics.

You’ve heard my two cents, now I want to hear yours:

Do you agree with this take? How do metrics like Quality Score fit into your advertising strategy?

  • AdWords

Aden Andrus

Aden Andrus

Over his career, Aden has developed and marketed millions of dollars of successful products. He lays awake at nights figuring out new marketing tactics and is constantly upping Disruptive's internal marketing game. He loves to write, dance and destroy computer monitors in full medieval armor.

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