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Many of us obsess over Quality Score – sometimes too much. There are times when you should completely ignore Quality Score and just make sure that you are providing a good user experience that culminates into new customers.

This is bound to be a little bit controversial, so please feel free to disagree and leave comments when you think I’m wrong. This is based upon looking at way to many accounts where Quality Scores just don’t make sense.

There are three main times when you want to ignore Quality Score:

  • Google isn’t calculating it correctly (bugs)
  • You don’t have enough data
  • Your industry is just messy (mostly finance, pharma, and legal)

With each of these scenarios you shouldn’t give up before you try. You might try a few variations of ads, split out the keywords into their own ad group with their own ad and landing page, etc. And after a few rounds of tests, if you can’t make the Quality Scores, then you should walk away.

I’ll walk through the main issues I see where a keyword has a low Quality Score and you should just walk away and not obsess over it after you have done some testing.

Word Variations

These scenarios are probably the most maddening. Certain words don’t have different CPCs, CTRs, or conversion rates by plural, singular, or various stems. Yet, the quality scores are completely different for each variation.

If you see any of these happening in your account – you are not alone.

Plurals & Singulars:

  • Your singular (or plural) is a 7-10
  • The reverse, your plural (or singular) is a 3-4
  • For example: The word ‘accident attorney’ is a 7-10; the word ‘accident attorneys’ is a 4


  • The word is a 7-10
  • Any stem is a 3-4
  • For examine: Gardening tools is a 10 and garden tools is a 3-4.

Reverse words:

  • Accident attorney is a 7-10
  • Attorney accident is a 3-4

With these words, if your CTRs, CPCs, and average position are similar for both variations then after a few tests walk away. I can’t count the number of wasted hours I’ve seen on these tests.

You Don’t Have Enough Impressions

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see. Someone adds 100 new keywords, immediately gets 3s and then starts to worry about it.

Or, someone adds 1000 keywords, waits 24 hours, sees lots of 4s and starts testing when no keyword has more than 30 impressions.

Your keywords don’t start with your Quality Score. They start with an average that is tempered by your overall quality score.

Don’t even look at Quality Score until you have 500 impressions. If it’s a higher volume term, then wait until you have 1000-2000 at a minimum. The lone exception is when you see below average landing page experience. In that case, take a look at your organization and landing pages. Although, landing pages are hard to diagnose right now. You can have  10 with a below average landing page:


However, if you add lots of words and most of them are 7s and everything is average; and just a few are 3/4s and they have below average landing page experiences; then take a closer look into the landing pages.

It’s Just Your Industry

Some industries have had such a plethora of bad traffic bought within them that no one can get a good quality score. This can be maddening as you think you should have 7s; but no matter what you do, you can’t  break 3-4. Some accounts are in great shape with an average quality score of 3.5. This is not common; but here’s how to diagnose it.

What you will often see is that you have high positions; but low quality scores.


If you see this scenario, then take a look at the ‘top vs other’ segmentation for those keywords:


Google does not put ‘bad ads’ above the organic results. if you see your ad above the organics, and you have quality score 3 and 4 words – its most likely your industry. This is very common in these industries:

  • Financial
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Legal
  • Industries with average CPCs above $35-$50

With these words, there is one big issue:

  • At a QS 3, your ads can be above the organics and show all the time
  • At a QS 2, your ads are rarely shown

There is a huge difference between a 2 and a 3 Quality Score. Therefore, you will want to get to 3s. A 4 is good (consider it a 7), and a 5 is great (consider it a 10); and rarely does anyone have an actual 7 to 10.

Words with Other Meanings

Not everything means what you think it does. Many words have multiple meanings; and this can cause low Quality Scores due to low CTRs and you usually don’t want to fix them as doing so means you get lots of unqualified visitors and your conversion rate suffers.

It is better to have a low quality score, yet profitable word, than a high quality score that’s just costing you lots of money.

Demographic Query Data

Often words are not searched (and therefore clicked on) by your target market. I still see people wondering why they can’t get a good CTR on a word like ‘bleach’ in the cleaning industry. That’s because the majority of people searching for ‘bleach’ are actually looking for Japanese Anime and laundry supplies.


In a case like this; you’ll never get a great CTR. You can do lots of negatives; but be prepared to have some low CTR or to use such generic ads your conversion rates suffer. Always know who is searching on your ads – you don’t always want a high QS if you lose money by having one.

It’s Someone’s Brand

You see Quality Score at the keyword level. Quality Score takes into account geographic & ad CTRs. If you are advertising on a word that is a brand; you might have a low CTR in some regions, and a great one in other regions. You will just see the average. In this case, you often end up with a low Quality Score if that brand has enough of the search queries and clicks in the majority of other regions.

It’s a Common URL

There are a surprising number of searches for URLs or common company names. Not everyone directly goes to a website (often called direct navigation). It’s pretty common to see people search for a site and then click on the link to go to the site.


While these examples are a bit extreme (why are you on Google searching for Google anyway?); if your keyword is a popular URL; then you will often end up with a low quality score. Much like the brand names above, it is due to a low CTR. However, unless you’re ready to spend some money branding that term, accept the low Quality Scores.


I must reiterate – don’t just look to see if you’re in one of these examples and there never try. Sometimes you can get good quality scores in these scenarios. However, if you have tried and failed, and yet your CTR, conversion rate, and CPCs are the same (especially in the instance of word variations); then do your self a favor and go do some testing in another ad group and save yourself time.

imageAssuming you’re not in one of the industries that has real issues, as long as 70% of your impressions are in the Quality Score 7 and higher region, then you’re in good shape and don’t let a few bugs ruin your day. A healthy account can easily absorb the traffic impact from a few low Quality Score keywords.

If you need help determining how healthy your account is, please  see this video: How to Identify Google AdWords Quality Score Problems.

Quality Scores are important. However, there comes a point when your time is better spent elsewhere. These overall guidelines should help you determine when you should walk away from Quality Score testing to spend your time on something more productive.


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