Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
Official Google Ads Seminar Leader.
Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
(703) 828-5811‬
Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing Learn When To Ignore Low Quality Scores

Learn When To Ignore Low Quality Scores

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.



  1. maxebiz
    June 19, 2012 at 10:25 am · Reply

    Very interesting post Brad. Certainly in my experience Conversions at sensible prices are more more important than fretting over Quality Scores, which as you say are sometimes incomprehensible.

  2. tdwhalen
    June 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm · Reply

    What maxebiz said…

    Good post, Brad.

  3. todd
    June 20, 2012 at 3:34 am · Reply

    Interesting post Brad. I’ve been working on an account this last month with the exact problem you discussed. The account is extremely granular, tons of negatives, multiple ads per adgroup, sitelinks and high average positions but no matter what I do the QS’s are 3 /4. When I add a new keyword or match type into an adgroup the QS’s start at 7 or 10 but within 5 minutes they reduce to a 3 or 4! I originally built the account with tons of adgroups but only activated a small proportion in the hope of scaling it up. Do you think having lots of paused keywords with no history could of entrenched the active keywords? I have since activated all and seen little positive effect. Todd

  4. brad
    June 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm · Reply

    @todd Paused words don’t get any impressions; and therefore don’t affect your active keyword quality scores at all.

    If you see a quick reduction to 3/4s; are you seeing below average landing page issues? You might want to take a look at:

    The main concern I’d have with keywords that quickly drop would be the landing page. If the landing page is an issue; you’ll probably have to work on it. If its not the LP; then you might want to wait a little bit and get some traffic to start judging the stats and diagnosing the problems.

  5. ilovecheese
    June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm · Reply

    Where/what/how is that awesome keyword research graph from? (the one for bleach)

  6. brad
    June 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm · Reply

    @ilovecheese that’s from yahoo clues:

    it’s a great tool.

  7. ilovecheese
    June 21, 2012 at 6:58 am · Reply

    Thanks, Brad!

  8. todd
    June 21, 2012 at 12:11 pm · Reply

    Thanks for your response Brad. Just taken a look and the landing page score in the majority of cases is “average” or “above average”. That said expected CTR & ad relevance are very hit and miss. Some are average and the slightest change in keyword variation or match type and they are below average. I’ve rewritten the ads several times with the keywords mentioned in the headline and often descriptions. Compared to competing ads and from experience I know they are good. I added that many negatives pre activation search query reports take 2 minutes because they all tend to be relevant. All in all it just seems impossible to raise the QS. Having managed several large accounts from start to finish this is unusual. An advisor at Google did mention he had noticed lower QS’s with new accounts. Very frustraing when you follow Googles guidelines and they overinflate the price so much! Thanks for your suggestions anyway. Todd

  9. arpit
    December 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm · Reply

    Hi Brad,

    I am working for support industry. We basically provide remote tech service. My problem is that i have a low quality score across the account and the new keyword or campaign addition starts with a quality score of 3-4.

    All people in our industry use their direct phone number in ads and also i cant take advantage of google CPP because at an initial stage CPP bidding because google doesn’t give you a phone no. before first initial clicks.

    When i segment my campaign by existing successful campaigns on Top vs Others, I get as good as 5% CTR on top VS 0.5% CTR on other.

    The only way for me to earn is showcase my ads on top of Google organic results and that too with a phone number.

    I recently started with antivirus campaign, keywords like avg support are being used. Now, the issue is even after bidding as high as $5 i am not able to get Average position above 6. If i keep running below i get bad CTR and quality score.

    I am stucked now, because i cant increase bids beyond that. Can you let me know if somewhere I am going wrong and what could be done in such situtation

  10. brad
    December 24, 2012 at 7:19 am · Reply

    Using ad extensions is usually better then putting the phone number in the ad. Are you using the call extension?

    Also, when you’re looking at CTRs; are you segmenting by mobile vs desktop? I find in computer support that people click on the call extension from the mobile device and it often has a nice call-through-rate; but on desktops; more calls usually happen from landing pages and not from the actual ads.

    You might want to segment the campaign by device.

    If you use ads without phone numbers in them (stronger calls to action type messages instead of the phone number) can you get a higher CTR? That’s usually the case; in which you should be able to raise your QS that way as well.

    • arpit
      December 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm · Reply

      Hi Brad,

      Thanks for the reply

      1. I am only targeting desktops
      2. In our successful campaign most calls are happening from ad itself. Say if i get 100 conversion 20 gets attributed to adwords conversion tracking rest 80 doesn’t gets attributed thus i know that those calls are been made from ad itself. We don’t have organic visitors as the site is new.

      3. I was in the same boat that we should not use the phone no. in ads, we did experimented that but we stopped getting calls.
      for us the mantra is show on top 3 ad positions with a phone number and get calls.

      4. Yes, i am using call extensions but I am still ineligible for CPP bidding (for non successful campaign). Can you tell me what’s the threshold criteria (eg. minimum no. clicks for adgroup)for google inorder to get eligible for CPP bidding. I have read somewhere that if we use Google’s phone number that does get counted in qualty score.

      To what extent does it gets a weightage?


  11. brad
    December 26, 2012 at 8:49 am · Reply

    There doesn’t seem to be a set number for CPP. I have some ad groups with 0 calls; but 100 clicks that are eligible and I have others that aren’t eligible with yet more data.

    I just heard a rumor that separate CPP bidding is going to go away, and that you’ll just pay the $1 minimum for a call that comes from your search desktop campaigns. I haven’t been able to confirm this rumor yet.

    The big difference is that is you use the call extension, then the call is factored into your quality score (similar to a click so calls and clicks are used to determine CTR and relevancy metric) so using it can help over just adding your phone number to the ad itself.

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