Living with Low Quality Score

At the quality score session at SMX Advanced London yesterday, a question was asked about what to do with low quality score keywords. It was framed as a query of when you should turn off keywords because they were below a certain quality score level. I helped answer the question, and then tweeted some quick advice on the subject. It got a few RT’s and the interest and some more thinking drove me to elaborate in this post.


The truth is that for many reasons most accounts sometimes have keywords with low quality scores – which we’ll define as those of 5 or lower. Broadly speaking you should work to improve those scores, and often if you can’t the best answer is to pause or delete those keywords. But that isn’t always wise or feasible.

B2B Keywords With High CPCs

Patricia Hursh of made the great point in her presentation that for B2B Marketers with very expensive keywords, often it’s much better to write copy that *discourages* unqualified clicks, which results in low CTR and thereby poor quality score – but much better ROI. Ideally you’d query-mine those keywords as completely as possible – to find related words on which you can earn good QS – but that won’t fully solve the problem and so her advice is wise.

Quality Score Collateral Damage

The other case is keywords that are important to your business or goals and have low qualty score that you just haven’t yet been able to increase. When making the decision to leave these running, consider their impact on your overall account-level CTR. If these keywords have huge impression counts and really bad CTR (the cause of bad QS if you don’t have landing page penalties) then the cost of leaving them running isn’t just the over-bidding you’re likely to have to do on those keywords. Those bad keywords will actually help lower the quality score (albiet only slightly) on all the good keywords in your account. But if those keywords have only a relatively low impression count as a percentage of your total account, the ‘collateral damage’ of leaving them running will be very slight. So go ahead and run them guilt-free if you really want to.

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