Visible Quality Score versus Auction Quality Score

By Brad


Quality Score

Most articles on Quality Score are a bit confusing as what you see inside of the AdWords interface and what the articles mention (lowering CPCs, raising positions) are based upon two entirely different numbers.

Quality Score, along with your ad extensions and bid determine your ad rank; how high your ad is positioned compared to other advertisers. However, the number you see inside your account is not actually the Quality Score number submitted into the auction that determines your ad rank.


There are two different quality scores that share the exact same name. The best way to talk about these is:

  • Auction Quality Score
  • Visible Quality Score

If you are talking to a Googler, they will often say ‘ads quality’ in referring to the visible quality score.

Auction Quality Score is what Google uses in the auction to determine if your ad can show and its position. This number takes many factors into account such as the query, query intent, ad, location, time of day, device, and many other factors. This number is not visible in your account as it is calculated at the time of the auction. As it uses so many factors, it wouldn’t be that useful of a number to see since the same conditions for an auction might never be duplicated (different user, location, device, etc) and you could have tens of thousands actual quality scores for the exact same keyword.

Instead, what is shown inside your account is Visible Quality Score or Ads Quality. This number is a straightforward formula based upon the weighting of each factor:



To determine your visible Quality Score, you can look up on this chart how many visible quality score points you get for each weighting and plugin you own numbers:

Landing Page Experience Ad Relevance CTR
Above Average 3.5 2 3.5
Average 1.75 1 1.75
Below Average 0 0 0

The formula is simply: 1 + Landing Page Experience weight + Ad Relevance weight + CTR weight.

What is Visible Quality Score Used For?

If the number you see in your account isn’t used for the auction, what is its purpose?

It’s quite simple – it’s a suggestion of what to improve to increase your ad’s quality. If you see your landing page is below average, then you want to increase your landing page relevance.

If you see that your CTR is poor or your ad relevance needs to improve, you can accomplish this through good ad testing.

Each of these factors also has a range to it. For example, you might have a keyword where these CTR ranges determine your quality scores CTR factor:

  • 0-2% = below average
  • 2%-10% = average
  • 11% + = above average

In this case, you could go from a 3% CTR to a 9% CTR, essentially tripling your CTR, and your visible quality score might not change, but you could still see the results of the improvement such as higher ad positions.

You can make your account better while not actually increasing your visible quality score.  In fact, it’s impossible to project what CTR will give your keyword an ‘above average’.

If you’re trying to figure out where to start, then take a look at Adalysis Quality Score priority orders, which order your ad groups and improvements for you.


The Quality Score you see in your account is not what is used in the auction. It’s a suggestion of what you can improve to increase your auction quality score. So don’t get hung up on the actual numbers. Take a look at the suggestions, and then based upon the suggestions, work to improve your visible quality score. Once you start improving the factors that go into visible quality score, success should be measured in higher ad positions or lower CPCs.

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