In the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, there are few misperceptions as rampant as the ones about the effects that landing pages have on Quality Score. That’s not surprising, given that Quality Score algorithms are “black boxes” that play a crucial role in the success of any PPC campaign. We still have very little insight into how Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads), and the social media advertising platforms calculate and use Quality Score.
Landing pages are often a customer’s first interaction with a brand and set the stage for the relationship going forward. Distilling Quality Score into a number is misleading for PPC advertisers because it undervalues the importance of landing pages on several other crucial components of a campaign, such as brand perception and positioning.
As a side note, most ad platforms use the term “Quality Score,” while others use “Ad Relevance” or something similar. For the sake of simplicity, I use Quality Score interchangeably with Ad Relevance and Relevance Score metrics unless otherwise noted. Let’s get into it!
What Is Quality Score & Why Does It Matter to PPC Advertisers?
Quality Score is an approximation of your keywords’ and ads’ relevance to your target audience. It’s usually represented in the ad platforms as a number from 1-10. This dramatically oversimplifies the complex and user-specific Quality Score inputs factored into each ad auction, but it’s the best we have. Search engines and social media platforms use this metric to decide which ads to show and how much to charge an advertiser for each click or impression.
Google Ads pioneered Quality Score in their Ad Rank algorithm to reward advertisers that created relevant ads with a lower cost per click. Advertisers that try to show irrelevant ads to uninterested users may receive a lower Quality Score and have to pay a higher cost per click to remain visible.
As you can see in the equation below, providing a great user experience to boost your Quality Score can improve your Ad Rank and lower your cost per click. From what we can tell, most PPC platforms use an equation like the one below to determine where your ads appear.
However, each ad platform treats landing pages differently in their Quality Score equations. Savvy PPC advertisers should understand the nuance of each platform to tailor their campaigns for the best results. As a shorthand, the table below shows the similarities and differences between each major ad platform’s version of Quality Score as well as the associated factors:
In simple terms, here’s the question platforms are asking when they evaluate your ads against these different attributes:
- Landing Page Experience: Is your ad’s landing page relevant to the visitor’s intent and does it help them accomplish their objectives quickly and transparently?
- Ad Click Through Rate/Engagement: Are your ads clicked as often as competing ads?
- Ad Relevance: Do your ads align with your audiences’ interests and intent?
- Post-Click Conversion Rate: Are visitors likely to convert or take meaningful action after clicking your ad?
- Recency: Are your ads recently published or updated regularly?
If the answer these questions is “no,” there’s a good chance your Quality Score is suffering as a result.
How Do Landing Pages Impact Quality Score on Different Platforms?
Landing pages are an important part of Quality Score algorithms and, fortunately, are one of the easiest elements of a PPC campaign to control. The most important part of the “Landing Page Experience” component of Quality Score is providing a positive visitor experience. Answer their search intent with relevant content, provide lightning-fast page speed, and make sure your site looks great on all screen sizes.
When done correctly, landing pages can have a positive impact on Google Ads Quality Score. That means a lower cost per click and higher conversion rates when compared to sending traffic to a website. And even though some ad platforms do not explicitly factor landing pages into their Quality Scores, marketers shouldn’t ignore the improvement in visitor experience and their likelihood of developing a positive association with your brand.
1. Google Ads – Quality Score
Google Ads’ support content explicitly mentions the importance of landing pages for creating a positive user experience. I want to emphasize the experience portion because most people assume that Google Ads Quality Score only focuses on landing page relevance. Your landing pages must be relevant to keywords and ads that your visitors clicked on, yes, but it’s just as important to Google that your landing page loads quickly, is secure, and looks great on all screens.
Here’s Google Ads explaining how Quality Score is calculated.
Landing pages won’t have any direct impact on the Expected CTR or Ad Relevance components of your Google Ads Quality Score, but the domain and URL you show in your ads may indirectly help or hurt your click-through rates.
2. Microsoft Advertising – Quality Score
Microsoft Advertising Quality Score is nearly identical to Google Ads Quality Score, although they provide significantly less documentation for each of the three components. Unlike Google, Microsoft explicitly mentions that the landing page experience factor is “based on how many times customers leave your ad’s landing page shortly after arriving.” This implies that lowering your landing page’s bounce rate (among other things) will improve your Quality Score.
Microsoft Advertising’s writeup on the factors that impact Quality Score.
It is a good idea to monitor your Microsoft Advertising Quality Score, but don’t expect to get much helpful information about individual keywords. In this case, I suggest following the best practices for Google’s Quality Score improvements in the hopes that Microsoft will reward the same efforts.
3. Facebook Advertising – Ad Relevance
Facebook’s Ad Relevance is a completely different type of metric than Google’s Quality Score. The three components of Facebook’s Ad Relevance ratings are:
- Quality Ranking: A ranking of your ad’s perceived quality. Quality is measured using feedback on your ads and the post-click experience. Your ad is ranked against ads that competed for the same audience.
- Engagement Rate Ranking: A ranking of your ad’s expected engagement rate. Engagement includes all clicks, likes, comments, and shares. Your ad is ranked against ads that competed for the same audience.
- Conversion Rate Ranking: A ranking of your ad’s expected conversion rate. Your ad is ranked against ads with your optimization goal that competed for the same audience
Notably, Facebook’s audience targeting does not rely on search keywords. So it’s much harder to determine a social user’s intent at any given moment. Many Facebook campaign types also allow users to convert, transact, or engage with content on the platform itself. (So they don’t require a landing page.) In these cases, Facebook relies heavily on the engagement and interactions that happen on its platform to determine if an ad is relevant or not.
While Facebook Ads’ documentation doesn’t mention external landing pages, they do reference “post-click experience” and “conversion rate” in two of the three Ad Relevance factors. Advertisers using Facebook’s audience and conversion pixels should assume that Facebook Ads can measure engagement and conversion rates on your websites. Adjust your landing pages accordingly.
4. Twitter Ads – Ad Score
Twitter Ads has the least amount of support content related to their Ad Score and no mention of landing pages.
The factors that affect your Ad Score on Twitter.
Similar to Facebook Ads, most of Twitter Ads’ conversions happen within their platform in the form of likes, retweets, content engagement, and follows. If Twitter does consider landing page engagement, conversions, or experience as a factor, it doesn’t seem to influence your campaign performance heavily.
That said, pairing your Twitter Ads with dedicated landing pages is still a good idea if you expect to re-engage and convert visitors on your site. The best Twitter Ads campaigns aren’t going to reach their full potential if your landing pages don’t reinforce the positioning (and offers) that you tweet.
5. LinkedIn Ads – Campaign Quality Score
Oh, LinkedIn. Nothing is easy in LinkedIn Ads, including finding your Campaign Quality Score. Like the other platforms, LinkedIn rates each sponsored content campaign on a 1-10 scale. Unlike the other platforms, they don’t allow you to see your Campaign Quality Score unless you manually export a .csv file of your historical performance.
Once you follow the tedious, eight-step process to export your scores, you’ll find a number in the “Campaign Quality Score” column—but no insights or further detail on how to improve it.
Without this information, the best advice I can give you is to focus on improving your ads’ click-through rates and engagement (likes, shares, etc.). There’s no mention of landing pages. If you send traffic from your ads to an external site, follow the best practices shared by the other platforms and put your users’ experience first. At worst, this will improve your conversion rates. At best, it could boost your Campaign Quality Scores and lower the notoriously high CPCs on LinkedIn Ads.
Pay Attention to Quality Score—But Don’t Obsess Over It
There are several tried and true methods that will improve your Quality Score with landing pages. Most are focused on enhancing the visitor’s experience and don’t require substantial dev support. Unbounce users can take advantage of Dynamic Text Replacement to improve relevance and page speed improvements to create lightning-fast experiences.
Your landing pages will (directly and indirectly) influence Quality Score. But the algorithms are opaque, so it’s impossible to know exactly what’s working and what isn’t. We’ve seen results vary dramatically by industry and campaign type. I recommend thinking about it as a lagging indicator (not a leading metric) of your efforts. Schedule reminders to review your landing page experience scores once per month or once per quarter. Look for progress.
With a little attention, your landing pages will help take your campaigns to the next level.