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“Ad Rarely Shown Due to Low Quality Score,” huh?

By Nathan Pabich on 9-18-13 in PPC

Warning imageI received a text from a friend last night asking: “What does it mean when AdWords says ‘ad rarely shown due to low quality score’? I can’t find anything eloquent on the subject on the internet.” I shot over a brief text in response, but I feel this is a subject deserving of a bit more attention.

When Google notifies you that your ad is not being displayed regularly, it means that Google does not see your ad/keyword/landing page combination as very relevant for Google users. Google serves ads to its users based on a combination of bid (the max amount an advertiser will pay for each ad click) and Quality Score (how Google seeks to determine your ad’s relevance).  If an ad is deemed “low quality”, it is less likely to be clicked, and thus less likely to generate revenue for Google based on the pay per click model.

In the status column of the keyword level in AdWords, you can see what Google thinks about your keyword.

AdWords status column view

By hovering over the bubble to the left of the “Rarely shown due to low quality score” message, you can view a further keyword diagnostic.  Ads are rarely shown due to poor Quality Score at 2/10 or a 1/10 Quality Score – the lowest possible quality designations.

Google AdWords keyword diagnostic

The keyword diagnostic provides a few levels of info. First, you can see if your ad is active in Google.  Next, some more specific and actionable assessments:

  1. Expected Click Through Rate (CTR): In the example above, Google does not expect this keyword/ad combo to get a “good” click through rate. “Good” in this case is going to differ from term to term, but it’s always better to be ahead of the curve when it comes to CTR. This will mean that your ad will be seen as relevant by Google, but you will also attract more clicks to your website.

  2. Ad Relevance: Is your ad related to the keywords in your ad group? Typically, this would be a good indication of whether your ad is relevant to what people are typing into Google in order to trigger your ad.

  3. Landing Page Experience: Does your landing page provide a positive experience for your visitors? Is your landing page relevant, useful, transparent and easy to use? Google wants your ad and your website to be valuable to Google users.

So what can you do to increase your ad’s quality?

To increase CTR, write compelling ad copy that makes sense in context of the keywords which triggers this ad. Test out variations of your ad text, and see which ads your visitors respond to. Include negative keywords in your account to cut on wasted ad impressions when a click is unlikely to occur.

To help with ad text relevance, you can add the keywords to the ad text. If you currently have a catch-all ad group, with many different types of keywords in it, this will be difficult. By segmenting your keywords into tightly knit ad groups, you will be able to more effectively communicate a relevant message for each query for which your ads serve.

On the landing page side, you should review your content and make sure it is as relevant to the keywords you have chosen as possible.  If your keywords are not on your landing page, that indicates that the selected keywords are perhaps not as relevant as they could be, or you have an opportunity to update your landing page or even create a new landing page better catering to a specific subset of keywords.

Helping all of these factors along is your initial selection of keywords. Scrub your keyword list and make sure that people searching for your chosen keywords would find your ad copy and landing pages helpful and relevant.  If a given keyword does not directly correlate to your website’s landing page, you should probably scrap it.

When you see a warning like this in your account, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to attempt to increase your ad and keyword quality. At the end of the day, winning this battle is about account organization and communicating the quality and relevance of your account and your website to Google. The easiest way to do this is to strive for a very high correspondence between your keywords, ads and landing pages.  And just beware; even if you take all of these steps, these warning are programmatic. This means there are certainly instances where you might be doing everything right and you’ll still see a negative message. Warnings are just that – they warn us to be cautious and conscientious, so use Google’s keyword diagnostics to your advantage.

Nathan Pabich is the Director of Paid Search at Digital Third Coast, a search engine marketing company based in Chicago. You can find Nathan on Google+. Connect with Digital Third Coast on Google+.

nathan pabich
nathan pabich

Hi Dirk,


This warning message can definitely be misleading. Similar to first page minimum bid messages, this message is programmatic and does not always do a good job of revealing the best next course of action.


And you raise a great point - check out the search impression share report and see if this message is even accurate.




Dirk Melief
Dirk Melief

Hi Nathan,


For a client I recently had the same 'problem'  for a keyword that has two meanings. People search for the keyword for their own interest or (school) projects and on the other hand to purchase the service. In this case durable energy/green energy (exact keywords). Therefore, the CTR and the landing page experience of people who did click was also low (due to bounce rate). However, the client that is known for their durable energy wants to be shown in search queries regarding to durable energy. So we raised the keyword bid and are still shown in each query. 

The message 'rarely shown' was still there, but when we looked at 'Search impression share,' it was 100%. So although the message is there, it is possible that you are still shown in 100% of all search queries (in this case exact keyword). Our Google account manager didn't understand either and had their technical guys take a look at it, and their answer was it was purely due to the ambiguity of the keyword. 

I would recommend that when you get this message you don't freak out immediately, but also take a look at the search impression share and think of reasons why you get this message. 

Above that, the keyword now is just doing fine and has a higher quality score and the message is gone. So it is possible that it this message is just temporarily shown.

Important to mention: The problem did occur just a few days after Google Adwords changed their quality score reporting. 


with kind regards,


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