Increasing Your PPC Quality Score is Like Catching Fruit Flies

Increasing Your PPC Quality Score is Like Catching Fruit Flies

I still remember the first time I got a 10/10 quality score.

A non-branded keyword that was costing me 25 cents per click on average dropped to 13 cents. My return on investment soared and I sang Google melodies and praises until my neighbors told me to shut up.

It was a nice day.

That was 4 years ago… since then I’ve been able to replicate the process countless of times and getting the same results (almost) every time.

This is what I’ve learned: It’s like catching fruit flies!

Have you ever built a fruit-fly trap? It’s quite easy…

You turn a piece of paper into a cone and put it on top of small jar. That’s your preparation. You put a tasty piece of fruit at the bottom of the jar and you wait. When flies come flying over, they smell the irresistible scent of the fruit and adventure themselves into the cone. Once in the jar, they’re trapped. Can’t come out. Greedy little things.


Writing an Adwords ad is like preparing your fruit, cutting it into small pieces, squeezing the juices out to liberate the scent. You’re writing about your product, which is the fruit itself, and you want it to attract as many fruit flies as you can.

But here’s the big distinction:

Adwords is like having your fruit fly trap compete against 10 other fruit fly traps.

adwords competition

Pesky competitors.

The world would be easy if it was only you catching flies… but it’s not. The room is full of insects and you’re just one among many advertisers trying to catch them. Only those who’ve built effective fruit flies traps get the highest scores and all the benefits that go with it.

The single most important factor to increasing Quality Score is getting high click-through-rates (CTR). But getting “high” CTR is not enough. It’s about getting higher CTRs than your competition. Very important.

I get lots of emails from folks asking why their Quality Scores are low even as they have high CTR. Well, high CTR compared to what? Sorry sir, your competition has a better fruit fly trap than you do and that’s what Google is telling you with those low scores.

The effectiveness of your ad (in terms of CTR) is evaluated against your competitors and Quality Scores are awarded accordingly. The advertiser with the highest CTR gets a higher score; the lowest CTR gets a lower score. And some aren’t even worth entering the competition.

Now, just like the flytrap is not just a fruit, but also a paper cone and a small container, Quality Score is not just about CTR. But for the sake of brevity, we’ll keep this article to what really matters: the fruit. You can learn about the other Quality Score factors here. (Relevant keywords and relevant landing pages, they only equate to preparing the jar and the cone – anyone can do that).

The single most important element of an effective fruit-fly trap is a fruit that flies REALLY like. That’s your offer.

Then you have to squeeze out the juices so the scent is sprayed around, and sometimes you can add a little vinegar to heighten the scent. That’s your copywriting skills.

It’s the offer and your skills as a copywriter that matters. You need to showcase the right offer and have the skill to write about it effectively in 3 short lines.

1. How to find the right fruit, the right offer.

Know your flies.

Your offer DOES NOT have to be your product. Your offer DOES have to be what searchers want.

I’m not an expert, but I think flies of different kinds like different fruits. An ad can only go as far as the offer it promotes. If the offer isn’t good enough, nobody will care clicking your ad. And your options will be very limited if you stick to just testing one offer.

Again, the offer doesn’t have to be the product you’re selling… unless the product you’re selling is exactly what your prospects want.

Sometimes people want to buy, in which case you’ll need to tell them why they should buy from you. Sometimes people want information, in which case you’ll have to give them that information before asking them to buy.

One of the biggest mistakes we make when writing ads is selling something to people who want information. Or giving information to people who want to buy (although this is rarer).

Most of the times, we have no clue what people want and so we have to research thoroughly the keywords we’re advertising on. Sometimes searchers have no clue what they really want, so we have to do more research to find the offer that will stand out from the competition.

Remember your fruit fly trap is competing against 10 others. If your competition has a tastier fruit, you loose. Winners always get the biggest piece of the pie.

Here’s a nice article for figuring out what people want.

2. Copy that makes the offer… TASTY.

Learn copy writing.

That’s how you squeeze the juices out so flies can’t resist the scent of the right fruit.

I believe copy writing is the single most important skill any advertiser or marketer should have. Mine is always a work in progress.

Certain words are more powerful than others. What you choose your headline to be will have a big impact on how may clicks you attract. How you describe your offer makes a difference on how it is perceived.

There are many ways to write about an offer. Here’s a chart I’ve used myself for quite a while now when I’m out of inspiration:

Learn how to use this chart on Brad’s blog, where I like to hang out.

Adword Quality Score Diagram


  1. Click-through-rates have to be higher than the competition.
  2. The offer drives click-through rates.
  3. You need copy-writing skills to portray your offer in its bright light.

Just making sure you’re following…

But if CTR is gauged against my competition, how do I know what I’m competing against? Is there a way to know what my competitors CTRs are?

Glad you asked.

3. Two accurate ways to discover your competition’s CTR

Bing Ads Intelligence

It’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to install on my MacBook. And I’ve never regretted it. If you can summon the patience to go through the trouble of installing it on your computer, you’ll be rewarded with data Google will never deign provide you. I had to partition my hard drive and install Windows so I could use this thing.

It has wealth of competitive information. Like keyword historical performance on Bing. My favorite is the ability to see keyword performance by ad position. Yes, it includes CTRs.

Let me say that again. You can see the CTR of a keyword for each position on the search results. You want to know the average CTR is for an ad in position 1? You can. Position 5? You can.

If Stefanie from Unbounce ventured herself into the wonderful world of PPC, here’s the CTR she would need to beat for position 1 in hopes of getting high Quality Scores:

bing ads intelligence

That’s 1.10% for the term “landing page”.

Three VERY important remarks:

  1. It’s Bing data, but still good enough to be used as a proxy for Adwords.
  2. You need to use the “Keyword Performance” tool, not the “Bid Estimate” as it will give very different data. The keyword performance is the one that shows actual competitive data.
  3. In order to get high QS, you need to have much higher CTR than what you see. It’s not enough to be average. Stefanie would need CTR’s in the range of 2-3% to get high scores for the keyword.

Here are the complete instructions using it:

  1. Create a Bing Ads account if you don’t have one.
  2. Make sure you have Microsoft Excel installed on your computer. If you’re on a mac, it might work from your the Excel version of mac. Try that first. On my mac, I had to install Windows first.
  3. Download Bing Ads Intelligence extension here and install it.
  4. Open Excel and go to the Bing Ads Intelligence tab in top right corner.
  5. Insert a list of keywords in a sheet.
  6. Select that list of keywords and click on the arrow below “Keyword Performance”.
  7. Choose the options you want, like which position you to see data for, the time range, etc.
  8. Click “run” and you’re good to go.

Analyze completion in Adwords

Most people don’t know about this one either.

There is a place in adwords where you can see an evaluation of your performance against your competition. This one doesn’t give you actual numbers like the Bing tool, but it will tell you if you’re doing better or worse.

This may be a great place to start if you don’t have the patience dealing the Bing tool installation.

I have a client who has low Quality Scores for his search keywords. He advertises used cars. Here’s what the Analyze Competition tool shows:

analyse competition

The blue bar represents my client; the yellow/orange bar represents the competition. As you can see, we’re way below average in terms of CTR. That’s exactly why we have bad scores in this market.

Here’s how to get to this little known tool:

analyse competition full
  1. In your Adwords account, click on “Opportunities”.
  2. In the left sidebar, click on “Analyze Competition”.
  3. Choose CTR as the metric you want to compare.
  4. Filter your data by your geographical location.
  5. Find the category that you belong to and see how you’re doing.

That’s pretty much it.

Now go build that amazing pay-per-click fruit-fly trap.

Last note. The fruit-fly trap, what does it look like? A conversion funnel. All those sexy landing pages you’ve been creating with Unbounce… would you like more conversions?

It’s the exact same principle.

— Christian N

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About Christian N
Christian N. is the Co-founder of, the first Quality Score tool of its kind. Follow him on twitter (at your risk and peril - you’ve been warned).
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