Inside the adCenter Quality Score — Or Should We Call It Competitive Score?

by Joseph Kerschbaum

Director of Client Services, Clix Marketing

New features are coming soon to Microsoft adCenter. One of the most interesting updates to the adCenter interface is the exposure of your individual keyword Quality Scores.

Let’s explore the attributes of the adCenter Quality Score, how these scores affect your performance, and how you can optimize your account for better rankings.

You may think: why focus on adCenter since AdWords drives the majority of my traffic? That’s a valid question, but your account management focus should shift proportionally as adCenter gains search market share.

Earlier this week Hitwise released their latest search engine rankings showing that Bing-powered search now accounts for 30 percent of search market share (including Bing and Yahoo). That’s nothing to sneeze at or disregard.

A little more anecdotally, Bing just released a pretty slick app for the iPad. Also, Bing was recently the most popular free app for the iPad. Does this mean that the general population is starting to pay a little more attention to Bing?

Ranking Scale


Your Quality Scores will be on a scale of 1 to 10. These scores are calculated at the keyword level.

We aren’t sure what will constitute a “good” score on this scale — for example, in AdWords an acceptable score is 7. It’s pretty safe to assume that a similar score will be applied to satisfactory keywords in adCenter, too.

Quality Score Attributes

In essence, the AdCenter Quality Score is an evaluation of your competitiveness in your keyword marketplace. These scores should help you understand the strength of your keywords when compared to your competitors.

There are three core attributions of the adCenter Quality Score:

  • Keyword Relevance: How well your keyword competes against others buying the same keyword.
  • Landing Page Relevance: How relevant your ad and landing page are to the search query.
  • Landing Page User Experience: Whether the site meets adCenter editorial relevance and quality guidelines.

So, how does adCenter judge if your keyword is relevant to your landing page? According to adCenter, relevant keywords (in their editorial eyes) should do the following:

  • Keywords should specifically describe the products and services that are sold on your site.
  • Keywords should be supported by substantial information on your site.
  • If keywords are trademarks, they should comply with adCenter’s Intellectual Property Guidelines.

How does adCenter determine if you have a great user experience from your ads to your landing pages? Here is a list of guidelines that adCenter will use to judge your landing page/website. You should review this list and see if you have any weak spots:

  • Ad content should provide a clear and accurate description of your website content, products, or services.
  • Ad content should be as specific as possible; include keywords, if possible.
  • Geographically targeted ads should include the name of the targeted location within the ad.
  • Ads should not mislead or create the wrong impression with the user.
  • Ads should be accurate, truthful, and specific.

Effects on Your Performance

Your Quality Score will not have a direct effect on your performance. Quality Score in adCenter won’t positively or negatively affect your ad rank or cost-per-click (CPC). The objective of these scores is to show advertisers where they are falling behind their competitors in relation to keyword relevancy and landing page user experience.

Ad Rank on Bing will still be determined by your bid, click-through rate (CTR), and overall keyword relevance to the user search query.

Another way to look at this is, the adCenter Quality Score is really a Competitive Score. The Competitive Score is composed of everything outlined above and you’ll see this score in adCenter. The Quality Score is composed of CTR, bid, and overall keyword relevance — and this score influences your ad rank and how much you pay per click.

Optimization Suggestions

So, if Quality Score doesn’t directly impact your ad rank or CPC, what’s the point?

The point is that you can use the Quality Score (Competitive Score) to improve your actual Quality Score. Also, the tactics that you employ to improve one score will have an effect on the other. If you enhance the relevance of keywords, your CTR will improve and this will enhance your Quality Score and Competitive Score.

Here is a short list of suggestions that you can execute in your adCenter account now:

  • Create smaller ad groups: adCenter is focused on keyword/ad/landing page relevance. The best way to make sure that all of these elements are harmony is to create small, tightly-themed ad groups.
  • Write new PPC ads: Once you’ve broken your keywords into smaller ad groups, write new ads that highlight your core keywords in the headline, body copy, and even the display URL.
  • Review your landing pages: Following the guidelines from this article, take another look at your landing pages to make sure they fit these standards.

The adCenter Quality Score differs from that of AdWords. However, when you take a step back and think about it, they are looking for the same thing: they want advertisers to create ad copy that is relevant to a user’s search query and they want the landing pages of these ads to be a relevant and provide a great user experience.

Sure, adCenter doesn’t have the impression volume of Google, but it’s slowly gaining. So, now is the time to get your account structure re-vamped just in case Bing continues to gain on Google.



This article was originally posted April 15, 2010 on