For many creative marketing people, entering your landing page URL into a new ad and submitting it to AdWords can be a nail-biting moment of worry. Will the quality score (QS) decide that your optimized, high-converting sales page isn’t up to their standards of quality? If so, will your ad’s position suffer, or perhaps fall off the first page altogether?

It’s no secret why this tension exists between marketers and the search giant. Google only wants meaty, content rich websites that offer uniquely valuable experiences its users cannot get anywhere else. They have been very explicit about this, and will actively remove pages from AdWords that do not measure up to their requirements.

In contrast, marketers frequently find that less can be more. A compact, laser-targeted sales page that focuses on delivering one message with few on-page distractions works best for conversion.  So how do you reconcile Google’s needs with those of your marketing? Let’s take a look at the three tiers Google judges your landing page by and explore how to make the cut without losing conversion power.

The Page Must Contain Relevant and Original Content


This requirement is without question the biggest landing page QS determinant of all. The reason is simple — Google’s searchers are its users, and their single mission is to provide the highest quality user experience possible. Therefore, before they proudly display your ad and direct traffic at it, they want to make sure people will be satisfied with your page once they get there. The only way they can do this is by assessing the contents of the site.

That said, you don’t need to publish a book there, but a headline and an opt in box will not suffice either. Be sure to include a detailed description of your product or service, testimonials, and links to blog articles, PDFs, or other original content hosted elsewhere on the same domain.

QS Action Items:

Feature your high converting offer above the fold: If you have found that a particular headline or quick offer coupled with an opt-in form converts exceptionally well with your audience, you don’t need to get rid of it. Simply place these elements prominently above the fold and organize the rest of your content beneath them.

Break up your content with tags:  When writing descriptive content on your page, be sure to use <h1>, <h2>, and <h3> tags. Containing important keywords and phrases within these tags lets Google know that they are related to your page.

Ensure that your landing page content can be read by Google: In some cases, a landing page already features plenty of content, except that it is a format that cannot be processed by bots. Pages that contain their important content in large images or videos suffer because Google cannot read it.

The Page Must Be Trustworthy and Transparent


A crucial part of Google’s desired user experience is the safety and protection of its searchers. Unfortunately, the Internet provides a thick veil of anonymity that some fly-by-night marketers exploit to take advantage of people. Naturally, Google does not want to send a single person to a questionable-looking page. AdWords guru Perry Marshall suggests asking yourself if Google’s ad reps would be comfortable sending their grandmother to your landing page, and tweaking until you can confidently say “yes.”

To guard against unscrupulous behavior, the quality score engine judges landing pages for transparency. It seeks to understand how easy it is to contact you, and if your page informs visitors of how you will use their personal information.

QS Action Items:

Make sure you have a privacy policy: This is the standard in information use disclosure. Your privacy policy should explain what value you intend to provide with the information that you collect from your visitors, and how you will protect it from third parties.

Make contact simple: Websites that have something to hide don’t often make it easy for visitors to contact them through a variety of mediums. Provide your business address and phone number in the footer of the page, as well as in a separate “Contact” page readily accessible from your navigation.

Take advantage of Google Maps: While there is no evidence to suggest that including a Google Map of your location on your contact page gives you a particular boost, it does help increase transparency which adds to an overall favorable quality score.

The Page Must Provide Easy Navigation


If a visitor arrives on your website and cannot find what they are looking for, how valuable of a page have you created? Google knows that ease-of-use is a top indicator of quality and your navigation is the cornerstone of it all.

While you don’t want to distract your visitors away from your offer, a page with no navigation looks like a scammy sales letter fed into Google and your QS will suffer. You don’t have to place a lot of design emphasis on your navigation, but it needs to be present to comply.

QS Action Items:

Provide a top and bottom navigation: Your nav should appear once at the top of your page, and as small links in the footer.

Include a page’s nav button text in its title tag: Continuity between a link’s anchor text and what is in that page’s title tag is a big signal of what the page is about. For example, if your nav button says “Contact Us”, the title tag of the contact page should also contain those words.

Submit your XML site map: Using Google Webmaster tools, you can submit your  website’s XML site map, which greatly aids their crawlers in discovering all the pages and content on your website.

Making Google Smile Instead of Slap

If there is one key take-away running through all of these tips, it is that Google’s quality score is increasingly mirroring its SEO algorithms. The goal of the company is high quality and relevancy across the board, and if they had a perfect world they would want their paid results to be as instantly relevant as the natural ones. The nature of paid search means that this 1:1 quality ratio will likely never be achieved, but the  closer you can come to designing a site that ranks naturally, the fewer QS headaches you will encounter.