If you’ve got some experience managing cost-per-click (Google’s term for pay-per-click) advertising using Google AdWords, you surely by now realize the high importance of optimizing for Quality Score. Either that, or you enjoy throwing away your or your clients’ money.

According to Google, Quality Score (QS) is “the basis for measuring the quality and relevance of your ads and determining your minimum CPC bid for Google and the search network. This score is determined by your keyword’s click through rate (CTR) on Google, and the relevance of your ad text, keyword, and landing page.” Those last three elements that I’ve bolded are under your control, and thus ought to be high on your priority list of what you tweak on a daily basis in your accounts. Why? Because higher QS = lower cpc and better ad position = better ROI for you or your client.

I’ve recently observed, though, that just watching the QS score number on your keywords can lead to unnecessary frustration. You may be diligently putting into practice those things which should result in a higher QS, yet not see a higher QS number for some of the related keywords. I’ve noticed recently, however, that in many cases it appears that Google is indeed giving you a boost reward in such cases even though they did not increase the QS number. In quite a few cases, after QS optimization, I’ve seen ad position rise (at the same bid level) and/or CPC go down, while the QS remained the same. Another indicator I’ve observed of post-optimization bump is a sharp drop in minimum first page bid for a highly competitive keyword.

So why didn’t the QS go up in these cases? You must remember that the only QS number you can actually see is the one Google shows with your keywords. But that is not the only QS. There is a Quality Score assigned your ads, your ad groups, your campaigns, and your entire account. At best, the QS you see with your keywords is an approximation of the combined effect of all of those.

The lesson in this is if you put a good amount of effort into making a relevance flow from keyword to ad to landing page, don’t write off your efforts if you see no consequent increase of QS over the next several days. Be patient and wait for data to accumulate. Did the associated ad start to rise up the page at the same bid level? Has the CPC of the keyword been trending downward for the same or increased number of clicks? If yes, then it is likely that you got your reward, even if the QS number doesn’t immediately show it.