GDN Quality Score – A Look at Relative CTR

Does AdWords Have a Quality Score for Display?

I’ve been asked this dozens of times and I myself have asked Google reps several times and get conflicting responses.

The honest answer is YES,  Google does have a quality score metric for Display but it operates far differently then on Search.

I could go very technical but all you really need to understand is 1 Metric and 1 Metric only and that is Relative CTR.  If you master this metric you won’t have to worry about any other metric affecting your quality score on GDN.

GDN Quality Score is part 10 of our Google Display Training Course found at  All our AdWords Courses can be found on  and our AdWords Search course can be found at

Here is my video workup covering more in-depth on Relative CTR

Why Can’t I see my Quality Score on GDN?

You can’t see your Quality score on the display network because it’s not there.  This leads many people to say that it does not exist for display which in some measure is an accurate statement because, well….  It’s not there.

Some will tell you to create text ads and match that text ad copy to the keywords you are bidding on and then match that keyword to the landing page.  This is the mindset for AdWords search and should not be carried over to the GDN side of things.  After all, GDN has video and image ads, not just text ads.

From all my millions in ad spend I can tell you 1 thing and only 1 thing really matters and that is the Relative Click Through Rate or RCTR for short.

What is Relative Click Through Rate (RCTR)?

I’m glad you asked.  You are smart for doing so.

RCTR simply put is how your ad is performing on similar placements compared to other ads on those placements.

a RCTR score of 1x means your ad is performing the same as others.  Below a 1x means your ad is performing below average and above 1x means you are above average.

In the image below we see my Ad group of “topics-keywords” has a RCTR of 1.4x.  This means my ad is performing 1.4 times better then other ads on the same placements.

Relative Click Through Rate

For the same Ad group “topics-keywords” my CTR is .79%.  This may lead you to think that the Ad group “Delta-Search” with only a .38% CTR would be well below average compared to other ads on the same placements.  However if we look at the RCTR column we can see the 1x value which means my ad is performing on par with other ads and that CTR value is common.

How to Add  Relative CTR Column?

By default the RCTR is not present on the page.  To get this you just need to select Columns -> Modify Columns -> Competitive Metrics -> Relative CTR .  From there you can move the RCTR box to any column you want.

competitive metrics RCTR

Why RCTR Matters?

AdWords wants to make the most amount of money possible while at the same time providing max value to the end user.  They believe that ads that have a higher CTR must be more inline with what users are looking for and there fore more related.  Don’t over read this statement.  It’s a generalization.

With this in mind let’s do a little math based upon RCTR

Advertiser A:  10,000 Impressions.  50 clicks – CTR of .5%

Advertiser B   10,000 Impressions.  100 clicks – CTR of 1%

Now on the search side of things we know that the high bid is the person with the highest quality score +.01 over the next in line bid.

If Advertiser A is paying .50 cents a click then 1 might think,  hey that means that Advertiser B must be paying .51 cents.  The answer is no,  not at all and here is why.

The set value here is the 10,000 impressions.  This won’t change.  AdWords is going to show the ad that makes them the most money and that is highest related to what the person is searching for.

Advertiser A:  10,000 Impressions with 50 clicks at .50 a click = $25 dollars total or 2.5 CPM (cost per 1000 impressions)

As Advertiser B is getting double the clicks he would not be charged the .50 cents a click.  If he was this would put him at a $5 CPM which is double the cost of the poorer performing ad.  The opposite actually happens.  Google Rewards the individual and may show them a similar CPM price which would me your CPC is actually .25 cents while others are paying .50 cents.

The better your ad performs compared to others on the network the more likely you are to have a lower CPC.  There are of course other variables at play but focusing on RCTR over just CTR is the only real competitive metric you need to focus on where quality score is concerned.


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