Why Are You Getting Below Average Exp CTR when Actual CTR is High?

With AdWords now providing more information on quality score, I thought I would share my own experience with “Expected CTR” and what I have done to improve my Exp CTR over time.

Below Average Expected CTR

What Does Google say about Below Average Expected CTR?

A “below average” status means that you might want to consider changing your ad text so that it’s more closely related to your top keywords – Google AdWords Help Centre

It is all good and well thinking that if your ad text matches your keyword text, this will solve all your problems. No, there is more to this little QS indicator. During my experiment I did indeed match every keyword with exact ad text and this was not enough to increase the Exp CTR.

My Findings on Exp CTR

After running an experiment for 4 weeks I can share some insight into a couple of things to keep in mind with Exp. CTR

  1. Your account history always plays a big role, keep ALL your quality scores as high as possible and you will be less likely to get a below average exp CTR
  2. Exp CTR can indeed improve over time, so sometimes you just need to wait a little longer for it to improve.
  3. If your keywords have always received high quality scores, but, one keywords simply does not want to perform, then you need to simply ask yourself one question (this is not in the help files) … Is Google going to make money from that keyword?

I am sure you have all noticed the following:

  • When I increase my CPC my Exp. CTR seems to get better.
  • My large clients with deaper pockets and greater reach seem to have better Quality scores than my small clients with small targeted campaigns.
  • When I break down my targets and define my targets my CPA gets better but my Exp CTR gets worse (Niche keywords)

In a perfect world this should be how your ads run, however, Google is a business, so if you save TOO MUCH money and optimise TOO WELL, Google will likely find a way to make profit from your great work. (this is why you may see a super high actual CTR and a below average Exp. CTR)

How to Improve Your Expected Click Through Rate

  1. Like Google suggests, make sure your keywords match your ad text. Break your ad groups down into variations of your primary topic keyword. As an example, if you are targeting a page that sells “country oak furniture” then the ad within that ad group need to contain the same exact word. Then you can create a new ad group (variation) where all the ads speak of that variation eg “farmhouse oak furniture”.
  2. Make sure your ad is in a prominent position that will be more likely to get more clicks. If your ad is in position 6, then it may be less likely for it to get a good CTR.
  3. Make sure your target keyword is not a long tail keyword with low search volumes. Although long tail keywords are more likely to convert, they are also more likely to get a below average expected CTR. Rather use a broad match modifier (BMM) or phrase match to capture that long tail word. Eg: Instead of using “adwords management company in johannesburg” , rather use +adWords +Management +johannesburg or “adwords management johannesburg” (or even +adwords +management) which will get higher search volumes and still contain your converting key phrase. Use negative keywords to then remove keywords that do not convert.

How To Find Your Expected CTR Column

Google does not display this column by default. You will only find the Exp CTR column under the “Keywords” tab in your AdWords account. Keywords > Columns > Modify Columns.

Then navigate to the new “Quality Score” columns to the add Exp. CTR column

Quality Score Column



Niche words that have high CPA but very low search volume (and cost) will likely lead to low QS because of low expected CTR. Improve the possibility of your ads getting clicks and making Google revenue.


  1. Kim Lottering September 7, 2017 Reply

    Hello Bryan, thank you for a great post! I was researching Google AdWords and came across your blog post. I have never tried AdWords before but am thinking of trying it in December for my small business Lacy Lingerie. But I see in your blog post you said that your larger clients have a better quality score, do you think I should use Google AdWords and if so, how much should I be spending? Thank you for a wonderful insightful post!

  2. Drew Richards December 10, 2018 Reply

    Good article. People seem to forget that Google is a fox guarding the hen-house. Now Google is pushing for even more control through automated bidding…right, here is my credit card, you tell me what I should pay! There are several reasons for their record profits and it is not all explained by innovation.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.