Back in the good 'ol days of pay per click advertising, achieving a good ad position was a simple matter of bidding higher than the competition. Now, it's a little more complicated. If you want to make sure potential clients see your ad, you can no longer bid your way to the top. Nope. These days, if you advertise on Google, you have to worry about this pesky little thing called a quality score.
Why does my quality score matter?
Quality score is the single most important indicator of how much you'll have to pay for keywords that will trigger your ads. The higher your quality score, the less you'll have to pay every time somebody clicks on your ad.
Achieving a good quality score means you can literally pay less than other advertisers but still wind up in a scenario where Google shows your ads in the top position. Quality matters.
Here's how to make sure Google thinks your ad campaign is high quality.
Pick Good Keywords
You'll have a head start if you're advertising in a field where other advertisers have already had a lot of success. According to a great post by redflymarketing.com, as much as 60% of the factors that influence your quality score on certain keywords are determined by how those keywords have performed for other advertisers in the past. If they've performed poorly, then you're starting off a bit behind the gate, but you can make it up with other factors we'll discuss later.
In general, one-word phrases like "internet" or "phone" are so non-specific that they haven't performed well for advertisers in the past, so a good rule of thumb is to stick to key phrases that are two words long or longer. Consider using keyphrases like "internet service" or "voip phone," or better yet, use keywords with local qualifiers, like "dallas internet service."
However, note that if you start choosing phrases that are too long, Google will have low search volume statistics for those phrases and will also assign a low quality score based on low search volume. So aim for two or three, maybe four-word phrases.
Keep in mind that because so much of your quality score is initially determined by keyword performance history on other people's accounts, a good bit of quality score is out of your control. You may never be able to achieve the coveted "10," but neither will your competitors, so rest easy. You can still max your score out as much as possible and go for a perfect 8 by managing the factors that are within your control.
Manage the Factors that are Within Your Control
So what factors can you control in your campaign?
Simply put, you can easily manage the relevance between ads, keywords, and targeted landing pages by structuring your campaign properly. You can also influence your average Click Through Ratio (CTR) by weeding out poorly performing keywords over time. Doing these two things properly will put you way ahead of the pack. Over time, I've been able to cut my company's cost per click in half by properly managing these two pieces of the puzzle. Here's how to do it:
Structuring for Relevancy
Make sure your targeted keyword is highly relevant to the ads in your ad group, and that your ad groups within your overall campaign are relevant to each other. Let's say you sell blue widgets and red widgets. What you would NOT want to do is try to create one Adwords campaign that sells both blue widgets and red widgets. Instead, create one campaign for blue widgets, and another one for red widgets.
Within each campaign, you'll want to create ad groups that are distinct from each other, but that are also relevant. For example, in the blue widget campaign, you might have the following ad groups:
- baby blue widgets
- royal blue widgets
- violet blue widgets
Then, in each adgroup, you would want to put only one or two keywords. In the baby blue widgets category, for example, your keyphrases might be "baby blue widgets" and "baby blue widget." That's it. No more keywords in that ad campaign, or it will dilute your relevancy, which will in turn lower your quality score.
Write a separate ad for each ad group, and make sure the ad contains the keyphrase the ad group targets. The more instances of your keyword you can fit in your ad, the better.
Finally, make sure the landing page for each ad contains the keyword in the title and description meta tags, at least one H1 title tag, and in the first and last paragraphs of your body text. If your landing page URL also contains your keyword text, that's even better. You may have to create separate landing pages for each one of your keywords, but this time investment will boost your quality score so much it will pay for itself in reduced cost per click charges.
Managing Click Through Ratio
The other way you can directly influence your quality score is to manage your click through ratio over time.
Inevitably, if you start off with a large campaign, you'll find that some of your keywords and ad groups perform better than others. Performance is measured in Click Through Ratio (CTR), which is a numerical representation of the number of times your ad displayed divided by the number of times your ad was clicked. A CTR of 1 or 1.5 is pretty average. But if you've written good ad copy and chosen your keywords wisely, it's not unheard of to achieve CTRs of 4, 6, 10, or more.
As you run your campaign over time, stay on the lookout for keyphrases with CTRs less than one. After say, a month or so, go through and prune all your ads and keywords with low CTR so that only your best performing keywords remain. This will boost the average CTR for all the keywords in your account, which will in turn boost your overall quality score.
As you develop a strong track record of keywords that consistently achieve high CTRs, you can go through your account and lower your cost per click bids. When you do, you'll find that your ads still stay in top positions, but you'll be paying less.
Make up for the little traffic you were losing on keyphrases with low CTRs by increasing the spend on your best-performing keywords.
Finally, don't forget to track your conversion ratio. You may be hitting all your numbers in your Adwords campaign, but if your best performing keywords aren't converting, you're still wasting your money.
Jennifer Null is the marketing director at Vergent Communications, a business internet and digital phone service provider committed to saving your company money. T1 service is available nationwide from $249 a month.