SES Toronto 2009: Why You Need Great Quality Scores!

by Tyler Calder June 9th, 2009 

Oh Quality Score, how I love thee. When you're happy, you can give me all my favourite keywords at such low prices – but when you're sad, you drive your prices up and I can't afford you. Please tell me how I can keep you happy.

Okay, so Quality Score can't speak, but luckily, we have a fantastic panel that will give us some insight into Quality Score – what it is, why it matters and how to keep it high and your costs low.

Anne Kennedy of Beyond Ink will be moderating this sessions with Andrew Goodman of Page Zero Media and David Sprinkle of Acronym Media acting as our panelists.

So Andrew, What's the Low Down on Quality Score?

Ad Ranking Algorithms: A Short (Google Centric) History

It all started with AdWords 1.0:

  • Fixed Pricing, Unpopular Program
  • Fixed CPM rates, few tools, "spray and pray" philosophy
  • The worst of old display ad technology, but at least it targeted keywords

AdWords 2.0

  • Leapfrogged what Overture was offering with their pure PPC auction
  • Brought in a formula – Bid x CTR = AdRank
  • This brought a more efficient auction: ads priced on market demand
  • New tools means more people are measuring ROI by keyword
  • Google starts to provide incentives & tools to test ads
  • Slick parameter setting
  • Side effects: happy users and a richer Google
  • …. but no model stays perfect forever….

AdWords 2.5

  • Google fixes what was a clunky system – makes building campaigns much easier
  • Remove any incentives to lowball bidding on irrelevant terms
  • Chased away 'annoying' advertisers (f0r users)
  • Begins to address relevancy and quality, looking at factors other than just CTR (more accurate)
  • Low quality score means that keywords will become inactive or you need toraise your bid above minimum
  • Side effect – increased revenue and profit margin for Google – again
  • Click prices went up, advertiser satisfaction down a bit, user satisfaction way up

AdWords 2.6

  • Here comes landing page quality! Your landing page must be relevant to the keywords/ads that brought a user to it
  • Editorial approach begins to be automated through their algorithm
  • Google publishes their editorial guidelines
  • You can now see your Quality Scores as 'Poor' or 'OK' – what does this mean??
  • Drill down and check it out… you can see your QS out of a score of 10, and any known issues

Something to keep in mind – Google uses human raters to check landing pages until they can fully automate this process through their algorithm. So what does this mean? This means that Google is essentially putting together 'bad guy' profiles and you can, if not careful, accidentally be grouped into one of these profiles and receive low Quality Scores.

So, You Have Low Quality Scores – What's Causing It?

  • Basic build problems – large ad groups with irrelevant keywords, irrelevant ad copy and landing pages
  • Broad keywords and weak ads in a competitive sector – this will give you poor Quality Scores right out of the gate
  • Using high bids to 'rescue' account with polluted QS – over time, you will be priced out of the market

How Can I Fix my Quality Score?

  • Overhaul your account with a proper build – relevance is key!
  • Focus on Canada – close your geographic targeting (higher QS are easier to attain)
  • If you have been running an account with poor quality scores for a fair amount of time, you will want to create a completely new account – bad history follows your account and you can be stuck in QS purgatory.

Concluding Thoughts from Andrew:

  • Quality Score will always come with building a power account
  • Keep everything relevant and QS will come – relevant keywords –> relevant ads –> relevant landing pages
  • Continually test ads – this will help to drive up your CTR, which will increase you quality scores
  • Smarter campaign structure at the outset – do your keyword research and build a high quality campaign from day 1
  • Ongoing attention to quality score hygiene, detele loosely target keywords
  • Test landing pages for optimal results
  • Lastly, DO NOT BE EVIL! It's actually rather simple – be ethical, build a campaign with Google's editorial guidelines in mind and your Quality Scores will come.

That's Great Andrew! Now, David, What Do You Have to Say?

Factors That Influence Quality Score:

  • CTR
  • Query Relevance
  • Landing Page Quality
  • Account History
  • Geographical Performance
  • Maximum Big
  • Bounce Rate

Lets talk about Campaign Architecture…

  • Small, focused ad groups
  • KILL non-performing keywords (low CTRs)
  • Pause ads – don't edit. When you edit an ad, the QS is reset. A better idea is to pause and launch a new ad.
  • Match Types – Think about breaking out into separate ad groups? Exact & Phrase match will tend to have a higher CTR then Broad match

Are you using Negative Keywords? You Better Be!

  • Negative keywords are you friend – they help you strip out untargeted traffic
  • At the Campaign Level – use very broad keywords, such as 'free' or 'scam'
  • At the Ad Groups Level – use keywords that might lead to any internal conflicts (exact in one ad group, broad in another ad group)

What is this Dynamic Keyword Insertion business all about?

  • DKIs can lead to high CTRs when used properly.
  • When used improperly (which many people do), this can lead to a poor user experience and over time, drive down Quality Scores

Where does my landing page come in?

  • Changing landing pages can have a dramatic impact on your QS – say it all with me – relevance is key!
  • A better landing page can also increase conversions, which is really why we're doing this
  • Keep in mind load time, should be under 5 seconds

This is all great, but how do I monitor my Quality Scores:

  • Your bid management tool doesn't cut it!
  • You need to be in Google, running available reports at the keyword level and including quality score metrics
  • Only use current data
  • Give changes time, your Quality Scores won't fly through the roof immediately

So that's Google, what about Yahoo and MSN?

  • Both focus more heavily on CTR and CPC
  • Both focus quite heavily on Ad relevance – they want to see the keyword(s) in your ad – if not, don't be surprised if they pause your ad
  • Ditto for Landing Pages – they must be relevant and contain the keyword(s) on the page that brought the user to it

One final tip from David, which has become a theme through this session -TEST YOUR AD COPY! You will never know how high your CTRs can go if you don't continually test new messaging.

So there you have it folks, the lowdown on Quality Score – and if you're still wondering why its so important, its simple – If you have high Quality Scores, you will PAY LESS for your ad positioning, which means that your ROI will be GREATER.

Focus on your CTR, ensure that your Ad Groups contain very few, highly relevant keywords and write ad copy that speaks to those keywords – then send people to a relevant landing page. If you do that, you will have some stellar Quality Scores.

Now everyone run and check their Quality Scores!

Tyler Calder

Tyler is VP of Client Strategy at Search Engine People Inc., one of Canada's largest and most trusted internet marketing companies. He also teaches a 12 week Search Engine Marketing course at the University of Toronto and the intensive 1-Day SEO and PPC courses for the IAB.

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