Back in the early days of Pay Per Click advertising Google had one of it’s usual brainwaves. It looked at Overture (which became Yahoo! Advertising) and saw that it’s direct ‘you pay more, you position higher’ approach had two main flaws:
So, Quality Score was Google’s smart balancing act. The premise was that if you worked hard making sure that your keyword, ad copy (in Google) and website landing page were more relevant and compelling to the reader, then you would be able to bid less for a keyword because your advert was better.
“The AdWords system calculates a Quality Score for each of your keywords. It looks at a variety of factors to measure how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user’s search query. A keyword’s Quality Score updates frequently and is closely related to its performance. In general, a high Quality Score means that your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position and at a lower cost-per-click (CPC).”
You can read further details on the Google Adwords Help Pages. The factors include (again from the Google page):
Now, whilst that all seems legitimate and helpful, there’s a lot that can happen behind the scenes… after all, who is to say which of these factors has much or little influence? And, just give further freedom to Google, ‘other’ is a very broad term!
So there is a lot that can actually be changed ‘under the hood’ without any perceptible change, or even any need for Google to change it’s bullet list. What we can reveal is this: that Quality Score has changed substantially recently and these are the things you need to know
Of high importance are:
Of low importance are:
Of unknown importance are:
Because ‘other’ cannot really be defined.
Recently, we setup a test campaign for a specific service – ‘telemarketing‘. We used all the normal relevance factors: great optimised landing page on a very relevant well established site promoting telemarketing, relevant advert copy specifically promoting the telemarketing service, and a suite of well-filtered very relevant keywords promoting specifically telemarketing services. In fact, we called our Google Account Manager and they said ‘there’s nothing more you can do’.
It was pretty surprising, therefore, with all this attention to detail, when we saw that most keywords in the ad group had a Quality Score of 3. That’s right… 3 out of 10.
What it tells us really clearly, is that you can do all you can to make all the elements of the campaign and website relevant, but ultimately 70% of the score is about the Click Through Rate.
The reason why this is critical is that there’s a problem here that few are aware of. The Quality Score Formula was supposed to balance spend based around click through rate.
It was not supposed to be driven by click through rate. But now, it is another name for click through rate. If you have a high click through rate, you have a good quality score, if you don’t, then they will hammer your quality score.
The problem with this is two-fold:
We don’t know for sure the reason, but this is our best guess. Until recently Quality Score was to help competition for places – so that the small guys could compete with deeper pockets and if they were smart enough, then they would benefit from investing more energy and time into their campaigns and websites.
However, now that virtually any search has at least 2-3 adverts, most have many, and (we estimate) about 50% of searches are full of adverts, there is no longer the need to be generous. So, they’re starting to turn the screw – after all, shareholder value must be met.
Which is why they are also looking at limiting the amount of adverts on a page by removing the right hand column of adverts. We call it ‘search engine optimisation‘ not of positions, but of revenues.
So, that’s why Quality Score is no more – it is there, in name. But it is no longer what it was and certainly we would challenge their assertion in the final line of their description of quality score:
“In general, a high Quality Score means that your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position and at a lower cost-per-click (CPC).”
It is not a measure of quality of keyword, advert, or landing page (or website). It is now merely a stick to beat you with to make you cough up more.
If this post has helped you, then please spread the word on Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook / Google+ below. If you’d like to find out more about how you can combat this unwelcome development, now that we’ve identified the problem, just get in touch – contact us, or send us a mention to discuss @johnnymb.