Google Adwords Quality Score, The Art And Science

Dur­ing our last week­ly Mon­day mar­ket­ing meet­ing, we were dis­cussing the per­for­mance of our cam­paign and how we could bet­ter increase our Google Qual­i­ty Score to achieve high­er and vis­i­bil­i­ty for a low­er cost. Rather than reach­ing any con­clu­sions on the best way to move for­ward, our dis­cus­sion went back to the basics.

What is ? What com­po­nents impact your over­all Google rat­ing? What can you do to min­i­mize your spend­ing and max­i­mize your place­ment on Google?

Upon real­iz­ing that the answers to these ques­tions weren’t so black and white, I was assigned the task to research the algo­rithm and deter­min­ing fac­tors Google uses for their Ad Qual­i­ty Score in an effort to help build a sol­id under­stand­ing of the sub­ject pri­or to mak­ing changes to our Google Adwords cam­paigns.

Although this is not a typ­i­cal blog top­ic that I choose to write about, it is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to share my find­ings and be a resource for those who per­haps use Google Adwords, but lack a basic under­stand­ing of how it works.

Let’s begin with how Google cal­cu­lates your Ad Rank and your actu­al CPC.

(Max CPC bid) (Qual­i­ty Score) = Ad Rank

Actu­al CPC = (Ad rank of the next high­est bid­der beneath you)/(Your qual­i­ty score)

Based on these equa­tions, you real­ize how much your qual­i­ty score impacts both your and how much you pay per click.

So, is qual­i­ty score just some num­ber that Google pulls out of the air? Or is it strate­gi­cal­ly cal­cu­lat­ed based on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent vari­ables?

After per­form­ing ini­tial research on the sub­ject, there are three dif­fer­ent com­po­nents that deter­mine your qual­i­ty score: your CTR (Click-through rate), your ad rel­e­van­cy, and your land­ing page. Keep in mind that these three fac­tors do not all car­ry the same weight. Your CTR is the most impor­tant fac­tor, con­tribut­ing about 60% to your over­all Google Adwords qual­i­ty score. Your Ad rel­e­van­cy comes in a close sec­ond, at 30%, while your land­ing page comes in last, at 10%.

Let’s dis­sect each of these fac­tors indi­vid­u­al­ly in an effort to help cap­i­tal­ize on your Google Adwords strat­e­gy.

CTR (Click-Through Rate)

CTR is the num­ber of clicks that your ad receives divid­ed by the num­ber of impres­sions. We all know that users vote with their clicks. Google uses CTR to deter­mine which ads are best based on the user’s search query. Since CTR is large­ly depen­dent on the pop­u­lar­i­ty of your key­words, a below aver­age CTR could be a strong indi­ca­tor that you are bid­ding on the wrong key­words.

Ad Rel­e­vance

Your ad rel­e­vance is the rel­e­van­cy of a key­word to the ad, and the rel­e­van­cy of the key­word to the user’s search query. Your ad rel­e­van­cy gauges how your ad fares against your com­peti­tors. If your ad rel­e­van­cy score is low, you may ben­e­fit from see­ing how your com­peti­tors’ ads are dif­fer­ent from yours and make changes accord­ing­ly. A “below aver­age” sta­tus means that your ad or key­word may not be spe­cif­ic enough or that your ad group may cov­er too many top­ics.

Land­ing Page Expe­ri­ence

Although your land­ing page expe­ri­ence is least impor­tant to your over­all qual­i­ty score, it should not be over­looked. It has poten­tial to put you slight­ly ahead of all your com­peti­tors, which can make all of the dif­fer­ence. A high land­ing page rat­ing is achieved through orig­i­nal con­tent, an eas­i­ly nav­i­ga­ble web­site, quick load­ing times, min­i­mal pop­ups, and how well site inter­acts with visitor’s com­put­er. If this score is low, it means that there is dis­so­nance between what you say you do and what you real­ly do.

So, now the ques­tion is, what can you take from all of this? What can you do to improve your Ad Qual­i­ty Score?

  1. Make sure each ad group focus­es on a sin­gle prod­uct or ser­vice.
  2. Use key­words that are two to three words long rather than a sin­gle word. For exam­ple, “cup­cakes” is a very gen­er­al and pop­u­lar key­word that will gen­er­ate many impres­sions, but it becomes very dif­fi­cult to get clicks on your par­tic­u­lar ad. Choos­ing a more tar­get­ed key­word, like “veg­an choco­late cup­cakes” will result in a high­er CTR. This is because, although you will get few­er impres­sions and few­er clicks, you will get a much bet­ter click through rate. Bot­tom line: Avoid using gen­er­al key­words.
  3. Include your key­words in your ad text (espe­cial­ly in your ad’s head­line)
  4. Use a strong call to action in your ad text.
  5. Include prices, pro­mo­tions, and exclu­sives in your ad text
  6. Cre­ate tight­ly-themed ad groups by mak­ings sure that your ads are close­ly relat­ed to a small­er group of key­words

Make sure to only make small adjust­ments to your ads or key­words at one time and allow enough time to judge the results of your changes. If the change(s) you made impact­ed your results pos­i­tive­ly, move on to anoth­er small change and see how it works. If your results had a neg­a­tive impact on your traf­fic or cost, change it back and try some­thing else. Mak­ing a con­tin­u­ous num­ber of small changes, one at a time,  will tell you if you are mov­ing in the right direc­tion or not. Keep track of all of your changes, so you can go back if things don’t go as planned.


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