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Tara West

AdWords Quality Score Types And How To Improve Them

21st Jan 2014 Paid Search | 9 Comments


Tara slidesIf there was ever a time to optimise for AdWords Quality Score, this is it! For above average Quality Score on keywords, CPC savings have increased from 66% in 2009, to a whopping 200%.

But it’s also harder than ever to get a top Quality Score now, which is why in our latest presentation we look at effective ways that still work.

[slideshare id=30244535&doc=biddableworld-tarawest-jan14v10-140121025320-phpapp01]

Why Bother With Quality Score?

CPC savings aren’t the only reason to bother optimising for Quality Score. You’ll also boost your Ad Rank, which will enable you to get top ad positions that you might not have been able to get otherwise, regardless of your bids.

There are some PPC practitioners who argue that we should be focused on revenue and not put too much effort into Quality Score, but if you are making your account more cost effective by achieving lower CPCs and higher ad positions because your Quality Scores are awesome, then you are naturally going to get more bang for your buck which will ultimately benefit your ROI.

What is Quality Score?

I’m sure all of you know the fundamentals behind Quality Score, and by the Google definition it is all about the relevance of your ads, keywords and landing pages. This is fundamentally true, but there are also some other factors for Quality Score…

Quality Score Types

In addition to your landing page, keywords and ads, there are also Quality Score factors to be considered at account level and device level too.

Primary Quality Score Factors

The factors within Quality Score at all of these levels are

  • Click through rate,
  • Relevance
  • Landing Page Quality

Landing Page Quality will be explained in more detail later, as it is specific to your landing pages, whilst CTR and relevance are applied to all the different Quality Score types.

Keyword Level Quality Score

This is the Quality Score Google is most transparent about, and it’s the one that appears within the AdWords interface under the keyword tab.

Keyword level Quality Score is based on your historic CTR primarily, which means it’s important to get a strong CTR as soon as you can as the future Quality Score of your keywords will be based on it.

If you don’t have any history for that particular keyword, AdWords will judge it on the way other similar keywords in the account have performed.

If the account is brand new and has no CTR history from any keywords, your historic CTR will be based on an industry average which looks at how other accounts in your vertical perform.

Many PPC specialists have suggested that there is an impression threshold which your keywords need to pass before they can build their own Quality Score, and until they pass it, their Quality Score will also be based on an industry average. No one has specifically said what the impression threshold is – although some have suggested it’s in the thousands. I don’t believe this to be exactly true – and think it’s more likely that if there is a threshold it will vary depending on your industry. For example a small local plumbing company may never achieve thousands of impressions on one particular keyword, whilst Amazon might do.

Keyword level Quality Score is calculated based on exact match search queries. This doesn’t mean exact match keywords, it means when the users search query exactly matches your keyword. So if you are bidding on “red shoes” on phrase match, and someone searches for “cheap red shoes”, this search query won’t be used to calculate your Quality Score. Only when someone searches for “red shoes” exactly, will it be used to help calculate your Quality Score. This means you can be assured using broad and phrase match keywords won’t harm your Quality Score CTR.

The average position of your keywords is normalised when AdWords calculates Quality Score, this means that if your ad is in the top position, it is expected to get a higher CTR than if it was in fourth position, so AdWords will account for this when they calculate your Quality Score.

Don’t get too caught up on the figure within your AdWords account. It isn’t actually your Quality Score, it’s just a representation of your Quality Score. Quality Score is a much more complex calculation that Google don’t share the details of with us.

Keyword Level Quality Score Tips and Tricks:

  • Structure your account well from day one so that your CTR is strong form the beginning
  • Use modified broad match keywords to boost your initial impressions and help you get over the impression threshold (if this exists)
  • Google experts have said that although average position is normalised, it’s not always accurate, so you can still get your CTR up by being in top positions – I’d recommend bidding up initially to get those top positions and CTR so when your Quality Score is based on that historic CTR it will be high
  • Add any keywords which are going to be easy wins first of all – anything that will have a strong CTR and is highly relevant. Then launch the rest of your keyword later. This means when your new keywords are launched they will be based on the strong historic CTR of other keywords in your account.
  • Make sure you include exact match keywords in your account as these will always match the users search query exactly and so will be used to calculate your Quality Score every time and build up a Quality Score history faster than other match types
  • Try WordsStream’s AdWords audit tool to see what the average CTR is for your industry and use that as a benchmark

Google is like an elephant – it never forgets. If you create a keyword and then delete or pause it, and then re-create it from scratch, Google will still associate it with the original version’s Quality Score and historic CTR. My advice would be to keep optimising poorly performing keywords and if they still don’t respond then it might be worth pausing or deleting them for good.

Ad Level Quality Score

Ad Level Quality Score is another area of Quality Score which is prominently tied to CTR and relevance. There are no real secrets to Ad Level Quality Score, but here are some handy tips and tricks for getting the most out of it:

  • Make sure all available ad extensions are enabled and optimised (for example have descriptions with your sitelinks)
  • If an ad has a CTR of less than 1.5% and it still has a good average position, it’s likely that the issue is with the ad so it might be worth ditching it and starting from scratch with new ad text
  • Split test your ads as soon as you have significant data – what is significant depends on your individual account but make a judgement and split test as soon as you know you have enough data to base decisions on
  • Google openly admit that the performance of display URL’s is a factor that they use to take into account for Quality Score, so if you want to make significant changes to improve ad Quality Score try split testing your display URL as a starting point
  • Remember that Quality Score is calculated on exact match search queries and if you’re using broad match keywords your user might have a popular variation of the keyword in the search query, so try using keyword variations in your ad text description to increase the likelihood of it matching their search query
  • If you don’t have time to structure your keywords into really niche ad groups with bespoke ads, try using Dynamic Keyword Insertion in your display URL and ad headline

Account Level Quality Score

Think of Account Level Quality Score as a school. If you have lots of unruly pupils in a school and they aren’t being dealt with, excluded or expelled, eventually the whole school gets a bad reputation. Your AdWords account works in the same way, and if you have lots of poorly performing keywords and they aren’t being optimised, paused or deleted, then the whole AdWords account will have a poor account level Quality Score.

The main reason to avoid a poor account level Quality Score is because when you add new keywords and campaigns, they are going to be held back by this poor Quality Score right from the start, before they even have chance to build up their own Quality Score.

Optimising for Quality Score can seem like trying to move a mountain, because it can take months before you see any improvement in your account level Quality Score once you start optimising it. It is really worth making changes to improve it though, as it will help everything else you add into your account in the future.

To improve your account level Quality Score, try the following:

  • Location is a relevancy factor for Quality Score at account level – so use all available location optimisation techniques
  • Set a brand campaign live before any other campaigns, so it will perform well and build a strong account level Quality Score before you add in your other campaigns. The other campaigns will then benefit from this established strong account level Quality Score
  • Keep adding new campaigns and keywords – you need to outweigh the bad performers in your account with lots of good performers

Landing Page Quality Score

Your landing page is only a small piece of the Quality Score puzzle, but it’s well worth optimising for because improving your landing pages will also help increase your conversion rate, so it kills two birds with one stone!

Landing page Quality Score doesn’t affect your ad positions and isn’t taken into account in ad rank, but it is taken into account for your eligibility to go to auction. This means if you’re missing out on lots of impression share due to rank, you could have some landing page Quality Score issues.

Your bounce rate and time on site are taken into account in your landing page Quality Score, so keep an eye on these metrics for your landing pages and see if there are any ways you can make improvements to the pages for them. Naturally if you’ve got a PPC specific landing page and it’s just a form and some information where the user arrives and fills in the form and then leaves, then it’s going to have a high bounce rate, but Google know this and that’s why they take time on page into account too.

Matching user expectations is key when it comes to your landing page. If you’re bidding on terms like ‘exercise routines’ but you’re landing people on a page about healthy food recipes, you might think they’re relevant but the landing page doesn’t match the expectation of the user who searched and clicked on your ad. This means it will have a low Quality Score.

Landing Page Quality is reviewed by humans, so try getting someone from outside your business to review the page and tell you what the product or service is that is being offered, and whether it matches the keywords you are bidding on.

Your page speed is a big factor within landing page Quality Score, so regularly check this and make sure there are no issues. It’s reviewed based on your industry average, so if everyone else in your industry has a really slow site and yours is slightly faster, then you’re on to a winner. However, if your site is slower than most other sites in your industry, it will be holding your Quality Score back.

Ensure all the content on your landing pages is 100% unique. AdWords want to deliver unique content just as much as Google do within organic rankings so ensure everything is unique even if you’ve blocked it organically via your robots.txt file.

Ensure all contact details are visible on every PPC landing page. This helps increase the transparency of your business and will also help reassure users and increase conversions.

Device Level Quality Score

Device level Quality Score uses pretty much the same factors as desktop Quality Score, but it’s a separate calculation. This means it won’t affect your desktop Quality Score even though both are contained within the same campaigns since the introduction of Enhanced Campaigns.

Location is a huge relevancy factor for mobile Quality Score, so make sure you’ve done everything you can to optimise for location.

Review your user mobile journey before you even decide whether to bid on mobile. If it’s really poor and the user has to zoom in or can’t easily complete a conversion, then it’s not worth bidding on and you should stick to a bid adjustment of -100%. This is because otherwise you would ruin your mobile Quality Score on a site that isn’t mobile optimised.

Make the most of all mobile ad extensions, including mobile sitelinks and mobile call extensions.

Review your mobile performance by segmenting your keywords by device. If any have a poor average position or are missing out on impression share you should prioritise these for optimisation.

Display Network Quality Score

If you use Cost per Thousand (CPM) impressions bidding on the display network, Quality Score is based purely on your landing page quality. If you use CPC bidding, it’s also based on your historic CTR.

Measuring Quality Score

So once you’ve worked hard to optimise Quality Score, you need to measure it and see your success!

Use weighted impressions for quality score, so you can prioritise the keywords which are going to have the most impact on your Quality Score.

You can work this out by multiplying each keyword Quality Score by the number of impressions it has accrued.

It’s no good having Quality Scores of ten on keywords that only have a few impressions. You need to get them on the ones that have the most impressions in your account.

If you like to speed things up you can always use an AdWords Script like the ones listed below:

These will track it for you regularly so you can compare your historical performance, which is something you can’t otherwise see within the AdWords interface.

What Quality Score Should You Aim For?

Six is the new seven! Since AdWords updated how they report Quality Score last year, the average Quality Score is now around 5 and 6 is a good level Quality Score to achieve. It’s now harder to achieve a score of 7 or above. Be aware that it takes more time to move from a lower number upwards than it does to move up on the higher end of the scale.

So now hopefully you have a good understanding of the different Quality Score types and you’re armed with some tips and tricks on how to optimise for them! Although it takes time to optimise for Quality Score, the cost savings and rewards are higher than ever and the long term effect on your account makes it well worth it.

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About the author

Tara West

Tara West is an experienced SEO and PPC specialist at Koozai, with particular expertise within AdWords PPC and Remarketing. She has worked on a wide variety of verticals, from plumbing and travel to fashion and beauty.

Beginners-Guide-To-AdWords

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