What You Need To Know About Google Adwords’ Quality Score

When it comes to trying out random new keywords in paid advertising, be careful…you could inadvertently hurt your Google quality score and cause damage to your entire campaign. Then you’ll be wearing the same expression I was when I ordered what I thought would be a large(ish) chocolate dessert at PF Changs and it was about the size of a quarter. One that had been flattened on the railroad tracks. One that I had to SHARE with my best friend, a known chocoholic. ANYWAY…

Google’s quality score is defined as follows:

“Quality Score is the basis for measuring the quality and relevance of your ads and determining your minimum CPC bid for Google and the search network. This score is determined by your keyword’s clickthrough rate (CTR) on Google, and the relevance of your ad text, keyword, and landing page. We believe high quality ads attract more clicks, encourage user trust, and result in better long-term performance. To encourage relevant and successful ads within AdWords, our system defines a Quality Score to set your keyword status, minimum CPC bid, and ad rank for the ad auction.”

Now, what to do if you have a client who is constantly telling you to “try these new phrases!” and won’t take no for an answer? Can adding tons of poor-quality keywords to a Google ads campaign actually be as bad as Johnny Marr joining Modest Mouse? Yes I KNOW they are considered to be a good band but still…it makes me shudder and swat at imaginary flies.

Here’s why your Google ads quality score is so important:
If it’s high, your minimum cost per click is lower than it would be otherwise. That might not seem like such a big deal until you consider the fact that a large PPC campaign that generally receives 500 clicks per day could save $50 per day by a minimum CPC that was just $0.10 lower due to a better quality score. That’s around $1500 a month in savings which equates to 375 raspberry mocha lattes. Keywords with low quality scores can also be listed as inactive for search, which means you have to either pay more per click to get them listed or you have to improve the quality score of that keyword by making your ad text more relevant or improving your landing page.

It gets weird here…there is ANOTHER quality score that Google uses to determine ad position. Google says this quality score “differs slightly from the keyword Quality Score used to determine your ad’s minimum CPC bid requirement.” This quality score takes into account how well your ad has performed previously. If you’ve gotten a high clickthrough rate, you have a fantastic landing page, and you’re converting like mad, this quality score will be higher and you will most likely be number 1 for a keyword when you’re paying for the top spot. If you’re paying for the top spot and your quality score is lower than the other guy paying for that privilege, you’re going to be number 2 if your ads are on at the same time.

So, the overall point of this is that when you’re running paid ads in Google or anywhere else, don’t assume that you can just slap some keywords up there and adjust your bids every few days and do NOTHING ELSE. Running a successful paid ad campaign takes a lot of hands-on time. Many people assume that it’s simply a matter of money, that if they’re willing to pay $30 per click for the keyword “really good Robbie Williams albums” they will be number 1 in Google constantly, and they’ll sell a ton of these (obviously non-existent) albums. It doesn’t work that way. Obviously no one will search for “really good Robbie Williams albums” and I cannot imagine that anyone has a landing page devoted to this horror.

Let me close by saying that the information I’ve given comes from the Adwords site mostly. I always recommend that you read authority sources to see what they say, then read everything else you can find on the topic. Many times, the opinions of people outside certain entities (such as Google) will be the ones that really help you out.

For more information on this incredibly riveting topic, here are a few links:

How Is My Keyword’s Quality Score Used?

How Do I Know What My Quality Score Is?

The Buzz On Google Quality Score Changes

Google Quality Score Myths and Truths

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2 Responses to “What You Need To Know About Google Adwords’ Quality Score”

  1. Very timely article, Julie – and some great points. I’d have never thought that the test keywords would put a spanner in the works – STS.

    Two more points i wanted to add:

    I was helping a friend find out why his campaign was penalised after changing his destination urls from his vendor’s site to his own(he’s an affiliate). And I spoke to one of my friends in Google, only to find out that over and beyond considering your on page content relevancy, Google also counts in the quality of your outbound links. No surprise to some of you I presume, but add to that that your whole domain can suffer from one poopy page – and it gets a bit scary…

    The second thing I wanted to mention, is that you could consider using DKI to improve quality score, but not only at the ad stage. If you load up individual destination URLs (different landing pages) for each keyword, whilst using DKI – you can have even more targeted campaigns – i.e. better QS.

    Great post, Julie :o )
    P.S. So totally know what you’re feeling with the pudding there. I hate it when my pudding dissapoints… I have been known to sulk through wattery eyes!!!

  2. great post. I thought I would comment as I have just been on the phone to my Google AdWords account manager chatting about the Quality Score. What annoys me is they give you some feedback on how they perceive “the quality” of your keywords, but not for the ads themselves and the landing page.

    Another point, after the quality score arrived it is becoming more and more important to do SEO as well as PPC. Gone are the days when you had a crap flash site and you could just do PPC instead, as now your quality score would be highly detrimentally damaged if all the content was in flash or images, as it would perceive it as not being relevant. After all the quality score is not a manual scoring, you could have all the relevant words on the landing page but in an image and your quality score would be affected..

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