Quick Adjustments To Improve Ugly Quality Scores

Michelle Moore Scott : November 22, 2013 10:21 pm : Blog, Concepts, Search Engine Marketing, Tactics

Quality Score is the big nasty beast of PPC that everyone managing an account has to try to tame. However, it does us all good to remember that Quality Score is also the big junk yard dog that keeps the less ethical PPC bidders at bay. In the days before Quality Score, it literally was possible, if you had enough money, to hit the top of page spot on any word you put in the keyword list, as long as your bid was high enough – even totally unrelated words. You really don’t want to go back to those days do you? Me neither. So we do our best to wrangle our campaigns and web sites into compliance so as to shave every last penny off of our cost per click, because we’ve all seen the chart right?

adwords auction ad rank computations

The basics formula for ad position – Image courtesy of WordStream’s Infographic, “How Does The Adwords Auction Work.”

Because your Quality Score is a factor in figuring out just how much you pay to hit a certain position in the auction, the better your QS, the lower your max bids can be and still maintain a high enough position to attract attention. But what can you do when you realize, over time, your QS has been falling and your CPC has been going up? Here are a few quick things to clean up before you panic.

Review Your Ads

  • Pause Ads With Ugly CTR – Over the course of time and testing, it’s easy to forget that back in the old days, you wrote some really bad ad copy. It’s also easy for us to forget that one of the strongest components in the Quality Score algorithm is the ad, because a lot of PPC managers (and their clients) think PPC is all about the keyword, when in fact, if no one ever clicks your ad, it won’t matter if you have a million keywords – your account can’t help you if the ads stink.
  • Check Your Ad Rotation Settings – Google’s default setting is to let Google optimize to show the one ad with the best performance pretty much all the time. This actually causes ad fatigue, so I always recommend that you at least change the setting to Rotate Evenly, Optimize after 90 Days. Additionally, if you forget that your ad settings are set to let Google show “the best ad” all the time and you do write new ads, they don’t always get a fair shake.
  • Review Search Query Data and Write One New Ad – write an ad that is your best stab at addressing the issue raised by the most common search queries but also bridges the gap between the query and the content on your page. Everything in PPC is relevant to everything else – the goal is to have a seamless thought process from query to landing page. You need to write really useful ads to enable this process. Useful ads are easier to write when you understand where the searcher is “coming from” – that ever-important intent. Going through the query data/best ad exercise helps get you back into your searcher’s mind, where you can do your best ad copy-writing.

Create One New Ad Group

If you completed the Query Data review and went through the process of writing the best ad to address the questions posed by the most common queries, you might have discovered that your ad group isn’t actually an ad group at all – if the “best ad” you just wrote is completely different from the ads you’ve been running, then you probably began your ad group with keywords, not ads. Everyone does it, and we do it without thinking about it – our culture somehow makes us gravitate more toward the idea of grabbing the prime keyword real estate, so all of our effort and planning goes into keyword strategy. I honestly believe that’s bass-ackwards. And I’m not the only one. Take a look – what’s the first operational thing you create in Google Adwords when you create an ad group? It’s not the keyword list. It’s the Ad. They’re telling you, by having you create your campaigns in this order, that the ad has particular importance here – after all, that’s the part that has to attract the click, right?

If you start your campaign and ad group creation by writing the best ad you can possibly write that will answer your most anticipated search query, then create a tight keyword group based on the wording of the expected query and the wording you used when you answered the query (wrote your ad), you might discover that your quality scores will hang around 7 or 8 without any extra attention paid to the landing page at all.

And you know what else? That’s it. Unless someone broke your URLs, it’s been my experience that these kinds of adjustments from the Ad down to tighter keyword grouping are able to pull most keyword and ad group level quality scores out of the nether regions and start shaving pennies, even dollars, off the CPC needed to maintain position.

Money-saving Mental Exercise

Remember that chart up there? Quality score is a multiplier and coming up with your Ad Rank score, which determines where on the ad totem pole your ad gets put. What if you’re bidding on some really expensive keyword like “automobile insurance” and you’re capping CPC at $35 with a QS of 4? That’s an ad rank of 140. Raise your QS 2 points and suddenly your ad rank is in the 200s. (210). Ok here’s some math for ya – what if you’re already at the top of the food chain (#1 spot) with $35 CPC and a QS of 4? 140 divided by your new QS of 6 means you can lower your CPC to $23. That’s $12 per click in savings just by improving quality score!

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Have You Climbed Onto Vine Yet?

Michelle Moore Scott : September 26, 2013 9:27 pm : Blog, Infographics, Smarter Social Media

The guys over at the 7th Chamber make a great case for corporate Vine usage in this loaded infographic!

Visit their fully interactive infographic here.

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Getting Started With Google Adwords Scripts: CTR vs Average Position

Michelle Moore Scott : September 25, 2013 4:23 am : Blog, Concepts, Search Engine Marketing, Tactics, Tools

In the first of our Adwords Scripts articles, we introduced every one to a basic script that checks your campaigns for any that spent money but produced no conversions and if it found any that fit that criteria, it sent you an email. Pretty basic. This one is likewise, pretty basic, but has more in common with our last Google Adwords Quality Score article – we use this script, which is a basic starter script provided by Google – to help us look for correlation between click through and ad position, while we’re honing quality scores. If you’re ready to dive in, here’s the script:

if you copy and paste, paste this into a plain text editor such as Notepad first

// Example script: analyze clickthrough rate of keywords based on their average position
// This script will not apply any changes to your account; it will only generate a report.
function main() {
// Get an iterator over keywords, ordered by best average position.
var keywordsIterator = AdWordsApp.keywords()
.orderBy(“AveragePosition ASC”)
.withCondition(“Impressions > 0”)

// Keep a running count of the clicks and impressions for each position; this data
// will allow us to calculate the average CTR.
var currentPosition = 1;
var clicks = 0;
var impressions = 0;

Logger.log(“Position vs. CTR”);
while (keywordsIterator.hasNext()) {
var keywordStats =“LAST_WEEK”);
var position = Math.round(keywordStats.getAveragePosition());

if (position > currentPosition) {
// Print out statistics for the keywords with the last average position, and start
// tracking clicks and impressions for the next average position starting from 0.
var ctr = (clicks / impressions * 100).toFixed(2) + “%”;
Logger.log(“Position ” + currentPosition + “: ” + ctr);
currentPosition = position;
clicks = impressions = 0;

clicks += keywordStats.getClicks();
impressions += keywordStats.getImpressions();

In simple terms, this script will iterate through all your active keywords, sorted by ad position, then compute the CTR. So you end up with something like this in the Log area:

Position vs. CTR
Position 1: 2.28%
Position 2: 1.65%
Position 3: 1.67%
Position 4: 3.70%

This simple table gives you a great snapshop of two key performance indicators over the previous week (you can edit this if you want to change the reporting period).

What is this metric set good for? Well, right off the bat it tells you which position your ads seem to perform better in. Of course, if you tweak this script up to iterate per ad group, you can use it to match up that positional performance to the type of keyword used, which helps you separate top-of-funnel keywords from bottom-of-funnel keywords. Once you know this, you can confidently match your top of funnel keywords to ads that have better sidebar CTR and bid down to save some money. If you iterate per ad, you can dissect your text ad wording and confidently position “champion” ads in the positions where the CTR is highest.

If you are also running Quality Score reports for the same period, you could potentially graph CTR versus Quality Score changes to find QS correlations with improvements in CTR. Here’s a real life example: as Google Partners, we often participate in Adwords Beta programs. While testing an adwords feature that would only function when the ads were shown in position 1, we discovered that our CTR and Quality Score dropped, even though our ads dominated top positions and looked really cool thanks to the feature we were testing. In the end, we paid more per click not just because we bid up to position 1, but also because we lost at least a point across the board on Quality Score for the campaign. This QS change seemed to correlate to an overall CTR drop from 3% to just over 2%. Even though our ads were in the number one spot, they didn’t get clicked on as often because of the types of keywords we targetted and ads we were using.

Had we run this CTR vs Avg Position report first, we’d have seen that the best CTR occurred in position 4 and realized that pushing all our keywords to position 1 might not be a good move, even for the sake of a beta test.

So there, you are – a really simple script that writes its details straight into the Log Details for you. Who knows, maybe I’ll find (or write?) a combo script that will combine this comparison with the Quality Score report and write them all into a Google Docs spreadsheet so they can be graphed together! Or not. We’ll see how much spare time I have.   :)

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The 8 Factors of Holistic Digital Marketing: Technology

Michelle Moore Scott : September 13, 2013 1:24 pm : Blog, Concepts, Search Engine Marketing, Tactics

I started off this series with a summary of the 8 main performance factors that you have to be aware of when planning and executing your Digital Strategy. Yes, I narrowed the list down to 8 – 8 things that are often considered on their own, but things that are truly interrelated to such a great extent that to me it seems simply wrong not to consider them in total with each other, and their effect on all aspects of your digital strategy.

But the factor I’m going to start with is the one that, while not overlooked, is often ignored: Technology.How Technology Impacts Digitial Marketing

How Technology Affects Digital Marketing Performance

The sort of technology you use and the way you use it has a direct impact on four of the six digital marketplace elements – search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, web development and social media. If you’ve looked up the chart from the original article, these are labeled as SEO, PPC, Dev and Social in the chart under the heading, Technology.

One of the first things we do at PPI when we acquire a client, or a new web site, or a new landing page, is run some standard measurement tests on it. Oddly, it seems like almost no one else ever does this or if they do, they don’t understand the implications of things like html to text ratio, or proper cannonicalization, or something as basic as load time. To put it simply, your digital property needs to be well-built. It needs to load quickly, without errors. It needs to deliver the proper layout and content for the device being used to view it. Web server settings need to be optimized to prevent duplicate content. Style sheets need to be organized and served intelligently from one location. Scripts needs to be organized, nested properly, and included in one section of the page whenever possible. You need to use closing tags, for Pete’s sake. Don’t deliver Flash objects to iPad users. All images need to load the first time. Limit how many objects you have delivered from servers other than your own. You know, it’s all those technical things in the site audit that everyone thinks someone else is in charge of fixing. Even if you think it’s something silly, if it’s showing up on an audit report, it needs attention.

Technology and SEO/PPC

Let’s look at an innocent enough example of a collapse in technology maintenance that most folks ignore – here’s a language flag from a report generated by a great little tool called WooRank:


This little red flag says “hey, you left off the Language meta tag – we think we detected English on the page, but you might want to fix that.”
Most webmasters would look at this and go “What the frack? Of course it’s in English! Who cares? Why should I go look up the syntax for formatting the META Language Attribute? Where’s my Mountain Dew?”

Um. Take a look now at this, from a page of the Google Page Quality Raters Guidelines:google page rater intent

Every single query issued to a rater includes a language tag. If it’s that important to Google that their page raters know the intended language of the query, don’t you think Google cares about a definitive meta tag on the page that signals what language the page is in? Trust me on this – if the language meta tag was absolutely useless, it wouldn’t be checked for in every sigle site audit tool worth a damn… and Google wouldn’t have their page raters make sure the language on the page matches the language of the query.

Many of the technological factors that affect SEO also affect PPC. For example, you can suffer low quality scores for things like slow page load time, errors in loading, or serving inappropriate content – like loading up Flash objects to someone hitting your site with an iPhone. Google includes “Landing Page Experience” as a grading factor for Quality Score. If your technology is a mismatch or if you simply haven’t paid enough attention to detail and left a few scripts hanging because the page rendered in the one browser you checked it with, you could find yourself suffering from lower than necessary Quality Scores. Low quality scores means increased cost in the form of a percentage increase in your cost per click. Don’t let stupid things like inline CSS, bloated code, or busted images from a 3rd party server kill your landing page quality.

Technology and Social Media

Another aspect of technology has to do with utilizing it correctly – you have to make sure you’ve matched up the technology in use to the objectives you’re aiming for. This is why I’ve included Social Media under the technology heading. How many times have you seen a business (or representative of a business) post message after message on Facebook begging people to go follow them on Twitter? I’ve even seen users get irate because they don’t see every single one of their FB fans following them on Twitter. Here’s a news flash – those two social networks are almost mutually exclusive! Think about it – the people who are on Facebook are there because of the way Facebook works. It fits their lifestyle or their entertainment style or just plain tickles them in the right place. These people do not use Twitter! Likewise, the people on Twitter don’t stay in one place long enough to read more than 140 characters. Twitter has its own appeal and its own process for tribe-building that is unique to Twitter. Blasting “Like Us On Facebook” as your only message in a Tweet will get you un-followed if you do it often enough. If you run afoul of the natives on a social platform because you mis-marketed, it could completely ruin your continued marketing capability on that platform, at least for the short term.

Similarly, you want to make sure that all the gadgets and gizmos that you use on your site and within your social media messaging serve their proper functions without interfering with one another, and perhaps more seriously, without duplicating functions. There are an awful lot of tools out there that can really make a mess of your social messaging. Between Wordpress plugins, Facebook apps and Smartphone Apps, you could end up having an announcement for one blog article posted a dozen times in a row on Twitter – talk about spam. And guess “who” reads Twitter… not only will you piss off your followers, you risk looking like a spammer to the major search algorithms. And if you accidentally completely re-blog an article across all your social profiles and other blogs because of an overzealous Wordpress plugin, yeah, well that doesn’t actually help you at all – it creates duplicated content.

And speaking of Wordpress, you want to make sure and test all your plugins every time something on the site is updated. Those Google Page Raters will often flag a site as Poor Quality when the actual issue is that someone’s plugins are wonky and you just can’t see the relevant text on the page. Well, that’s the rub with the human raters – they gotta see it to read it to rate it. They aren’t bots and for the most part, they aren’t web developers, so they can’t (and don’t have to) troubleshoot the problem before they assign a rating. Ultimately, your site should be designed to be easily readable by a human being. The fewer gadgets and gizmos you can get by on, the better. Having a minimal number of plugins also makes keeping abreast of technology a little easier when you don’t have 47 plugins to update every 6 and half days. Then test. Then tweak.

Technology and Compatability

Finally, if you think the days of cross-browser compatability are gone, think again. To begin with, Chrome, Firefox and Opera are all making significant headway not only on the desktop, but on small screens too. And just so you know, those Google Page Raters are not allowed to use any browser other than Firefox for rating pages. You also have to create sites that deliver the correct content for the platform visiting at the time – if someone’s on a desktop computer, serve the regular web site. If someone’s on a tablet, serve a scaled up mobile web site (or scaled down desktop web site). If someone’s on a phone screen, serve a mobile-optimized web site. In case you missed it, Google’s already come out and said that if your web site delivers a sub-par experience for the smartphone, your ranking in mobile search will suffer for it.

What’s This Got To Do With Interactive Marketing?

The bottom line is that if you aren’t on top of your technology, don’t establish and follow accepted best practices with your use of technology, you run some significant risks to SEO ranking, cost per click in PPC, standards compatability and delivery of your web content, and who knows what kind of damage you can do to your social media campaigns if you don’t fully understand how the platforms and tools work. This can be a tall order. Take a holistic approach to producing consistent quality by following standards, abiding by guidelines, providing a great user experience, and applying a unilateral standard of excellence to all aspects of your digital marketing strategy (no shortcuts, no hack jobs), and you’ll be golden!


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The 8 Factors of Holistic Digital Marketing

Michelle Moore Scott : September 12, 2013 5:03 am : Blog, Concepts, Insightful Analytics, Local Search, Search Engine Marketing, Smarter Social Media

One of the more difficult concepts I try to explain as a digital marketer is the concept of “holistic” digital marketing – treating the entire digital construct as a whole. It’s more than lingo, more than a catch phrase. It will take me several posts, but over the course of the next couple of months, I’ll try to explain my interpretation of an all-inclusive, everything-is-related-to-everything-else approach to managing your digital marketing strategy that ensures consistency and performance.

holistic ~
adjective ~ PHILOSOPHY

 1. characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.


I’ve taken my experience in all facets of the digital market  and paired it with my experience as a super secret page rater for certain search engine we all know and love/hate, and come up with a way to summarize 6 elements of digital marketing and 8 factors that affect how they perform. Some of these elements are affected by all factors, some are only affected by a few, but the point is, there is not any single, straight-forward way to correlate performance of one element of your digital strategy to one performance factor. It’s just impossible – mainly, because everything is related to everything else. That’s why it’s called the Internet. That’s why we call this “holistic.”

Common Factor Chart outlining which performance factors affect the various facets of digital strategy

Common Factors Affecting the 6 Elements of Your Digital Presence

The 8 Common factors that affect these facets of your digital marketing strategy are listed across the top of the chart in blue: Relevance, Usability, Competition, Technology, Timeliness, Reputation, Standards, and Usefulness. Various combinations of these performance factors play a part in how your digital properties perform. None of them can be isolated from each other because there’s a lot of overlap – for example, SEO is affected by all 8 factors; Web Development is affected by 4 of them. What this chart is trying to tell you is that Relevancy is really important for SEO, PPC, Local Search, Web Development, Social Media and Content Generation. Online Reputation is really important for SEO, Local Search, Social Media, and Content Generation. Competitive Intel is important for SEO, PPC, Local Search and Social Media. Get the idea?

Ok, before you look at that list of factors up there and start arguing with me that Google doesn’t care about your reputation online, I’m here to tell you that yes, absolutely, Google does care about it. If you think a search algorithm can’t tell how “useful” a site is, I got news for you, buddy… it can too. “Actions speak louder than words.” Google has one of the most sophisticated web user tracking mechanisms imaginable and how people use a page speaks volumes to that algorithm about your site’s usefulness, as well as usability. And I will remind you one more time that I was a Google Page Rater – when you have an hour to kill, you can check up on the basics. I was a specialist. My specialty was rating Google SERPs – you know, the actual page of search results… yes, I worked my way up from rating web pages, to comparing and rating Google’s own pages. I’ll stop and let that sink in for a moment.

Now, if any of you have been struggling to come up with a way to demonstrate the holistic connectedness of quality factors, usability factors, appeal factors and technology factors to someone higher up on the food chain who won’t loosen up the budget to let you fix things, feel free to use the chart above to help organize and explain things. In the upcoming weeks, I will break down each of these factors and explain their effect on the digital marketing landscape. I think I will start with Technology!



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