Quick Adjustments To Improve Ugly Quality Scores

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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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Michelle has worked on the Internet (sometimes, literally) since before it had pictures, learned web development in HTML before it was iterated, worked in SEO when there were 12 search engines, watched Digg become the grandfather of social media, worked as a Google page rater, and predicted today's holistic online marketing environment back when MySpace was a thing. And she makes kick-ass fajitas.

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