Quality score is like an onion, or a parfait if you’re Donkey from Shrek, because well, everybody likes a parfait. Whether you prefer one analogy or the other, there’s always more to your quality score than meets the eye. On the surface, we all know what quality score is and why it’s important. So, why don’t we pay more attention to it? Most likely because it’s easy to see a 1-10 score and take it at face value. That’s merely the first layer, however, it’s beneficial to dig deeper and do more. Sure, we may tweak our campaigns a bit to increase quality score but how many of us are familiar with what it takes to truly improve the quality score? Moreover, why is quality score so important?
Like much of Google (search algorithm anybody?) the available information is somewhat vague about how a quality score number is achieved.
This is how Google defines it:
Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.
Google goes on to tell us that the 3 components of the quality score are:
• Expected click-through rate
• Ad relevance
• Landing page experience
Yes, that’s a bit oversimplified, but it does give us a place to start. First off, we know that quality score is important because a better score can lead to higher ad ranks and lower per click costs. Who doesn’t want that?
To confuse matters more, Google then goes on to tell us that the 1-10 quality score given, which is just an aggregated estimate, isn’t even used at the time of the auction to determine ad rank. Why? Because it is just an estimate after all.
What do they use then? I’ll let Google tell you:
Real-time, auction-specific quality calculations of expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience are used to calculate Ad Rank at auction time. These factors, which are based on things known only at the time of the auction, can heavily influence the quality of the user’s experience.
So, while we may not know the exact score at the time of each auction, we do have a pretty good idea of the quality by looking at the quality score we do have. Yes, I agree, it would be better to have a deeper level of insight into why your score may not be where you want it but Google has, in recent weeks, added more to the standard 1-10 quality score.
If you haven’t noticed it yet you can now also see
• Ad Relevance – Measures how closely your keywords match the content of your ad.
• Landing Page Experience – Measures how useful your landing page is to the people who click through from your ad.
• Expected Click Through Rate – Measures how likely your ad is to be clicked on when it shows up in a query.
You also have access to history for each keyword that will let you know if you’ve improved or not. While it is nice that these are now available, seeing only average, above average, and below average can you leave you wanting but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
This is why we’ve been using Optmyzr’s Quality Score Tracker. Not only does it show us the data that Adwords gives us for quality score, it goes above and beyond with great visuals while also aggregating account, campaign, and ad group quality score data. No need for me to go into the differences here, Frederick Vallaeys has already done that by giving us Five Ways That Optmyzr Tracks Quality Score that AdWords Can’t.
Why is Quality Score important?
As previously stated, a good quality score can lower cost per click while increasing your ad rank. The reason is simple: relevance. For example, Google doesn’t want to serve up an ad for string cheese to someone searching for a 2017 Toyota Tacoma. They also don’t want keywords that match an ad landing on a page that’s about something else entirely.
As such, Google will reward you by multiplying your cost per click by your quality score in order to determine your ad rank. What that means is you can spend less per click than your competitor and outrank them.
Yes, this is an oversimplification of why quality score is important but I’m ready to move on to the meat and potatoes of this post. Don’t worry though, I’d never leave you hanging. Here is a video by the chief economist over at Google, Hal Varian, titled Insight on the Adwords Auction.
1. Use Optmyzr’s Quality Score Tracker
That’s not to say that you can’t use what Google gives you, but our team uses Optmyzr to track our quality scores. Why? Because when you have as many accounts as we do (I work for an digital ad agency) with dozens of campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords in play at the same time, we need all the help we can get in order to quickly pinpoint the areas we need to focus on the most.
We’ve worked the Quality Score Tracker into our daily process and our clients are way better off because of it. We’ve also learned that this is a great tool to show clients. Granted, there is some debate out there about whether quality score is a good metric to show a client or not but with the way we do things, it’s great. We like to teach our clients because we believe that a learned client is a lifelong client and, as long as they understand what kind of return on ad spend (ROAS) they are getting, one who understands the benefits of larger paid search budgets
Below is a real screen-shot of a dealership client of ours:
Right off the bat we can see where the issue is. Overall, the account quality score is good at a 7.7 but as we all know, there’s always room for improvement. That red circle on the top left stands out, doesn’t it?
Clicking into it we can see the offending ad group in addition to the offending keywords. We can even see the quality score over time. Below where it says Daily Trend (bottom of image) there is a line graph that tells you exactly when the quality score dipped. Armed with that knowledge, I’m able to go into AdWords and see that the ad was wrong. While the ad had been changed to include the year of the vehicle, the keywords for this particular ad group didn’t include that information. Since the keywords being bid on didn’t match the ad and, of course, the landing page when the ad was clicked on didn’t match the ad, the quality score went down.
This took just a few minutes to find and then correct.
2. Use Long Tail Keywords – Expected CTR Quality & Ad relevance
Competitive keywords can be difficult to manage in both organic and paid search, especially in the more competitive industries, which is why you should always be picky about the keywords you use. With long-tail keywords, you can be more specific and specificity equals a higher conversion rate, less cost per click, and a higher expected click through rate.
If you really want to take the whole superhuman CTR thing to the next level then think about using single keyword ad groups (SKAGs). True, these may take a bit more work to implement but your CTR will thank you. There are more than a few reasons why you’d want to take a closer look at SKAGs and I encourage you to if you aren’t familiar with them or haven’t tried them yet. One of the main reasons why SKAGs work so well is because they are so very relevant. Using SKAGs you can ensure that every keyword used (don’t forget about long-tail here) is in the ad copy of the ad.
Yes, you can use dynamic keyword insertion for this, but for more flexibility, try SKAGs.
Negative keywords are your friends. For some reason, negative keywords are easy to overlook, but they should be paid close attention to. The search term report will show you the holes that need to be plugged. Plug them, but keep checking back to make sure another leak hasn’t sprung.
3. Use EVERY Ad Extension possible – Expected CTR Quality & Ad relevance
I see a lot of accounts once we take them over from another agency and it always confuses me as to why more ad extensions aren’t used. Not only do they give your ad more bling, but they also take up more space (this is really good on mobile), increase relevancy and drive up the click-through rate.
I understand that not all ad extensions will be relevant in every case, but use all that makes sense. Yes, some are more time-consuming than others but the more you use the better your ads will perform.
Take a look at the price extension. Can you use it? Then do it. It takes up a ton of space on mobile and can really drive your competitors down. Recently, Google announced that price extensions are now available on all devices. Again, they take up a lot of space and, on desktop, look really cool. Need more of that bling I mentioned earlier? Well, here you go.
Also, make sure that you’re at least using location extensions (if you have a physical location), call extensions, structured snippets, site links, call outs and the message extension. Sound like a lot? This is just the tip of the extension iceberg, make sure to use as many as you can. When it comes to extensions, remember that more specific is better. What I mean by that is that you can add account-level extensions but you’ll see better success if you narrow it down to the campaign level or, better yet, the ad group level. Just remember to keep your eye on the prize, a better quality score.
4. Ongoing Ad Optimization – Expected CTR Quality & Ad relevance
One ad per ad group isn’t enough, neither are two. Google recommends at least 3 per ad group. The best way to get the best performing ads is by doing A/B split testing, even if you are using SKAGs. Also, think about copywriting and how you can turn a boring ad into a more compelling ad that invites a click.
The best way to ensure that your ads are highly targeted is to always write each one from scratch. Never stagnate, always try to beat your best performing ads by writing even more compelling copy for the next ad. If you have long-tail keywords going to a highly converting ad then you are well on your way to increasing your click-through rate and your ad relevance.
5. Take a long hard look at your landing pages – Landing page experience
You wouldn’t send an ad about toothpaste to a page selling candy would you? Rhetorical question, but sometimes it takes an absurd question to drive a point home. My point is that you should be as obsessed with making your landing page match the ad as you are about the ad matching the keyword. That’s a great start but you need to go further than that.
First, make sure that the landing page looks just as good on mobile as it does on desktop. Pay close attention to the speed of the page because Google has gone on record as saying that 53% of smartphone users will abandon a web page if the site takes more than 3 seconds to load. 3 Seconds! Couple that with a recent study that shows we have an average attention span of just 8 seconds (1 second less than a goldfish) and you have a recipie for disaster if you aren’t careful.
While I won’t be going into depth about landing pages in this post I think it’s important to ensure that your landing page has a call to action. What’s a call to action? Anything that gets people to act on whatever it is that you want them to do. It can be a lead form submission, a download, a phone call or even watching a video. Whatever it is it has to be very easy to do. Making people jump through hoops won’t lead to conversion. Having said that, if it’s not feasible to put the final call to action on the actual landing page, then you must make sure that your site is easy to navigate with a clear path to your desired conversion. Take a long hard look at your landing page data and pay particular attention to what is happening in analytics. Are they converting? Are they following the path you’ve laid out for them? If not, why not? Take a look at the data from both the desktop and mobile perspective, is anything off? If so, fix it.
Don’t stop there
Keep optimizing. Don’t let your account, or your client’s account, slowly die. Stay active, make adjustments regularly and become obsessed with raising the bar. Never stop until the bar is as high as it can possibly go. There has been a lot of talk over the years, even research done on the importance of account activity. So, stay active my friends.