Quality Score: The Special Sauce for your PPC Sandwich

For those who are focusing on marketing strategy online but are new to Google AdWords and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, the most potentially confusing metric in the AdWords interface is likely keyword quality score.

One of the main draws to a online advertising is measurability, and more broadly, quantifiability. This is why quality score can be so frustrating for advertisers. As an advertiser, you can see the quality score of your keywords, but it can be difficult to understand where these numbers came from and how they affect your ad performance and spending. Let’s take a look at what makes up a quality score as told by Google’s best practices.

Why a large photo of a sandwich, you ask? Because if you think of your online campaigns as a sandwich made up of ad groups, ads and keywords, the quality scores measured in your campaign is like the ‘special sauce’ that brings your sandwich together and makes it the best sandwich it can be.

Quality score (QS) is calculated every time someone performs a search on Google which triggers your PPC) ad, and according to Google, the main factors which influence your QS are:

  • Your keyword’s expected clickthrough rate (CTR), based on how you’ve performed for this keyword in the past
  • Your display URL’s past CTR, how often people have historically clicked through to a particular landing page from one of your ads
  • Your account history — the overall performance of your account
  • The quality of your landing page, including factors like navigation and expected user experience
  • The relevance of the targeted keyword in relation to your ads
  • How much success you’ve had in the geographical regions your campaign is targeting

That’s a lot to think about. But here’s why it matters: higher quality scores give you a strong competitive advantage. Having a higher quality score than your competitors for a specific keyword will make your ads rank higher and cost you less per click. This is Google’s way of rewarding you (or punishing your less efficient competitors) for  the relevance of the content and advertising you’re providing on their network. It’s important to understand that different strategies and quality score ranks impact how much advertisers pay per click for a specific keyword. The chart below illustrates this point well:

PPC cost calculations

It’s pretty clear how in this example the maximum quality score of 10 allows Advertiser B to rank high while minimizing spend.

You may also notice that almost all of Google’s factors are based on historically information — how your campaign performed in the past. Don’t let this discourage  you if your campaign isn’t performing well today. As mentioned, quality score is recalculated every time your ad is triggered in search so it is very reactive to changes (improvements) to your overall stragegy.

Google’s goal is to serve the most relevant organic and paid content to anyone who searches online. Quality score is a way for the search engine to rank just how relevant your ads and website are to each search term, in relation to the other ads that are indexed into Google. To avoid being assigned low quality scores and to ensure your budget and ad copy efforts aren’t go to waste, don’t bid on keywords unless your products or service are directly related to them. This also means making sure you’re not bidding on search terms that are too vague, have more than one meaning/use or have become irrelevant over time.

Always considering your customer’s online behaviour when designing advertising is the real best practice.

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