Quality Score Optimization 101

  |  May 17, 2010   |  Comments

Five steps to achieving a higher Quality Score.

Are you new to paid search advertising? Would you like to increase your ad placements and decrease your minimum bid costs? You can do this by achieving a higher Quality Score. In this column, I will help you understand what Quality Score is, how it works, and steps you can take to optimize for it. The net result for you will be a better performing PPC (define) campaign.

What is Quality Score?

Quality Score is a dynamic value assigned to each keyword in your PPC campaign. It is the basis for measuring the quality and relevance of your ads and landing pages to your keywords. As a result, a high Quality Score will positively influence your ad position and decrease your minimum CPC (define) for your keywords. So if you're the underdog and aren't as rich as your competition, you have a chance to get the top spot with less money.

Before Quality Score was introduced, the primary means for achieving a high ranking was to have the highest bid for your target keyword. Search engines learned that those that had the most money didn't necessarily provide the best ads or destination sites. So they introduced Quality Score as another criterion for determining ad placement. By incentivizing advertisers to create quality and relevant PPC campaigns, search engines benefit by providing searchers with a better experience thus insuring their brand loyalty. So basically they reward advertisers that have a higher Quality Score. Searchers then have a better experience and search engines keep market share. Win-win-win.

Quality Score Factors

So how does this work? What are the factors that influence your Quality Score? One key factor is the relevance of your keyword to your ads in the ad group. Another important factor is the quality and continuity of your landing page. You are also graded on the historical CTR (define) of your keywords and your display URLs. Keep an eye on your CTR, this is a very important factor in determining Quality Score.

There are other factors, but suffice it to say your goal is to make sure your keywords are very closely related to your ads. Then the landing page for each ad should contain content that correlates closely to your ad and its message.

As you can probably tell by now, relevance is key. When a searcher steps up to a search engine, they already have an expectation of what they are looking for. They then pick a keyword phrase that best represents that expectation and are presented with a page of ads. If they see an ad that either has the keyword in it or is very closely related to the keyword, it will reinforce their expectation. Then the goal for you is to deliver on that expectation by taking them to a landing page that contains the content they are looking for.

Steps to Achieve a High Quality Score

Now let's develop a PPC campaign using the principles we have discussed so far. Here are the steps:

  • Campaign strategy and goals
  • Campaign structure
  • Keywords and relevant ad copy
  • Landing page quality
  • Performance measurement
  • Strategy and goals. With any campaign, identify your strategy and goals. Is your campaign designed more for branding or lead generation? With that in mind, start conducting your keyword research and identify those phrases that will help drive the right traffic to your site.

    Campaign structure. Organize your keywords into themes. Closely related keywords should be grouped together. By doing this you are beginning to develop ad groups, which is the next step in forming a good campaign structure. I have seen people create one ad group and dump hundreds or even thousands of keywords into one ad group. Your goal is to create many ad groups that contain keywords that are very closely related to each other. This is a harder task but well worth it.

    Ad copy. For each ad group, develop ad copy that incorporates your keywords or is very closely related to your keywords. When a searcher sees an ad that is closely associated with their keyword, they are more likely to click on the ad. The more clicks, the higher your CTR, which is one of the primary Quality Score factors.

    Landing page quality. Next, identify or develop landing pages for each ad group. For each ad group there is a central message or expectation that the searcher is looking for. Make sure each landing page contains content that will deliver on your ad's message or promise. This will lead to a higher conversion rate for you.

    Performance measurement. The final step is to measure. The key measurement to look at is your CTR, a primary factor of achieving a high Quality Score. Of course, you need to keep an eye on your Quality Score. You will probably see a close correlation between a high CTR and high Quality Score. If you consistently have keywords or ads that aren't performing, consider deleting them.

    Performing these steps will put you on your way to achieving a higher Quality Score for your PPC campaigns, which in turn means higher ad placement and lower costs for you.


    Ron Jones

    Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

    Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.

    Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.

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