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Five Google AdWords Quality Score Tips

  |  October 29, 2010   |  Comments

Strive for the very best Quality Score with ad group structure, ad creative, CTR-enhancing tweaks, geo-personalization, and separate content network campaigns.

With Google AdWords Quality Scores, you can be your own worst enemy, especially if you obsess on the score without regard for proper experimental procedure. In this week's column, I'll discuss five great tactics to improve Quality Score in Google. These tactics generally can't hurt in Microsoft AdCenter either. However, you may want to control your impulses to execute on more than one of these Quality Score tips at once, because if you really want to see the impact of one specific tactic on your campaign performance, it's best to do a controlled experiment.

Search marketers (and all marketers) are naturally competitive. Heck, I even got annoyed when one credit rating agency gave me a score slightly under 800, but back to the matter at hand. When speaking recently at the eMarketing Association Conference, an audience member asked a question about Quality Score that I've also heard several times at the Search Engine Strategies conferences over the last year or so. The questions asked are often framed in a competitive way but essentially revolve around the fear that competitors have a higher Quality Score or that the marketer has missed some Quality Score enhancing tactic. The Quality Score possible on some keywords in some industry categories may max out significantly below the visible score of 10. If you are like other marketers, you are fearful that you have a Quality Score of five and your competition may be at nine or 10. Even if you have room for improvement in your Quality Score, you may never be able to reach the coveted nine or 10. The commercial intent of some queries is low, or a certain segment of the population may never have an interest in your specific ad. Some keywords also have a high level of ambiguity, resulting in significant difficulties in getting a high Quality Score due to a low CTR from the general pool of searchers. For example, consider the following ambiguous queries:

  1. China (country or plates).
  2. Surfing (Web or waves).
  3. Delta (airlines, faucets, dental, insurance, etc.). Yes, even branded keywords can have difficulty, particularly for a non-owner who still has the right to bid.

So, yes, strive for the very best Quality Score you can achieve given the resources that make sense for you. Remember, like keyword expansion, there is a point of diminishing marginal returns, meaning that if a keyword (or Ad Group for that matter) doesn't get much volume of impressions, then the benefit of increased Quality Score is lower than the converse (a high volume keyword or Ad Group). Finding that balance of what to work on is half the battle.

Now on to the five tips for improving Quality Score:

  1. Ad Group structure: A review of Ad Group structure can yield a variety of benefits, in addition to a better Quality Score. However the Quality Score benefits accrue from a few primary factors. Fewer keywords in an ad group allow for Google to serve the ad for the most relevant situations, and getting the right mix of match types is a huge win here too because your normalized CTR will rise, resulting in a higher Quality Score.
  2. Ad creative for tight ad group: Keyword (searched) to ad creative shows up in both a linguistic analysis (algorithmic) as well as a higher CTR. Make sure your ads really resonate with the keywords that might trigger an ad. Use DKI if the search terms are short enough on average for that Ad Group to result in the DKI ad creative being a good fit.
  3. CTR-enhancing tweaks: These include things like display/landing page URLs that appear (and are) more relevant than a generic www subdomain and a non-descriptive directory structure. Also consider changing your call-to-action based on seasonal differences in searchers.
  4. Geo-personalization: One more reason to apply geo-targeting. Google looks at ad performance and affinities on a geographic basis. If CTR is higher in certain geographies, you may be able to achieve a higher Quality Score there. Plus, if the conversion rate or profitability of clicks from that region is also higher, you can bid more. That's a double whammy. You don't need to raise your bid, but it's nice to know you could.
  5. Separate content network campaigns: Display and content Quality Scores won't negatively impact your search Quality Score. However, if you do want to run content and display, a different Ad Group structure and different ad creative may perform better, resulting in a higher Quality Score. Remember: searchers and surfers are in a different state-of-mind.

Go forth and grab a high impression Ad Group and take a look at your Quality Scores. You may get a holiday present early in the form of a better Quality Score.


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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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