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Pay to Play: Common sense tips to help you improve your Google Adwords Quality Score

by Hamlet Batista | November 30, 2007 | 17 Comments

One of the most frustrating aspects for novice pay-per-click (PPC) marketers is the so-called ad quality score—a method search engines use to measure the relevancy of an ad for a particular keyword. The ad quality score affects the minimum bid price, position and display eligibility. Poor ads cost a lot more and are less likely to be displayed than highly relevant ones, giving advertisers a strong incentive to manage their ads responsibly.

Unfortunately, the exact way search engines measure this score has remained a secret. But a few months ago, Bill identified a set of patents that give us a detailed look under the hood at how these numbers might be computed.

Defining Quality

So what is a great ad and how does Google determine your score? Straight from the horse’s mouth:

Quality Score helps ensure that only the most relevant ads appear to users on Google and the Google Network. The AdWords system works best for everybody—advertisers, users, publishers, and Google too—when the ads we display match our users’ needs as closely as possible. Relevant ads tend to earn more clicks, appear in a higher position, and bring you the most success.

So, in order to improve the ad quality score you simply need to do two things: make sure your ad answers the user’s search, and make sure your landing page delivers on your ad’s promise.

This might seem very obvious, but novice PPC marketers are lazy and like to put large groups of loosely related keywords together with little structure or thought behind them. The improper use of broad matches (with no negative disqualifiers), and the misuse of dynamic keyword insertion make the problem a whole lot bigger.

Tips for creating your PPC ads

  1. Create ads that include the keyword in the title, description and URL for a higher click-through rate. Split test multiple ads/offers and keep the ones with the higher click-through rate.

  2. Create ad groups only with related keywords. Including keywords not directly related to an ad group will reduce its quality score.

  3. Don’t mix “broad match” and “exact match” searches in the same ad group. There are many reasons for this. Each matching option requires a different strategy—broad matches require negative disqualifiers for example. Broad matches also tend to generate more impressions than clicks, and exact matches the opposite. It is better to have them in separate groups.

Landing pages: an ad’s promised land

Most of the problems with low ad quality scores are generally due to poor landing pages. A lot has been said and written about what search engines look at on landing pages, but it all comes down to your ability to match the user’s search with the content on your landing page. Including keywords in your ad groups for which you don’t have appropriate content on your site is a waste of time and money. If you want to include such keywords, create content to match those queries first.

The general rule: If the user is happy, the search engine is happy. And so is your wallet! 🙂

  1. Send searchers to the right landing pages—pages that exactly match their search. Even better, include those keywords on the landing page. One way to make sure your landing pages are matching the search terms is by using Google’s Keyword Tool Site Related option.

  2. Avoid duplicate content on your landing pages and include enough original text, not just banners and forms.

  3. Make sure your landing page includes (if applicable): about us, terms of service, privacy policy, contact us, and other identifying information. The more credible the page is, the better the quality score and the higher chance it will convert.

  4. Measure the bounce rate and average time spent on your landing page. Make any changes you can to reduce the bounce rate and increase the amount of time a user spends on your landing page. Those are indirect signals search engines can use to measure the quality of your landing page.

  5. Search engines can optionally use your conversion information to measure your quality score. If you are tracking conversions, make sure you are also doing landing page split testing to increase them.

Paid search marketing is extremely competitive these days. As in any competition, however, what matters is not the number of competitors you are facing, but how many truly savvy competitors there are. Fortunately for us, I think there are still a lot of clueless advertisers out there.

I am sure most of my readers will be able to take these tips to the next level and beat their competitors this coming holiday season. Please feel free to share your own PPC tips on the comments.

Hamlet Batista

Chief Executive Officer

Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds US patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months

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