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Last year I was at a conference and a speaker go up and said; I’m slightly paraphrasing:

Did you know that an ad group name can be 255 characters long? (I didn’t actually know this ). Google makes it that long so you can write descriptive ad group names to tell them what your ad group is about – you should always use all the characters as this will help your quality score. Also, campaign names can be long as well, you should use all the characters possible for your campaign names to increase your quality scores.

I speak at a lot of conferences and I attend many sessions each year. I don’t always agree with other speakers, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions – so unless it’s a panel Q&A; I won’t contradict anyone – I just might give a dissenting opinion.

Quality Score Myths

Until this time. As many audience members were glancing my way and looking quizzically as is this true or not; during the Q&A – I set everyone straight that this does not matter. Naming conventions are for you – not Google. I had hoped never to come across something like this in the wild – until this week.

I was doing an AdWords account audit and upon logging in – I was just confused by their organization. Every campaign included just one ad group. Every campaign and ad group name was more than 200 characters long of random words that reminded me of keyword stuffing organic terms back in 1998. I asked the advertiser what was going on with the naming conventions and they told me that they were told it would help quality score.

To save everyone a lot of headaches,  I thought we’d share some of the worst quality score myths we hear.

Thank you to everyone on #PPCChat who also contributed some ideas.

Put your keywords in your metatags to increase your quality score

I heard this version all the time. Put your keywords on your landing page, title tags, meta tags, alt image tags, within your video, in your video text, write them in flash, etc. I’ll also hear that having the keyword on the page is so good; but can lower conversion rates if the page is too long that they use white text on white background to not distract the visitor.

Having a keyword (or something related) on the page as it fits naturally can be useful as that’s what the user expects to see. In fact, there are other words a user expects to see on the page as well that should be there. Are you selling a good? You probably have a price, selection, and shipping information. Are you in mortgage lead gen? You probably have the word rate, calculator, refinance, and mortgage on a given page.

Those words weren’t written on the page for Google – but for the user. Write your pages for the user. If users are getting to your site, not bouncing back to search results, you’ll probably get good landing page quality scores, assuming you’re not breaking other policies, the page loads within a reasonable time frame, and that the page works on the devices where the ads are showing.

Use Popups on Landing Pages to Reduce Bounce Rates

I see this a lot in the VSL (video sales lander) space. There’s a popup that’s hard to get rid of so that if a user wants to leave your page right away, they can’t as they have to close the popup first. This popup is generally restricted from showing to bots and Google IP addresses, and if often not even added until the page has been approved, to increase quality score.

The only thing this type of page is going to do is eventually get your page disabled or for repeat offenders – banned from PPC.

Put AdSense on Your Site

This was a common suggestion about 10 years ago, but I still hear it on occasion. AdSense is the publisher platform for the Google Display Network.

The reasoning goes something like this: Google makes money when AdSense ads are clicked. By adding AdSense ads to your site, Google will make more money so they want people to go to your page over other advertiser’s and will thus reward you with a good Quality Score.

This is terrible advice. If anything, Google has punished advertiser’s for showing too many ads above the fold. While arbitrage still exists on the web; however, its usage has declined significantly since it’s heydays of 2002-2007.

Bid to the Top Position

The ads in position 1 have the highest CTR; make Google the most money – so by being in position 1, Google will reward you with a great quality score.

Now, there is a shred of truth to this myth – but not in the way people think.

Google normalizes CTR by position to determine your expected CTR; so higher positions don’t naturally get a higher quality score than ads further down on the page. However, we will see ads that as they increase in position get higher CTRs than were expected by that position, and thus QS can increase. In addition, Google isn’t always great at normalizing top vs side, especially in industries where the top CTRs often break 15%. Lastly, there are ad formatting items that come into play only in the top positions, such as extended headlines, sitelinks showing, etc.

So in some cases, you might actually see a higher quality score in the top positions than you do on the side of the page for the same ad. However, other times there’s no difference at all (or your quality score can also drop as you didn’t hit the expected CTRs) and you can quickly lose money.

So it’s not that being in the top positions gives you a higher quality score – its that if in the top positions your ad gets a different type of CTR than on the side, then raising your position can increase your quality score.

Prove Your Willing to Spend Money: Raise your bid to $1000 or your Budget to $1,000,000

I hear both the advice of maxing out your bid or your daily budget independent of each other – but the overall sentiment is the same – if you prove to Google you’re willing to spend more – then you’ll get a good quality score.

This is totally false, and it would actually destroy the auction integrity. The auction is setup so that a small account can compete with a large one. The small account can’t spend as much each day and won’t get as much traffic as the large one, but when both ads show at the same time – the small account can compete with a large one. There is no benefit to setting very high bids or daily budgets.

In the ‘dumbest mistakes ever’ category, I saw an account that tried this. They were in the legal space where the CPCs often exceed $50-$200 and they didn’t realize people were really willing to bid $250-$350 on occasion. They raised their bids to $1000, didn’t have great quality scores, and had their CPCs go from $15 to $300 in a single day. That was a costly mistake. If you raise your bid and/or budget – you can spend it – are you willing to spend $1,000,000 a day?

A High PageRank will increase your Quality Score

In 2005, I received one of the strangest phone calls that an agency can receive (I did get an email that they wanted to chat – so this wasn’t out-of-the blue, but the email didn’t prepare me for the conversation), it went something like this:

Hi, we’re an agency that has about 30 clients doing SEO and PPC for us. Google just told us that we’re not allowed to run any PPC for our clients any longer. If we stop buying PPC for them, then we’ll lose a lot of SEO business as well. We talked to Google and they suggested to us that if we run our PPC through you, and you manage the accounts, that they’ll let our clients continue buying PPC – can you help?

Google not only banned the agency – they banned the agency’s clients from buying PPC. I was surprised that Google told them they had to use us (we did have an amazing relationship with Google at the time as one of their largest resellers and clients). I had to find out why all their clients were banned.

The agency was:

  • Buying links to landing pages
  • Getting landing pages approved that passed Google’s guidelines and then using sneaky redirects to send the users to other pages
  • The agency and their clients had been repeatedly warned that if they kept up these practices they would be banned
  • The agency thought Google was bluffing
  • Google doesn’t bluff about AdWords

When pressed about why they would do this; the agency told me it was to get good Quality Scores. They needed higher pageranks to increase the quality score because their clients were all lawyers or plastic surgeons and the CPCs were too high.

An entire agency banned over a quality score myth: A high PageRank does not lead to a great quality score. In fact, you can have your site banned in the organic results and still get 10 quality scores.

Link to Google from Your Landing Page

For this example – I choose the link to Google. You could replace that with any spammy 2000 SEO tactic.

Your spammy SEO tactics do not affect quality score. Google figured this out already. Remember penguin, panda, hummingbird, and all the other Google updates? Google didn’t forget update Adsbot-Google with its organic crawl technology.

Create One Keyword Per Ad Group & Use the Keyword Twice in the Ad

It’s highly debatable if you should use all SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) in your account to begin with, but making them just for quality score purposes is definitely not one of the ‘pros’ for that type of organization.

Including the keyword in the ad is useful if it helps CTR (and thus quality score) or increases relevancy; but you can achieve quality score 10s without having a keyword in the ad.

The overall rule for ads when it comes to quality score is simple: test different variations and see what does best.

There’s not a ‘rule’ for if you do this exact one thing every time you’ll get a high quality score.

This leads us to our next myth…

Always Use DKI – DKI increases Quality Score

This myth has a shred of truth in it – but not in the way many people think.

First off, in your account, you see your quality score. This is not what’s used in the auction – it’s just a mashup of a lot of data to give you an overall indication of your quality score and keyword’s health. It’s argued that in the real time auction, having the keyword in the ad can slightly increase the real time quality score – and since you’re using DKI – the keyword is always in the ad – and thus a higher quality score.

Let’s do some quick debunking:

  • The keyword put into the ad is not the search query – it’s the keyword from your ad group that caused the ad to be displayed. These might not be related words – especially in the case of broad match usage.
  • If your keywords are over 25 characters – your keyword won’t appear in the headline (although, sometimes Google does put up to 28-29 characters in the headline).

In reality – this is how you should think about DKI’s relationship to quality score:

  • If using DKI increases your CTR; then your QS can go up.
  • This increase in QS has nothing to do with the fact your used DKI
  • This increase is because your CTR decreased

If you use DKI and your CTR goes down, as your ad is less compelling that your previous ad, then the use of DKI can lower your quality score. The act of using DKI is immaterial to quality score. The resulting metrics from your (with or without DKI) is what affects quality score.

Using Every Match Type will Increase Quality Score

The quality score you see in your account is based upon when the search query was the same as your keyword regardless of the match type. If you have match types in different ad groups with different quality scores – it is due to the ad differences or some other random factors. Adding all the match types doesn’t increase quality score – it just gives you more transparency into how your keywords are doing with different sets of ads.

Delete Low Quality Score Keywords to Improve Your Overall QS

Theoretically, there is no account quality score. A Google rep doesn’t have this number. In practical terms, there is an account level score. You can calculate this yourself using weighted quality score data.

One keyword’s effect on another keyword’s quality score is so low – it might as well be zero.

There’s a bigger issue at stake with this myth: If a keyword is profitable – who cares if Google gives it a low quality score?

I can’t count the times I see someone just delete all low quality score keywords to make Google happy regardless if the word is profitable or not profitable. If Google gives me all 10 quality scores but I can’t make a sale – I’m going out of business. If I have all quality score 3 keywords and I’m making money – I might try to improve my quality scores; but that’s because I’m making money and am still in business to try and take that step.

Profit is more important that quality score!

Old Accounts Get Better Quality Scores

Once upon a time, you’d see AdWords accounts for sale because they were old. Not because they were good; but because they were opened in 2002 or 2003.

The older the account and the higher the gross spend – the higher the sale price.

Luckily, this seems to have passed us buy. Don’t buy someone’s old PPC account and expect it to generate high quality scores just because it is old.

Making Changes to Your Account Will Lower Quality Scores

Have you ever been afraid to move a keyword? Did reorganizing your account make you shudder, not because of the time involved, but because you’d lose your history and your quality scores would suffer?

If yes, you managed accounts in the mid-2000s. This was a real issue once upon a time.

That time has passed.

Use.A.Period Not a Space To Separate Words

There was a time when Google was not forthcoming what separated a word. You’d see ad groups like:

  • I’m a keyword
  • Im a keyword
  • imakeyword
  • im.a.keyword
  • I’m.a keyword
  • im-a-keyword
  • I’m_a_keyword

Google has since become much more transparent

Using symbols with your keywords

You can use two symbols, ampersands (&) and accent marks (á), in your keywords. We’ll consider keywords with these symbols as two different keywords, like sidewalk cafe and sidewalk café.

Here are some of the symbols that our system doesn’t recognize:

  • Ignored symbols: You can add periods (.) or dashes (-) to your keywords, but we’ll ignore this punctuation. That means we’ll consider the keywords Fifth Ave. and Fifth Ave, for example, identical keywords.
  • Invalid symbols: You’ll see an error message if you add keywords that contain certain symbols. Some of the symbols that can’t be used in your keywords are: , ! @ % ^ * () = {} ; ~ ` <> ? \ |
  • Search operators: We’ll remove the “site:” operator from your keywords. That means if you add the keyword [site:www.example.com dark chocolate], we’ll consider it the same as [dark chocolate]. If you’re someone who uses advanced search operators on Google, you might want to know how those operators work with your keywords. If you add a particular search operator to your keywords, AdWords will ignore it. For example, if you add the search operator “OR” to the keyword dark chocolate, like OR dark chocolate, AdWords will ignore the “OR” command and target your ads with the keyword dark chocolate.

Source – AdWords help.

Your TExT CASinG ChanGES your QualitY ScORe

Google didn’t use to give you poor quality scores and let you continue to advertise – they would disable your keywords and you could never use that keyword again in the account. This was a real problem in 2004-2006 when your best keywords would fall below a 0.5% CTR and you knew they were about to disappear. There was a trick to the system – you could write the word in a different casing and Google would re-enable that keyword.

Google’s grown up since then – the old tricks don’t work anymore.

Google Hates Affiliates – Obfuscate Your Affiliate URLs to get Higher Quality Scores

Google hates bad advertisers, sites that shouldn’t exist, and sites that put a barrier between a searcher trying to find an answer and the answer itself.

Google doesn’t care if it is an affiliate, a publisher, or an advertiser in the way – if you’re slowing down a searcher – your bad news.

Did you realize that Expedia, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, etc are affiliates? They are big affiliates, but they are still affiliates. The largest advertisers on Google are often affiliates.

Google doesn’t care if you’re an affiliate. If you’re providing value to the search ecosystem – then you’re OK.

What Other Bad Advice Have You Heard?

Have you heard some other bad advice recently that you want to warn people about?

Just let us know in the comments.

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