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There are several different factors that affect Google AdWords Quality Score. It’s time to walk through each in detail and list the major contributing factors to each.First, it’s important to note why Quality Score matters. One’s Ad Rank(the position an ad shows on a search result or across the content network) is based upon max cost per click and quality score. The current formula is:

Ad Rank = [(keyword / ad group] quality score) X Max CPC

The reason keyword / ad group is in brackets is that for search the keyword quality score is used and for content the ad group quality score is used.

It’s very possible to pay less than your competitors and have a higher ad rank. Instead of raising bids, there are times when it’s more appropriate to raise quality score.

For keywords, every keyword has a quality score associated with it. So, when talking about the below factors, they exist at the keyword level. This is important to keep in mind when talking about ad copy (and possibly landing pages) as it will be associated with multiple keywords.

Note:how to view your quality score.

Let’s dig into the factors.

Click Through Rate on Google.com

  • All time history
  • Most recent history

It’s important to note, this is the CTR on Google.com only. The search network CTR does not matter. The click through rate on the content network does not matter. Google.com is the only search interface that Google can completely control and measure, therefore, it’s the only place where CTR matters (in terms of quality score, there are some other reasons CTR matters for ad serving).

The CTR is normalized by position. AdWords understands that an ad in position 1 is going to receive (on average) a higher CTR than an ad in position 5. Therefore, they aren’t going to penalize the advertisers in position 5 for having a lower click through rate than the advertiser in the first position.

The CTR is predicted by keyword. Search intent differs by keyword. The search term ‘TV’ is very ambiguous. It could be a search for TV repair, plasma TV, TV guide, TV instructions, etc. Therefore, it’s predicted CTR is low. There are times that a 2% CTR may be well above the predicted, and hence 2% could be a very high CTR. In other cases, 2% may be quite low because the term is very commercial, the user intent well known, and those search results could have CTRs in the 8%+ range.

All time history is used. A keyword’s all time CTR history within your account influences the ranking algorithm.

Most recent CTR history. The most recent impressions for a keyword matter more than the all time history. In essence, a keyword can always be saved’.

Ad Copy

How closely does your ad copy reflect your keywords? Ad Group organization is key to starting this process. Your ad copy should describe each keyword in the ad group. Each search has a different user intent, therefore, your ad copy needs to take a user’s intent for that keyword as it relates to your website in mind.

Does your ad contain the keyword? Of course, each ad can not contain every single keyword. Google understands themes, stemming, and latent semantic indexing. If your ad does not contain the keyword (the closest match), does the ad copy contain the overall theme of the keyword? (Again, please read the ad group organization article as themes can be quite granular).

Note: the use of dynamic insertion does not mean your ad copy contains the keyword.

Quick Tip: If you split test ads, you can run an ad copy report that lists the CPC by individual ad. This may give you insight into how the ads are affecting your quality score.

Landing Page

The landing page is where a visitor is sent after clicking on an ad. Often, the quality score of a landing page and the usability of a landing page overlap from what is relevant to quality score versus what a business should be doing to provide a good user experience. Remember, Google thinks of searchers as their users, so they want them to have a good search experience so they come back to Google to search again.

The landing page should, just like the ad copy, contain the keyword or the keyword’s theme. It should also provide a unique experience for the user. Every time someone does a search, they are looking for an answer. Does your page help them find that answer?

A good example is a mortgage form. If someone searches for ’3 year arm mortgage’, are you sending them to a mortgage form fill? Do they have the opportunity to understand the difference between a ’3 year arm mortgage’ and an ‘interest only mortgage’?

Here’s a quick checklist for landing pages:

  • Does your page collect personal information?
    • If so, does it have an SSL certificate and a privacy policy?
  • Do you have an ‘about us’ page?
  • Do you have a ‘contact us’ page?
  • Do you have relevant information to the search query?
  • Do you have unique information?
  • Do you have related content to the search query?

Related: Google’s Organic webmaster guidelines.

Account Quality Score

I’ll dig into the account quality score more in-depth later. However, the account quality score is used in the keyword quality score formula, so it’s important to define it somewhat.

If you think about all of your keywords and how many impressions and clicks each one received, you could ‘roll up’ your entire account into a single quality score. This is essentially how high (or low) of a quality your entire account has. While this has little impact upon the keyword quality score, it does have some influence. Therefore, under performing keywords can hurt your quality score.

Other Relevancy Factors

“There are over 100 factors that can affect quality score. However, not all will be triggered depending on the conditions involved.” – Google Engineer.

These other factors are items which you will have little or no control over, and won’t even be used at all times, therefore, it’s important not to get too concerned about this ambiguous statement.

If you think about the query ‘plumbing repair’ there are generally two main search intents:

  • Someone looking for a plumber
  • Someone looking for information to do it them self

In this instance, additional weight for IP targeting may not matter at all. (Other’s may, but in this instance IP targeting won’t make a huge difference).

When changing the query to ‘plumbing repair services’, or ‘Maryland plumbing repair’ odds are one is now looking for a plumber. Suddenly the geographic keywords can trigger IP targeted campaigns. And since it’s most likely a local query, a plumber who is serving ads only to Maryland may receive a little bump over someone bidding on just the keyword ‘plumbing repair’.

However, if the query were ‘plumbing repair books’, that’s not inherently a local query. So now the IP targeting isn’t helping at all, in fact, since one is most likely looking for book reviews or information to do it them self. In this instance, the national book chain bidding on ‘plumbing repair’ may get a bump over the IP targeting campaign bidding on the same keyword.

While these factors could be IP targeting, ad scheduling, personalized search, user location, user intent, demographic targeting, etc – they are small factors and should be understood, but not fretted over.

Closing Thoughts

Once upon a time, Google used a straightforward CTR X CPC method of determining ad rank. This maximized profits. The higher your CTR and the more you bid, the more Google made from each ad position. Quality score doesn’t maximize short term profits – it a move to maximize long term revenue. Google thinks of searchers as their users. If a searcher has a good experience on Google.com, they are more likely to come back and search again, click again, and increase lifetime visitor values.

What quality score does is try to ensure that searchers are having a good experience. If you make decisions around maximizing the user experience, odds are you will be maximizing your quality score in the process. This is not only good from an AdWords quality score standpoint, it’s also good for your website as users are more likely to come back to your site when they have a similar question.

If you are using automated software to change bids based upon some criteria, you shouldn’t just rely on the technology to make all of your decisions, you should also make sure you have a high quality score so that the technology isn’t just changing bids for low quality score keywords and ad copy. Since PPC is the new SEO, how do SEOs do their work? I don’t think you’ll see too many good SEOs automating all of their decision making processes (some – yes, all -no). The same goes for PPC.

Quality score can sound intimidating. It can be frustrating at times. However, once you start to break it down into each factor, and then maximize each of those factors, it’s a very manageable process.

Your quality score is one of the most important items you can understand and improve to help your AdWords rankings. The higher your quality score, the less you are going to pay per click, and the more potential exposure.

Doesn’t everyone want to pay less than their competitors and yet have their ads show higher in the search results?

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