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I made a comment on Twitter that stirred up some confusion; however, as tweets are limited to 140 characters; it seemed easiest to write out the explanation as a blog post and then let people read the rationale in its entirety.

The common assumption is that the CTR used in the search quality score algo is based upon the search query matching your exact matched keywords. Sometimes this is stated as ‘the search query exactly matches your keywords’. That statement is actually true, but sometimes confusing as Google has an exact match type; and the match type itself does not play a factor into determining quality score.

What if you do not have exact match keywords? How are those keywords assigned a quality score? You do not have to have exact match versions of broad matched words. Please note, this is not a debate about what is best practice, but about what is possible – there’s a difference.

The truth is that the CTR that determines your keyword’s quality score is based upon the user’s search query precisely matching the keyword in your ad group, regardless of the match type you use.

For instance, if you have the keyword ‘Google AdWords’ broad matched, then your ad could show for:

  1. Google ad words
  2. Google adwords help
  3. Google adwords alternative
  4. my adwords ad is not running on Google
  5. Google AdWords
  6. etc…

In this case, only the CTR of number 5, Google AdWords, would be used to calculate your quality score.

This same exercise can be applied to phrase and exact match.

This is also why if you have the same keyword as an exact, phrase, and broad match in the same ad group, they will have the same quality score. As quality score uses precise match regardless of match type, all of those keywords are assigned CTR information under the same conditions.

<Please note this next section is for advanced PPC marketers and could require paragraphs of explanation. It might not make sense to many of you – and if it doesn’t – that’s OK>

There is a difference between all three match types showing the same quality score and being displayed in the same positions.

For instance, one of the quality score factors is, “Relevance of keyword and ad to search query”. This factor is calculated after dynamic insertion is applied to an ad copy. Therefore, if for some reason a broad matched variation was doing fantastic with DKI, yet the exact match was doing average with that ad, it might appear that the broad matched word had a higher CTR than the exact match, which might result in a higher average position. Yet since that broad matched variation is not a keyword in your account, your broad matched word would still maintain the same quality score as the exact matched word that has a lower average position. This example is a rare case; however, it could happen.

<End advanced section – next section for everyone>

The same principles that apply to “Your Broad Match Keywords Are Not Converting Higher than Your Exact Match Keywords” apply to quality score. However, instead of examining conversion rates, just substitute quality score relevancy factors.

I hope that helps explain the confusion. If not, please add a comment and I’ll do a long blog post using the search query report and actual numbers to showcase how match types and quality score interact with the actual search query.

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