PPC & Media

Google Reveals Truth About Quality Score

Google recently released a new whitepaper claiming to shed new light on how AdWords calculates the Quality Score of your campaigns. The biggest draw to the whitepaper, titled Settling the (Quality) Score, was that is was to share “Six Things that Matter (and Don’t) When it Comes to Quality”. However, as initial feedback from the search industry suggested, Google’s comments are not exactly straight forward. Below I will breakdown my two Key Take Aways from the Google resource, Settling the (Quality Score).

AdWords Quality Score Scroll
Don’t get caught up in a magical formula for Quality Score, just keep things simple (and similar).

The Structure of Your Account Doesn’t Matter…Unless You Disagree with Google.

“Set up your account in whatever way lets you manage it best.” – Google

Key Take Away: Technically, the structure of your account will not affect the Quality of your campaigns, so long as your structure adheres to the AdWords practice of similarities. That is, your Ad Groups should contain extremely similar keywords and deriving from those keywords should be ad copy that is extremely similar and always has the Ad Group’s main keywords in the headline. I’ve found it best practice for ad groups to include a bare minimum of two identical words in every keyword (you may have a broad keyword that is only one word, but that is fine. Just make sure you place that keyword in the closest Ad Group possible). My example follows:

Ad Group

Sale – Discount Sofas – Search

(should contain keywords and variations that include discount sofa, such as)

[discount sofas], [discount sofa beds], [prices on discount sofas], +discount +sofas, +discount +sofa +prices

Ad Copy

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 2.51.02 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-07 at 2.53.39 PM

Keywords like [sofas on sale] or [discount couches] will deliver better results in separate Ad Groups)

Focus On The Big 3 (There’s nothing wrong with not being a 10)

big 3

This was the point in the document where Google halfheartedly admits that it has been leading advertisers down the wrong path for quite some time. We’ve all been there, looking at our account in a state of discontent because we’ve done everything we believe is best practice, yet many of our keyword Quality Scores are mere 7s out of 10.  Well, Google has finally encouraged us to take a step back and look at things from a broader point of view, referring to your Quality Score components: ad relevance, expected CTR, and landing page.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 3.36.51 PM

Key Take Away: Google is now saying, do not work to increase your Quality Score, but let your Quality Score work to increase the success of your account. Using my example of +google +analytics +agencies, if your expected CTR is “above average”, and the other two are “average”, but you don’t have immediate resources to change the content of your landing page, focus on ad relevance. You can use the tactics I mentioned earlier to focus on tightening your Ad Groups and keywords to better match what people are searching for. Below is how Google recommends using Quality Score as a optimization tool:

• Look through your high-value keywords and use Quality Score to identify the ones that are lagging behind.

• Use low Quality Scores to find components (or trends across components) that are doing worse than in other places in your account, and set priorities for improvement

• Remember that even if your score is 8, 9 or 10, you may still be able to improve your results. A Quality Score of 10 won’t go up if you improve an already above average clickthrough rate, but your performance and results can still get better.

Final Thought: When AdWords tells you to make your information as relevant as possible, it often means make it as similar and simple as possible. Doing this will comply with Google’s best practice methodology. Complying with their best practice can result in greatly reduceing your CPC, therefore giving you better positioning than your competitors, additional sitelinks, and most importantly increasing your Return On Ad Spend.


You can read the entire Settling the (Quality) Score whitepaper here

Ben Ierien

Ben Ierien - PPC & Media Specialist

Ben is a Portland native and a PPC & Media Specialist at SwellPath. Ben’s expertise lies in paid media, however on any given day he may also contribute to SEO strategy. As an alumnus of the University of Oregon, Ben enjoys warm, fall Saturdays at Autzen Stadium.

One Response to “Google Reveals Truth About Quality Score”

  1. Andrew Goodman

    Google seems to have been hoping, with the release of this white paper, to get past the recent history of third parties putting words in Google’s mouth. Yet you are doing just this. And I quote you directly:

    “…That is, your Ad Groups should contain extremely similar keywords and deriving from those keywords should be ad copy that is extremely similar and always has the Ad Group’s main keywords in the headline.”

    That sounds like the kind of thing people have been saying prior to Google releasing the white paper. You use words like “extremely similar” and “always” speculatively with no proof. In short, Google’s white paper has made absolutely no dent in the problem of people making unfounded statements about account structure. While the points you make and the tactics you advocate may be advisable in many cases, the statement you make simply isn’t true. Per the white paper, similarities needn’t be “extreme,” matches needn’t be “exact,” and Quality Score isn’t some kind of fickle overlord that will ruin your account if you don’t follow such rigid advice to the letter. Maybe Google is telling advertisers to think for themselves, and to use common sense. Sometimes it is helpful to break out ad groups. Doing so ad nauseam, ad infinitum would of course be the logical extension of this (misguided) “matchy-matchy” theory of Quality Score, and taken to extremes, is of no measurable benefit.


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