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Google Sheds Light on AdWords Quality Score with Comparative Indicators

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Google has just activated a feature in AdWords which should save pay-per-click (PPC) advertisers' time diagnosing issues with their keyword quality score. Now, when you hover over the status bar of your keywords, a dialog box appears with 3 new quality score indicators. These indicators are for Expected Clickthrough Rate (CTR), Ad Relevance and Landing Page Experience and they are rated according to Below Average, Average and Above Average.

New Quality Score Indicators in Google AdWords

Although these indicators may still seem a little vague, this nonetheless marks an increase in transparency from Google and is a development which many advertisers have been requesting for sometime. Quality Score has notoriously seemed like "a Black Box" metric which advertisers have been tearing their heair out over to figure out. This small change should help save the average PPC account manager a few hairs on their head as it will help them to focus their actions to improve it.

In a nutshell Quality Score aims to signify the overall satisfaction of the end-to-end advertising experience for users. In effect, Quality Score is an attempt to describe the overall effectiveness of the campaign from click to conversion which goes beyond CTR fluctuations to also provide insight into keyword choice, ad copy quality and landing page performance. Taking these 3 key ad experience factors into account over time, Quality Score aggregates all the data points into one single 'out of ten' rating.

Although Quality Score is deliberately a long term macro-level campaign effectiveness metric, what was previously lacking was any insight into what issues were specifically driving quality score down. Jonathan Alferness, Director or Product Management at Google, told SEW that he hopes that this latest improvement will help advertisers focus on specific components of the calculation and make their campaign auditing efforts more efficient so that managers can stop "thinking about Quality Score in a purely holistic way".

While it may have seemed like a black box for ad pricing Alferness told SEW it is an important game mechanic within AdWords to enable Google to have a permanent data-centric dialog with advertisers on how to improve their campaigns and create a better experience for potential customers. Quality Score helps to maintain the integrity of every single keyword level auction and mediate the interests of all the parties - namely, Advertisers, Google and Users. If Google can help temper advertiser ambitions to focus on a better user experience (on not just Google but their own website too), then this win for the user should ultimately translate into more profitable campaigns.

Some new factors to consider in your approach to campaign management are:

  • Expected CTRs are normalized against ad position which means that bidding to a high position is not likely to make a material difference to this metric and so not improve your Quality Score. In that sense, it is more of a pure keyword targeting metric - a below average rating could be a strong indicator that you are bidding on the wrong keyword or not properly anticipating what people are really looking for when they do this search.
  • Ad Relevance is distinct from Expected CTR as it is more specifically looking at your ad creative and comparing the effectiveness of your ad against the same competitors for the keyword. A below average rating on this metric may be a nudge to test your ad copy and examine how your competitor's messaging may be conceptually better than yours at answering the user's needs.
  • Landing Page Experience is a reflection of whether or not searchers are really finding what they are looking for on your pages. Create destination URLs for individual keywords to improve this metric and try to remove any obvious roadblocks on the user purchase journey. Are you advertising free shipping or price match guarantees in your ads, but not making that visible on the landing page? Clarity is key, so look for dissonance between what you say you do and what youreally do.

These new more granular indicators will not completely take the art out of PPC management but as these metrics essentially compare the market on that keyword they give you a glimpse of what is going on at a macro level and free up time to work on all those weird little anomalies you have been dying to get your teeth into.


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