Google AdWords Quality Score -- That's Old-School for SEO

Google's new AdWords Quality Score algorithm is messin' with some folks who were very happy with the way things were. And I've been listening to the complaints.

In case you aren't aware, or don't participate in PPC search on Google via AdWords, there's a new sheriff it town and his name is "Buildapage." That's right, build a page that is specific for every keyword that you're targeting with your AdWords campaigns.

Google is asking that you have a targeted page for every keyword that you would like to advertise against. They're saying that if the keywords aren't in the title tag, content, and if the page isn't specific to the keywords that you would like to advertise against, there's a good chance that the page won't show up in the top Google AdWords listings, even if you're willing to pay or bid the highest amount for a listing there.

Hmmm...sounds familiar...where have I heard this before?

Oh yeah, that's the way that organic search has worked for a long time.

If you think about it, this isn't such a bad move by Google. They're protecting the user experience. They also may be indirectly protecting advertisers from spending their money on clicks that wouldn't be relevant or convert for them. Sounds like a win/win to me.

The other interesting thing about the AdWords Quality Score is its heavy weighing toward CTR. If this is such an important aspect of the system because Google deems this as proving that an ad is valuable to a searcher, what's to say that they don't use the same metrics in their organic listings? The AdWords blog has reported that they often apply a "disabling rule" that inhibits ads with very low CTRs for a given query from being shown.

Many SEOs probably neglect optimizing their SERP snippets to entice users to click. If your site ranks number five or six, and is driving more clicks than the four, what's to say that Google won't reward you with better rankings for providing a better user experience? This isn't to say that this is definitely a way that Google's algorithm works, but just an idea to get you thinking about how optimizing for PPC can help out greatly in what you do for your organic campaign because, as Google says, "better ad relevance leads to a better user experience."

As a little refresher for those SEO newbies out there, you must have a few things to do well in organic search:

  1. A Web site that's deep in quality content (specific content to your industry).
  2. A Web site that is linked to by other relevant, quality Web sites.
  3. An older domain certainly doesn't hurt.
  4. A strategy and plan for execution of that strategy.

That last one is where things get a little cloudy for most people. When I say "strategy," it doesn't have to be rocket science. I'm talking about knowing which keywords you would like to target and building a page for these keywords.

These pages should mean something to your audience and be helpful or useful for them. Don't just post a bunch of nonsensical pages.

Developing a page for each keyword that you want to rank for makes sense, doesn't it? Search engines read text, so if you don't have the keywords on your page, you probably won't rank for those keywords.

Once you've developed these pages, make sure that you're giving each a unique title tag, keyword inclusion in the URL (if you can swing it, do something like www.example.com/keyword-phrase/), keyword inclusion in the header (H1), and keyword inclusion in the first paragraph of copy and links pointing to this page (internal and external links).

A good practice for checking the ability of a page to rank organically for a keyword is to run PPC for the keywords you're targeting and use the page as your landing page. Send some traffic to it, and then check on your AdWords Quality Score.

If your quality score is low, then you may want to rethink the setup of that page because it probably won't rank well in organics for these same terms. If it ranks well, then you know you could rank even better because Google is telling you that the quality of this page is low.

By optimizing your Web site for organic search, and building out a bunch of pages for each keyword that you're honestly interested in targeting, your pages might do well with Google's Quality Score algorithm. After all, it's starting to look more like the organic algorithm.

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About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.