More from the Mailbag: Quality Score Mysteries and Great PPC Learning Resources

This week I’ll cover a few more topics that readers have been writing about, and then get back into the flow of the column the first week of December. We’ll let you concentrate on your turkey dinner next Thursday.

My installment describing Google’s Account Quality Score, and the Big G’s sometimes maddening insistence on charging seemingly-outrageous bid prices, generated more mail than any other topic. The comments mainly fell into two buckets: “Thanks — that explains a lot!” and “I still can’t believe Google would do that!”

Re: the latter comment: I think Google is doing their best to face a thorny challenge: how to calculate quality score (which determines minimum bid price) for keywords with zero search history — within the AdWords account and across the web?

I think Google will come up with a better solution someday — for example, for brand terms, Google could, with a little more software and bandwidth-consumption, compare an ad group and/or keyword list with the landing page content — or even just the domain name. At least that would let advertisers enjoy sensibly-low bid prices on their own brands and company names.

But let’s circle back for a second: my point was that the high-minimum-bid-price phenomenon (which I’ve seen described as the “Google Slap” — though that term seems to be applied to anything that mystifies AdWords advertisers) mainly affects brand new accounts. So my simple advice is:

  1. When creating a new account, run it a week or two with all campaigns and ad groups paused except the ones you know will perform well. Pick your tightest, smallest ad groups with the best correspondence to the content of your landing page. Not sure which keywords are most popular? Use the Adwords Keyword Tool. (BTW, be sure to try out the new Search-based Keyword Tool Google rolled out this week. Among other things, it lets you (legally) “spy” on your competitors.)
  2. After a week or two (the proper time for your account will vary depending on impression/click volume), start turning on the remaining ad groups.

I think you’ll find that Google assigns reasonable minimum bid prices to the less-popular keywords this way. It sure beats the conventional wisdom: resigning yourself to paying $5.00-$10.00 for your own brand terms!

New topic: many readers ask me whether I can recommend good beginner resources for learning PPC advertising. While this column aims to be a soup-to-nuts tutorial on PPC advertising, it’s going to take many weeks for me to fully cover all related topics. So for those of you who want to make faster progress, here are my top picks:

  1. The SEMPO Institute self-paced training courses. They’re not cheap, but they cover all the bases. And passing the courses gains you certification that could be important to your career. I’m a little biased towards these, since I wrote some of the lessons. BTW, if you’re not a member of SEMPO, you should be — they provide excellent resources and networking opportunities for all search marketers, whether you’re a consultant, agency, or in-house marketer.
  2. Two excellent books: Perry Marshall’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords: How to Access 100 Million People in 10 Minutes and Andrew Goodman’s Winning Results with Google AdWords, Second Edition. Both books cover similar ground, but there’s precious advice in the areas where they don’t overlap.
  3. Ron Jones’ comprehensive SEW article Learn AdWords, Yahoo Search, adCenter Online describes a nice set of other PPC-learning resources.

Next week I’ll resume the flow of weekly lessons. Meanwhile, if you have questions or comments about topics I’ve covered, jump on over to the Profitable PPC forum and fire away!

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.

Related reading