Search Ad Quality Score 101, Part 1

Happy New Year! Hopefully, one of your resolutions is to increase your quality score for your paid search campaigns. This will help you save money on your bid and increase your rank position. A good goal, huh?

It’s been about two years since Google and Yahoo implemented their quality score algorithms. Well, Google actually started their quality score program back in 2005 — they just didn’t tell advertisers. It wasn’t until 2007 that advertisers were provided information on what their quality score was and how to make it better.

Prior to that, the old bid-to-position model was used: whoever had the most money secured the top position. While this proved lucrative, it also affected reputation and trust. Just because an advertiser has more money to spend doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for the top spot.

Search engines decided to factor in the quality of the landing pages that ads send users to, as well as the relevance and quality of ads. Let’s take a closer look at what affects the quality score.

What is Quality Score?

Google says, “Quality Score is a dynamic variable calculated for each of your keywords. It combines a variety of factors and measures how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user’s search query.”

Quality score affects your keywords minimum CPC and position in the search results. It could even affect whether or not your ad even shows up. A great quality score will net you a low minimum bid and higher ad placement.

Where is my Quality Score?

In Google, your quality score can be found in the Ad Group level and in “keywords” tab. The quality score column should be next to the keyword status column. If you don’t see it, then find the pull-down menu (show/hide columns) and select “Show Quality Score.” The three indicators that are visible are “Poor,” “OK,” or “Great.”

In Yahoo Panama, the quality score also appears in the ad group level and is called “Quality Index.” Yahoo’s indicators are five bars. Your goal is to fill all those bars.

Microsoft doesn’t yet have quality score information in their AdCenter, but I understand they’re close.

Minimum Bid

We all want to spend as little as possible on our keywords. Let’s look at factors that affect minimum bid.

One factor is the historical CTR of each keyword. If you’ve had poor performance historically, then it may take some good performance time to have this work in your favor.

Keyword relevance to the ads in the ad group is another factor. If your keywords don’t relate well to your ads, you get a lower quality score.

Similarly, if the landing page you’re pointing to has little or no relevance to the keyword and your ad, you’ll wind up with a poor quality score. This is one of the most important factors, which we’ll cover next time in Part 2.

Other historical factors include the account history or the CTR of all ads and keywords in your account, and the display URLs in the ad group.

Keyword Position

The factors that will help you to increase your keyword position are similar to those for the minimum bid. Relevance again is vitally important. In this case, it’s the relevance of the keyword and ad to the search query.

If you type in a search query and see ads with your query or one that is similar, which one will you click on? Making this match will help your score and create a better experience for the searcher.

Finally, as with the minimum bid factors, your account history will also affect your score positively or negatively. Keep an eye on your historical CTR for all of your keywords.

Quality score isn’t just a new gimmick for the search engines. Search engines want to provide users with a good experience and trust. It’s also designed to help advertisers drive quality, qualified traffic, to a site.

Assuming you also have a relevant landing page that provides great content that complements the keywords and ads that your visitor used to find you, you’ll provide a great experience for your new potential customers. We’ll talk more about the importance of developing quality landing pages in Part 2 next week.

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