Could Google's Quality Score make or break your startup?

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Yesterday I wrote about what a Quality Score was and how it was measured; today I’m going to tell you about how you can improve it and let you know about how things are developing for AdWords. 

How can I improve my Quality Score?

Improving your Quality Score means influencing your click-throughs, ad relevance or landing page experience. Here are some quick tips you can take to the bank: 

Improve CTR

  • Add negative keywords to your account to avoid poor keywords dragging down your numbers
  • Remove any keywords with terrible CTRs
  • Test new ad copy, especially new calls-to-action

Improve relevance

  • If your ad groups are too broad (beyond 20 – 40 keywords), consider regrouping and tightening up your ads
  • Check your ad copy to make sure you’re including relevant keywords prominently and throughout

Improve landing page experience

  • Check your mobile version. Is your page mobile-friendly? Is it clear to someone who comes in on another device?
  • Watch your load time. If loading slowly, how can you cut that down?
  • Check your destination URL. Don’t send people to your homepage or a landing page that isn’t directly targeted to those ads. 

Recent developments: Quality Score gets a little more confusing

In 2011, Google’s message on Quality Score seemed to be abundantly clear. In the video “What is AdWords Quality Score and Why Does It Matter”, the digital juggernaut had this to say:

Quality Score is important in order for your ads to be successful, however, Quality Score also plays a key role in determining your ad’s position and how much you’ll pay for a click. 

In general, the more relevant your ad, the higher your Quality Score, and the higher your Quality Score, the better your position and the less you will have to pay for a click.

Being successful with AdWords means getting your products or services in front of the people who are most likely to become your customers and a high Quality Score can help make that happen.”

But Google’s most recent whitepaper on the subject, “Settling the (Quality) Score”, sings a different tune. Where in the past Google touted Quality Score as an important performance metric to keep an eye on, they’re now backtracking to say it’s more of an “indicator” than a metric that measures how you’re doing.

From Think With Google:

1. Quality Score is a helpful diagnostic tool, not a key performance indicator.
Why: Your Quality Score is like a warning light in a car’s engine that shows how healthy your ads and keywords are. It’s not meant to be a detailed metric that is the focus of account management.

If you’re confused, you’re not the only one. 

How is it possible that Quality Score can go from playing a “key role” in determining ad position to a mere “check engine” light? 

Perhaps making it a little clearer, Google would like you to think of the metric as a diagnosis tool instead of a metric in and of itself. 

Their advice is to use the metric to hone in on the “big three” component parts of an ad’s quality: Relevance, expected click-through rate and landing page experience – in other words, the things we already talked about when thinking about how to improve your Quality Score.

There are some interesting new developments, though.

A few bits of clarity offered by Google include the following:

  • It’s not necessary to be a 10. Instead of focusing on your overall Quality Score, Google wants you to focus on the individual components that make it up, and prioritize your time where you can have the highest value impact given your available resources. If you’re a 7, 8 or 9, you may still perform well. 
     
  • User device DOES matter, so you should think about mobile targeting and your mobile landing page experience. Knowing Google’s penchant for responsive design and fast load times, both are something to address with mobile users.
  • When launching new keywords, your performance on related keywords is taken into account. This is just an official conversation about what we’ve already stated, but you should invest in growing your coverage in relevant searches, especially in your highest-quality ad areas.
  • How you structure your account doesn’t *technically* matter. Google has said that campaign names and numbers of ad groups don’t directly influence quality score, the common sense and years of testing still say to group ads groups tightly and keep relevant keywords clustered. 
     
  • The other networks you target (Search Partners, Display Network) don’t cross over into your other metrics or impact your overall CTR for Google.com ads, so you can feel free to experiment and test.
 

They also make a point to mention that it’s futile just to up your bids to the highest possible rate for a better position in an attempt to improve your Quality Score, as position is a result of quality, but not a quality driver. 

Little has changed, aside from Google’s explanation.

What this all seems to come down to is that while Google is presenting Quality Score differently, not much has changed with regards to how it is calculated or how important it is as an indicator of performance and your account health.

Instead of obsessing over Quality Score itself, use it as a way to dig into the metrics that make it up and impact positive change for your AdWords investment!

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