Quality Score: Priority or Main Objective?

keepcalmjobI was recently at the Google Office for training on the Quality Score. I was not really motivated to follow this education session since I consider myself pretty savvy on this specific subject. However, the 3-hour session was very interesting since it brought me back to the basics of Quality Score and the priority we should attribute to this kind of metric.

Here is a short review of what learned.

Quality Score is only valid for search keywords on their exact match expression. If you are running keywords on broad match, your Quality Score will be calculated for this keyword given its stats running on exact match.

The formula for the Quality Score is quite simple (from what we know). The CTR plays the most important role. Conversion Rate is not included in the calculation.  Also, Quality Score is always calculated at a keyword level and is never calculated on the Google display Network (GDN).  So for a specific keyword, Google cumulates and process the following data to established the score:

  1. Keyword CTR over all accounts (Keyword on Exact Match and on the Search Network Only over all accounts at Google)
  2. Keyword CTR in your account (Keyword on Exact Match and on the Search Network Only within your campaign)
  3. Landing Page Experience (Google does NOT measure Landing Page Experience based on how many keywords feature in your meta data (Title, Description, Keywords, and more). This time has ended. Google now measures the landing page experience based on users post-click behavior metrics, such has time on site, clicked on the back button, page views, load time, and many more metrics not disclosed by Google )

***Important*** do not mix Landing Page Performance with Landing Page Experience! Metrics are very different with a few overlaps such as load time. Google uses Landing Page Experience for computing the Quality Score.

Quality Score is reactive to performance; it does not predict such performance. It also changes many times per day based on the metrics mentioned above. If you make changes to a keyword, it automatically starts a new rating process.

One of the great examples was a Traveling Company using “Holidays” on broad match as the top-performing keyword (based on Conversions).  The Quality Score on this keyword was “3”. The first reaction of the digital specialist was to pause this keyword. However, given the stats, there are no ways this keyword would have been ‘’paused’’.

Here is an explanation as to why this keyword had top performing stats and a bad Quality Score.

If you look at the keyword stats form the Google Traffic Estimator, you notice that when this keyword is running on Exact Match on the Google Search Network, the CTR is very low. No matter how good the CTR is for the keyword within the client campaign, it will be penalized.  For this case, since this is a very generic keyword on broad match, the keyword CTR within the campaign was slightly above 1% (not the best, but generating a lot of conversions).

ppc campaign quality score

 The solution for this situation: bid higher if necessary to make sure you maintain the same performance level!

Here are some other important things to know about the Quality Score,

  1. There are no changes to Quality Score with enhanced campaigns.
  2. If you change landing page content or parameters, it automatically affects Quality Score.
  3. Display URL is the new black – Google is now promoting it as the most visible item for your ads.

And the famous question: Should I put all match types in my Ad Group? The answer is… (drum roll, please) always use broad match to kick off; you will automatically see all possible keyword expansions. Adapt quickly and refine your negative keywords list. (But we all know that… Right?)

My conclusion from this training: The campaign objective is the key. If the goal is to get the lowest CPC, then Quality Score is something you want to put in your top priority list. However, most of our clients have Conversion Rate and CPA objectives. I find the game is changing completely.

We had campaigns running with great conversion rate and CPA values below the objective.  However, Quality Score for those keywords was max “3” to “4”. Never forget your campaign objectives and don’t get obsessed with Quality Score. We had a long-lasting discussion on bidding and auction during the training at Google. Guess what? (and I am sure you know) It is a big part of the Avg. Pos. metrics. In other words… Keep Calm and do your Job.

About Eric Cholette-Dufour

Entrepreneur and Founder at Planning Media, an internet advertising company that helps ad agencies and businesses to acquire, maintain, and retain customers via the internet. I am passionate about internet/digital/mobile advertising, and aviation. Everything is managed by data and passion: internet campaigns & aircraft.

Comments

  1. Nice work, Eric. I hadn’t thought of the potential impact that clients may be placing on keyword QS when they obsessively “change landing page content or parameters” to optimize for conversion. Potentially makes QS improvement even more of a moving target.

    Quality Score is an indicator of quality, just as CTR and bounce rates are indicators of quality. Leads and sales make us money. Those are the metrics we should be optimizing for.

  2. Eric Dufour says:

    @ Ryan, thanks! Right on!

  3. Smart article and very timely even with all the talk about enhanced campaigns.. it is important to remember one fundamental.. your website plays a huge factor in what you are paying for clicks. You have to wonder how much money is wasted daily on Adwords when a landing page could be created or a site design improved. It is good to get this information straight from the source as this is one of those areas that totally confuses most clients.

    Thanks for posting!

  4. Great article. Quality score is the thorn to my rose right now

  5. Eric Dufour says:

    Thanks @Richard. Hope it helps :) @Adam

  6. Tally says:

    How does Google measure those post-click experiential metrics if you haven’t installed Google tracking pixels/tags on your site?

  7. Eric Dufour says:

    @Tally – the answer from Google is not clear – It works with web browsing session – it helps also if you are connected with a Google account. It is the same URL based remarketing functionality within Adwords (retargeting users based on a specific URL visit).

    Hope it helps!

    E.

  8. Nice overview. The only thing I would add that needs a little correction is that since enhance campaigns was implemented, quality score is a blended average of desktop/laptop, mobile, and tablets. That makes it a little harder to interpret, however, like the head of google search mobile told me…”Quality Score is a poor representation of quality.” :) Isn’t that funny. I laugh out loud every time I think about when he told me that.

  9. Eric Dufour says:

    @ Dathen: Indeed This is a funny call from… Google! You are right, the whole mobile experience is blended within the QS calculation – making it harder to rely on for optimization.

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