Over the past 7 days we’ve been drilling down on Google’s Adwords Quality Score. (See posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). For me this focus was eye opening. I’d never considered QS so fully, researched it so thoroughly, or thought about it so deeply. That was a mistake. Quality Score is the secret sauce in Google Adwords. It plays a huge rule in nearly everything advertisers care about; when and where ads run, how ads rank, and what ads cost-per-click. Quality Score – along with their Broad Match and Automatic Matching formulas – give Google a huge set of levers and dials to play with at will. As they do, our ads and ad-budgets jerk around like marionettes. I’m left with two conclusions:
- The lack of transparency is astounding. Everything Google is doing is reasonable and legitimate from a business perspective. They’re optimizing their product to maximize their revenue, and trying to make their customers feel good so they spend a lot of money and are happy about it. But advertisers can’t and don’t know what’s going on in the black box of Quality Score. We’ve got some clues, there has been more clarity recently than historically, but the playing field we’re on is far from level. .
- Paid search managers must prioritize Quality Score management. This means a lot of things as we’ve discussed; small tight keyword groupings, focused text-ad and landing-page copy, paying attention to the published Quality Score numbers themselves, starting new campaigns slowly, not letting losers hang out, even in dark corners of your campaign, and much more. It all adds up to an increase in workload, responsibility, and the need for specialized tools to have any chance to real success
I used to think of Quality Score as an ‘other factor’ in campaign management and success. Now I think it’s one leg in the three-legged stool of the PPC process. Campaign organization, Bidding, and Quality Score must all have equal and appropriate attention to make paid search really work. (Although a more complete picture is the Target-Value-Satisfy-Understand model of ‘High Resolution PPC’ with Quality Score being a piece of the Valuation component.) Where Are The Quality Score Tools? As a final point, given this realization, I must say that the tools for helping manage the importance of Quality Score are sorely missing. Right now the Quality Score number itself is available only inside of Adwords – although it is now in the API so we can expect third party vendors to support it soon. But the broader issues of focus, alignment and relevance between components, and the impact Quality Score has on bidding and position is almost entirely unsupported or assisted by the tools on the market. The ClickVariance variable in ClickEquations does help identify AdGroups with keywords that are too diverse from a performance perspective, which is at least a start in the right direction. That makes the reality of taking advantage of whatever understand we’ve gained about Quality Score very difficult. Today it will require a lot of manual effort and hours of work. But from a ClickEquations viewpoint it’s an opportunity we’ll address.