The Relevancy Perspective & Your PPC Account Quality Score

The definition of Quality Score, as provided by Google themselves, seems to almost revolve around this mysterious ineffable quality called relevancy:

“The AdWords system calculates a ‘Quality Score’ for each of your keywords. It looks at a variety of factors to measure how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user’s search query.”

There are relevancy factors in your account beyond the ones used to calculate the on-the-fly Quality Score that comes about each time a search triggers an ad auction. In fact, the conspiracy theorist side of my brain

easily lets me imagine Google using whatever they can to try can calculate relevancy – because ultimately, an Adwords system filled with ads that better match queries produces more satisfied searchers (clickety click!), and earns Google better money.

So tinfoil hats on, let us simply accept that evil future Googles will use any aspect of your account or website that it can get its fuzzy illogical little head around to better match your ads and their queries – but rest assured, your fuzzy illogical wee head is still better at understanding relevancy than Google*.

Long story short, if you apply the perspective of relevancy, in whatever depth you can manage to fathom on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, <really important bit>for the relationships between each of the elements of your Adwords campaign</really important bit>, you’ll be doing more than lip service to your Quality Score, you’ll probably find things to improve. So let’s look at some relationships:

1 – CTR & Creative

CTR is at the core of relevancy because it is the ultimate indicator of it — a clicked ad is a relevant ad. Google keeps track of CTR for both keywords and creatives (your ads). How well the ads you’re serving have been doing click-through-rate wise is vitally important in determining your Quality Score. The ad auction that’s going on really really wants to serve something that has a high likelihood of getting clicked, and what better indicator than that ad’s history?

2 – Creative & Search Query

The more of the user search-query (what was actually put in the Google search box) that exists in your ad-copy or URL, the more likely you are to get clicked, and so this is a realistic relationship Google might look at.

Considering the nature of Google’s traditional search algorithm it only makes sense to see them parse ad-copy on-the-fly, matching keywords to the text within a creative, and rewarding it somewhere, either in the Quality Score calculation or some other mysterious place.

3 – CTR & Keyword

This is another hot tamale – it has been hinted in dark corners that the CTR variable is the grand-daddy of the QS calculation, and in combination with its relationship to the Ad itself, CTR is a function of the Keyword (separated with sticky stuff by match-types). History matters. That’s why PPC black-hats know the value of erasing history.

4 – Creative & Keyword

This is basically up to you – you’ve heard by now to maintain only small, tightly themed ad-groups yes? Well this is one of the reasons why that technique works so well – the less keyword spread you have in the ad-group, the better shot you have of matching directly your creative copy and your keywords. If you can get direct matches here (and keep in mind, you can write a lot of creatives, Mr. Lazy), you’re heaps ahead of the crappy Quality Score ignorant guy in the cubical that smells.

5 – Keyword & Search Query

What are you kidding me? This is the beating heart – the closer you get to real search queries with your keyword selections, the better you’ll do. Okay so admittedly, match-types account for huge amounts of variance here, but what do you think intuitively? Would an exact-match-type keyword, that matches a query exactly, be likely to get clicked? Yeah, that means good QS. Would a broad-match keyword that barely matches a search query be likely to be clic… oh wow people do I really have to finish this paragraph? Didn’t think so. Thanks. I was getting bored.

6 – CTR & Landing Page

This is getting a little more out there – I know Google is keeping track of load time of landing pages, and so logically they can keep independent stats on them, but I would say they would be more likely to keep track of abandonment rate (back-clicks or other measures at their disposal) when assessing landing pages. Too many things mitigate the relationship between landing pages and any boiled down CTR average they might come up with for it, but it is possible that Google could calculate something that resembles it, if just for shits and giggles.

7 – Landing Page & Keyword

This is the most important real deal relationship for landing pages and you know it. I often battle with how much actual text may make it on to a landing page, because honestly, sexy graphics are sexy, and sex sells better than text sells, though text still sells pretty wells. That said (don’t ask me why it was said), if you haven’t learned by now that including the keyword on your landing pages is vital, go back to PPC 101, collect 200 dollars, send it to me, and then… well actually I’m not so interested in what you do after I get that cheque.

What become interesting are the extensions – does it matter if the keyword is in the landing page meta title? How about the meta-description? Is it good if it links to other information rich pages? How text-hungry is Google when I’m just trying to sell a freakin’ waffle maker anyway? (I know, I know, Sue’s All-User-Generated Waffle Maker Reviews Social News Voting Communal Community Secret Society Website is going to whip my butt with all the Quality Score pouring out it, it’s inevitable).

The landing page also has a relevancy relationship with the Ad-copy, mitigated by the keyword, and also likely by the search query at hand.

Some even go so far as to suggest that a well linked-to page (a traditional indicator of relevance of pages in Search Engine Optimization, something Google, you know, understands), has a better chance of being ‘relevant’ which could bleed over to quality score. The thousands of people who host orphaned PPC landing pages may beg to differ, however.

8 – Ad-Group & Search Query

Adwords has to scour through your campaign to find the ‘best’ Ad-Group for a search query, and then scour that Ad-Group for a Keyword that matches well enough, so long as it’s triggering an ad creative that stands a decent chance of being clicked.

The smaller, tighter and more concentrated (in meaning, or searcher-intent) your Ad-Group is, the easier it is to write a comprehensive set of ads to cover all of the keywords in that group. The better the match between search query and a high performing ad-group (CTR anyone?), the better chance of profit for all.

9 – Keyword & Ad-Group

Most of the Quality Score problems I’ve encountered have to do with bad ad-group construction. If you thought you had enough Ad-Groups because the account is manageable, re-evaluate your criteria. You want lots of Ad-Groups that are all small and highly internally themed. In each Ad-Group there is a limited set of Ads, and so the keywords all have to imply the same action (or searcher-intent) — that is, the action that your ad creative tries to initiate.

If you blend keywords that imply different actions in one Ad-Group, you can’t match them to specific ads. Adwords has to assign an ad when a search query happens – and you’re by default lessening the chance that this ad will match the implied action (or searcher-intent) of your keyword. Quality score goes boooo.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Other potential relevancy relationships that I didn’t bother to draw lines for because it would have been too hard and my drawing hand got tired (and may not really exist):

CTR & Ad-Group

Don’t put aggregates past Google’s calculatron gods. One more reason to keep ’em small and specific.

Creative & Landing Page

The keyword and search query may mitigate this relationship, but there could be a pure calculation done ahead of time looking for a relationship between the words in your ads and the words on your landing pages.

Creative & Ad-Group

Well, creatives (or Ads, sorry for using them interchangeably like a nomenclatural eejit, my bad) are part of an Ad-Group, tied to it – the relationship is mitigated by the keywords in your Ad-Group and how often or how consistently they appear in the creative.

CTR & Search Query

How good a CTR can Google get for competing Ads on this search query? Google can calculate a CTR for your Ads and your Keywords, but it also knows what averages exist out there in the entire Adwords system for that Search Query that just came in — even within the cloud of match-types, competing landing pages, competing bids etc.

Search Query & Landing Page

Think Google could parse all the landing pages in the small set of Ads that get returned for a Search Query? I do. This may not actually be happening, I’m not sure, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t in the future, it’s likely just a processing power issue.

This begs for more content-rich landing pages, which I don’t always believe are good for conversions, depending on your business type, but Google is all gaga over, so whadda ya gonna do? Prepare for it – get a half decent paragraph or three of content professionally written for your landing pages. For now it doesn’t matter if there is content duplication (so long as you’re not linking to these landing pages from your site), but knowing how wonky Google is about duplicate content, I’m going to recommend you just write unique text for every page ever created by your entire organization.

K Disclaimer guys:

I’m just mapping points between elements in the Adwords accounts – I do not at all claim to know the secret sauce formula for Quality Score, but let me explain why I bothered to write all that stuff, in case people think I’m trying to define things.

I think examining the potential relationships between the different objects in and associated with your account, and trying to understand how there may or may not be elements of relevance that binds them, will inevitably lead to you improving some aspects of your account, or gaining a better global sense of what’s going on – Does Google actually look at all of these things? Geeeeze I hope not – but as an SEO, I know that simply trying to think about relevance in a logical way helps me to ensure I’m building sites and links that are going to be respected for their relationships in the future – I get the feeling the same kind of fuzzy logic is easily applicable to the Adwords system through things like Quality Score, so I just want to encourage people to try and think about the relevance of EVERY piece of their account, and one way to do that is to present a whole bunch of them, even if quite a few don’t have any impact or affect on the world as it currently is. Disclaimer over.

* (completely different disclaimer: claims made in this document have a statute of limitations extending no further than 2016, or if Google buys absolutely everything in the next two years, make that 2013)

Naoise Osborne

Naoise Osborne

A former member of the Acquisio team, Naoise was the Search Engine Marketing Director at Catalytics, the services arm of Acquisio before that was sold off so that the company could focus more on developing the Acquisio platform. In his role at Catalytics, Naoise managed SEO strategy for agencies across North America. Today, Naoise is based in Montreal where he is a founding partner of AOD Media Group Inc., which specializes in SEO, analytics and Facebook marketing.

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