My Quality Score is Fine, Right? RIGHT?!

Quality scoring is a black box.  Everyone involved knows it’s important, but some people consider it important enough to optimize for it while others go on about their day and accept the score they get, come what may.  Regular readers of these posts may realize that I am one to fall in the latter of the two camps, because I focus on conversions and not click-throughs in almost all cases.  After all, the quality score is how qualified the engines think your keyword and ad is to make them money.

Regardless of the tips I present below, I firmly believe that last statement.  The quality score is there for the engine’s benefit and not ours as advertisers.  It’s the engines grading us on how profitable we are for them.  If we’re not profitable enough with a high CTR, they charge us more.  However, is the quality score graded on a scale or on a curve?  If it’s on a scale then you can do everything right and get an “A” and be happy with your high score.  If it’s graded on a curve then your final grade is dependent on the performance of others.  If you do better than they do, you score high.  If you do worse, you score low.  In other words, your ability to write better ads with higher relevance than your competitor impacts your quality score.

Consider this: You have a quality score of 5 and your competitor with identical keywords and bids has a quality score of 10.  Since the keywords are identical the relevancy to the raw search query should be the same, meaning the only difference is the ad copy.  They have an awesome ad and you don’t, so their quality score is higher.  Typically, this means that they can get a click at the same position as your ad for a lower cost per click.  If they can spend less money per click, they can afford to go after more traffic, which means they have more opportunity to score conversions.  More conversions means more cash to fuel future Adwords spending and continued sales growth.

Do I have your attention now?  Good.  Here’s how to optimize your ad groups for quality score:

Keep your keyword count in ad groups between 25-50.  This includes match type variations of the same term.  This isn’t a steadfast rule, but is a good rule-of-thumb.  If you have more, make sure that they are keywords that focus around a very tight central theme.

Don’t bid on broad match.  Keeping everything to phrase and exact match will limit how likely it is for Google to match your keywords to an irrelevant term.  Remember, Google’s definition of relevancy may not be the same as yours.  (If you really want broad match, put it in a different ad group).

Separate your misspells.  If you use the dynamic keyword insertion in your ads, misspells will show up in the headline.  This will hurt your quality score, not help it.  Keep them separate and use the correct spelling of the term in the ad copy.

Don’t use dynamic keyword insertion in ads.  Surprised?  Why?  If you keep the keyword counts low in the ad group, you can write the ad to include those keywords.  Having an exact match term as a keyword and in the ad text without Google injecting it shows maximum relevance.  Besides, with everyone and their mother using the DKI these days, it doesn’t have anywhere near the CTR boost that it used to.

Now before you go off and redesigning your accounts to optimize for quality score, consider this: some of your terms will already have a high quality score.  If you have a couple terms in ad groups that score poorly (like 5-7) and some terms that score well (8-10), then simply remove those poorer terms and put them in their own ad group.  Copy your better converting ad from the original to include in the new ad group and bam!  You have a higher average quality score already.

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  1. Great insights Don!

    I had always believed that the age of your account impacted your quality score as well (if you’re new to PPC then you’re automatically given a lower quality score), is that not true? Any evidence?

  2. Tanner, finally getting a few clicks did seem to improve my quality score on new campaigns.

    Its all Greek to me though, even though I’ve got some ads showing up for some keywords, I can’t seem to get higher than 3/10 or 4/10 for QS. I try to keep every ad group focused around something very specific, but despite good KW matching I end up with bad scores.

    So my plan? Since I’m making a profit, I’ll keep raising the bid to try and get higher on the page and a better click through rate. I think Don’s got a great point here I can really understand: The engines/ad publishers want to maximize revenue, and they’re going to want to work with whoever brings it in.
    .-= John´s last blog ..I Love-Hate Marketing Because it Works so Well =-.

  3. @Tanner Christensen I have heard that too, but have not seen evidence for or against that thinking. Personally, I suspect that instead of giving a low score, Google gives a neutral score that goes up or down based upon initial performance.

  4. @john Another option you have is to test new ad copy and set ad optimization in your campaign settings to “on” (it is by default, so if you haven’t changed your campaign settings you won’t need to do this). If after a while you can’t seem to find a way to boost the score, export a copy of your entire account from adwords editor into a .csv file. Close the account and open a new account, and upload your bulk sheet. This will erase the bad history of your previous account and let you start fresh.

  5. I like to keep the keyword count in ad groups between 2 and 4. If any of these 4 words get a high volume of searches, I make a new ad group with that keyword alone. And surprisingly, not so many folks use the DKI, at least in my niches 🙂
    .-= Stan The Man´s last blog ..How To Grow Taller – 7 Basic Tips =-.

  6. I agree that Quality Score is more for the engine’s benefit and of little practical use to advertisers. I tend to use conversion rate and CPA / ROI rather than Quality Score as a primary means of optimisation, but even on-site analytics metrics such as page views, time on site and bounce rate have moved higher on my optimisation priority list than Quality Score.

    Guess Quality Score should be seen as an indication – rather than the end goal – of a performing paid search campaign.
    .-= Alan Mitchell´s last blog ..To Deep-Link Or Not To Deep-Link =-.