Quality Score – and the not-so-tricky ways to improve it

Luckily for me, I had the great opportunity to attend Hero Conf. 2014 in Austin early last week. Having not been before, I was unsure of what to expect; but, at the end of the two days, I had left feeling inspired, motivated, and grateful for all the learnings I took away from the speakers. One of those learnings being around Quality Score.

The session, led by Rich Griffin from WordStream and John Lee from Clix Marketing, was insightful and provided great ideas on how to improve your Quality Score with ease.

Quality Score has always seemed to have an air of mystery to us online marketers – so many unknown parts of the complex calculation on how Google determines the number. Some of which seeming to be out of our control. But, according to Rich and John, we are making this all-controlling, performance determiner of our campaigns more difficult than it should be. Below are some takeaways I got from their presentations at the conference.

So, what exactly is Quality Score? With so many different aspects, it makes defining it complicated. But, in general, Quality Score is an estimated score of how relevant your keywords, ads, and landing page are to the search query the person searching entered into their search bar. The Quality Score number lies within a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best score possible. Having a higher Quality Score puts your ad in a better position on the SERP at a cheaper cost than achieving the same ad position with a lower Quality Score. To put it into math, Ad Rank = Max CPC x Quality Score.

Many factors go into determining the Quality Score of a keyword: what is the expected click-through rate? How about the Display URL’s past click-through rate? Landing page quality? How relevant is that keyword to the ad it is driving? Even geographic and device performance comes into play in the equation to determine the Quality Score. The list goes on.

So, how do we improve upon this score? It has so many factors in its equation that it has to be difficult, right? Wrong. John Lee had a great quote in his presentation that got stuck in my head:

“Rocket scientists may have created Quality Score, but it doesn’t take rocket science to improve it.”

– John Lee

 It really isn’t too difficult to improve on this mystery score. It takes a few simple techniques and research to get the most of out of your keywords and campaigns and improve the performance of your account.

1.       Write better, more competitive ads!

Make your ads stand out against your competitors. Add in competitive advantages to entice people to click on your ad; do you offer free shipping? Maybe there is a discounted price for your service you’re advertising for. Make your ad the most appealing among your competitors in the SERP. These ads will drive more clicks, making your ad more relevant to the search query, and in turn, resulting in a better Quality Score over time.

2.       Test your Ad-Copy!

You should be taking the time to test which ad copy works best for your campaign. A/B testing is so important to the overall performance of your campaign. If you are not testing ad copy, you are missing out on potentially improving your CTR and conversion rate with just a simple ad change.

Take two ads and test different call-to-actions. Find out which CTA works best for the audience you’re targeting. Do people seem to click more on an ad that says ‘Buy Now!’ or on one that says ‘Shop Now and Save!’?

Test an ad with a price in the copy and one without. Are people more apt to click on an ad that is upfront with how much their service or product costs?

When looking at the results of your A/B testing, look at the big picture. It really isn’t all about the clicks. If one ad has the higher CTR, but a lower CPA and conversion rate, is that really the ad you want to use? Probably not. You want to use the ad that delivers the most conversions and the lowest cost.

3.       Clean up your keywords!

First, categorize your keywords.  According to Rich Griffin, they each should fall into one of three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary keywords are those keywords that have the highest commercial intent. These are the keywords that show that the searcher is ready to purchase. Secondary keywords are keywords those that show a searcher is in the market but still needs more research before converting. Tertiary keywords are those that represent that a searcher is early in the search life. They are still doing basic research. All in all, primary keywords see the highest CTRs and conversions, and tertiary keywords, see the least.

Second, clean up and delete tertiary keywords where you see fit. If a keyword has not been converting over the last few months, chances are it won’t convert very often if at all. Delete it. Deleting non-converting keywords will help better focus your campaigns to what the searcher wants out of your ads and landing pages. Tertiary keywords also cost more than keywords in the primary or secondary keywords. If those tertiary keywords are getting clicked on for basic research and not with the intent to buy, you are potentially wasting a lot of money. Focusing on those higher-converting keywords will give your keywords and campaigns a better overall score and lower CPCs.

You want your keywords to match exactly to what your audience searches for. Build your campaigns around that. Align your keywords, ads, and landing page text around those terms your audience will be searching on.

Those three techniques above have a similar goal in mind – an increase in CTR and hopefully, because of your awesome, conversion-driving landing page, an increase in conversions as well. So, what is the overall, key factor in a better Quality Score? That would be relative CTR. Having a high CTR is the ultimate goal in Google’s eyes. Those clicks get Google money, and in return, they will reward your keyword with a higher Quality Score. Once your ad is clicked upon, it’s your landing page’s job to convert that click. If your keywords, ads, and landing pages line up with each other and align with your audiences’ intent, conversions will take place and your Quality Score will be strong.

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