How important is your Quality Score? Does it make that big an impact on campaign success? If you’re willing to place the highest bid in the AdWords Auction, does the Quality Score matter so much? These are some of the questions you may be asking as your PPC campaign rolls out, and the answers may surprise you.
According to the recent whitepaper released by Google, “Settling the (Quality) Score”, your Quality Score is crucial to the success of your campaign. But don’t let the score run your campaign; use it as a guide for current performance, and an indicator for how to improve.
To refresh, the Quality Score you see in your account is presented as a general diagnostic tool of your overall performance during the AdWords Auction.
The three components of your Quality Score are:
1. Expected Click Through Rate (CTR): How likely it is that the user will click on your ad.
2. Ad Relevance: how well your keywords match the user’s search query.
3. Landing Page Experience: how relevant and easy to use the landing page is for users.
In general, the overall AdRank is calculated as the Quality Score multiplied by your maximum Cost Per Click (e.g. “bid”). However, in Google’s recent video release “Insights on the AdWords Auction”, we also learn the importance of Ad Formats to the AdRank Calculation. Ad Formats are enhancements attached to regular display ads that enable the advertiser to display more engaging information about their company. Giving users more relevant information means they are more likely to click on your add.
Social Annotations (endorsements from Google+ followers)
The reason Google now incorporates Ad Formats into its AdRank calculations is clear. Just as Expected CTR, Ad Relevance and Landing Page Experience all affect user experience, so do Ad Formats.
Even with the addition of this fourth component, it does not weaken the importance and influence the other components have on your Quality Score. For example: Your ad displays the keywords ‘Online international money transfer’ as well as your phone number for direct queries. Perfect! Just what the user was searching for. But when they click through to your site, they are taken to a page about international investment opportunities, not money transfers. This equals dissatisfied user. Even though your ad featured Ad Formats and your CTR and Ad Relevance were above average, your overall Quality Score will suffer as a result of below average Landing Page Experience.
This is where you can take advantage of the Quality Score as an indicator for how to improve. And the sooner you improve the better, as Google uses real time evaluations of the 3 components, not your actual Quality Score, during the AdWords Auction.
Furthermore, according to the AdRank equation, the better your quality score, the lower your Cost Per Click (CPC) bid needs to be to reach the top ranking. The equation also works in reverse. Even if you are willing to bid the highest CPC, a low quality score means your ad is less likely to rank well against others.
Google has also shared some key pointers on what does and does not matter when it comes to Ad Quality. For example, the user’s device (mobile, laptop, tablet etc) is taken into account when calculating quality. Even though Google does not require a different site for each device, it is crucial that the site is transparent and easy to use no matter the device. There is nothing more dissatisfying than browsing on a website on your mobile phone and finding that the exact line of information you want is being covered by a picture because the site hasn’t been optimized for a mobile device. Another important point is that relevance to the user’s intentions and needs really does matter. Ads and landing pages need to match the user’s search query. Following this, when Google measures new keywords, it takes into account the quality of related ads and landing pages. So it is always worthwhile to invest further on growing your coverage of relevant searches, especially when you know there is potential for high quality ads.
According to Google, the factors that don’t really affect ad quality (and therefore don’t ‘matter’) are those that don’t affect user experience. These include the other networks where your ad is running (traffic from other networks isn’t included in the CTR calculation for google.com) and the position of your ad on the page (expected CTR is normalized depending where the ad is on the page). Restructuring campaign names or the number of ad groups will not affect the Quality Score either, but be careful when moving a keyword to a new ad group that has new text as this may alter user experience and affect the Quality Score.
Together with Google’s latest quality recommendations, Ad Formats have refocused our attention on the importance of user experience. And it is enhanced user experience, not just your bid, which Google is pushing for.