To Win the “Quality Score” Game, You Must First Understand the Rules

To Win the “Quality Score” Game, You Must First Understand the Rules

by Kurt Anagnostopolous, Co-Founder, True Interactive

Originally published on CommProBIZ on July 23, 2014

Here are the 5 most important factors of Quality Score – and 3 ways to influence them

Key Takeaways:

  • Any Paid Search campaign requires regular attention to succeed
  • Raising Google Quality Score is one path to a successful Paid Search campaign
  • 5 important factors that determine Quality Score, and 3 good ways to influence those factors

In any sort of competition, whether it’s a professional athletic event, the high school debate club or “game night” with the neighbors, knowing and understanding the rules is critical to winning. The rules influence your approach to that competition by telling you what you can and cannot do. But a thorough understanding of the rules also informs your strategy, because rules provide guidance on how to make better decisions – if you’re savvy enough to pay attention.

The same can be said for winning the battle in Paid Search. Only there it’s a bit more difficult because the rules are constantly changing – and you’re not allowed to see the “rulebook,” i.e., Google’s paid search algorithms.

Still, what separates the winners from the losers is that the winners understand that to get optimal results from Paid Search you must build fundamentally sound campaigns, monitor your progress at every opportunity and then keep making adjustments as you learn to drive your results higher.

In the case of Paid Search you’re not trying to score runs, points or touchdowns. You’re not trying to reach the end of the game first (because there is no end). You’re trying to drive leads and/or revenue while maximizing your return. One way to maximize your return is to improve your Quality Score.

What is Quality Score? ( It’s the algorithm Google uses to estimate how relevant your ads, keywords and landing pages are to someone seeing them after a search. A higher Quality Score means Google’s systems consider your ads, keywords and landing pages relevant and useful to each searcher’s particular topic.

The higher your ad scores, the higher your ad ranks in every search auction. And the more likely clicks will become sales. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to drive your Quality Score higher.

As with any game, there are certain strategies you can follow to increase your chances of winning. The first is to improve your click through rate (CTR). Since CTR is the one aspect influenced by users, Google gives it the most weight.

Here are four things you can do to build and adjust your campaigns to improve your CTR:

  • Keyword Negatives – Continually add new negatives to eliminate unwanted queries. Run your Search Query Reports weekly to identify opportunities and reach beyond eliminating bad clicks. Look to eliminate irrelevant high-impression terms that can drive down CTR.
  • Match Type Breakout— Breakout keywords by match types and separate match types by campaign or ad group. This will further group not only like terms, but like match types and increase CTR on better performing Exact match groups. In addition, shy away from Broad match and focus on Broad Match Modifiers to improve CTR.
  • Sitelinks – Add Sitelinks to all campaigns and use ad group Sitelinks, when possible, to deliver more relevant Sitelinks. Traditional Sitelinks may increase CTR by 15%, and Enhanced Sitelinks may increase CTR by 20%.
  • Targeting – Eliminate poor performing targets for greater CTR by using all the targeting options available, including GEO targeting, ad scheduling and bid modifiers.

The second strategy to improve your Quality Scores is by increasing ad relevancy. Having both closely-related relevant ad copy and using the actual keyword within the ad copy will have a positive effect on your score.

Next is keyword relevancy within the campaign structure. Google’s system looks for keyword relevancy across ad groups. When keywords within an ad group are closely related, Quality Scores go up.

Then there’s the relevancy of your landing pages. The more relevant your landing pages are, the better your Quality Scores. Because Google will crawl landing pages to determine how relevant they are to each keyword, selecting the most relevant, most granular landing pages and linking your ads to them is imperative. When possible, regularly adjust content on landing pages and/or create specific paid-search landing pages that align with keywords to improve your Quality Score.

The final strategy is to build a high-quality history. The length of time a keyword has been active in an account impacts Quality Score. More important than duration, however, is how the keyword has performed during that time period.

Set up every campaign the right way every time and manage each and every campaign on a regular basis. Change what isn’t working to what does work. That’s the only way to build the account history Google seeks to reward with high Quality Scores. This is where discipline comes into play; if you can’t execute a campaign the right way, then maybe that campaign shouldn’t launch, because it will hurt your quality history in the long run.

In any competitive endeavor, knowing and understanding the rules better than your competition – and executing against them – can give you a huge advantage. So it is with Paid Search.

Dedication to SEM best practices will always lead to higher Quality Scores. By creating a logical campaign structure, crafting tight ad groups with similar-themed keyword clusters, developing granular ad copy using keyword themes within copy and, most importantly, continually testing and tweaking your campaigns, you can secure victory for your organization.

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