The Biggest Google Quality Score Secret Revealed – There is no Secret!

September 7, 2009

Working in paid search in general, and affiliate paid search in particular it is key to understand the ins and outs of Google AdWords Quality Score. It’s both the biggest blessing and pain point for any PPC pro. The blessed feeling happens when you manage to tweak your ad copy to achieve the best possible CTR and get awarded with a lower CPC, and that other not-so-blessed feeling is when you fail and it diminishes your margin into negative territory.

So what actually makes up the Google AdWords Quality Score? Understandably Google doesn’t give away too much information of the specifics as that would make it too easy for competitors to replicate their algorithm and for shady search types to game their system. But it basically comes down to three factors.

The Three Quality Score Algorithm Components

AdWords Quality Score Chart - CTR, Landing Page, Relevance

1) Click-Through Rate
The keyword CTR is calculated by dividing the amount of clicks your keyword has accrued by how many times its related advert has been displayed. This is Google’s majority metric for determining your ad copy relevance and Quality Score. The logic is simple – if your ad copy is relevant – e.g. it matches the users query very well – it should get proportionally more clicks than competing ad copies. This logic makes sense both from a user experience but also from a Google perspective; the more clicks the adverts generates the more money the advertiser will pay over time.

2) Landing Page
There’s a general consensus in the PPC world that the glory days of the old “bridge page” is long gone, e.g. a page whose sole purpose is the funnel the user to another page (typically from an affiliate page to a merchant page). Google is happily slapping around weak affiliate landing pages with absurd minimum bids to avoid them from cluttering the search landscape with what Google deems to be “non value adding content”. And they might be very right in doing so to keep their search results the most relevant. So in order to achieve a great landing page quality score, advertisers needs to make sure that their page adds real value to the user experience; take a look at your landing page and ask yourself – would you be happy to land there?

3) Relevance
This is the relevance of the keyword to the search query and the ad copy. This explains why broad and phrase matches typically gets a lower quality score as they can show up for more or less relevant ad copies. For highest quality score it’s advisable to focus on very tight campaign structures with exact matches.

So to sum things up – although Google won’t share much more than the above regarding it’s algorithm, it’s still not much of a secret. It’s all about relevance and value added content. If you have a great PPC team managing your campaign to achieve best possible CTR and Relevance and you view your landing page from the perspective of genuinely adding to the user experience, then you’re all set to do very well, but if you’re in the business of trying to outsmart Google by patching your sinking websites to last another slapping round through various little tweaks, then you need to consider your business strategy.

I highly recommend having a look at the below video which is a presentation made by Google’s Chief Economist that explains both the AdWords auction system and related quality score.

ZD YouTube FLV Player

Update: here’s a good more in-depth post on the inner-workings of the quality score.

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