Keeping Up With Changes to AdWords Quality Score Guidelines

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As is their want, Google have made significant changes to their AdWords Quality Score algorithms recently. If you’re about to launch your seasonal advertising campaign, it’s worth brushing up on the new requirements to keep costs as low as possible during the festive period. Although a poor Quality Score doesn’t necessarily mean that your seasonal ads won’t show, it does mean that costs are higher than they need to be for each click, limiting your ROI and capping the effectiveness of the campaign

Before embarking on a complete overhaul of your paid search advertising on Google, get busy pulling some historical data from your ’07 efforts. This will give you a benchmark from years gone by and allow you to make an educated guess as to the expected impressions, click through and conversion rates.

To establish a point of comparison, you’ll also need to monitor key metrics such as impressions and CTR over the last four weeks. The changes were implemented at the beginning of November so you should now be beginning to see the impact, if any, on your campaigns when you run off data from the AdWords report centre.

The changes to Google’s AdWords quality score and advert rankings see two new calculations being applied. The first will determine the quality of any given paid search advert and the second, where that advert should most appropriately be positioned within the search results page. Within this latter element, the difference will most notably be felt by advertisers used to paying above the going rate to see their ad show in the ‘sponsored search’ section of the results pages. Realizing the prominence of the position, Google will now place extra emphasis on the quality and relevance of the advert, as determined by the new Quality Score, before placing paid search messages in this spot.

One of the greatest changes to be seen in ads based on the new Quality Score is the impact of CTR on ratings. Previously, adverts with a high click through rate enjoyed a better quality score; this is because ads in higher positions are usually seen by more searches and therefore attract more clicks. The AdWords team will now take this into account and remove this bias. Google say these changes are necessary for more accurate quality ratings and ensure that ads compete fairly for positions. This competition will now be based on their quality and bid, rather than how many users previously clicked on the advertisement. The ultimate aim is to allow the search engine to move closer to its Shangri-La of only displaying the most relevant of paid search messages to web users searching for information online.

To allow them to move a little closer to this ultimate objective, the search engine is also revamping the way it picks adverts for the colored ‘Sponsored Search’ band above the search results. Previously, the space remained empty if the advert with the highest Ad Rank didn’t meet the quality threshold but now, Google will allow those in lower positions but still meeting the new quality requirements to leapfrog other advertisers. For advertisers on a smaller budget this is a significant bargaining chip as it rewards well-constructed campaigns over big budget advertisers.

Overall, it’s easy to get carried away watching statistics and filtering through data but while all of these are great indications of consumer reactions to a campaign, conversion rates and cost per conversion are just, if not more important. In the advertising frenzy that builds up around festive periods such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, Google’s Quality Score changes serve as a welcome reminder that the more integrated, more relevant and more on-topic ad groups and ad text are, the better the outcome for everyone.

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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5 Comments

  1. I think the bottom line is that Google cares more about the quality of the ad and landing page, and less about the bids and clickthrough. If searchers believe they're clicking through to useless pages, they will stop, and advertisers will stop buying ads. Google has really been forced into doing this because there are so many advertises trying to game the system by slapping up terrible sites that don't provide searchers with anything valuable.

  2. You both make a strong point that I'd like to touch on. This update is a move to improve the "quality" in Quality Score. While Google may lose some initial revenue from high bid advertisers, with low quality ads, they will strengthen their long-term return. Advertisers that publish generic ads with massive keyword list, usually stop running their campaigns due to low ROI. Businesses whose campaigns are well structured with themed Ad Groups and landing pages, realize AdWords is a valid marketing channel. This repeat business can provides a stable revenue stream with less overhead. By forcing advertisers to actually think about their campaigns, and not just pay for placement, Google is essentially investing in the success of its advertisers. The better a campaign is structured, the higher the Quality Score will be! This leads to increased ROI for the advertiser and more repeat business for Google. The other factor of course is the improved quality of the search results themselves. Although Google is the clear leader, they must continue to improve the user experience. When people can’t find what they seek, they will try alternative sources. Ryan Adami Internet Marketing Specialist

  3. Is this a case of Google announcing something not-so new. Hasn't the CTR aspect of Quality Score been adjusted for position for a some time now? That is what I had been led to believe. It bothers me some when Google does this. I suspect they also did this in announcing a "new" budgeting option. Seems like in both cases it is the announcing that is new, not the actuality. -Tom Hale

  4. Interesting article. I have a couple of comments to the following point: "Google say these changes are necessary for more accurate quality ratings and ensure that ads compete fairly for positions." Call me cynical, but I think Google has proven over and over that they are focused on "more revenue." For instance, based on this article, they are "removing the emphasis of CTR" - and we're to believe that is self-sacrificing on their part. However, they are also including more advertising above the "natural" listings. Why? Because they know those "across the top" listings get clicked on. I think it's safe to assume that Google is doing *most* of what it's doing because it's after more cash. I don't blame them, but I think that's realistic. To Joan's point: >> "and advertisers will stop buying ads." ...I'm skeptical here. If advertisers had choices... sure. But with Google running >80% of searches, we're stuck w/ Google until we can better places for our dollars, and that's a challenge. I think Google's "secret algorithms" - for both SEM and SEO - will keep changing and remain a mystery. Advertisers should focus on testing and optmization - as that's all we can control! Cheers to all, [Guy Hill DroidINDUSTRIES

  5. An intelligent point of view, well expessred! Thanks!