6 Tips on Improving Pay Per Click Advertising’s Dirty Little Secret: The Quality Score

by jaidecker - April 25th, 2010

By now, everyone knows that SEM is the most cost effective digital advertising tool to drive relevant and qualified traffic to your site, but there is a dirty little secret that most people don’t know – search engines utilize a measurement which rate, scores and places weight on all SEM campaigns.  The search engines’ calls this measurement, Quality Score and it can affect your campaign’s cost and sponsored listings dramatically.

Here is a rough definition of Quality Score:

Quality Score is calculated by measuring a keyword’s click-through rate, and ad text relevancy. Other factors that make up a quality score are historical keyword performance, the quality of an ad’s landing page, and other keyword attributes. This score is the basis for measuring the quality of keywords and determining minimum bids.

Here is a illustration which can colorfully describe how campaigns are affected by CPC bidding and Quality Score.

Search engines benefit advertisers with high Quality Scores with top listings and cheaper CPCs, however as most advertisers do not know or optimize with their Quality Score in mind, Google essentially punishes them with lower listings and more expensive CPC costs.  To understand and take advantage of Quality Score, we’ve broken it down into 6 pieces.

  1. Click-through rate
  2. Landing page
  3. Various relevancy factors
  4. Keyword relevancy
  5. Historical performance
  6. Ad relevancy

By optimizing the 6 facets the Quality Score equation, advertisers can both increase their sponsored ad listings and lower then CPC costs while improving their campaigns performance. To help you on the road to a better Quality Score and a more successful advertising initiative, here are 6 tips which will improve your overall Quality Score and reduce unwanted spend.

1)    Click-Thru Rate (CTR): By optimizing your ad copy to be relevant, strong call-to-action and served by targeted keywords will increase over all clicks to your ads.  This increased volume of clicks (CTR) will improve your Quality Score as it shows the engines that your ads are targeted and relevant to what the searchers are looking for. Ads which have copy that follow the flow from search to click to conversion are what separate an average campaign from a truly successful campaign.

2)    Landing Page: When an ad is created, the destination URL is checked by the search engine to test several factors and these factors contribute to the ad’s Quality Score. When a landing page is relevant to the ad, has a strong offer and a clear call-to-action conversion rates will increase and so will your Quality Score.  Otherwise, a searcher will immediately click away and you just paid the engine for an unhappy searcher and your Quality Score will suffer.

3)    Various Relevancy Factors: As stated above, relevancy is critical as engines look to rate campaigns based on such things as click-through rate, landing page and ad relevancy, but there are a few other factors which play into your Quality Score.  Here are a few factors which play into Quality Score which are not directly related to the SEM campaign:

Time on site
Account structure
Age of site
Unique & reoccurring content
Repeat traffic
Abundant non-paid traffic

4)    Keyword Relevancy: Simply using keywords which you feel are relevant is not doing your campaign or Quality Score any good.  Keyword strategy is pulling from multiple sources like site content, products, services and branding terms.  Take advantage on web analysis to identify real-time keywords which your customers are using and integrate them into your SEM campaigns.

5)    Historical Performance: In any advertising initiative, performance is important, but in this case it is king.  As your campaign’s performance improves, engines will see that your campaign is what searchers are looking for and give it a higher Quality Score.  To achieve this, take the necessary steps to optimize keywords, copy, landing page and conversionary data to both improve over all campaign performance and Quality Score.

6)    Ad Relevancy: By creating ad copy that is targeted to specific keywords, Quality Score will be improved as engine will see that ads match keywords and landing page. To further this strategy, break out ad groups into segmented groups to copy targeting and strategic bidding. Example:


The bottom line is that the search engines are not necessarily looking to take advantage of unknowledgeable advertisers, but it is a net effect. Google is ensuring that only the most relevant ads are at the top of the sponsored listings so searchers are seeing the best possible options for their query.  So be sure to improve your Quality Score by managing your site, building customize landing pages, review site analytics and for god’s sake utilize a decent tracking system so you can properly optimize your campaigns.

One Response to “6 Tips on Improving Pay Per Click Advertising’s Dirty Little Secret: The Quality Score”

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