Adwords quality score, explained for non-nerds
Ian Lurie Nov 11 2011
You may bid more than anyone else for the phrase ‘rubber duckies’ in Google Adwords. But that doesn’t guarantee you a top ranking.
Your quality score influences your position, too. You may, for example, be able to get a #1 Adwords ranking while bidding for the #2 spot.
Bizarre, I know. But here’s how it works:
A quick tour of the rankings
In case you don’t know, these are the sponsored or ‘pay per click’ (PPC) ads:
Like the ‘organic,’ unpaid rankings, PPC listings are all about keeping visitors happy. If I search for ‘bicycle tires’ and click the #1 PPC ad, I want to see a site about bicycle tires. In fact, I want to see the best site about bicycle tires. I don’t care if they’re paid ads.
So Google can’t make PPC ad position completely bid-driven. If the #1 PPC position went to the highest bidder 100% of the time, ads might end up pointing at totally crappy sites. That would make their users unhappy. And that would reduce their stock price. Not good.
Enter quality score.
If you have an Adwords account, log in and go to the keywords listing. Click the little speech bubble icon next to the word ‘Eligible’ for one of your keywords. You’ll see something like this:
The fraction you see (6/10 in the example above) is the keyword’s quality score for that ad.
Quality score factors
The quality score box on Adwords gives a nice hint to how Google measures PPC ad quality:
- Landing page quality: Google actually goes and crawls the page to which your ad points. They want well-written, relevant pages. So, that landing page you just created that’s 100% images? Yeah. No. Make sure you have HTML text. A clear call to action and some decent writing wouldn’t kill you, either.
- Landing page load time: I don’t have to beat this dead horse any more, do I? Faster pages do better in all rankings, paid and unpaid. If your landing page takes 15 seconds to load, you’re utterly killing yourself. Get your landing page load time under 2 seconds.
- Keyword relevance: Are folks finding your ad useful? In other words, do they click your ad when they see it? This one’s all about clickthru rate, also known as CTR. You want to constantly improve your CTR. You definitely do not want to reduce it.
Quality score history
Google keeps a running tally for your keywords and ads. That’s why, when you start a new campaign, you may be stuck bidding $5/click just to get your ad displayed: You’ve got no campaign history. It’s a form of PPC sandbox: New stuff isn’t as trustworthy.
And yes, I think this is a nifty way to extract more money from hapless advertisers. I bow to Google’s insane genius.
That’s enough for one day. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about all the lovely ways you can completely screw up your quality score.
I’m not a PPC nerd. At Portent, that’s Elizabeth’s job. But I do sometimes have to explain stuff, so I try to keep up-to-date.
CEO & Founder
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More