The AdWords Quality Score Hammer Has Fallen, Now What?

Michael Wiegand


Google AdWords is a mystical beast sometimes, capable of dumbfounding and goring the best of us. My cost-per-click cohort, Elizabeth, kindly tipped us off to Google’s most recent Quality Score update – and it appears the latest changes are starting to affect the paid search landscape in a big way. For some, scores have dropped considerably, prices have gone up and general unrest has befallen bidders. With that said, it’s a good time to reiterate a few things at the crux of achieving good quality scores, especially given the apparent added weight Google is placing on certain key variables in their algorithm.

Keyword House Cleaning

Assuming you’re seeing a lot of “GREAT” to “OK” and “OK” to “POOR” trends, look closely at the CTR (click-thru rate) column in your ad groups. A quick correlation should reveal itself. If your keyword CTR looks poor over a long stretch of time – 1.5% might not necessarily be bad for your business if you’re still converting – Google will probably still treat it poorly. To that end, consider deleting any poorly performing keywords in an ad group (if they aren’t absolutely vital to your conversion rates).

Granulate Your Ad Groups

In the past, you could get away with keeping synonymous terms in the same ad group. Now, Google will ding you harder if you do. Let’s say you sell lodges in the Swiss Alps. Your keywords are mostly lodge related, your ads say lodge, your landing page says lodge; but you’d also like to bid on the synonyms – hotel, inn, bed and breakfast, etc. Failing to segregate those terms might not only cost your dearly on those terms, but AdWords might penalize all the other keywords in the ad group as well. So, keep them as organized as possible. ad-groups-quality-score-1.jpg

Boost Lander Relevance

In a perfect world, we’d have a landing page tailored for every ad group. Speaking practically, we can’t always add 10 new web pages every time we go on a keyword research binge. Be smart about where you point your ads. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your keyword (or a close variation thereof) appears at least once in your landing page. It doesn’t have to be saturated, but if you don’t see your keyword appearing on an important page, borrow a much-used SEO tactic: make copy recommendations to the people controlling site content.

Michael Wiegand
Analytics Architect

In 15 years as a marketer, Michael's experience has run the gamut from design, development, direct mail, multivariate testing, print, and search. He now heads Portent's Analytics practice, overseeing everything from Google Tag Management, to CRM integration for closed-loop analytics, to solving ponderous digital marketing questions. Outside of work, he enjoys recording music, playing JRPGs and supporting Seattle Sounders FC.

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