Why AdWords Quality Score is amazing!
As a search engine, Google’s ultimate aim is to deliver the most relevant results. If you search on Google for a product or service, but don’t find what you’re looking for, you’ll probably end up looking elsewhere.
Quality Score is intended to be a measure of relevance. And it is, to a point. It’s based on the clickthrough rate, whether the search query is contained in the advert and how relevant your website is.
If people click on an advert, it’s likely to be relevant, and if the advert mentions what somebody is searching for, then the advertiser must have written an advert specifically for that search query — so again, it’s likely to be relevant.
So does Quality Score work? Let’s look at it from a few different angles.
For Google, it works very well. If you put the most-clicked-on advert first, followed by the second-most-clicked-on advert, and so on, you maximise the number of clicks that you get on the paid adverts. Multiplying the CTR by the bid ensures they don’t just get clicks — they get high-value clicks, which maximises their revenue.
But they also get adverts that people click on at the top, which improves the relevancy of their results. Without Quality Score, the adverts at the top of the search results will be the ones with the highest bids — regardless of whether they are advertising what the user was searching for. The result would be fewer clicks, and unhappy users.
If I’m looking for a dishwasher on Google, I don’t actually care why a certain result appears — I just want to find a store that sells a good range of dishwashers at competitive prices. Advertisers with low conversion rates will find that clicks aren’t worth all that much to them, so they won’t be able to bid highly enough to get into the top positions, so the first adverts should be for websites with high conversion rates.
So what effect does the Quality Score have on this? The first thing it’ll do will be to weed out adverts that can afford to bid high because nobody clicks on them (so it doesn’t cost them much). This can only be a good thing for users. On top of this, since Google is checking the landing page for relevance, there’s effectively a spam filter built in as well.
I can’t speak for all advertisers and agencies, but as you probably gathered from the title of this blog, I love it.
The fact is that the Quality Score makes life much more complicated for the advertiser. When writing adverts, there are now three things to consider — the impact on the CTR, the impact on conversion rate, and the effect on Quality Score.
You don’t want people to click on your advert if they aren’t likely to buy, but you do want anyone who is likely to buy to click on your advert. But the Quality Score complicates things further, by rewarding you for including the search query in your advert, ideally in the title. What do you do if all the other adverts are doing the same?
Clearly, your advert won’t stand out if you include the search query, but if you don’t, you’ll get penalised on the Quality Score.
And to improve your Quality Score, you need a high clickthrough rate — but you only want to attract people who are likely to buy, or you are wasting money.
Yet, here I am, an advertiser, saying how great the Quality Score is. Why?
Firstly, I know that since I am only going to bid on relevant keywords, I’m likely to be competing with other companies selling the same sorts of products or services (plus eBay and Amazon, who bid on anything, whether they sell it or not).
Secondly, not understanding the Quality Score can cripple your account. Conversely therefore, understanding it can only make things easier for you. And it’s not as though the Quality Score is a big Google secret — the information’s out there, freely available to anyone who bothers to look it up.
The Quality Score rewards you for managing your account actively, testing adverts and keywords, adjusting your bids etc. This gives you a big advantage over somebody who just sets up an account, and leaves it for months (or even years) at a time.
Overall, I like the idea that you can improve the performance of your account by actively managing it properly, and definitely think this is a good thing for advertisers. Since Google have revealed most of the processes behind their algorithms, there aren’t really that many industry ‘secrets’ that give agencies an unfair advantage over other advertisers.
There are a number of implicit assumptions with the Quality Score that don’t necessarily hold true.
The first is that clickthrough rate is an indicator of relevance. It’s an indicator of the relevance of the advert to the search, not the website. Whilst the landing page is a small part of the algorithm, an advert can generate clicks by being misleading, or simply well-written. The fact that you are better than somebody else at writing adverts doesn’t necessarily mean that your website is more relevant than theirs.
The second is that putting the search query into the advert is an indicator of relevance. Firstly, it’s a better indicator of a well-structured account (since every keyword in an Adgroup shows the same advert, dynamic keyword insertion notwithstanding). But if you are a plumber in Birmingham, should you really have to make the title of your advert ‘plumber in Birmingham’, just because that’s what people are searching for?
Crucially, as artificial intelligence becomes more adept at measuring how relevant a website is to the searcher’s requirements, it’s likely to become a larger part of the Quality Score. This will, in turn, make ‘tricks of the trade’ less and less of an issue. And this applies to both organic and paid search, so SEO is also going to become more and more difficult and less effective over time, something that people are already seeing.