Google Quality Score is Not About Relevance, It’s Revenue

Back in the early days of Pay Per Click advertising Google had one of it’s usual brainwaves. It looked at Overture (which became Yahoo! Advertising) and saw that it’s direct ‘you pay more, you position higher’ approach had two main flaws:

  1. If the adverts in the search results were less relevant to the search term, then the search engine itself would seem to be less accurate
  2. If the advertising network gets paid on click-through, then to allow poor performing adverts to dominate because they’re willing to spend more means that lower revenue would be realised

So, Quality Score was Google’s smart balancing act. The premise was that if you worked hard making sure that your keyword, ad copy (in Google) and website landing page were more relevant and compelling to the reader, then you would be able to bid less for a keyword because your advert was better.

What Google SAY Quality Score Is

“The AdWords system calculates a Quality Score for each of your keywords. It looks at a variety of factors to measure how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user’s search query. A keyword’s Quality Score updates frequently and is closely related to its performance. In general, a high Quality Score means that your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position and at a lower cost-per-click (CPC).”

You can read further details on the Google Adwords Help Pages. The factors include (again from the Google page):

  • The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the keyword
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
  • The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
  • The quality of your landing page
  • The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group
  • The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query
  • Your account’s performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown
  • Other relevance factors

Now, whilst that all seems legitimate and helpful, there’s a lot that can happen behind the scenes… after all, who is to say which of these factors has much or little influence? And, just give further freedom to Google, ‘other’ is a very broad term!

What Quality Score REALLY Is

So there is a lot that can actually be changed ‘under the hood’ without any perceptible change, or even any need for Google to change it’s bullet list. What we can reveal is this: that Quality Score has changed substantially recently and these are the things you need to know

Of high importance are:

  • Historical click through rate of the keyword
  • Historical click through rate of the display URLs

Of low importance are:

  • Account history
  • Quality of landing page
  • Relevance of keyword to the ads in the ad group
  • Relevance of keyword to the search query
  • Accounts performance in geographical region (a small enhancement of overall CTR performance)

Of unknown importance are:

  • Other relevance factors

Because ‘other’ cannot really be defined.

How do we KNOW This?

Recently, we setup a test campaign for a specific service – ‘telemarketing‘. We used all the normal relevance factors: great optimised landing page on a very relevant well established site promoting telemarketing, relevant advert copy specifically promoting the telemarketing service, and a suite of well-filtered very relevant keywords promoting specifically telemarketing services. In fact, we called our Google Account Manager and they said ‘there’s nothing more you can do’.

It was pretty surprising, therefore, with all this attention to detail, when we saw that most keywords in the ad group had a Quality Score of 3. That’s right… 3 out of 10.

What it tells us really clearly, is that you can do all you can to make all the elements of the campaign and website relevant, but ultimately 70% of the score is about the Click Through Rate.

Why is this IMPORTANT for Advertisers?

The reason why this is critical is that there’s a problem here that few are aware of. The Quality Score Formula was supposed to balance spend based around click through rate.

It was not supposed to be driven by click through rate. But now, it is another name for click through rate. If you have a high click through rate, you have a good quality score, if you don’t, then they will hammer your quality score.

The problem with this is two-fold:

  1. The encouragement is for adverts which drive clicks, however most successful PPC campaigns are about getting high quality traffic in – these two objectives can be, in many campaigns, incompatible
  2. The message to advertisers from Google has changed from being about relevance, to being about SPEND – about revenue to Google

WHY Has it Changed?

We don’t know for sure the reason, but this is our best guess. Until recently Quality Score was to help competition for places – so that the small guys could compete with deeper pockets and if they were smart enough, then they would benefit from investing more energy and time into their campaigns and websites.

However, now that virtually any search has at least 2-3 adverts, most have many, and (we estimate) about 50% of searches are full of adverts, there is no longer the need to be generous. So, they’re starting to turn the screw – after all, shareholder value must be met.

Which is why they are also looking at limiting the amount of adverts on a page by removing the right hand column of adverts. We call it ‘search engine optimisation‘ not of positions, but of revenues.

What’s the REAL Message

So, that’s why Quality Score is no more – it is there, in name. But it is no longer what it was and certainly we would challenge their assertion in the final line of their description of quality score:

In general, a high Quality Score means that your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position and at a lower cost-per-click (CPC).”

It is not a measure of quality of keyword, advert, or landing page (or website). It is now merely a stick to beat you with to make you cough up more.

Spread the Word / Find Out More

If this post has helped you, then please spread the word on Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook / Google+ below. If you’d like to find out more about how you can combat this unwelcome development, now that we’ve identified the problem, just get in touch – contact us, or send us a mention to discuss @johnnymb.

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Examples Of Our Social Work

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Social Unloq

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Examples Of Our Websites Work

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Websites Toynbee Associates

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Not so simple, but we plugged away and found a steady flow of electric leads.

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Lead Generation Technical Resources

Examples Of Our Ecommerce Work

E-Commerce Nautilus Sailing

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E-Commerce Domin

Examples Of Our CRM Work

CRM HCL Fasteners

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An engineering firm wanted to build business but also be equipped to grow. With a new practice manager in place who was committed to digital transformation, we integrated CRM, task management and project tracking systems to create a system that works for them.

It now tracks quotes, commissions business, pushes through deadlines, keeps clients aware of progress and helps them deliver high quality structural engineering projects on time and on brief.

Tech Leadership

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They now use Airtable effectively as an ERP system for their order management and global supply chain, and the CRM drives the growth in sales and clients across the world as they add to their product lines.

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Customer Success Nautilus Sailing

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Examples Of Our Uncategorized Work

Examples Of Our Analytics Work

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Examples Of Our Branding Work

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Examples Of Our Create Work

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On the Right Tack

It’s too easy to be carried away by the lifestyle and adventure of the Nautilus crew, from the Pacific to the Med, they deliver award-winning sailing experiences.

However, we are not helping them sell holidays, they sell skipper courses so that clients can sail their own yachts and catamarans. So the content is geared around this. It’s still beautiful, but it speaks to the right audience.

Perfect Platform

What is there not to love about kids and garden play? The photos are great, settings wonderful and the structures are pretty awesome. But, to be honest, you can’t have photos of children included and then all the structures are based around the same ‘ingredients’.

So, you need to become storytellers, as tree houses and adventure play is about the joy and fun to be had by small and large adventurers as their ideas spark into life. It’s the story we tell!

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Examples Of Our Graphics Work

Graphics Domin

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So the imagery is simple, clean and relates to the process of unlocking rather than the environment. We recommended striking black and white imagery that nails the brief, engages the viewer and turns attention to messaging and actions, whilst complementing the brand palette.

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Examples Of Our Communicate Work

Email HCL Fasteners

Securing Business

With a wide range of products, applications and service offerings, HCL could be seen as demanding. Yet, by integrating segmentation techniques on company size, sector and purchase history, we are able to choose the audiences to send emails to, and uncover what works.

Each email is scoped, the audience identified, professionally written, designed and then integrated with tracking from within the email as well as through analytics.

Delivering Value

High-value, low-volume email marketing requires a specialised approach. One that speaks the right language to partners, clients and prospects, whilst underpinning the values that make Unloq’s services unique.

With split lists, containing some shared and some unique content, we have created variety without the overhead of coming up with three completely new emails every time. Precise, targeted and confident – just like our client.

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Examples Of Our Video Work

Video Unloq

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When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, clarity of message and presentation is paramount. We worked closely with the client, writing a script, choosing a voice-over artist, stitching together images, video and illustrations.

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Another Level

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Examples Of Our Convert Work

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Unit Measurements

One extensive website with an enormous range of pages and content, where offers adapt every month to the demands of the clients, and capacity changes meaning that conversions never stay the same.

So, we report and analyse every month, understand how the different areas of the website are performing, receive briefings from our client and adapt for the month ahead.

On the Right Track

Two websites offering a wide range of services, where quality leads are of high value, but there are large volumes of time-wasters, it is vital to ensure that every lead is accounted for.

Our ‘secret source’ for them tracks from Ads, Organic, Google Analytics 4 and in their CRM to make sure that we know exactly the cost of every good opportunity. In that way, we can flex accordingly.

Analytics Unloq
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