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How important is your Quality Score in your Adwords Campaign?

Posted by drew on June 29, 2014, 6 p.m.

When using Google Adwords, your ads are given quality scores for each keyword. You can view your quality scores in the Keywords tab of your account. It has always been known that your quality scores influence the performance of your ads in the ad auction, but Google recently issued a new whitepaper on quality score and a video explaining the ad auction.
While quality score is generally thought of as one of the more important things to monitor in your account (because it can influence cost, ad rank, clickthrough rate, and ultimately your traffic and conversions), the new whitepaper from Google seems to understate quality score as a metric worth tracking in your account. Specifically they say, “Quality score is a helpful diagnostic tool, not a key performance indicator,” and, “...during a real-time auction we also consider many additional factors[...]Those aren’t directly reflected in the Quality Score you see in your account.
Some bloggers, specifically Larry Kim, have openly wondered why Google might be interested making quality score seem less important than it actually is. A big theory is that the reason is economical, since advertisers with a lower quality score end up paying more money to Google. So while Google claims, “This number shouldn’t be the main focus of your account optimizations,” people like Kim disagree.
While Adwords doesn’t allow you to view your historical quality score data and track it over time, you should still be looking regularly at your quality scores and taking steps to improve them.

How do you improve your quality score?

In spite of everything Google does to downplay the importance of your quality score, they still help you improve it with some useful tips. The three main factors of your quality score are expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.
While an expected CTR is difficult to influence, you can easily modify the relevance of your ads and landing page experience by making sure you target keywords that are present in your ads and landing pages. Also, you should make sure your landing pages help users easily accomplish the task they are looking to fulfill. Sending all paid traffic to your homepage isn’t very advisable, because the homepage is most likely not the most relevant landing page for a lot of search queries.
In addition to these, the new video from Google also highlights the use of additional ad formats or ad extensions, which can have an influence on your ad rank. This isn’t particularly new information, since it was announced by Google last October, but this new video provides a simple explanation of exactly how your ad extensions factor in during the auction process. For more information, you can also check out this blog post from Fusionbox, an experienced Denver internet marketing firm. 

A last note on the compartmentalization of keyword quality scores

When you look at your keyword list, you’ll see that each keyword has its own quality score, leading you to believe that they are calculated individually. And to a certain extent, they are. However, this isn’t the full truth, and Google just admitted to using quality score information from related keywords, especially for newly added keywords.
As Larry Kim astutely points out, this means that having many keywords in your account with a high CTR and quality score will help the struggling keywords. That is why he says he always runs a branded ad campaign, which typically has an extremely high CTR and relevance.
Sometimes, clients are reluctant to target their branded keywords that they are already ranking for organically, but if these branded terms increase the performance of the non-branded keywords, they could be worth the expense.