7 Google Quality Score PPC Myths

This month, I’ll cover 7 of the common myths related to PPC Quality Score. This article is a continuation of 5 Paid Search Marketing Myths Explained In Simple Terms from last month.

1.  There Is Only One Quality Score

This is not true. There are actually three different quality scores. They are:

a) Search Quality Score (Google and the search network)

Some of the core components of search quality score include historical CTR of the keyword & the ad on Google, account history (measured by CTR of all ads & keywords in account), how keywords related to ads in ad groups, etc.

For more information on specific components of Google search quality score, take a look at the Google’s help files. Note: the Google.com and search network quality scores are separate. The Google network quality score will only ever impact the Google network and not Google.com.

b) Display Quality Score

Display network quality score is calculated separately for both automatic placements and managed placements and takes into consideration factors like the past performance of ads on the site ads appears on, the performance of ads on similar display network sites, etc.

For more specific information, this is clearly laid out in Google’s help files. Note: how each of the above Quality Scores is calculated depends on the bidding option selected (CPC or CPM).

c) Landing page Quality Score

According to Google, landing page quality score is based on factors like load times, anchor text, ease of navigation and page content. Content and navigation are very detailed. Google is certainly playing consumer advocate with a lot of don’t be evil stuff in there.

2.  Search & Display Quality Score Are The Same

This is not true. Search quality score and display quality score are calculated separately and one doesn’t affect the score of the other.

3.  Quality Score Is Calculated Only At The Keyword Level

Quality score is actually calculated at three different levels. These are: the account level, the ad level and the keyword level. It’s useful to note Google’s new way of describing this now, which is “the CTR on the keyword and the matched ad”.

So, it’s actually now a combination of the keyword level and the specific ad we are considering showing. All this says to me is that the keyword CTR is still paramount. A secondary concern is that changing ads will “reset” Quality Score to the default. And a minor factor is account wide Quality Score.

As an advertiser, the only visibility you have is at the keyword level. You can access keyword Quality Score in the following ways:

a) Next to keywords, click on the keyword status dialogue box in the status column.

b) Customize columns (select columns) at the keyword level to display quality score as a column in the Google interface. In the screenshot below, the Quality Score option is located in the performance column.

4.  Landing Page Quality Score Is Considered At The Keyword Level

A total myth is that landing page quality score is typically a consideration at the keyword level. The main description of quality score for search in the help files has said the following for about a year:

” For calculating a keyword-targeted ad’s position, landing page quality is not a factor. Also, when calculating ad position on a Search Network site, Quality Score considers the CTR on that particular site in addition to CTR across the Search Network as a whole.”

In other words, landing page quality affects “eligibility” and will be tacked onto keyword Quality Score primarily if it is poor. It does not have an ongoing effect on positions – only “eligibility”.

Therefore, ads are much less likely to show as often if they have poor landing page Quality Score. Small differences in landing page Quality Score do not affect position in any way.

5.  Deleting Elements In AdWords Eliminates Poor Quality Score

Quality score and historical performance are not erased for paused or deleted keyword terms. The only thing pausing or deleting keyword terms does is clean up the look of your advertising interface.

It is still a good idea to de-emphasize very poor Quality Score keywords (pausing them if necessary), assuming this does not hurt your ROI. Depending on how many impressions they generate, pausing them will help your account-level Quality Score. There is no difference between pausing and deleting keywords for this purpose.

6.  Bid High & Seek Top Ad Positions To Increase Quality Score

Google normalizes quality score relative to ad position, so the positive influence of higher ad positions on CTR should not give your Quality Score an “unfair boost”.

This means that you are competing on CTR and quality score for competitors in the same position, not positions above or below you. You are safe to bid for lower positions without worry of being penalized for quality score.

7.  Exact Matches Will Improve Quality Score Due To Higher CTR’s

Essentially, Google measures Quality Score independent of match type. While you should pay close attention to match types as an important principle of campaign management, you won’t be hurting yourself by experimenting with the full range of match types.

One match type that will help your overall success  if used diligently is negative matching or keyword exclusions. Used intelligently, negative keywords should boost CTR’s on broader match types, as well as improving ROI; however, using negative match types will have no direct impact on your quality score.

Postscript: Shortly after publication, Google clarified in point #7, that negative match types cannot impact quality score.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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  • http://www.pabloalmeida.com.br Pablo Almeida

    I agree with everything you said. I am working on major accounts since 2009 and the myths cited by the jokes you are marketing to explain what they can not analyze with accuracy. :)

  • http://www.nationalpositions.com David Jaeger

    Thanks for the great post. A quick comment about #7… Negative matching won’t actually impact quality score, as quality score is calculated on the exact match of the keyword only. See what Craig Danuloff has to say about that here:

  • ChadB

    I have to disagree with 5.

    I was brought into a Fortune 500 company to manage an Account with about 1000 Clicks per day and a CTR of about 1.2% overall.

    The account had been running, basically unchanged for months.

    The first thing I did was delete the low-performing keywords (lower than .6% CTR and more than 700 impressions).

    After TWO DAYS here’s what happened (without changing anything else):

    From a case study I wrote:
    Client’s advertisements shown to searchers increased 96.9%
    Clicks through to the client’s website increases 35.1%
    Average Cost-Per-Click (CPC) actually decreased 25.5% while impressions and clicks dramatically increase!

    This was not a momentary blip and has continued for months.

    There is NO way this could have been caused by anything else but deleting the low-performing keywords.

  • http://www.visionefx.net Rick Vidallon

    Question for all posters here in regards to this article. Some time ago CNBC ran a story; Inside the Mind of Google. There was a US boot company who swore by Google Ad Words featured in the story. A Google spokes person interviewed for the story had stated (and I am paraphrasing)… that the quality of a website determines placement, not the amount of the bid. True or False anybody?

    Another question. If you are running an Ad Words ad for ( Best Back Scratches in the USA) and it links to a webpage having exact same or similar meta and general page content… does this increase the likelyhood of the ad being served up in Google?

  • http://www.clickequations.com Craig Danuloff

    Hi Mona: Great post.

    Regarding the ‘can negatives help’ mystery – I *think* that while they do say ‘negatives can’t help’ they are referring only to visible quality score. See my post today on the CQ blog for some background. Per that info, the ‘bad’ queries avoided via negatives would bolster average overall CTR for the keyword, as well as the account, geo, and display URL. Assuming, and I am not 100% sure of this, that the CTR of the keyword+ad copy pair is first looked at based on the average of all queries, and then later the unique query is factored in, negs would help, at least a little. Of course, unless a large % of queries were removed via negatives it’s unlikely to help very much in any case. And people should add any possible negatives anyway, just to save money – even if they don’t help quality score, so in the end it really shouldn’t matter!

    You have to give them credit for making one little metric so confusing!


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