Boost Quality Scores With These Simple Tips

Read the search marketing press today and you’ll find abundant information on the importance of bid management strategies, as well as tools to maximize campaign ROI. However, as anybody who’s managed a search campaign recently knows, bid levels are only part of the equation.

Effective search marketers know that search engines are looking to maximize their yield from advertising&mdashjust as you are—so efforts to align your interests with those of your search partners can reap rich rewards. Search engines (primarily Google) have effectively shifted the onus of finding this balance to the advertiser through the introduction of quality score.

Quality score helps alleviate the opportunity cost search engines incur with every paid ad that goes unclicked. By incentivizing marketers to optimize the relevance of their ads to specific keywords and to improve creative effectiveness, search engines boost paid click rates and yield—completely independently of your bid.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the formulas search engines use to determine the price an advertiser pays per click factor in both bid and quality score. Google’s formula is as follows.


Clearly, there’s a dependence on other advertisers—namely, their bid and quality score. But, those are not in your control. So what’s left? Quality score of your ads!  And while this makes the campaign management process more complicated, it also creates lucrative opportunities for savvy search marketers.

So what tools and tactics can search marketers adopt to hone relevance and copy effectiveness in a large-scale search campaign? Here are a few of the most effective tactics that will deliver a clear competitive advantage.

Cut poorly targeted impressions. Regularly review “raw search queries” that drive traffic to your site. These are the actual queries visitors type into the search bar before clicking on your ads. Are you attracting clicks from visitors looking for something you don’t offer? To get a trickle of site visits on these keywords, your ad may be showing thousands of times. If so, the low clickthrough rate is dragging down your quality score. To fix this common problem, add negative keywords to cut out these unwanted clicks. Shrewd use of campaign and group-level negatives can dramatically improve clickthrough rate, boost your quality score and save money. Also, remember to ask yourself if your service does not apply, or your product is not available, in some states or countries. Then, use geotargeting to prevent your ad from being presented to people unlikely to respond.

Expand use of PHRASE & EXACT matching. Does most of your traffic come from broad match terms? Again, reviewing raw search queries can determine whether this is so.  Instead of using these queries for negative ideas, use them for positive ones. Using broad or expanded match keywords is an easy way to grow volume quickly, but high quality scores come from tight alignment between keyword, ad group and creative. Improve this alignment by adding new keywords you discover and setting them to phrase match. For example, let’s say the broad matched keyword “dry fit clothing” generates a click from the search “dry fit running shirt.”  Assuming you sell running shirts, add “dry fit running shirt” as a new keyword using phrase match.  By closely matching what visitors are looking for, this new keyword has a better chance of garnering a higher quality score and making better use of your marketing dollars.

Speak to the user’s intent. As you expand your keyword list using phrase and exact match, make sure to consider copy alignment. How closely aligned are your keywords and creative? For each keyword in your campaign, make sure your ad copy speaks directly to the user’s intent as much as possible. This is especially important for accounts that have had multiple managers in the past, as they tend to build up underperforming copy iterations over time. Check your ad groups accounting for your top 20% of spend—is the ad copy in these ad groups relevant to the keywords? When adding keywords, make sure to determine whether they should be added to existing ad groups or put into new groups with custom ad copy.  Finally, ask yourself if your existing ad groups could be split more finely into thematic groups that get their own creative. A quick way to check this across your entire keyword set is to look at the overlap of tokens (words) in keywords and in creative. A low overlap could be a signal that it’s time to write some new creative.

Test. Learn. Apply. Repeat. Don’t ever be satisfied with your copy performance. Continually tune your message and test the results. Always have at least two creative versions battling it out in every ad group, and make sure to kill the underperforming creative as soon as you’ve collected enough data to show that it’s not working. When evaluating ad copy performance, be sure to consider conversion and revenue data. While the search engines profit when your brilliant ad copy sends clickthrough rates soaring, you only profit if that traffic coverts.

Clearly, boosting relevance and clickthrough rates throughout your campaign can dramatically improve performance. How far can you go? Google goes so far as to assign a quality score to every keyword you’re bidding on. So applying these techniques to all keywords in your account (or even just top referrers) can be a gargantuan task. As with bidding, automation can scale these efforts far beyond what a team of search marketers could do manually.

A search engine marketing tool that offers automation can analyze your raw search queries, suggest new negatives, measure relevance, and test creative versions for you. This can give marketers a strategic advantage over their competition, tightly aligning the components of  campaigns to deliver maximum ROI. Combining automated techniques to boost quality score with effective bid management is a potent combination with the potential to deliver results that will make you—and your search partners—smile.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: AdWords | Industrial Strength


About The Author: is a product manager at Marin Software in San Francisco, CA.

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  • nickstamoulis

    Great list and I agree that adding a solid list of negative keywords and speaking to the users intent can go very far with the optimziation of a campaign…

  • Erez PPCisme

    I’m not sure I agree 100% with the recommendation to add many keywords in phrase match. I mean, ideally this is the best practice – to have as many tight themes ad groups with more than 1 match type so you’ll be able to control it best and provide the best creative for each keyword, but I think having too many ad groups and too many keywords in these ad groups may cause you to lose control over your account. Furthermore, having too many keywords with low impressions volume can hurt your performance.
    I think your recommendation is good just if the keyword got a lot of searches.

  • Andrew Goodman

    I agree with most of it. But according to Google, QS is normalized for match type. I am personally a big fan of phrase match – in fact I insist on it very often. But as far as QS goes, the benefit can be exaggerated. While I wouldn’t recommend broad one-word phrases in the early going of an account :), we shouldn’t completely fear broad match from a QS standpoint.


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