Google AdWords Quality Score Has Major Bug

After several emails from readers and spotting Jeremy Mayes post I have learned of a bug with Google’s new AdWords quality score algorithm. Google AdWords Adds Quality Score Column & To Improved Quality Algorithm from Wednesday warned us of the new changes coming but apparently there is a bug that makes good performing ads prices spike through the roof.

Many are seeing high quality ads and keywords hit with incredibly high CPC prices overnight. Google replied to several advertisers telling them they are aware of the “temporary issue” and “they are working to resolve it as soon as possible.”

Postscript: Google posted their official word on February 20th.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • SEOrefugee

    Danny, I’ve posted about my jacked up experience with Google’s Quality Score today.

    It might be a “bug” but what I can’t figure out is why it happened today. I mean they have already been calculating the Quality Score right? This shouldn’t have affected their internal numbers etc. And yet, I’m now expected to pay $10.00 per click for my terms?

    Not a chance.

  • Internet Strategy Blog

    I’m almost relieved it’s a bug. I experienced quite a shock when I logged into AdWords this morning to discover our brand keywords (all high search volume and featured on our landing page) had shot up to $10 CPCs.

  • rustybrick


    I wrote this, sorry…

    I hope this is resolved soon and all cleaned up.

  • Will Critchlow

    We discovered this earlier today when one of our clients had their top-performing keywords hit with minimum bids of £5. I wasn’t sure if it was a UK-only thing until I saw this post.

    When I spoke to Google earlier (about 2pm UK time), they advised me not to change any bids on the grounds of the information currently displaying (not that we would bid £5 for that keyword anyway!).

    Just wanted to give you all that heads up – don’t change your bids based on this information!

    I’m a bit disappointed it is still broken – they were supposedly working on this flat out as number one priority when I called. It’s now 6 hours later…

  • SEOrefugee

    Woops, sorry Barry. I always forget to check the author.

    Will, I called them as well to find out whether or not we’ll need to do anything to get our ads back active once they fix the “glitch”. The girl I spoke with said she didn’t know, that they didn’t really know much about what was going on, but they were aware of the problem and “hoped” to have it fixed by the end of the day…

    Somehow I am guessing that they failed miserably at preempting the uproar sure to occur when they once again “change the quality score algorithm” (read as, jack up our prices yet again).

  • Mark Barrera

    I was told by a rep that the problem should be fixed today and that these ads were actually displaying even if it said that they are inactive due to a required bid increase so traffic should not decline.

  • jeremy mayes

    I give this quality score update a quality score rating of “poor” ;-)

  • Tad Miller

    I haven’t had any problems with high minimum bids today. But I have noticed that the new Quality Score found on AdWords is just for minimum bids. There is actually another Quality Score that they aren’t revealing on the page that determines ad positions.

    I blogged about my problems with Quality Score and using Position Preferences today:

  • Franglais

    As others here I have seen my clients Adword account go crazy this evening.

    5 of some of their best performing ‘keywords’, some with CTRs of 5% and over, have been changed to inactive and the minimum CPC to reactivate them is between 4 and 8 Euros. At present they are at 0.30 Euros. That’s a not insignificant increase!
    In fact it’s a bloody huge, mad increase!!!

    These keywords have been running fine for over a year. The effected keywords are all in the ad-text and they are all present on the landing page. No reason to be deactivated.

    Anyway after reading the other comments it looks like it’s a bug ……

    The thing is I didn’t find this site saying there was a bug until I had spent 5 hours modifying the account and worrying about what I was going to do, and how I was going to explain the problem to my client.

    It’s now 03.30 in the morning!! Thanks Google. Have a nice Weekend. I’m going to bed.

    NB I tested ‘offending’ keywords in Google search and the ad does actually appear, so it does look like a bug.

  • aimclear

    My clients’ adwords went up an average of 30% overnight…I paused some campaigns tonight to get back to my budget. Is Google crediting for these errors?

    I’ve been running some of these campaigns for quite a while with no major spikes.

  • SmartRich

    Yeah…it’s a bug. Although it is very inconsistent. We’ve had feedback from the big G not to increase our affected terms to the minimum £5 since we’ll not receive compensation but how do that affect the people that haven’t spoken to Google and don’t have the benefit of Account Management?

    Things look to be better today (saturday)

  • Brokerblogger

    “We’ve had feedback from the big G not to increase our affected terms to the minimum £5 since we’ll not receive compensation but how do that affect the people that haven’t spoken to Google and don’t have the benefit of Account Management?” – Good Point!

    But, what about the lost clicks, clickthroughs, and conversions that won’t occur due to keywords that are “inactive for search”. I know that none of the SE’s would compensate PPC advertising consumers for whateveer is lost as there is no way to determine the damage accurately.

    My point is to ask this question. When are PPC advertising consumers going to get fed up and stop being unpaid guinea pigs for testing of new Microsoft software, tweaks in algo’s that bring costly “bugs”, etc.? The new marketing mantra is “The Consumer in Control” as spoken by the President of the Association of National Advertisers:

    Consumers of all kinds need to be more assertive, IMO. Disapproval by voting with consumer dollars, may hurt everyone in the short term, but in the longer term, maybe this Internet “Beta” attitude will change to having more “pre-release product/service testing” done by the sellers.

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