Fixing AdWords Quality Score Issues (Part 2 of 4)

Note: this is the second part of a four part series detailing how to improve AdWords quality score issues at each level of your account. Check out part 1 here.

The next stops on our tour of improving Google quality scores are the campaign and ad group levels. Here we go…

Campaign Level

The most influential campaign-level quality score factor is mentioned in Google’s quality score help topic:

Your account’s performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown

Geotargeting is available only on the campaign level (for now), so if your campaign is doing particularly badly in a specific area, you can always exclude traffic from that area. If you’re still getting conversions, you can create a brand-new campaign that is targeted only on that area, thereby isolating the bad quality score from the good. Factors that incur a bad quality score can “contaminate” an otherwise good campaign, so it’s better to isolate the worst of the worst in to it’s own segment so that it won’t bring down the aspects of your campaign that are working.

Another campaign-level tactic is to make sure your campaign target either the search network or the display network – never both. Quality score on the search network is calculated very differently than quality score on the display network (more on this in part 4 of this series), so you really need to separate these tactics in order to optimize for quality score. Plus, it’s a general best practice. You can’t target each network effectively when they’re both jammed in to the same campaign, so it’s a good idea to keep them separate regardless of the effect on quality score.

There’s also something to be said about separating your campaigns by product line, search intent, or other relevance categories. It probably won’t have an effect on your quality score (although we never know what’s behind those “other relevance factors” mentioned in the help topic), but it will put you in the right mindset for categorizing things in aspects of your account where it will affect your quality score. Plus, it helps you manage your budgets and campaign settings to make sure that each category stays profitable (and is easily cut out if it doesn’t turn a profit).

Ad Group Level

This is where we really start to see big impacts on the quality score. Two factors specifically mention ad groups:

  • The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
  • The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group

Granted, these factors are affected by your ads and keywords, but you can take some steps at the ad group level to fix these issues as well.

First off, each ad group should contain only a few keywords that are tightly related to each other. I use 5-20 keywords as a general rule of thumb, but I’ve also seen ad groups of only 1-2 keywords do pretty well. Try to avoid anything over 20 keywords unless you can come up with a really compelling reason why 20+ keywords are very closely related. Even the thesaurus only has about four or five synonyms per word – think about that the next time you try to determine if all of your keywords are relevant to each other.

You also need to make sure that the ads in each ad group are tightly related to the keywords you’ve selected. I always try to make sure that the top keyword in each ad group (defined by either total clicks or total conversions, preferably both) appears at least once in the ad. That’s a good start, but you can also manipulate the rest of the ad text to be relevant to what you’re offering. But don’t forget that your ad is a sales tool as well – you just need to balance the needs of the customer with the needs of the search engine, like a lot of other things in search engine marketing.

Also note that you’re being graded on the historical CTR of the display URLs in your ad group. Each ad that runs with a low CTR pointing to your domain is going to be a bad mark on your Google report card. Don’t ruin your reputation with a couple of crappy ads.

That’s it for part 2. Stay tuned next week for part 3, where we tackle quality score issues at the ad and keyword level.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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