This week in the “Fixing AdWords Quality Score Issues” series, we’re going to cover quality score repairs at the ad and keyword level.
Of all the elements in your account, your ad may have the greatest influence on your quality score. Most of the points outlined in Google’s quality score help file deal with ads, particularly these:
- The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the keyword and the matched ad on the Google domain
- Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
- The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
- The quality of your landing page
- The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group
- The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query
The two main points are click-through rate (CTR) and relevance. A more relevant ad should generate a higher CTR, so the points are intertwined. History plays a role too. You can’t generate a solid CTR history without time, and a good account history is probably the most influential factor in quality score based on my experience. So that means you’ll have to be constantly vigilant in maintaining a good CTR and high relevance for all of your text and image ads so that you can develop a solid account history.
But every good account history has a beginning. Start by creating highly relevant ads off the bat. A highly relevant ad should contain one of the top traffic-driving keywords in your ad group. Preferably, this keyword should be in the headline, but within either description line is fine, too. When a user’s search query appears in a text ad, it gets bolded. That should help draw your customers’ attention and give you a little CTR boost. Also hint that searcher will find what they are looking for if they click on your ad. Prove to them that you’re going to solve their problem, and they’ll click on your ad. Also, don’t be afraid to use ad features like sitelinks and ratings stars. These have been shown to increase CTR in testing, and that extra CTR boost might make a difference in a quality score point or two.
Also remember that you’re being judged on the domain that appears in your ad. This may not matter so much if you only have one domain to advertise, but it could make a huge difference if you have several microsites within the same AdWords account. It may be better for you to have separate accounts for each microsite, and use an MCC (My Client Center) interface to manage them all.
Lastly, consider your landing page. Make sure the keywords in your ad group appear on your landing page. Also, you definitely want to ensure that anything you promised in your text ad is going to be delivered on your landing page. If you promise a discount in your ad and it never gets mentioned on your website, you might lose a customer and take a hit on your relevance score as well.
What you do at the keyword level is going to affect the ad level (for good or for ill), so it’s best to work on these in tandem. First off, make sure that your keyword groupings are highly relevant – close synonyms and plurals only within the same ad groups. This will not only improve the relevance metrics for the ad group, but will also make it easier to develop specially-tailored ads and landing pages for specific ad groups and keyword sets.
Negative keywords are also a huge asset for quality score improvement. More negatives equals a higher CTR for your ads and keywords, since you will be eliminating irrelevant traffic that won’t drive clicks or conversions. If you have an established ad group with good historical data, run a search query report and look for queries with high impression counts and low click counts. Adding these queries (or specific words within the queries) as negatives will eliminate this low-CTR traffic and raise your overall CTR for the keyword they were matched to, and the text ad by extension.
It’s also a good idea to add negatives as soon as possible to eliminate poor account history. There are a lot of negative keywords that are safe to add at the very beginning – the word “free” comes to mind, if you’re in the business of selling items or services. This keyword indicates a total lack of purchase intent, so you’re unlikely to ever get a sale from this type of user. Your negative keyword list is going to vary drastically between industries, but nearly everybody has a few negatives that will be useful to add without having to back them up with historical data.
That’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll close out the series with a guide to improving quality score on the Google Display Network.