Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords

Quality Score is a key factor in the success of an Adwords account. It contributes significantly to the profitability of an Adwords account as it is a key determinant of the actual CPC that an advertiser pays.

If you are in need of a refresher on how quality score is calculated and works then you can read our short guide to Adwords quality score.

Why is Quality Score important?

Simply; the amount you pay for an Adwords click depends on your Ad rank.

Your Ad Rank (position) is determined by Maximum CPC Bid X Quality Score. If your ad rank is higher than your competitors then your ad will show above theirs.

This table shows how, for a fixed bid of £1.20, quality score affects your ad rank.

Quality Score ranges from a low score of 1 to a high score of 10.

Max Bid Quality Score Ad Rank (position) £1.20 1 1.20 £1.20 2 2.40 £1.20 3 3.60 £1.20 4 4.80 £1.20 5 6.00 £1.20 6 7.20 £1.20 7 8.40 £1.20 8 9.60 £1.20 9 10.80 £1.20 10 12.00

As you can see the, having a high quality score means that you can achieve the same ad rank with a lower bid or a higher ad rank with the same bid.

Google do not tell you the ad rank of competitors but what they do tell you is that you only need an ad rank slightly higher than a competitor to rank above them.

A poor Adwords quality score can be poisonous

It is not often that we are stumped by an issue with Adwords or cannot find a solution for it. But we had a client that whatever we did we could not recover the accounts quality score – it just kept edging closer and closer to a fatal ending. On one day in June it actually dipped below 3 on average for the account.

You can see the past 5 months quality score average for the account in this graph:

Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords image Screen Shot 2013 09 18 at 18.14.43Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords

If you want to track quality score like this then read our post on how to track quality score at account, campaign and ad group level.

Did we just sit around and watch it die?

Hell no; It was not that we were not being proactive. We literally tried everything:

  1. Mining search query reports to build negative lists to improve keyword to ad relevance.
  2. Constantly testing and writing new ads that improved the quality score
  3. Working on specific ad groups and campaigns to try and gain momentum in one area that would hopefully breathe life back into the broader account.
  4. Creating new landing pages that drastically improved keyword to landing page relevance.

None of it worked.

It was over a period of around 1 year that it just declined and declined. But then as you can see in the graph – we recovered! Well – at least we are on the road to recovery. 4.53 is still low for an account quality score but with having been sub 4 for over 1 year it was a major breakthrough and continues to accelerate upwards, pulling costs downwards.

How we recovered from a poisonous Adwords quality score

This is a big Adwords account and we needed to understand first exactly where the problem was (what keywords, what campaigns etc) and then to understand why exactly the problem ad groups and campaigns had a low quality score (low CTR, relevancy etc).

We were also aware that even if we did find the problem we could not possibly have worked on the whole account in one go so needed to prioritise fixing the largest problems first.

So first of all we exported all KWs into Excel to see the number of poor, average and good QS keywords (we didn’t have QS script at this time).

Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords image Screen Shot 2013 09 18 at 18.06.01Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords

Please note that these are eligible active keywords only. I wasn’t interested in paused keywords or paused adgroups/campaigns. I was also not interested in low search volume keywords because QS can be high for these keywords and this can screw up the data.

Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords image Screen Shot 2013 09 18 at 18.06.10Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords

If I had included all paused keywords and low search volume keywords then the above data would have looked like the data in the table to the left, which does not look that bad (about 27% of kws with >=7 QS compared to only 0.22% in reality).

So now I knew the real problem was that most of the keywords had a very low QS of 3 & 4 and only a few KWs have >=7 QS. This clearly shows there was something not working at the whole account level because most of the keywords had poor QS. As I didn’t want to work on the whole account I focused on 2 specific campaigns where we spend the most money. These campaigns were the highest traffic campaigns (and also having highest negative impact on QS).

We therefore thought that if we could improve the QS of these 2 campaigns then it would have the greatest overall impact in increasing the overall QS.

We began by looking at several QS indicators such as:

  • Ad copy CTR
  • Relevance between keywords and ad copy
  • Landing page relevance

We realised that in many cases Google was rating all 3 of these important factors as ‘poor’.

One of the main reasons we found for this was that the relevancy between keywords and ad copy was a little weak and this was affecting the click through rate (CTR) too.

Both campaigns were using Exact and Broad (modified) ad groups with only exact keywords in exact ad group and broad match modified keywords in broad ad groups. We found that the selection of broad match modified keywords was not very targeted and it was creating irrelevancy between keywords and ad copy. For example, the +send +money +germany keyword was using ad copy with the headline such as ‘Send Money to Germany’ but because of the broad match modifier keyword some irrelevant queries would also trigger the ad copy and because of the intent of the search query the existing ad copy was not relevant to the searcher at all and thus affecting CTR.

We concluded that the main problem was the broad match modified keywords were focusing only on 1 kind of search query (in this example send money to germany and not on send money from germany) and it was affecting relevancy, CTR and in turn QS.

This set up was repeated across the whole account. We therefore decided to get rid of broad match modified keywords and to create new Phrase match ad groups to replace them. Phrase match keywords would give us more control than broad match modified keywords.

We created 2 sets of ad groups – in one ad group keywords focusing on the search intent ‘send money to germany’ and in another ad group keywords focusing on the intent ‘send money from germany’.

We then wrote 2 sets of targeted ad copies for each ad group. We repeated this set up for both the campaigns I was working with. I noticed the first positive differences within a week and then noticed QS was slowly improving.

Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords image Screen Shot 2013 09 18 at 18.06.21Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords

We looked at the same data yesterday and can see a huge improvement in # of keywords with >=7 QS (34%).

Note that the number of eligible keywords are now 69,356 which was 36,391 before. This means we created many more targeted adgroups with lots of new keywords to make sure that adgroups were more tightly themed and that the ad copy included relevant keywords.

See below the comparison before and after we worked on this project:

Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords image Screen Shot 2013 09 18 at 18.06.28Recovering Quality Score in Google Adwords

If you are suffering from a poor quality score then please leave any questions you have in the comments section below.

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