Digital Marketing Madness – What You Need to Know About the Google AdWords Quality Score

Advertising is key to bringing more traffic and consumers to your business. But Google now imposes an AdWords “quality score” that could affect how much you pay for marketing. In this podcast, we’ll discuss the Google AdWords Quality Score with Bob Rustici, Director of Paid Search at McDougall Interactive.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher and this is “Digital Marketing Madness.” This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing agency in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Today, my guest is Bob Rustici. He’s the Director of Paid Search at McDougall Interactive. We’ll be discussing the Google AdWords quality score. Welcome, Bob.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob Rustici:  Hey, John.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  How are you doing?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Good.


What Is a Google AdWords Quality Score?



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Bob, let’s start at the beginning here, I guess. What is quality score?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  That’s a great question. Before I answer that, let’s go back a little in time. Life before the quality score. If you’re aware that Google, with AdWords, you bid on each term. Sometimes advertisers will want to bid on a term that wasn’t very relevant to what they wanted to have to offer in terms of services or product because they’re just trying to really expand their reach.

Google would let you do this, but then they start charging you a bunch of money to do that. At some point in time, they stopped displaying your ads. That got advertisers kind of angry because they were like, “Hey, if I want to pay a lot of money to advertise, why are you stopping me?”



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  They just wouldn’t allow you to run an ad if you weren’t relevant to what subtext was in the ad.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  That just didn’t go over very well, so then they came up with this sort of answer to that. It’s sort of articulated as the quality score. They said, “You can run these ads, and we’re going to give you a quality score rating. If you got a really low rating, you’re just going to pay a high price for that.”



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  You can run the ads, but if your page that you’re landing people on is not really relevant to what the keyword is that was searched for or the ad text, then you can still run that ad but you’re going to pay a premium for it.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  That was kind of their response back to people who are saying, “Why am I paying so much?” They said, “Well, this is because you have a bad quality score.” They gave you this rating on 1 to 10.


What You Need to Know About Relevancy and Your AdWords Quality Score



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  All of a sudden, people realized the amount that they were paying per click started going up because their landing pages weren’t really relevant to what their keywords were, et cetera.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Then it becomes sort of like this little war of getting your quality score better. That’s where everybody starts getting into that. What quality score is a rating on a 1 to 10 scale. You can get 10’s.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  10 being very good quality?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Yeah.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Very relevant.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Initially, when they first kind of came out — it used to be some people claimed that 10’s were like the unicorn in PPC. You never find them, but they’re getting much more common. They kind of adjust it.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Kind of like page rank back in the day where the only people who had a page rank of 5 or 10 — page rank went up to 10, didn’t it?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Yeah.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  The only people who had a page rank of 10 were like Google.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  And Apple.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  And Apple.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Now, they’re a little bit more generous in that way. You can have a quality score of one, and they’ll let you know that. They may tell you, “Your ads aren’t running that much because you have a quality score of one. Your solution is you can keep bidding higher if you wish.”



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  A couple of things happen when you have a low quality score. You pay more to get at the same position. Your ads actually may not even run as often if your quality score is too low.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  They say five and six is an average. That’s where most people are right in there. Three and four, you should do things to improve your quality score. If you want to sort of suffer through it, go ahead.

You can get eight and nine. That means basically an indication that you’re doing really good. Maybe you can get some improvement to 10, but don’t worry about it too much. You’re doing all right.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  At eight and nine, both your ad texts and your landing page are pretty relevant to what the keyword was, right?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Yeah.


How Is an AdWords Quality Score Assigned?



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  How does Google assign that quality score? I mean, you said it’s from 1 to 10. What are some other factors?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  The important part to remember is they assign that to every keyword that you’re bidding on, so every individual keyword —



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Every individual keyword has its own quality score. You can look that up in your AdWords account.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  You can sort of customize the column or you can do a keyword report and you can actually see what the quality score is. That’s nice because they’re very transparent in that area, so there’s no mystery of why you’re doing that.

Also, when you’re running your ads, you may get a little alerts. You can mouse over it and they’ll say, “You have a bad quality score.” They’ll give you basically three indications of what you’re being rated on in your quality score.

It’s going to be keyword relevancy. Are you picking a good term? Is your ad relevancy good? Does the keyword in ads — are they aligning pretty good?



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  When you say keyword relevancy, relevant to what?

Bob:  Relevant to the landing page ‑‑ well, I shouldn’t say relative of landing page. What I really should be saying is it’s relevant in terms of they’re using probably click‑through rate as a very strong indicator of how relevant you are.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Really relevant to what the person’s search is.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Now Google is going to tell you there’s a hundred different factors that they got behind the scenes looking at that. The keyword relevancy is, is it making sense to people. They’re going to be using the ads actually as a way of saying, “Is it a really good click‑through rate there?”

You can improve your quality score by using an exact match, or phrase match, or modified broad matches. Each one of those terms will have a different quality score rated to it too.

Then ads. If your ads have some of the keywords in there, like I said, they’re looking at the click‑through rate as an app, factoring that in there too. Then they also look at the landing page, and if the landing page has some of that copy that matches there. Some people claim there’s a bounce rate associated to that or not.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  If people are landing on the landing page, but then bouncing and leaving right away, that’s maybe an indication that your landing page is not relevant to what their search term was or what the ad was.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  If you got conversion tracking in place, and they actually convert and you have a high bounce rate, then that’s not a bad thing. That’s actually a good thing.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  A one page view in that case is good, because they came, viewed one page, convert it and then left. That’s OK.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Those are all those little factors that Google is using in there to see it better. Of course, there’s also measuring you against other people in doing that. Also, another factor is how much you’re willing to bid.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Like it always has been.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  It always is. It’s an auction base. If you’re going to double your bid and say, “I don’t care what I pay. I want to be there,” they’ll give you better quality.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Somebody who has a lower quality score could still be above you in ad position if they’re willing to pay for it.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  That’s kind of always been there to some degree. Relevancy is still an issue. You’re willing to bid high is still an issue. If you don’t have any kind of limitations on your daily budget, that’s another factor that’s going to play into to the quality score if you’re not afraid to go higher sometimes.

I’ve been in many situations where I’m doing expensive bidding for legal areas. Often, you have to budget. Your daily budget is going to have to be anywhere four or five times what you want to do just to allow room to expand there, so to speak.


How to Improve Your AdWords Quality Score



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  What else does it mean for the Google AdWords advertiser in terms of the quality score?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  The real big thing that I always tell people why quality score matters to them. As a person who’s managing an AdWords account, I have to pay very close attention to the quality score, but as an advertiser, or a client or some of our clients, why it matters to them is bottom line savings. The better you have of quality scores, the less you’re going to pay per click.

Everybody wants cheaper clicks because it’s still expensive to do PPC advertising. If you keep working to getting that better quality score, you’re going to see less you have to pay out to Google.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  That’s the main thing.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  That’s the bottom line.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Everybody goes into paid advertising, paid search advertising trying to keep their click‑through rate, I’m sorry, their cost‑per‑click down to as low as possible given the keywords that they’re going for.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  The biggest piece of advice I can always give people is that if you’re out shopping around looking for someone to manage your PPC, one of the best questions to ask them is one, they should be aware of quality score.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Do you know about good quality score?



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  You may want to ask them how to improve a quality score, and they should be able to give you some general statements in that.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Well, we do this, and we do that.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Ideally, if they can produce actual, “Have you done things to improve an account’s quality score?”



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  “Here’s an example where we took somebody who had a quality score of four or five, and we improved it to a seven or eight. We brought their customer click from X down to X,” and that sort of thing.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  That would be a show stopper. Then if they can bring out a chart that says, “Look at this. We took over this account. They were sitting around four in the quality score. We pushed them all the way up to a six or seven.”

You’re going to see dollar savings when you work with a firm like that. If you can look at your own account and see a very poor quality score, then you know it’s time for you to start shopping for someone to help you out.



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  All right. Well, that’s great information, Bob. Thanks very much for speaking with us today.

For our next podcast with Bob, we’ll actually get into this a little bit deeper. Bob, you said that we’ll go ahead and talk a little bit more about how to improve your Google AdWords quality score.



Bob Rustici McDougall InteractiveBob:  Because improving the quality score is not a quick fix kind of scenario. There’s a bunch of different things you can do. We’ll kind of dig into a little bit more of, actually, what can you do to make it better?



John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  All right. Sounds good. We’ll see you next time on Digital Marketing Madness. I’m John Maher.


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