John 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, and we’ll be discussing how to improve your Google quality score. Welcome, Bob.
Bob Rustici: Hey, how are you doing, John?
Where Do You Find Your Google Quality Score?
John: Good. Bob, last time we talked about what the Google quality score is, and this time we want to dive in a little bit deeper, and discuss the steps that you can take to improve it. First of all, how do you find your quality score? Obviously we’re talking about Google AdWords. You need to have a Google AdWords account, so assuming that you do, where do you go to find your quality score?
Bob: That’s a great question, because you often don’t see it. It doesn’t jump right out at you. What you do need to do is go to the Keywords tab, inside your Google AdWords account, and then click on the “Modify Columns,” for different display of the columns, then under “Attributes,” because there’s a bunch of different settings you can display from the columns, in “Attributes” you’ll see quality score, and you want to make sure that’s checked “On.” You can just sort of position it wherever you wish.
John: It’s actually kind of hidden, at first. By default it’s hidden, and then you have this chart that, like you said, has this number of columns in it, that display things like your cost per click, and your keyword, or whatever, and one of those options that’s hidden is to show the quality score, and you have to check that option.
Bob: The other way is you can mouse over each individual keyword, and it will pop and give you a little report of the quality score, but that would be a little time consuming.
John: Right. You’d have to mouse over every single keyword individually, yeah. Maybe write it down on a piece of paper or something. When you have it in the chart, of course you can export it, and you can look at it in an Excel document, or something like that. It makes it easy to organize it.
For example, you could bring it into Excel, and then you can sort by the quality score column, so that it brings all the ones with the lowest quality score up to the top, and then those might be the ones that you want to target first. The ones that get a lot of clicks, but have a low quality score, those might be the top ones for you to try to improve first.
Bob: Yeah, they do give you that quick sort of snapshot, just to see if something’s piqued your curiosity. Exporting is a great way to start really digging into it and figuring it out.
Best Practices for Improving Your Quality Score
John: Right, right. After you have found your quality score, are there any standards, or best practices, for improving your quality score?
Bob: That’s actually kind of an interesting question, because there’s quite a bit of different, conflicting — I wouldn’t say conflicting — or maybe just counterpoints of different ways to improve the quality score. Obviously, Google doesn’t disclose everything about it, but they are a little bit transparent. They have their procedures that they recommend for improving the quality score.
A lot of industry heavyweights have been doing this for quite some time, and using it as a research experiment, to find out what it is. People will have various opinions. Maybe just to give you a what I would say is Google’s prescribed method, I think it’s a good starting point.
They say if you see some signals that say your quality scores poorly, because they may actually say, “Ads not showing because of poor quality score,” and then if you dig into it further, in their help files, they say it could be your click‑through rate, your ads just don’t have very good click‑through rate.
They also say the quality of the landing page is somewhat not good. They’re not going to be giving you too much details, they’re just going to say it doesn’t have a lot of relevancy to what people are looking for.
John: That’s the main thing, when they say that the landing page is not good quality, they’re really talking about how related it is to the keyword that was searched for, and the ad text.
Bob: Yeah, and Google does have human reviewers on their side, too. They may actually go in there, and look, depending on how competitive the nature is. They may actually say, “OK, there’s not enough detailed information. It looks like sort of a blatant landing page.” It’s just a very one‑track mind to capture the person’s contact information without providing any sort of relevant information.
It could be a lot of different things that could be factors in there, so it could be that someone is actually looking at it, and saying, “That’s a really crappy landing experience.” Then there’s the ad text, which is traditional. The keywords you selected, do they match the ad text? Is there a correlation that looks sensible?
The other one I think is kind of interesting to talk about is geo‑preferences. Are there actually people in the area? How do you compare, offering things? If you’re selling umbrellas, and it’s in Arizona, maybe your click‑through rates are poor just because the geo just doesn’t have it going on there.
John: Right, not enough people searching in Arizona for umbrellas.
Bob: Yeah. They may be looking at that, also, as another indicator, which is kind of an interesting tip of their hand, saying they’re sort of looking at it more than that, the big picture. Also targeted devices. Maybe what you’re offering does better on mobile, or doesn’t do better on mobile.
John: So if everybody in Arizona who’s searching for umbrellas is doing it on a mobile device, but you only have a desktop‑optimized landing page, or you’re not even showing ads to mobile devices, then you could be having a really bad quality score because of that.
Bob: Yeah, so they’re kind of looking at the whole experience, and sort of summing it up, and saying, “OK, this is why you get such a bad quality score.”
Practical Advice for Improving Google Quality Score
John: All right, then you mentioned that there’s a lot of industry people out there that have different ideas about what affects the quality score, and things that they’ve seen work, or not work. What about you? Do you have any particular advice, or particular things that you’ve tried, that you find work, in terms of improving the quality score?
Bob: Of course I’m such an expert in this area.
John: [laughs] Of course.
Bob: [laughs] I think a lot of what my experience is, with improving quality score, has to do with just practical knowledge. The first thing to do to improve the quality score, is you have to document it. It’s a snapshot, so you can’t say, “OK, what was my quality score a month ago?”
They only give you a quality score of what it is today. You’re going to have to go back to that one first‑step procedure, which is export your quality score information, and push it off into an Excel file, and kind of keep a little housekeeping there, record keeping, so you can actually go, “OK, this is what the quality score was when I actually started the project.”
Maybe you make notes and annotations of, “Well, when I improved things, I changed all these things, this is what happened to my quality score,” and keep documentation there.
John: Right. So quality score, when you look at it in Google AdWords online, it only gives you a snapshot of what it is currently. It doesn’t show you any historical data, so that’s a good idea. Before you start, export it, and then get a snapshot of what it looks like, so then, when you do make some changes, you can go back later and go, “Oh, OK. This one improved this much,” or, “This one stayed the same, or went down,” or something like that.
Otherwise you’d just have no idea, are you improving things or not.
Bob: That’s that sort of experimentation of, “Am I doing things in the right direction?” Without having that first benchmark, you could probably just be shooting blind for a while, trying to figure that out.
One of the things — I don’t necessarily obsess on quality score as the first thing to look for, because if you still do your traditional good housekeeping with your ads, making sure you have good organization, tight ad groupings, proper selection of keywords, and all that stuff, very often your keyword score will be OK. It’s a good starting point, if you know how to do your job properly. Don’t fixate too much on quality score first, do the right job first.
John: And the right job, of course, is like you say, pick good keywords, make sure your ad text is relevant to what the keywords are, make sure your landing page is relevant to what both the keyword was and what the ad text said. If the ad text says that you’re going to see a certain particular product if you click on the ad, make sure that product appears on the page, on the landing page, so the obvious things like that, if you just…
Bob: And years of experience at doing it, too, so throw it into the mix. Given all that, what really makes sense to start thinking about improving your quality scores, if you’ve kind of got what I call a “matured account.” It’s you’ve moved along, you’ve had improvements, you’ve really done pretty good, now you kind of want to bring it to the next level.
You don’t necessarily want to leave your accounts stagnant, unless you walk into the account, and you look at it, and you say, “Wow! That’s a really horrible quality score”. But if you’ve been working your account for quite some time, you should be averaging anywhere from six to seven, up in eight kind of range, if it’s done pretty well.
Google Quality Score Range
John: The quality score should be a six or seven?
Bob: Should be somewhere around there. Six should be your bottom, and seven you should be getting. Lately they’ve increased the quality scores.
John: Unless you’re just not paying attention, and you have too many keywords in an ad group that’s not relevant to what it should be. You’re just not doing a great job with your management.
Bob: Get back to the basics. Don’t worry about your quality score, just start focusing on fixing up things.
John: Like for example, creating more specific ad groups, and making sure that the keywords pertain to that ad group, et cetera.
Bob: When you’re trying to do that, the way that I start looking at it is, once I’ve finally got things matured, and I have some good quality scores, but I still want to keep improving, I start looking at the ad groups and saying, “OK, now I’m going to look for what are the low quality scores, within the ad group?”
Is there a good click‑through rate on those? If there isn’t, then maybe there’s a reason why. It will kind of jump out at you, and say, “That’s a term that really doesn’t belong here.” Then you start tightening up your ad groups, and you sort of pull that out to a separate ad group. You still want to bid on it.
John: So if you have a bunch of eights in an ad group, and there’s a few sixes…
Bob: A couple of fours, and threes, something along that…
Bob: All of a sudden, you’re going, “What are these guys doing here? Why are they here?” If there’s a theme there, if you’re doing some do‑at‑home improvements things, and all of a sudden you’ve got a bunch of terms you’ve bid out for “how‑to”, and you don’t sell how‑to services, you just sell, “We’re the guys that do it for you,” maybe that’s the time to pull out the how‑tos into a separate ad group, bid lower, or maybe say, “Stop wasting your time trying to figure out how to do this. Let a professional do it.” Stuff like that.
You have to kind of think of that, or just negative it out. At some point in time, you just say, “OK, I’m not going to bid on that term.”
John: I don’t do “how‑to”, let’s just forget about those.
Bob: Just negative match it, and just get out of that, and just not kind of focus.
Account-Level Quality Score
John: Does Google affect the quality score, like on an ad group level, overall? Could taking out those low quality score keywords from an ad group help that ad group overall?
Bob: Yeah, and there are a lot of different theories on this. There are a lot of theories that it rolls up to the ad group, and then it rolls up to the account, so that even your account, overall, can have a quality score issue, if you’re not careful.
It could be one of those cases where you may want to start thinking, “OK, I’ve got to trim those out,” especially if you have tight budgets. I have a lot of clients that just don’t want to spend a lot of money, so I’m not looking to expand my reach, I’m really looking to kind of control my budget.
That’s when I decide, “OK, I got to get rid of these terms,” because bottom line, improving your quality score is going to actually get you a better savings out of your overall efforts, a financial savings. You’ll get a higher ad position at a lower cost per click.
You may just want to just trim, trim out, and say, “OK, I’m not going to — anything five and below, you’re out of here.” Maybe I won’t even put an ad group. Maybe I want an ad group, and maybe not, maybe we’ll bid differently, and maybe we’ll create a special landing page.
You get a little bit more strict about your procedures about doing that. That’s one of the first things, just tighten up those ad groups, break them out, get rid of keywords that just don’t fall in the range that you want.
Targeting User Intent
Then the other thing you want to do is, I like to actually look at the ads, and say, “Am I really targeting to the interests in these ad groups?” There’s a different searcher journey that always goes on. I started looking and saying, “OK, am I really taking the right terms, and targeting at the right part of the journey, and offering a call to action, or interest statement, within the ad, that makes sense?”
John: Right. There’s certain ways that people tend to phrase their searches if they’re at the top of the funnel, or like you said, the beginning part of the buyer’s journey. They’re not really ready to buy yet, they’re just kind of searching for information, and there’s maybe some certain words that you can see in the keywords.
Bob: Get an e‑book, or white paper, certain kind of indicators that the call to action’s going to be something that they’re really just kind of exploring the very early phase, at this point in time. That would make a lot of sense, because then you might see your click‑through rate improve.
The landing experience should match, of course, and then, again, the quality score starts improving, because even though you’re kind of reaching beyond at more direct responses you’re looking for, you’re actually going to improve overall.
That’s a big thing to do that. Kind of look at your ad copy, “Am I fitting the intent? Is it the right stage of that sort of journey?” That works. The other thing that I always look at, and that ties into this, is the whole conversion trinity. Do I have relevancy, do I have call-to-action, and is the landing experience representative of that?
The Conversion Trinity
John: Relevancy, call-to-action, and landing experience — the conversion trinity.
Bob: Yeah, so you’ve started looking at that whole conversion trinity, and how that kind of interacts and works. To really be successful here, that’s when I use like an Unbounce tool, that I can go and do my customized PPC landing pages.
John: Unbounce is a third‑party software that we use for some of our pay‑per‑click campaigns, at McDougall Interactive, that just makes it easy to create landing pages, so you don’t have to go to your website developer, and say, “OK, I need to create a page for this, and I need to create a page for this.”
You just create a template in Unbounce, and that’s simple, kind of like WordPress, where you can just create a clone of the page, change the content, rename it, and then now you have a landing page for this ad group. Then you want another landing page for this other ad group, and it’s just very easy, especially when you’re creating landing pages for every single ad group, and you have lots and lots of ad groups, because you want to have them all be relevant.
It’s an easy tool to use to do that.
Bob: Yeah, and you can do things in Unbounce you just can’t do in some of these other tools. Like I have an ad group, then I can actually dynamically load up text that’s from the ad, so to speak, the same text that’s in the ad dynamically shows up in the landing page, and I’m passing that.
You would not be able to create those landing pages so easily in other systems. Actually, from an SEO perspective, you wouldn’t want to ever do that to your website, because it would be like duplicate content, many times over, and you’d be scolded for that.
John: Right, right. You don’t want to have like the same page, but have a different heading at the top of the page, but the content is the same. You can do it for pay‑per‑click advertising, because Google’s not searching those pages, not crawling, and indexing those pages.
Bob: That becomes a big win in two areas, because one, your quality score looks good, because it actually improves, because Google does look at that landing experience and says, “Oh, I do see that same term over there,” and the user does, too.
John: It exactly matches the keyword that’s in the ad.
Bob: The one lesson that you can always learn from that is there’s the thing called dynamic keyword insertion, that’s been around for quite some time, where…
John: That’s a feature of AdWords, itself.
Bob: AdWords, when they search on an ad, it actually appears in that, and those always improve your click‑through rate.
John: That takes the search term that the person searched for, and inserts that into the ad itself.
Bob: I’m not a big fan of it at times, because it can cause troubles.
John: It can get a little clunky sometimes, if you’re not careful, yeah.
Bob: You don’t have control of it, but you start taking that to the next level, you know what their intent was, and then the landing page shows that, and now you really kind of get to the next level. That’s another great win, to do that.
The last step I always look at, and that goes back to that why I document everything is — Google, they’re transparent about how they do this, but they may be doing some things that may be a little odd, and particular, and so having the documentation to understand what you’re doing, you may want to go back, at some point in time, and question Google, and say, “Listen, this makes no sense why you guys are doing that.”
I have seen some odd cases where they’re associating terms for the wrong reasons, and so you just have to kind of have some history, to understand what they’re doing. If you look at things and you say, “OK, I’ve got everything right here, and my quality score’s just not going in the direction it should be,” it could be time to actually contact Google and say, “OK, what are you guys doing here?”
As I kind of mentioned before, and I think sometimes people forget about that, there are some humans that are on the other end, looking over at your landing experience. If they see something there that they don’t like, they have maybe tagged it improperly. Especially you’re usually going to see this in pharmaceutical, lawyer, a lot of different complicated scenarios.
John: Right, if you’re using keywords that are controlled a little bit, like drug names, and things like that.
Bob: They’re going to get a little bit more particular about the experience with stuff like that. You may want to do a lot of that information, keep the annotation of what changes have been made, and then you can actually go back to Google and say, “Hey, something’s not right here.”
Because, bottom line, it’s going to cost you more if you have a low quality score, so you want to make sure you sort of pay attention to that. Again, these are all — once you go back to your regular basics of good housekeeping, make sure you show the good argument, organization of your ads, this is the next level to bring you there.
John: All right, that’s really great information, Bob. I appreciate you talking to me today.
Bob: All right.
John: For more information about digital marketing, visit mcdougallinteractive.com, and make sure you subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Thanks for listening, I’m John Maher. See you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.