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Google Quality Score – PPC Case Study

Google Quality Score explained in depthIf you’re reading this, you already think you know what Google’s Quality Score is, or at least have some concept of it’s purpose on the AdWords platform. This article will aim to shed light on a few things you may not have known about the impact of Quality Scores in AdWords.

Google scores every single keyword separately, and this score is based on past performance as well as the expected future performance of it. That means if you screw up and put it in an ad group it doesn’t belong in or pair it up with an ad that it doesn’t work with, that it will have long lasting impact on what you’ll end up paying for that keyword, where those ads will appear and how often the ads will be shown.

AdCenter has rolled out their own version of quality score so it’s important to understand how it works in order to maximize ROI on PPC campaigns. Although theirs is a different animal than the Google Quality Score, the principals are the same.

The Real Impact of CTR on Quality Scores

There are a few things that may not be fully realized about the impact of CTR on your account as a whole. Here’s a few things to consider:

  • CTR is tracked for each keyword specific to how it performs with each different ad in an ad group
  • CTR is tracked continuously and an historical score is given for each iteration of that keyword as well as on the account as a whole
  • Pay close attention to what keywords go with which ad groups – keep your pairings tightly targeted
  • DO NOT experiment with “test groups” in your main account, since poor performance will affect your real ad groups account wide
  • Keep track of how your ads perform in different geographic areas since poor performance in some areas will affect you account wide

Since all of these things have a tremendous impact on quality score, keep them in mind when you’re trying to figure out why you have a QS 5 on a keyword and you can’t figure out why.

Ad Rank and the Bid Auction Process in AdWords

One of the lesser known components of the whole process is Ad Rank and its effect on the invisible real-time Bid Auction that is always taking place across the Googleverse. Here’s the official video from Google explaining the process:

Quality Score has it’s biggest impact on Ad Position (for text based ads) and the Cost-Per-Click. Ad position is determined by the Ad Rank which is determined by your bid times the quality score [PPC x QS] for each keyword iteration in each ad group. Your actual CPC is then calculated by dividing the Ad Rank score of the next highest qualifying advertiser* by your quality score [AdRank* / QS]. If this seems like too much math, PPC may not be for you.

The bid auction process that Google uses to make the AdWords platform run actually precludes your keyword from being eligible for many auctions depending on the quality score for that keyword – which means your ad will not be shown as often. In fact, sometimes a higher quality score will decrease your CTR because each quality score increase puts you into competition with a new set of ads. Google’s bid auction process works in mysterious ways, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

For any random keyword, let’s say “Internet Marketing”, Google will have a tiered system of bid prices for each QS. For instance, if you have a Quality score of 7, you may be eligible to have your ad shown with a bid price of $1.25, but if your quality score dropped to a 6, your ad would not be eligible for all of the same searches. On the other hand, if your quality score increases, it would be eligible to be shown with a bid of only $1.10 for instance.

This is an over-simplification, but essentially as your quality score goes up, your CPC goes down. However, as you go up in quality score, your average ad position may actually decrease, causing a lower CTR which may end up costing you more per click. You just have to decide what your goals are with the campaign, because each and every search query is handled independently and it’s impossible to control for all variables.