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SES San Jose: Ads in a Quality Score World

Posted on Aug 20th, 2008
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    “Quality over quantity” applies to almost everything we encounter, from the foods we eat to the people we interact with. It certainly applies to pay-per-click ads, in which the quality of your campaigns, from keywords to ads to landing pages, takes precedence over the quantity of money you bid. Your keyword quality scores can be either a barrier of entry to ad rankings or your free pass to the head of the line. This session explores everything quality score, from what affects your score to how to improve it.

    Dana Todd, CMO of Newsforce, directed a panel of four industry leaders in quality score, who take the discussion from the basics to detailed, actionable advice.

    The Basics of Quality Score

    Ron Jones, Search Engine Watch Expert and President/CEO of Symetri, gave a basic overview of quality score to those in need of a quick tutorial. He defined quality score as a dynamic value assigned to each keyword in your campaign which measures the quality and relevance of your ads. The higher your quality score, the lower your minimum bids.

    Ron also outlined which factors influence your quality score in terms of minimum bid, ad position and placement on content sites.

    • Historical click-through-rate (CTR) of each keyword, ad and display URL
    • Relevance of each keyword to ad and search query or content site
    • Your AdWords account history (CTR of all ads and keywords in your account)
    • Ad performance on content site

    The relevancy of your landing pages applies to minimum bids and content sites but does not affect keyword quality scores.

    Ron also points out that other factors beyond marketer control can impact all of these things as well. As a key takeaway of his presentation, Ron recommended allocating 10-15 percent of a pay per click budget purely to testing, as testing will help you uncover which ads and landing pages result in better quality scores.

    Brian Geddes, founder of, continued the discussion of quality score basics with a look at why quality scores matter.

    “Every time your ad could potentially show, quality score matters,” Brian said. He pointed out that a high quality score can ensure your ad is ranking higher than your competitors, even when you are paying less in your bids.

    He also recommends looking at minimum bids as an indicator of quality score. By organizing your keywords from highest minimum bid to lowest, you can begin to diagnose quality score issues. Brian advised marketers to focus on keywords with a minimum bid between 0.25 and 0.50 cents, as small changes can have a big impact on quality scores in this range.

    Relevancy and Quality Score

    Digital Marketing and Convergence Media Consultant Kendall Allen moved the discussion beyond the basics with a look at relevancy. She gave a brief overview of the history of quality score and how ‘relevancy’ became a major player.

    “With the onset of quality score, the bar has been raised and relevancy has become much more scientific if you want to approach it correctly,” Kendall advised.

    Kendall focused particularly on landing page relevancy, and gave recommendations on how to improve your landing page’s relevancy in five main areas.

    • Content Content should be descriptive, clear and unique to your site.
    • Usability Your landing page should be useful, relevant and a direct response to the user’s search query.
    • Navigation Your site should ease a user’s passage and give direct connections to what they seek.
    • Transparency Landing pages should be upfront about the nature of your business and the use of a user’s personal information
    • Load time Minimize any landing page redirects and create synergy between content and design.

    Kendall finished her segment by suggesting marketers collaborate with all involved parties, be they the client, webmaster or whomever, to ensure all interests are aligned in creating a relevant, high quality landing page.

    Improving Quality Score

    “Quality score takes search back to the basics, back to the fundamentals…providing the users the direct access to finding the content they want at the time they want it,” Misty Locke, president and co-founder of Range Online Media, said.

    Misty outlined a detailed plan for creating a high quality score ad campaign, from keyword selection to creative.

    • Keyword building Build out all variations on trademark keywords, non-brand terms, and all product-specific long tail terms using keyword research tools, product feeds, etc.
    • Keyword structure and organization All four experts agree that organization is key, and that keywords should be sorted into extremely granular groups that match up closely with corresponding ad copy.
    • Keyword match types In the beginning of a campaign, include all match types for all keywords. As your campaign evolves, it should be moving towards the goal of all keywords being exact matches.
    • Creative Use of dynamic keyword insertion should be limited. In an ideal situation, your ad copy and keyword groups should be so specific to one another that dynamic keyword insertion isn’t needed.
    • Landing Pages Misty reminded the audience that unlike Google, MSN and Yahoo will disapprove landing pages that aren’t specific enough. Ad copy and landing page content should relate very closely to one another.

    While this session was listed in the track for advanced advertisers, defined by moderator Dana Todd as those involved with pay per click for three or more years, I felt the information was comprehensive enough to apply to advertisers at all stages of the pay per click process. From learning the basics of quality score and what it impacts to how to achieve high quality scores, the four speakers in this session covered all levels of quality score understanding.

    Stay current with the SES San Jose conference by checking in regularly with the TopRank Online Marketing Blog, and view more photos from the TopRank Team at TopRank on Flickr.