How to Improve Your Google "Quality Score"
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I once did a consultation for an adoption agency. When I looked at the agency's Google account, it was an absolute mess. All kinds of keywords were dumped into this campaign or that with no rhyme or reason. The keywords didn't match each other, the ads didn't match the keywords and the landing pages didn't match the ads.
Luckily, their AdWords account was still working, and it was bringing them some customers. As I looked closer, I saw the only reason their clock wasn't getting totally cleaned was Google's Quality Score algorithm. Because everything was so mismatched, most of their keywords had Quality Scores of one to 3. The keywords were underwater and the ads weren't showing at all. Only a few keywords, which were lucky enough to be OK, were getting traffic at all.
It was at that point that I realized Google's Quality Score algorithm is mostly designed for the lowest common denominator. It saves the average advertiser from paying a hideous stupidity tax and ensures that what little they accidentally do right generates some results.
As the client repaired the damage, slowly but surely, their Quality Scores went up, traffic went up, cost per click went down and more adoptive parents came in.
Here's a quick summary of the fastest and most effective methods for cranking up your score by a few notches:
Aggressively split-test your ads
Click-through rate (CTR) is the biggest factor in your Quality Score, and the best way to improve CTR is by testing new ads. The object is to beat the performance of your old ads.
Split out your keywords into small, targeted ad groups
The fewer keywords you have in each ad group, the easier it is to make your ads relevant and the easier it is to push up your CTR.
Important tip: One factor in Quality Score is your overall CTR across your entire account. Optimizing all the high-traffic ad groups in each campaign is highly recommended.
Make your landing pages more relevant
Think of the landing page element of your Quality Score as pass/fail. If your page is good and improving, then spending time on it is only going to make a small difference. If your page is especially bad, go after the obvious issues you can find and fix it. For example, if your landing page contains nothing but an email opt-in form, put some additional copy, information and navigation on your page so visitors have the freedom to learn more about you before deciding to share their information with you.
As a general rule, if your Quality Score is four or lower, it's because your landing page is poorly thought out. If you're already at five or higher, your landing page is probably fine and you should make it a priority instead to improve your CTRs.
This is a dynamite method for improving your CTR -- one tiny change can literally double your results -- but it's definitely not for total beginners. One wrong negative keyword can flatline your account. If you're going to give negative keywords a try, roll them out carefully into your ad groups, a few keywords at a time and allow a few days between attempts so you can measure the results of your changes.
What are negative keywords? Imagine you sell a product that treats hair loss in men. Pretty good chance one of your main keywords will be the phrase match "hair loss." But, people search on "hair loss" for their pets, too. How do you deal with those folks?
That's where negative keywords come in. You can prevent your ads from showing for any person who searches on hair loss for their pet. Open the Keywords tab, go to the Negative Keyword section and enter the words you want to exclude (negative keywords are always preceded by the minus sign):
–dog –pet –animal –cat
You can apply a set of negative keywords to one specific ad group or to an entire campaign. In the case of your hair loss treatment, the latter makes the most sense. Now, whenever someone searches for the words "hair loss" but also includes the words "dog," "pet," "animal" or "cat," your ad is automatically prevented from showing.
Negative keywords are powerful because they eliminate irrelevant impressions. If you have 1,000 impressions and 50 clicks, your CTR is five percent. If you use negative keywords to cut out half of those impressions and show to 500 people, but you still get 50 clicks, then your CTR just went from five percent to 10 percent.
Fewer irrelevant impressions means better CTR and a higher Quality Score. That's the power of negative keywords.
The easiest way to find negative keywords is to go back through your keyword research and pick out words that you rejected because they referenced product lines or services that you don't provide.