What the New AdWords Quality Score Updates Mean for You

By Amanda Sides | Aug 26, 2013
More Articles by Amanda


qualityIn late July, AdWords announced that they would be updating the way quality score is reported. According to that announcement, this should not directly affect your ad performance since it only affects how your 1-10 score is reported, not how your real-time auction score is calculated.

This update is supposed to tighten the relationship between your 1-10 score to your expected click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page experience. All-in-all, this sounds like a great update and is supposed to positively affect more advertisers than negatively. We’ve seen a few of our clients improve, most have stayed about the same, and a couple have triggered a lot of new “not showing due to…” alerts, when pre-update they were just fine with high quality scores.

So what do you do if you get hit with lower quality scores and find that your keywords aren’t triggering as many ads to show anymore?

Increase Exact Match Bids

If you notice a lot of low quality scores or alerts saying that your ads are being triggered by another keyword, you’ll want to be sure you don’t have duplicate keywords across different ad groups, but also try increasing bids on your exact match so that you get it to trigger an ad, rather than the broad or phrase match. Jack your bids up for exact match and see what effect that has on your notices about other keywords triggering ads, as well as alerts about ads not showing due to low quality score. By directing searches towards exact match when appropriate, your chance of click-through is higher, which will impact your reported quality score.

Implement Negative Keyword Sculpting

Alongside increased exact match bidding, you’ll want to ensure you have thorough negative keyword sculpting implemented. What this means is adding negative keywords at the campaign or ad group level to help funnel your clicks in the right direction. If one campaign is targeting SUV’s and another one is targeting pick-up trucks, you’ll want to add “SUV” as a negative in the pick-up trucks campaign, and “pick-up trucks” in the SUV campaign. Same goes within each campaign at the ad group level; if you are targeting blue SUV’s in one ad group, add “blue” to all other ad groups so that you increase the chance of the “blue SUV” ad showing for a “blue SUV” search.  This will improve CTRs as well as ad relevance, therefore increasing your quality score.

Test Ad Copy

One sure-fire way to improve CTR is to test new ad copy versions. Be sure the ad is both relevant to the keywords in the ad group, as well as the landing page. When the ad is relevant to the search query there’s an increased probability of click-through, and when the ad copy is relevant to the landing page, it provides a better user-experience. You should see your reported quality scores increase with increased CTR’s and improved ad relevance.

Improve Landing Page Experience

Now that you’ve gotten more people to click through, you’ll want to be sure they have a good experience once they arrive on your landing page. Some notices about ads not showing due to low quality score indicate that it is due to poor landing page experience.

Ensure that your copy is relevant to the search query and ad copy, to provide the visitor with exactly what they were looking for. Now more than ever, the way your site functions and how easy it is to navigate will impact your quality score. Since mobile is on the rise and increasing in importance in AdWords, you’ll also want to be sure your site/landing page is optimized for mobile devices. Either create a separate page for mobile screens or rework your current one to use responsive web design, so it will automatically adjust from desktop screens to mobile screens.

Here’s a popular shopping site that has taken the time to optimize for mobile devices:

Desktop view:

Lilly Desktop

Mobile view:

Lilly Mobile

So while you’ve been working hard in the past to improve quality score, all of a sudden you may notice that they look entirely different than what you are used to. Be sure to look at the reasoning behind the lower score and continuously work to improve CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience to get those back up to normal or even better scores.

Has anyone seen a negative affect on their quality scores or ad performance since this update? Find me @amanda_sides on Twitter to discuss!

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