Google Is Reshuffling the AdWords Deck Again: Prepare For Another Quality Score Update

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Late last week, Google announced another round of changes for their Quality Score system. Be prepared to say goodbye to “inactive for search” and “minimum bids” with this update. According to Google, the end goal of this change is to provide advertisers with a more accurate AdWords Quality Score.

What Is Changing?

Since it’s inception, Quality Score has operated on a static, per-keyword basis. In English, this means that each keyword was assigned a Quality Score which then was used to calculate ad position for any and every search query. In a stroke of granular genius, Google will now “evaluate an ad’s quality each time it matches a search query.” Near the bottom of the official announcement by Google, they elaborated on this point:

…we will now determine eligibility dynamically, based on factors such as location, the specific query, and other relevance factors.

Because the minimum bid structure was based on the static Quality Score system, this too had to change. Now, Google will provide a “First Page Bid” instead. This is a per-keyword estimate of what CPC bid would be required to reach the first page SERPs on a Google.com search. Additionally, this bid estimate is based on the exact match version of your keyword, competition and that keyword’s Quality Score.

The demise of minimum bids means the certain death of the “inactive for search” status. All keywords will now be given the opportunity to show on Google and the Search Network.

How Will This Affect You?

For the immediate future, this update is rolling out to a very small number of advertisers. This will give Google the opportunity to receive important feedback before their system-wide release (as yet unannounced). Once this update is live, you may be wondering how your AdWords accounts will be affected. One of the first things that comes to mind is all of those keywords labeled as “inactive for search.” Some of those may begin driving traffic again! Though, in my experience, if a keyword has been labeled as inactive, it typically isn’t all that important anyways! Regardless, keep your eyes open.

Because Quality Score will be determined each time it matches a search query, it will be more difficult to track keyword level QS going forward. Will we still have access to a reportable data-point as we do now? (The Quality Score rating of Great, OK or Poor) At the moment I don’t know the answer to that question.

Overall, Google is stating that this update will increase relevancy (when do they NOT say that?) and will be a double edged sword – providing users with better ads and advertisers with more qualified leads. For now, I’ll keep my opinions to myself until I’ve been given the chance to see how these changes perform with my individual accounts.

What are your thoughts on this AdWords Quality Score update? Do you think Google is moving in the right direction?

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  • http://dallas-seo.blogspot.com/ Kevin Adams

    Great info!

    In hind-sight, analyzing a QS for each individual search performed seems to be a logical step in the direction they have always been headed.

    Removing the inactive for search and minimum bids is clearly an attempt to get more money out of some searches that had inadequate competition. Some of the affected keywords might suddenly be activated on first page results. I’d like to see how much more they make from it.

  • ldonovan

    My marketing partner is petrified! Can we still use adwords with glyphius, which is our current marketing tool?

  • http://www.dragonsearchmarketing.com Steve LaLonde

    Thanks for reporting on this. I’m really curious to see if – and how – Google will let us know what our quality scores are, now that QS will be dynamic. We need to know so we can improve!

    Also, i’m worried that the new “1st page bids” will spur many advertisers to increase their bids, as this figure will most certainly be higher than the current “minimum bids”, which are usually very low for high quality score keywords ($0.05, etc).

    Scariest of all: the new “1st page bids” could fool people into thinking high bids are required due to high advertiser competition, when the real cause could be poor quality score, or a combination of the two. One more thing, have a look at the Google keyword tool; Google is notorious for suggesting outrageously and unnecessarily expensive bids for first page positioning!

    I fear advertisers are going to lose transparency, and bids are going to rise across the board as a result of these changes. Please prove me wrong Google!

  • http://www.clickequations.com/blog Craig Danuloff

    As you suggest this is a strange case, where the engine algorithm is getting more advanced, and more specific, which on a click-by-click basis may help the system work more accurately – but the loss of overall visibility might really hurt advertisers. It will be interesting to see how they balance these out. I’ve posted some additional thoughts on this paradox: http://www.clickequations.com/blog/2008/08/quality-score-changes/

  • Pingback: Quality Score Update Update | The ClickEquations Blog

  • http://www.ppchero.com John

    @ Kevin,

    The dynamic QS calculation does seem to be the next logical progression, but as you suggest – it’s pretty easy to start waiving the “Google Wants More $$” flag. : )

    @ Steve,

    As I said in my post, the fact that Google didn’t discuss how they’ll report QS is what bothers me most about this announcement. Transparency is so important for us PPC advertisers so that we can make the **Best** decisions for our accounts. Regarding how “first page bids” will change the bidding landscape, we’ll just have to wait and see!

    @ Craig,

    Good post! But I have to say, the image said it best: “The race for quality has no finish line – so technically it’s more like a death march.” Good stuff… I do think that a loss of visibility is a bad thing, but for now I’m still optimistic. I’m pleased that they realized that “inactive for search” was ridiculous. I think the common theme here is going to be “wait and see.”

  • Willi

    Hi John,

    How do you think, is there any way we can prepare our accounts to this changes? They say that the take in count the location (does it means different countrys?) Depending on the query (is that on phrase and broad match?)

    Maybe you have a clue. Or have we just to wait to see ….

  • http://www.ppchero.com John

    @ Willi,

    The specific example that Google stated in their announcement used differences between US and Canada – so YES, “location” means “countries.” But that can probably be extrapolated out over regions and cities, too. Regarding individual search queries, these could be based on the exact, phrase or broad match versions of your keywords. It all depends on which keyword triggered your ad in that particular query event. The only time match type is a factor is when Google is calculating their “first page bid.” In that instance, only the exact match is considered.

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