How Foundation PPC Ad Texts Can Help Mitigate Quality Score Shock

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Lately I’ve been discussing how global changes to your PPC account can affect your overall performance. In a nutshell, making big changes all at once can have big consequences (good and bad). Today, we’ll explore a strategy that will help maintain your performance and mitigate Quality Score shock to your campaigns when making global ad text overhauls.

In a recent post I discussed how moving keywords can affect your campaigns performance, and today we’re focusing on ad texts. As you know, ad text optimization is a continuous process where you eliminate your under performing ad texts and insert new variations to test against your best ads. However, there are times when you need to make major changes to all of your ads at once. Reasons for this change can be launching a new website or switching out promotional offers. We’ll focus on the later today.

With e-commerce clients, special offers can change frequently. And these changes need to be highlighted within your PPC ad text. Featuring special offers such as “free shipping” or “25% off” or “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” in your ad texts is a great way to increase your click-through rate (CTR) and your conversion rate. But making frequent global changes to your PPC ad texts can wreak havoc on your Quality Score. Why does this happen?

Keep in mind that your ads and keywords have a symbiotic relationship that has accrued a performance history, and when you sever that relationship, it can negatively affect your account. Therefore if you pause or revise all of your ads in a given ad group, your Quality Score can take a hit and so can your performance.

How do you change your ad texts while mitigating these negative results? You can use one or more foundation ad texts. What’s a foundation ad text?

Foundation ad texts are the ads that remain within your ad groups that don’t highlight your specific offer. They are still keyword-focused and benefit-driven, but they don’t highlight your ever-changing offer.

Since special offers can be the juice that improves your overall campaign, you don’t want to have too many foundation ad texts in each ad group, but having one or two ads within each ad group that are a constant presence that don’t get altered for different offers can help stabilize your Quality Score and performance. This is why they are called “foundation ad texts.”

Here is an example:

Let’s say you have a “25% off” offer that is going to end on Thursday, and on that same day you’re going to launch a new “free shipping” offer. Over the course of Monday through Wednesday you can slowly pause your “25% off” ads shifting your focus toward your foundation ad texts. And when Thursday arrives, you can insert your 1-3 new ad texts that highlight your “free shipping” offer. This way your not completely jolting your account by pausing all your ads and inserting new ads all at once.

By doing this, you’ve slowly removed your old ads allowing your foundation ads to maintain your Quality Score, and then inserted your new ads. Sure, with new ads there is going to be a period of adjustment but using this method may help smooth out the bumps in the road when switching our offers.

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7 thoughts on “How Foundation PPC Ad Texts Can Help Mitigate Quality Score Shock

  1. Peter K

    Hi Joe.
    Do you have any tests or research that documents the negative effect on quality score of making a global change to your adtexts?
    I don’t doubt that there is an effect, but I’m curious as to whether the effect is big enough to justify the extra work that your suggested method entails?


  2. Chris

    Great input and something we already use. As offers from e-commerce clients tend to rotate over time we usually retain the ‘old’ ads by pausing them and then reuse them when the offer comes around again. This avoids the problems associated with ‘pending approval’.

  3. flyers

    Good point. I do this for ease of use, but what you mention makes a lot of sense. By the way great blog, i read it frequently, i have been doing PPC for years and love testing around and seeing the significant impacts small changes can make.


  4. Matt Commins

    I’ve also been doing PPC for years and I read this blog every day. In a lot of verticals (B2C and B2B) foundation ad texts are a must to ensure you do not take a quality score hit when performing A/B tests.

  5. Mark Kennedy

    Hi Joe,

    Another great post about PPC ads by you. Love it.

    One quick thing to mention about foundation ads. If your campaign is set to optimize your ads (show better ads more often), some of these foundation ads may have a lower “impression rate”. Your call to actions ads may outperform. However, that’s okay because these ads are in the account to serve a stability function.

    Once again, good stuff.

  6. Craig Danuloff

    Interesting post, and not a bad strategy, but I don’t believe the underlying mechanics work quite as you suggest.

    Quality Score exists (in the Google algorithms despite how it is reported to us) for keyword-TextAd pairs. When a new text-ad is created in an ad-group, QS has to be determined for the resulting new KW-AD pair. Google does this using the factors they’ve described. There will be some assumption about the new ad copy until it proves itself (details unknown, but we can assume an overweighting of other factors). Google has made clear that they do not want to penalize testing and incremental copy improvements.

    The idea of ‘Foundational’ or long-running ads suggests that their longevity is a beneficial factor. I don’t believe this is true. If they have a better CTR, or perhaps better relevancy, than your promotional copy, helps your averages during the test, and the history will help the ‘benefit of the doubt’ your new ads get. If they aren’t better (particular at CTR) than the ads in test, they won’t help at all.

    Also, once any new ad copy has established an equal CTR with a substantial number of clicks, it could be considered ‘foundational’ in that it will have just a good a quality score as even a much older ad.

    And assuming you’re using the ‘rotate’ ad feature, much of what the ‘foundational’ ads is doing is simply limiting the size of your test – which is good and safe and prudent. But once you see a great CTR for a meaningful number of clicks, don’t be afraid to let the new promo ads run alone – QS will not suffer (meaning you could temporarily pause the ‘foundational’ ads).

    Plus (there is much detail to fit into a comment) dont’ forget that ‘rotate’ doesn’t really rotate evenly because the higher QS of certain high CTR text ads will make them eligible for more auctions, so they’ll get overweighted no matter what you try to do.

    In the end, quality ad copy that drives good CTR earns high quality scores. Having something you know works is great, because many tests won’t. Keeping known good ads in the mix during testing is smart too. But I don’t believe anything Google has ever said officially (or under the table) about Quality Score suggests that keeping core ads a long time helps. The post didn’t say that specifically, but seemed to suggest it, so I wanted to clarify that point.

    All of the above limited to the best of my knowledge. I only read the tea-leaves like everybody else (but I read them carefully :-).

  7. Matt Commins

    Craig you make a lot of very important points. I agree Google wants its advertisers to consisntently test ads because the more targeted ads the better the user experience. However, the importance of Foundational ads depends on the industry you are in. For example, Foundational ads are more important in highly competitive verticals than less competitive verticals.

    Google places more weight on ads that have been running on a longer amount of time because Google trusts those ads more and has a better under standing of how the ad will perform. Therefore, in highly competitive verticals the age of your ad becomes almost as important as the account structure.

    It’s important to constantly test your ads, but what’s the best way to do so? In my experience it’s best to test ads a few ad groups at a time instead of, say 80% of your ad groups. If you add too many new ads at once, Google can penalize your ad groups with lower positions.

    I agree if you run your new ads long enough they can become Foundation ads, but how long does it take before that happens? In my experience it takes between 5,000 to 10,000 impressions.


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