Upon her return from SES, Rebecca of SEOmoz published a blow-by-blow re-cap of her experience. Sounds like she had a great time! I need to get to SES next year. However, I am not posting to lament my absence from this year’s conference but rather to answer a few questions she poses, and comment on a few nuggets of truth she took away from the PPC session she attended.

What Rebecca Learned:

* According to Joshua Stylman from Reprise Media, your quality score impacts your costs throughout the day. Google uses historical data to determine whether or not a kw is relevant, which impacts how much you pay for that keyword.

This is true: your quality score (QS) impacts your cost-per-click. When lowering your CPC,there are a number of attributes on which you need to focus, however, one of the the attributes that carries the most weight when determining your keyword’s CPC is CTR.

Your click-through-rate is inextricably tied to your ad text. If your ad text is finely tuned to your keyword (which means displaying your keyword within the headline, body of the ad text, and even the URL) then your ad is relevant to the user and your CTR will increase. In turn, your cost-per-click will begin to decrease, as well as your minimum bid.

The historical data aspect is correct as well in that it takes time to determine your keyword/ad text’s click-through-rate. Keep in mind that Google evaluates your overall history, as well your most recent history to determine if your relevancy is growing stronger or weaker. Of course, there other aspects such as landing page quality that affect your bid, but working on your CTR is a sure-fire way to lower your CPC.

* Andrew Goodman from Page Zero Media said that Google assigns two quality scores: one affects your minimum bid (your keyword status), while the other affects where you rank.

There are actually a number of scores that you need to monitor when determining a PPC campaign QS. Scores are dolled out for these attributes:

  • keyword
  • ad text
  • CTR
  • landing page

Your Quality Score is tabulated at various levels within your account as well, including:

  • campaign
  • ad group
  • keyword

Your CPC is directly affected by your CTR. Your minimum bid is directly affected by your CTR and landing page Quality Score. And let’s keep in mind, as Brad Geddes has quoted, “There are over 100 factors that can affect quality score. However, not all will be triggered depending on the conditions involved.”

Regarding your ad ranking, “the quality score used to determine your ad’s rank is slightly different from the keyword quality score used to determine your ad’s minimum CPC bid. The quality score used for ad ranking considers your keyword’s CTR, ad text relevance, and your keyword’s relevance in relation to a user’s search query,” as noted by Google. This means there are two scores but they are determined by the same attributes.

* Jon Mendez from Otto Digital said that you need to craft your message according to the needs of your users and not your own. He stressed that you always need to be testing and optimizing.

I agree with Jon: testing is crucial. You should test everything: keywords (heavy hitters and long tail keywords), ad texts including headlines, body and display URLs, ad ranking placement, landing page message as well as landing page design, call-to-actions, and the list goes on and on.

When testing you’re trying to achieve the highest level of relevancy to the user, and your goal is giving your visitors no other choice but to convert because your messaging/positioning and product/service are exactly what they are searching for. And don’t forget, when you have a clear winner (ad text or landing page), then use that as your control group and continue to test against it. You may never create another ad text or landing page that performs better than your control group, but you need to keep plugging away to make sure.

To answer Rebecca’s questions:

Is there a specific time frame to test your ads? Is it recommended that I test ads for an entire month, and then compare them to other ads I’m running for the same amount of time to see which were more successful than others?

No, unfortunately there isn’t an exact time frame to test your ads. The time frame for ad testing is determined by the amount of traffic you generate and your competition; but you need to keep in mind external effects such as seasonal trends, off line promotions, as well any media spikes caused by coverage in other media (newspapers, radio, etc.) can effect your test.

The time frame will vary for each client. When we are running ads we look to find the shortest amount of time that will allow us to determine our winner. This idea is dependent solely on the amount of traffic you (or your client) receives. A client that receives 500 impressions per day is going to need a longer window than a client who receives 5,000 impressions per day. I say just keep rotating ads and your winner will always rise to the top.

TIP: When testing ads within Adwords and Yahoo, be sure that ‘Optimizer’ is turned off within your campaign settings. Optimizer will monitor your ads’ results and they will begin to show your better performing ads more often, and showing your other ads lesser. If you want a true test, you need to turn off this setting.