Shuffling Cards

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 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?