Quality Score Optimization Makes Everyone a Loser
March 12, 2012
Quality Score is meant to be an indicator of the relevancy of your ad to a user’s search query. It is merely an instrument or a gauge that indicates the clickability of your PPC marketing efforts.
PPC marketers often look to Quality Score as something to optimize. You insert your keywords in ads and landing pages, use negatives to weed out irrelevant queries, and on and on. And while the tasks that are being done are often the best tasks to increase overall performance, the metrics that are being watched are Quality Score and not more relevant, high impact metrics like Average CPC, conversion rates, CTR’s, etc. (If you are looking for our Quality Score guide, click here.)
How Does Optimizing for Quality Score Make Us All Lose?
Let’s say marketer “A” focuses their time and efforts on increasing Quality Score from a 4 to a 6. Through clever, insightful, and deliberate action they achieve this goal and thus start winning more auctions.
Marketer “B” pops open her account and realizes that she is losing clicks on what were great performers for her. She doesn’t know why, but acting with the urgency that a great steward of a PPC account does, she ups her bids to gain back ground. Once she has some time to really dig in she sees that her average position and CTR has started to drop and her Quality Score is down a point or two across the board. Now she goes on the assault, and writes some new ads, and does negatives. Her effort goes rewarded and she starts to win auctions. But she’s raised bids and so she’s winning but at new, higher average CPC.
Marketer “A” is now losing clicks, raises bids, reorganizes ad groups even further, stuffs keywords in his ads three times, and on and on. This cycle continues, and our ads become more and more generic. And more than this, our bids are higher and higher. And our ROI gets lower and lower.
It is this cycle that makes everyone in the PPC game lose, well except Google and Bing, but if you speak to them directly they’ll tell you themselves not to focus on Quality Score. That’s because their goal is to return relevant results to search queries. And gaming the system by throwing keywords are ads and landing pages prevents them from being able to do that.
You Quality Score is an indicator of how relevant you are to keywords you’re bidding on. They are meant to be a general indicator, another number in a line of numbers that we geek out over and play through our heads as we’re trying to fall asleep at night. We’ve gotten caught up in gaming these numbers and by getting back to a more basic, rustic approach to PPC optimizations we’ll all win, even our customers.
Audit your keywords, cut out the clutter. Throw in negatives, stick some embedded negatives in broad match ad groups. And sit down, blast some tunes and write some ads that boost CTR not because the keywords are big, bold and crammed but because you’ve highlighted the beautiful benefits of a searcher clicking your ad over their assorted other options.
Some of these tasks are exactly the same as before. But instead of doing them with an eye on quality score, you are doing them with an eye on ROI. Quality Score becomes something that you just glance at from time to time to make sure there are no warning signs that it’s trying to alert you of.
In the end your Quality Score will improve. But just like your gas gauge goes up when you pump more petrol in the tank, the increase won’t be the goal, but the result of filling your account(s) with the appropriate fuel.
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