“Why are some of our keywords sitting at 3 or 4 Quality Scores? How can we make those better? Shouldn’t you just work on increasing CTR?”

Similar to my previous post on what a ‘good’ CTR is for your PPC campaigns, quite often we hear questions surrounding account Quality Scores and what is being done to proactively improve them. Let’s get the obvious out of the way…

YES – Quality Score is important and shouldn’t be ignored. NO – it’s not always the best metric to focus on and can be somewhat misleading. Why? Let’s discuss!

First, don’t anticipate the day coming where all your account keywords are a 10/10 Quality Score. In the same vein as a 100% CTR or conversion rate is more likely an indicator that something is amiss, I would be wary of any account that’s rocking all 10 keyword-level Quality Scores. It’s highly likely the focus in that account isn’t being placed on the key performance indicators and again – pushing CTR or focusing all on one match type solely for Quality Score improvement purposes isn’t beneficial.

I also strongly caution you to look at the account’s overall average for this metric before allowing too much time to go to terms that are showing with lower scores. I’ve heard a lot of agencies or in-house teams use a varying range of numbers, but a good benchmark is to try and have less than 30% of the active keywords in your account falling at a 6 or lower QS. If that percentage is creeping above 30%, then absolutely sit down with that segment of terms and dig a little deeper to find trends in what may be keeping them down (more on how to improve QS in a second).

An even better way to analyze your account-wide Quality Score issues is to look at those terms that actually do more producing for you already and do so with lower Quality Scores. Carrie outlined one such method back in July for you, but you can also syphon your analyzation down to keywords with high search volume and sub-7 Quality Scores, terms sitting at a 5 or 6 that may only need a little TLC to push over the edge to a 7, etc. It’s your oyster – shuck it as you wish, just don’t try to look at all of them at once. You’ll end up in a food (keyword) coma.

Before I launch in to a rapid-fire list of ways to improve those low Quality Scores are the terms where they will/should have great impact, the last word of caution when it comes to analyzing QS is to consider your account type: lead generation or ecommerce. Our very own Jeffrey Allen discussed this in a post he published back in November, but essentially his point was that better Quality Scores don’t always correlate with better overall account performance depending on whether you’re pushing to generate leads or trying to actually sell a product. In our own client accounts, what we see is that in lead generation there is a fairly substantial likelihood that low Quality Score keywords/ad groups/campaigns can, will and do perform closer to CPA goals than their higher-QS counterparts. On the other hand in ecommerce, the tendency is for higher QS keywords/ad groups/campaigns to be more competitive on a CPA basis. It’s in the data, ya’ll!

Now that we’re done processing the reasons why low Quality Scores may not be as big a problem as you perceive – how CAN you improve those that are negatively impacting performance? I like lists. Let’s make a list!

  • Refine your ad group structure to include keywords in a group together that are incredibly closely related. AKA: if you’ve got an ad group with 30+ keywords in it and some of them are low QS – it’s probably because you can’t possibly include all those terms directly in the ad copy, CTRs are low, and so on. Which brings me to my next point!
  • Don’t allow yourself to rely solely on DKI for your ad group keyword inclusion. The engine bots can’t truly crawl that copy to make decisions on relevancy, so explicitly placing the keyword in question in your ad group copy will help. As you can imagine, the re-siloing of ad groups that I mentioned previously will assist in keeping this strategy at it’s most effective.
  • Audit landing pages considering which ad group their traffic comes from and what content is included on that page. What I’m getting at here is if you’ve got the ability to send product- or service-specific ad groups to product- or service-specific landing pages, don’t send those searchers to a category landing page where they have to continue digging. It’s also much more likely that the keywords in that ad group will be appearing on the landing page with this method, further improving relevancy. If there isn’t any keyword inclusion either in the landing page content or meta data – add them (but not in a spammy fashion, duh)!
  • While we’re on the topic of your landing pages, also be sure to check out your site speed stats somewhat frequently. Landing page load speeds are a huge factor in Quality Score so removing those things that bog down your site loading could be a quick (and possibly easy) optimization.
  • Historical Quality Scores can’t be tracked within the interface, so finding a way to incrementally measure improvements and losses is crucial. Set up a script specifically for pulling Quality Scores through your account and have that report auto-delivered to you. That way you can see those areas where you’re having the most impact and those that continue to be a problem over a longer period of time. That report showing up can also serve as a friendly reminder to push a new ad copy test or whatever other optimization you may have lined up that is related to Quality Scores.
  • If you’ve got some terribly stubborn keywords that refuse to improve, put them in time out. I don’t mean delete or pause them necessarily, but do pull those in to their own ad groups or campaigns so they stop bringing their other keyword or ad group friends down with them.

Obviously that’s not an all-inclusive list of Quality Score improving tactics – share some of yours with us below.

Just don’t forget to keep your eye on the prize and maybe Quality Scores are that thing, but never sacrifice higher QS for lower ROAS!