Advertisers (especially new ones) find themselves paying too high fees for Google AdWords (Google Tax). In this article I will make an overview what to do to lower your CPC in AdWords and quick start your campaigns. Also, I will cover how to restructure the campaigns to get the best possible results from old campaigns that have too high CPC.
What is Quality Score?
Google defines Quality Score as follows:
A Quality Score is calculated every time your keyword matches a search query — that is, every time your keyword has the potential to trigger an ad. Quality Score is used in several different ways, including:
- actual cost-per-clicks (CPCs)
- estimating the first page bids that you see in your account
- determining if a keyword is eligible to enter the ad auction that occurs when a user enters a search query
- affecting how high your ad will be ranked
In general, the higher your Quality Score, the lower your costs and the better your ad position.
In short, Quality Score determines how much you will pay for specific keywords you are bidding. Quality Score has a metric from 1 to 10, 10 being the best possible score. Normally, I suggest not to bid on keywords that have Quality score below 7, but that is depending on the competition that bids for the same keywords. In very saturated niches, anything below 10 is a suicide.
Quality Score Factors
Here are the factors that influence Quality Score metrics (I will explain each later in this post):
- Keyword Click-Through Rate
- Relevance of Keywords to Ads
- Relevance of Keywords to Search Queries
- Historical Keyword Click-Through Rate
- Landing Page Quality
- Account History
- Keywords in Landing Page copy
- Display URL Click-Through Rate
- Geographical performance
- Keywords in Landing Page metadata
- Number of Impressions
Keyword Click-Through Rate
This is the most important factor in determining the Quality Score. This signal tells Google how much users click on your ad once they’ve entered the search term. It is important that once you’ve entered the keyword into your AdGroup, you see how much is the first page bid estimate. If the Quality Score is high in the beginning (let’s say 7), you can enhance it by bidding even higher for the keyword, adding much higher CTR and in that way enabling high historical CTR. If the estimated Quality Score is low in the beginning (4-5-6), than you should consider putting this keyword in a more appropriate AdGroup.
Relevance of Keywords to Ads
As always, try to segment your keywords into smaller groups and write targeted ads. Example: if you have keyword "buy canon digital cameras", than you should have Ads that integrate this call to action. Test multiple ads against your keywords to see how your Quality Score changes. 3-5 ads in the beginning is enough to test the relevance. Once you start your campaign, pause the ads that don’t perform, but have in mind that your Quality Score can change. Testing ads is very important in finding your perfect mix.
Relevance of Keywords to Search Queries
No matter what, don’t ever, never put broad keywords (except maybe in Display Network). Match keywords with phrase or exact and also use negative keywords to lower the poor performance of your whole AdGroup. Few examples:
- AdGroup 1: Informational generic
- AdGroup 2: Informational brand
- AdGroup 3: Transactional generic
- AdGroup 4: Transactional brand
- AdGroup 4: Branding
Keywords in AdGroups:
- Informational generic: "digital cameras", "SLR cameras", "digital cameras for kids", "digital cameras for semi professionals", "cheap digital cameras"…
- Informational brand: "digital cameras Sony", "digital cameras Canon", "digital cameras Olympus"…
- Transactional generic: "buy digital SLR cameras", "SLR cameras prices"
- Transactional brand: "buy Nikon D3100", "buy Nikon D5100 camera"…
- Branding: "digital SLR cameras yoursitename.com", "SLR cameras yourbrandname"
As you can see, with this segmentation you can monitor your campaigns closely and put more weight on terms that produce conversions. Depending on your account structure, you can segment your AdGroups and Campaigns to get the best possible result. Possible new AdGroups: Informational product, Transactional product etc. Take this structure as an example, your campaign can be structured differently, depending on your product, branding and workflow.
The goal of this factor is to lower non-relevant search query to trigger the Ad. Smart structure and keyword match types (exact, phrase and negative) of your Campaign and AdGroups can help you to achieve this goal. The only thing to beware is to avoid complexity of your campaign. We’ve talked about it in our AdWords Quick Start Guide.
Historical Keyword Click-Through Rate
If you have new account, this will be hard to achieve. That’s why you should look at first page estimate bid and adjust your bidding for specific keywords. Depending on how saturated your niche and/or keywords are, it is really important to decide your strategy. If your niche is empty or with few competitors, my advice would be to bid for the position no1. Due to different factors (new advertiser, new offers etc) you could accumulate great historical CTR in the beginning and you could easily raise QS from 7 to 10.
If your niche is highly saturated, my advice would be to steadily increase bidding towards higher positions, starting from bidding somewhere between positions 2.5 and 3.5. Later, when you accumulate higher historical CTR and raise Quality Score, you can bid higher to achieve better ranking and more conversions. Beware, you can easily end up in bidding wars. For extremely complex campaigns with many keywords I suggest using different tools to monitor and manage campaigns.
Landing Page Quality
Google states that it looks into three categories:
- Relevant and Original Content
- Ease of navigation
Besides of that, I believe that Google takes into account (in after-Panda world) page speed, ad-to-content ratio, social signals (number of retweets, number of page likes), information architecture, navigation consistency… Follow the guidelines and don’t be too obsessed with them, they are just the guideliness… Ask yourself three simple questions:
- Would I buy this product from this site?
- Is it loading quickly enough?
- Does the website deliver what the ad promises and is it relevant to my search query?
Even better, don’t ask yourself! Once in a while ask someone else or take a look at the bounce rate data into your Google Analytics account.
Account History is very important because this is a signal to Google AdWords that you are doing it right on an account level. This means that you must pay attention to every detail, plan the structure and implement carefully. If you have a new account, this metric will get better in time. This is why, for example, you see booking.com for every single hotel query ranked no1 in paid search as they have accumulated account history through years. Bidding strategy is important in achieving account history, so if you are short on budget, plan to grow your campaign as you receive conversions and invest more.
Keywords in Landing Page Copy
One simple rule: don’t overstuff. Keep the landing page copy clean, written for the users. If possible, try to implement keywords at shorter tail and implement call to actions written in your Ads. Google will understand the word relations so it is not necessary to stuff keywords wherever you can. If in doubt, ask yourself: does this page copy look natural?
Display URL Click-Through Rate
Test, test, test. Have few ads with different URL scenarios. Other components of ads should have same structure/copy, only URL should change. Examples:
Only your imagination is the limit. As far as I am concerned DomainName.com/Something works fine, but you would soon realize that you can always test to find more interesting results in different niches. Put yourself into users shoes. Break the rules. Try something different, if it works, you will have competitive edge over your competitors.
Your Ads can perform in one geographical region, but in others they may not. We’ve covered the problems of geotargeting in our AdWords Quick Guide, but to repeat it once more:
- Separate different geographic and language campaigns
- For each specific geographic region and campaign, target the relevant language (especially in Europe, Asia…)
- Have in mind cultural differences
- Have in mind behavioral targeting and keywords that trigger different emotions (and use them in your page copy)
- Have in mind (if you can) different slangs
Keywords in Landing Page Metadata
Keywords in Landing Page Metadata are not only important for your AdWords campaigns, but also for organic search. Use them wisely in your Title and Description as they will surely be important once Google implements one-page SERP.
Number of Impressions
Number of Impressions is great metric to see how your campaign performs. You also have lost impression share due to rank and due to budget. This is a great quick metric to see how much more clicks (and conversions) you can get if you optimize your account.
Advertisers often find themselves paying "the Google Tax" because they don’t invest necessary time to plan, implement and track their campaigns. PPC Blog has a great tool to calculate your AdWords tax. Sure, not all factors are taken into account, but you can get pretty amusing results.
Hope this page has helped you to see the complexity behind the Quality Score but remember that Quality Score is not the only thing you should mind in getting your campaigns to the top level.
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