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Busted: 3 PPC quality score myths

High CTR% doesn’t equal a high Quality Score

Firstly lets agree that yes, click through rate (CTR) percentage is probably the most important factor in determining quality score; however the subtlety that is often overlooked is that CTR% is only used as a proxy for ad relevance. Quality Score (QS) is normalised to account for changes in CTR% that will naturally occur as a result of increasing average position.

It makes sense: If an advertiser has a poor performing ad sitting in a low position, why would they be rewarded by increasing bids and moving up the search engine results page (SERP)? Google’s interpretation of a ‘high’ or ‘low’ CTR% is in fact determined by how it stacks up to other advertisers on the SERP when they sit in the same position. For example, if my ad sits in position 3 today and gets a CTR of 5%, and my competitor’s ad sits in position 3 tomorrow and gets a CTR% of 10%, relatively speaking I have a low QS. In this instance we need to be addressing underlying ad relevancy issues and not simply increasing position!

Keyword match types don’t affect quality score

Let’s say I have two keywords in an account, [life insurance] on exact match, and ‘life insurance’ on phrase match. The QS for the exact match keyword is 10 and for the phrase match it’s 5. This is likely due to the fact that some of the queries being triggered by the phrase match are less relevant so the keyword gets assigned lower score. It is important to remember that Google is determining QS by reviewing the relevancy of all queries being triggered by this keyword and showing a number (in this case 5) as effectively an average of the QS of all queries.

Quality score is not a score out of 10

In reality, the scale is much bigger. The 1-10 scale is the simplest way of visualising an approximation of QS and encouraging the right behaviours. We need to be conscious that when making changes, for example changing a landing page if we don’t see an uplift in QS, this doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an improvement, just that it might be too subtle to have shifted the QS into a new ‘band’.

All Response Media Viewpoint

Unfortunately, the above are surprisingly common misconceptions in the industry. Whilst they may seem like small subtleties, they fundamentally affect the way an account is managed, with considerable cost implications for the advertiser. Managing PPC activity, where something new and shiny is being rolled out on an almost daily basis, it is imperative not to lose sight of the detail. Knowing how the auction works and the intricacies of the algorithm will never be replaced as the most important factors in managing a PPC account.