Paid Search Marketing- The Google AdWords Quality Score Conundrum

To those not in the know, Google’s Quality Score can seem to be a complete mystery, and in many cases, a major thorn in one’s side. So for those of you considering jumping into a paid search marketing campaign, or who are still in the learning stages, let me shed some light on this, and then discuss what I feel is a pretty significant flaw in the Quality Score system.Each time a query is done, Google calculates a Quality Score for each returned ad. The Quality Score affects your cost per click, charging you more if you are deemed to have a poor Quality Score, and less if you have a great Quality Score.Here are the actual factors taken directly from the Google AdWords support site:

  • The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the keyword and the matched ad on Google; note that CTR on the Google Network only ever impacts Quality Score on the Google Network—not on Google
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
  • The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
  • The quality of your landing page
  • The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group
  • The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query
  • Your account’s performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown
  • Other relevance factors

Now, the basic concept of the Quality Score cannot be denied. It better serves advertisers and searchers alike by adding a relevance component to the equation. Long gone are the days of fishing around in the Omniture/Yahoo platform only to find competitors bidding everyone out of the market.But I feel the system’s flaw is in the reliance on CTR. Of course it benefits Google to reward those ads which get clicked on the most, as it makes them more revenue. But the truth is, your bid has a tremendous effect on click through rates, so it’s a bit of a contradicting scenario. Looking at the organic research on SERP click throughs, it’s very obvious that if you’re not in the first few listings, your chances to receive a click are rather minuscule. So if take more of a scaled back approach to your bidding, say, shooting for positions 4-8, your chances of a great click through rate are minimal, no matter how good your ad is. So, is it really fair to "penalize" an ad when it meets or exceeds every other factor? Or are you simply mired with a Quality Score of "Okay" until you decide to spend like those with deeper pockets?I wish I had a clear answer on this one. In the meantime, Google makes the rules and we are best served to play by them.

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2 thoughts on “Paid Search Marketing- The Google AdWords Quality Score Conundrum

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