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Ask an Expert - Improving Quality Scores

Optimizing low Quality Score (1).jpgHi there, I'm Julia Muller, a Google Partners Top Contributor and Paid Search Generalissimus at Thinkcube - a Full Service Marketing agency in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, USA. One of the tasks I perform at work is Improving Quality Scores. Difficult to accomplish and just plain tedious even for someone who's done it before. By sharing my learnings I'm hoping to inspire a major improvement in QS all over North America and in the world. Please feel free to ask questions related to "Improving QS" in the comments of this post and I'll do my best to get back to you quickly. Looking forward to some good questions! This is a 2nd installment in a 3-part series. Find the 1st post, named "Improving CTRs" here.


ISSUE: Low Quality Score.


You may be patting yourself on the back because you’re getting a 6% CTR, and at the same time your quality score of say 5 or 4 or, dare I say it, 3 is keeping you up at night. Why is the QS so low when the CTR is 6%? Especially when Google AdWords Support will tell you often times that 1% is acceptable. The answer is: We live in a relative world. If your competitors are getting 12%-21%, then your ads are the lowest on the totem pole, hence Low Quality Score. Sad truth. 


Reason #1: you’re targeting a WRONG KEYWORD, as in wrong set of words to target, i.e. +blue +widget vs +blue +widget +repair. I.e. a search for blue widget will match BOTH +blue +widget AND +blue +widget +repair, but if you repair blue widget and don’t retail them, then your ONLY want to target +blue +widget +repair. So populate the Quality Score column on every KWD-level report and consider optimizing or entirely phasing out the KWDs with low quality score. Stop targeting them. That’s your ultimate test. Can’t bring yourself to lose them? They are totally the RIGHT keywords? Here is your answer. You’re targeting the right KWD, but your ads are inferior to your competition. Go back to CTR discussion.


Just yesterday, May 4th, 2016, a guest told us at the #partnersconnect event, I have "1000+" keywords on the account, "400" of them were seen serving recently. That alone is a big sign that one might be targeting wrong keywords. Do yourself a favor and start targeting 3-5 KWDs per ad group. When you limit yourself to that amount of KWDs, you'll suddenly find that you don't need all those other KWDs at all. Judge a keyword by conversions it produced (directly or assist), and you will have no problem figuring out which ones your should keep targeting. If you are not tracking conversions, judge a KWD by impressions volume and CTRs, thus QS you're achieving. Just don't forget to check for View-Through-Conversions when deciding what keyword(s) you need in the account. I have a multi-million dollar a year client successfully serving a 6-KWD campaign, producing lots and lots of leads. And none of those KWDs are broad match. So, consider every keyword carefully. My mama always said "it is a big deal to be associated with a wrong keyword." Smiley Happy

Reason #2: you’re targeting a WRONG MATCH TYPE of a keyword – for instance, BROAD ‘blue widget repair’ vs BROAD MATCH MODIFIED +blue +widget +repair.  If you’re targeting a broad match ‘blue widget repair’, your ads may show up for ‘buy blue widget,’ which you do not retail. Your CTR will be hurt, and you may not know fully catch where it came from. 

This is a technicality, however. And can be fixed by taking a hard look at your search terms. Looking at search terms reports is what AdWords managers do. It's tedious, I know, but necessary, and gets better more we do it. Set aside 30 minutes tops a day (for bigger accounts) to look at your search terms report and decide if all match types you’re targeting are really applicable. The bigger the account (lots of keywords and ad groups), the more time you need, look at search term reports by ad group until you're confident you’ve got your KWD match types down completely. If some match types seem to always get matched with the irrelevant search term, that’s where you start. Pause some match types without mercy. You’ll be happy you did.

Hope this gives you some food for thought!

about Julia Muller

Marketer by education and experience since 2000 with extensive experience on the agency and client side both.

Liam M
June 2016

Thanks that was really helpful!!

Julia_Muller Top Contributor
June 2016

Thanks @Liam M. Let me know if there are any questions or considerations.