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Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

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# 1
Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭

So, there are a number of super-duper power Adwords users who focus alot on keyword quality score, deleting keywords with low QS, making sure that click through rates are high etc, and go a bit "crazy" on it.


Disclaimer: I'm not one of those people.


For the most part, my team and I use quality score as an indicator of how competitive our ads are / relevant our landing pages are. This means, that for the most part, we are "subject" to the travails of the funkiness of quality score. But frankly, we don't care. As long as our clients are profitable, we look at quality score as what it is - an indicator.


However, I had a client who had no conversion tracking, was doing fairly well (due to an awesome landing page), and was spending a boat load of money.

Our first step was to install conversion tracking.


Our next step was to review the keywords in the search terms, now that we knew which keywords were / weren't converting. We found that 30% of the budget was going to one of their broad match terms matching to a big brands brand name. (E.g. Google adwords matching to Google)


In order to bid better, we segmented out the exact term and bid on that directly. However, the broad match term was getting a QS of 4, while when we bid on the brand itself, we were getting penalized with a QS of 2. So even though we raised bids, we were showing less!


We quickly deleted the exact keyword (e.g. Google), the ad group and the ad.


We then recreated a new ad group with the broad match term (e.g. Google Adwords). We negatived out the term in phrase (putting in -"Google Adwords"), as well as every other keyword that the term matched up to (e.g. misspellings etc.). Our goal was to bid on the specific brand (e.g. "Google"), without getting penalized for the bid.


The result was we got the same QS of 4. We also were able to lower CPC's by 25%, and still get the same CTR (there was no one else in our vertical bidding on similar things).


This resulted in savings of tens of thousands of dollars for the client.


I believe there is alot of lack of understanding on the core basics of quality score. I myself didn't fully understand it until I started reading Craig Danuloff's posts over at Click Equations. I believe he has the best understanding in the industry on what quality score is, and how it works.


Unfortunately, they are currently part of Acquisio, and don't take as much of an industry lead anymore.


Here are a couple of resources:

(read all of the quality score blog posts, they are amazing!)

Free white paper - 21 secrets to high resolution PPC


If you want to go full force, you can buy Craigs super-duper expensive book for $149 here:


(I haven't bought the full book).


I'd love to hear if anyone here has played around with Quality score in some depth.



2 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor

Hi David,


Thanks for sharing. I do pay a good deal of attention to quality score because it plays a very important role in ad rank and if it is possible to save my clients money by increasing their quality score vs. bids to achieve a certain ad rank than it makes perfect sense to work the QS.  I don't go crazy over it though Smiley Happy just always do my best to try to optimize what I have control over when it comes to QS.   I often pay more attention to the CTR and really the very most attention to the real important numbers related to the ROI - number of leads/sales/etc and the cost per lead/sale/etc. 


What I did not follow from what you said above "In order to bid better, we segmented out the exact term and bid on that directly. However, the broad match term was getting a QS of 4"  Are you saying the exact match and broad match version of a KW having different quality scores? There should be no difference in the QS on a keyword from one match type to the next - they will always have the same QS (maybe not the same when immediately added to an account but within a few hours will be the same). Maybe I did not understand something there....


I have a copy of Craig's book on my desk and it is an excellent book and the most complete coverage of quality score to date IMHO.

Kim Clink, AdWords Top Contributor | Community Profile | Twitter | Clink Digital Marketing
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Re: Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

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# 3
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Very interesting to read about your experiment David.


I think one ought to hold a part the QS figure that shows up in the AdWords interface for a specific keyword as something very approximate and, as you correctly put it, an indicator, on the one hand. AND, on the other hand, the actual QS that is assigned to a specific ad, triggered by a specific search query in a unique auction.

The latter of which we know very little, not only because the real QS probably contains a lot of figures after the comma (QS 4,587768...? and think about the gap between 5,01 and 6,99!), but also because each auction is just that: unique.


Because you don´t reveal the actual keyword and search query in question, it´s hard for me to figure what factors were in the game, but I can guess that your broad matched keyword - although you had used some negative keywords - could and had been triggered by a variety of search queries. In some of those auctions / search queries you had a quality score of 2 and in some one of 6 (for example) and the average was put as 4.


I don´t think you have been penalized, but that what you got when you narrowed your keyword (although I am not sure how you did this - making it exact match?) and didn´t let so many other search queries trigger ads by that keyword, you saw something that was much closer to truth: the QS for a more specific keyword and search query.


Re: Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭
# 4
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@Kim_Klink & @David_Precisera


Thanks for your thoughts! Here are some clarifications.

"In order to bid better, we segmented out the exact term and bid on that directly. However, the broad match term was getting a QS of 4"


To clarify… We’ll call the keyword the client was bidding on as ‘Google Adwords’ in broad. Google was matching this up to ‘Google’. ‘Google Adwords’ in broad has a quality score of 4.

We decided to bid on ‘Google’ directly in exact match ‘[google]’. The term in exact match got a quality score of 2, and started rarely showing up, despite the fact that we had it bid higher.

So we ended up deleting that ad group, and creating a new ad group. This ad group had the keyword ‘Google Adwords’ in broad, but negatived out everything else.


The quality score when bidding directly was very low. However, (according to Craig) Google doesn’t remember the quality score of the broad match term (when ‘Google Adwords’ matches up to ‘Google’ through a broad match, Google applies the higher quality score of ‘Google Adwords’, and doesn’t notate the low CTR / quality score penalization you would otherwise get if you were bidding on ‘Google’ directly).


The key take-away I had was to start looking at client accounts, and if a broad match term and the exact match were both ‘conflicting’, use the one with the higher quality score, and delete out  / negative out the other one.


e.g. the term ‘Google’ could be bid on by bidding on:

[google] or

Google Adwords


When [google] has a higher quality score, go in, and negative out [google] in exact in your  ‘Google Adwords’ ad group.

However, if ‘Google Adwords’ has a higher quality score, you would delete [google] from your campaign, and bid on it using the broad match.

I went and did a bit of a tweak on this. I wanted to be able to change the bids on [google] without actually bidding on it. So I went ahead and created a 3rd ad group called ‘Google Exact – Broad Match’. In the original ‘Google Adwords’ ad group, I negatived out [google] in exact match. In the new ad group, I added ‘Google Adwords’ in broad. However, I negatived out “google adwords” in phrase, as well as every other term that ‘Google Adwords’ in broad matched up to except for the word ‘Google’. What this would get me is the ability to bid on the keyword ‘google’ (precisely), which was 30% of the clients budget, without having to bid on all broad matched terms to ‘Google Adwords’.


I assume that the reason why the quality score is so low is because the CTR on [google] when Google is bidding on it, is going to be way higher than what I’m going to do, since I’m only talking to a small sub-set of the population typing the word Google into the search engine.

So although I was getting a decent CTR compared to my industry-specific words, I wasn’t getting the same on the broader term that was less relevant.

I thought the success of this was pretty interesting, and wanted to see what you guys had to say.

Re: Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

Top Contributor
# 5
Top Contributor

I'm nearing bedtime and may be a bit confused, but if you got search terms such as Google matching keywords such as Google AdWords, and then used Google as exact match keyword and saw a lower quality score, I'd say that the CTR of Google is lower than the CTR of Google AdWords.


Remember that when computing the QS of a keyword, Google uses the CTR of the search term matching the keyword exactly. So Google AdWords built its QS based on the CTR of the search term Google AdWords. The CTR for Google as a search term was (I think) clearly under the CTR of Google AdWords, hence its lower QS when used as a keyword.


My 2 cents, if nothing else as owner of Craig's book, in which Kim is mentioned Smiley Happy.

Calin Sandici, AdWords Top Contributor | Find me on: Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn | myBlog
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Re: Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭
# 6
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I didn't know Kim was in that book - that's super cool! (Hats off in nerdiness to you Kim. As said, I haven't purchased the full book, but now I definitely have to Smiley Happy Time to get the CFO to approve that charge...).

To clarify; the CTR of [google] was actually better than the standard CTR for 'Google Adwords' in broad.

My guess is that the reason that the QS was so low is because the CTR on [google] was low compared to what other advertisers are getting on it. So while high compared to my more specific market, it was actually low compared to the broader [google] google'ers.

I just feel a bit like I'm cheating the system by doing this, which makes me happy Smiley Happy Now I'm wondering how I can take advantage of this consistently Smiley Happy

Re: Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

Top Contributor
# 7
Top Contributor

David, go one level deeper and look at the CTR of the search terms attracted by those two keywords. Google AdWords, broad match, can have terrible CTR for searches such as 'adwords agency in Australia' and a much better CTR for 'google adwords', which is actually the search term whose CTR is taken into account when calculating the QS for Google AdWords. Among all keywords that match a search term, the one that matters most is the one identical to it, as it drives its QS, through its CTR.


What you need to look at is the CTR for [google] for the only search term that matches it (obviously, 'google'), as opposed to the CTR of 'google', the search term, when matched with Google AdWords. Of course, different bids and / or different ads that get paired to those search terms can also make a difference.


And another thing to maybe look at is the diagnostic tool for both of the keywords, a QS of 2, to me at least, can imply some relevance issues as well. Worth ruling them out, if you haven't already.

Calin Sandici, AdWords Top Contributor | Find me on: Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn | myBlog
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Re: Case Study: Broad Match vs. Quality Score

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# 8
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That's why I posted this case study. This was in one way so against what I've generally used as best practices for our clients that I hadn't done anything of the sort previously. However, upon testing and seeing the resuls, I'll keep it... (Client is saving themselves $10k/month as we are bidding directly on the broad term.


the match of Google is doing extremely well, and we needed to bid management separately. (We bid lower on our broad match matchup to [google], and we are the only one that targets our market in the generic space.)