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AdWords Quality Score – What & How?

What Is It and How Can You Improve Yours?

AdWords is an incredibly powerful and effective method of advertising to customers who are at the “ready-to-buy” stage of the purchasing funnel; this is exactly when you want your business to be in front of them!

With a range of advertising products and placements ranging from YouTube videos, search results and placements on relevant websites, Google AdWords complicated algorithm knows what we’re thinking, what we want to buy and what we will want to buy next week. It’s scary for humanity, but perfectly heplful for marketers!

So how do you ‘game the system’ and make sure you align your company’s marketing with the Google algorithm gods?

The full extent of Google’s labyrinth of calculations is kept a secret but us marketing nerd are constantly busily testing and trialling to see what works and what doesn’t, so we can bring you an informed direction to take.

First indicator is your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Quality Score. The Quality Score (your ad and websites overall rank according to Google) is influenced by your

WEBSITE + RELEVANCE + BUDGET

Firstly, your

Website

KEYWORDS

You’ll see Keywords is written in each category of the above image: that’s because everything links through keywords. I’ll explain the subtle differences as we go through. For those unfamiliar with Keywords:

“Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. In terms of SEO, they’re the words and phrases that searchers enter into search engines, also called “search queries.” If you boil everything on your page — all the images, video, copy, etc. — down to simple words and phrases, those are your primary keywords. As a website owner and content creator, you want the keywords on your page to be relevant to what people are searching for so they have a better chance of finding your content among the results.”

You want to include these important words in your headers, url, image tags, and all through your text. Our rule of thumb for website copy is

Write first for people, then second for Google

Keeping a list of your keywords handy will make the rest of this process much easier, as well as being a handy reference for updating your website in future.

RESPONSIVENESS

This is talking about how your website responds to being viewed on different platforms (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc) and devices (Smart phone, Tablet, Desktops). Over half of all internet traffic is on mobile devices so Google places heavy weighting on how your website looks and performs on smaller screens and smart phones.

If your website isn’t responsive, all the AdWords budget in the world may not be able to help you; Google will likely not forward searchers to your website. Ask your web developer, or check your website now on your phone to see how you go with this metric.

NEW CONTENT

There’s a saying in marketing: Content is King. Website’s aren’t a “set-&-forget” platform –  you need to be regularly updating them with news, images, updated products and services. As well as this, you need to ensure your website’s security and plugins are up to date.

There are two major reason for this: firstly, Google bots are constantly trawling the internet looking for new content and if you’re website hasn’t had any changes for months (or – argh – years!) then the “Google gods” can’t be sure you’re still in business and won’t be confident about sending potential customers your way.

Remember, Google’s priority is ensuring the BEST most RELEVANT website for the person searching. If they aren’t sure you’re still relevant, then it won’t send people your way. Secondly, customers going to your website and finding it broken, or filled with old information will rarely let you know, and even more rarely, actually do business with you. Keep it up to date!

BOUNCE RATE

Ever gone to a website and found that it wasn’t what you were looking for at all? What did you do? Immediately clicked the back button and looked for another one right?

That’s a Bounce. If people are landing on your website and leaving without taking any other action or looking at more than the home page, Google takes that as a sign that your website isn’t relevant and will penalise your quality score.

Reduce your bounce rate. Avoid misleading keywords or putting all your customers are chasing on the home page. Your home page should be for teasers and assuring customers they are in the right place to then take further actions.

HEADINGS

The Google Algorithm gods weigh different text on your website differently. When looking at where to put your most important keywords the hierarchy is:

URL / WEBSITE ADDRESS

HEADINGS

MAIN TEXT
IMAGE TAGS

It’s best to have your keywords in all of these if they aren’t clunky but mostly focus on your headings.

ACTIONS TAKEN ON PAGE

The user experience is based around the actions website visitors take on your website or ad, such as clicking a phone number or address, filling out a contact form or making a purchase. Observing the behaviour flow of people on your website through a tool like Google Analytics can give you the best indications of the user experience on your website and where you are losing potential customers.

Google Analytics Behaviour Flow Example

Relevance

ACCOUNT QUALITY

This is referring to the quality of your AdWords account – how well is it set up, how good is your targeting, how well have your past campaigns performed, how relevant are your keywords. This will fluctuate over time but paying attention to Googles in-platform recommendations will rarely drive you astray. Some other tips include:

Start by taking the following steps…

  1. Delete All Rubbish, Low Quality Score Keywords in Your Account: Quality Scores below 6 with low conversion rates or few impressions? Get rid of them! There’s likely 50 or more keywords that are cluttering your account and bringing your account QS down. You could try getting rid of broader keywords with low CTRs (Click Through Rates), and adding them in on exact or phrase match to up the CTR (one of the biggest components of Quality Score).
  2. Bid on Branded Keywords: Since someone’s searching specifically for your brand, they’re almost certain to click on your ad and visit your site, which is why branded terms are famous for having high CTR’s, therefore high Quality Scores. Bid on your own brand to give your whole account a lift!
  3. Stay Active in Your Account: The set-and-forget approach to your account just doesn’t work for your website on AdWords, and it will also negatively impact your account-level QS. A case study with an advertiser whose average account Quality Score was 8.8/10 showed that optimising regularly is crucial to maintaining high scores. Optimising their account for half an hour every week paid off with higher Click Through Rates and greater Return on Investment!

POPULARITY

Don’t worry, this isn’t high school, it’s not how popular you are, it’s how large your market is. How often are your keywords being searched? How many sales are being made? The more times a keyword is searched, the more opportunities or ad spots Google has available. If you are a niche provider in a popular industry, it’s easier to be shown 100 times a day than if you’re a generic provider in a niche industry.

CLICK THROUGH RATE

This one is a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” scenario but the reality is: the more your ad is clicked on, the more your ad is shown. An ad that is often clicked on means that it is answering the question well, has engaging copy and seems reliable to customers – all the things the Google gods want. So don’t be disheartened if you’re not getting great results the first month or so, the trial and error will pay off once you find your AdWords sweet spot.

HISTORY

History is the Google Adwords equivalent of having relevant experience in the job one is going for. Elements like accumulating a high number of points, the previous metrics of your ad, campaign, website, actions taken on page – there is a whole range of things. It means that if you rock up with an AdWords campaign that ticks all the boxes immediately, it will still take time to get the best possible results as Google learns and verifies your account. Great things always take time, even online.

KEYWORD USE

I told you this would pop up again! Keywords are how Google knows which searches to show your ads for, so make them as relevant and as exact to what people type as possible. Ensure you refer back to that list of keywords we told you to create to make sure that they align with the ones on your website – keeping this consistent is super important to the success of your AdWords campaign.


Budget

How much you budget in your campaign of course affects how effective your campaign will be! There are two ways you can manage budget for your AdWords campaign:

  1. Daily Budget
  2. Bid Adjustments

Daily Budget seems pretty self explanatory but isn’t (of course!).

“Your daily budget is the average amount that you’d like to spend each day over the course of the month.

While your spend may vary each day, you won’t pay more than your monthly charging limit, which is the daily budget that you set, multiplied by the average number of days in a month. On days when your ads are likely to get you more traffic, you may spend up to 2 times your average daily budget. Those days are balanced by days when your spend is below your daily budget.”

So some days you’ll be over, some days you’ll be under, but over the month it should balance out.

And bid adjustments allow you to show your ads more or less frequently based on where, when, and how people search. For example, sometimes a click is worth more to you if it comes from a smartphone, at a certain time of day, or from a specific location. Bid Adjustments let you pay more or less depending on a range of metrics.

DAILY SPEND

To begin with, you’ll want to contain your costs, because you don’t know what’s going to work. It’s possible that your initial test campaign will be profitable, but you may only break-even, or you may lose money. We’ve created a lot of campaigns which have been profitable right out of the gate, but you shouldn’t expect this to happen. Instead, your mindset should be that initially, you are investing in market research.

With your initial testing, you’ll gain insights into what ad messages your target is responding to, and what keywords convert into sales. Plus, you’ll be able to test which messages on your landing pages are working best for converting clicks into leads and customers.

You can roughly calculate your test budget by multiplying the number of keywords you want to test by the cost per click and by a minimum of 100 clicks. As a general rule, you’ll want to get at least 100-200 clicks on a keyword to determine whether it converts for you.

So, for example, if you’re going to test 10 keywords with a cost per click (CPC) of $1, we’d recommend you plan on a test budget of $1,000 to $2,000.  Most likely, you’ll have a mix of winning and losing keywords, ads and landing pages from this initial test. As you see the results come in, you’ll “prune” your campaign — keeping the winners, dropping the losers — to bring your campaign to profitability.

COST PER CLICK (CPC)

Adwords doesn’t charge per view, it charges per ‘click’: when a person takes an action on your ad. CPCs (Cost Per Clicks) can vary hugely from a few cents to tens of dollars!

Below are some of the most expensive keywords in Australia as researched by Wordstream: sorry if you’re in any of these industries!

KeywordAverage CPC
 Lawyer$46.25
 Workers Comp$23.14
 Insurance$22.62
 Health and Fitness$20.81
 Child Charities$20.44
 Business Software$20.36
 Internet$20.15
 Business Services$19.74
 Finance$19.74
 Degree$18.38
 Medical Health$17.79
 Car Finance$17.36
CPC: Cost Per Click

Your CPC affects your campaign. For example, if you’re a kids charity and the daily budget is $21 then your budget will be spent early in the day with only one person sent to your website. You really want them to be a perfectly matched lead!

CPC is affected by the number of searches, the number of competitors, your website quality score…. everything. Your CPC on the exact same keyword will be different to your competitors. This is due to the huge amount of data Google uses for their system.

COMPETITION

This is referring to how much competition your keywords have – how ‘popular’ your particular niche is for other AdWord advertisers. Since Adwords are primarily an auction system of a thousand algorithm points, the number of people in the auction and all of their quality scores greatly affects how much you’ll pay for someone to click on your ad.

Lots of business bidding for the same keyword search = higher prices.

A good strategy for avoiding this is ensuring your geographic and demographic targeting is tight for your audience, and incorporating long-tail keywords rather than one or two words.

KEYWORD VALUE

Google AdWords assigns a quality value on each of your keywords. These are based on your previous performance, similar to the quality score on your account and campaigns. Each level of your account and each aspect of the algorithm has a moving score. This score is based on what happened last year, last week, an hour ago, 2 minutes ago… you get it. A keyword performs better within your campaign when the website visitor takes more positive action on your website after searching that keyword. This means the higher the value of that keyword within your campaign. Delve into your Keyword analytics reports to get rid of any keywords that are pulling you down.

INDUSTRY

As we showed above, what industry you’re in affects your CPC and your keyword competition massively! Have a look at your competitors online. Include their company name in your keywords. If people are searching for them, you want them to know you’re available too.

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC

Part of the strength of Adwords is that it lets you be very niche and specific in your targeting. Use this to your advantage. Keep your budget away from expensive demographics that aren’t as high in converting leads for you.

For example

  • ‘Plumber Sydney’ CPC: $28.43
  • ‘Plumber Melbourne’ CPC: $20.74
  • ‘Plumber Brisbane’ CPC: $19.53
  • ‘Plumber Darwin’ CPC: $9.02
  • ‘Plumber Cairns’  CPC: $5.19
  • ‘Plumber Toowoomba’ CPC: $4.79