What Everybody Ought to Know About Pay-Per-Click Quality Score
by John Lee, Hannapin Marketing
Beware! Mysterious forces are at work in your pay-per-click campaign. Put simply, if you don't understand Quality Score, you are not in control of your PPC performance. Throughout the last three years, Quality Score has grown from a baffling Google-brainchild to an industry-wide standard practice. All the major search engines, from Google, to Yahoo! and even MSN have adapted some form of a "quality" factor when determining PPC ad rank. This factor hinges on keyword, ad text and landing page relevancy and demands ever higher PPC campaign management standards from advertisers. Learn to play the Quality Score game, or resign yourself to manage out-of-control PPC campaigns.
What Is Quality Score?
For this definition, let's defer to Google: "Quality Score is a dynamic variable assigned to each of your keywords. It's calculated using a variety of factors and measures how relevant your keyword is to your ad group and to a user's search query." In plain English, Quality Score is a ranking that is a direct reflection of how relevant a keyword is to your ad text and landing page.
Before Quality Score, PPC advertising was relatively straight forward. You created a keyword list, wrote compelling ad copy and set a bid. Your ad position was determined by your keyword bid, plain and simple. Google and Yahoo! were not closely monitoring the quality or relevancy of the advertisements being - a far from perfect system that created holes for irrelevant advertisers to muddy up the search results.
Google was the first to step forward and create a solution that rewarded advertisers for presenting highly relevant keyword lists, ad texts and landing pages. This progression by Google meant that advertisers could no longer bid for position, but would have to take it upon themselves to provide a quality user experience (i.e. serve relevant results) in order to achieve higher rankings and lower click-through rates (CTR).
Who Has Quality Score?
Google first launched Quality Score in August 2005, and are truly the originators and keepers of the name, "Quality Score." Yahoo! followed suit when they launched the "Quality Index" in February 2007 as the final phase of the Panama upgrade. MSN adCenter then launched "Quality Based Ranking" in April 2007. All of these systems incorporate similar formulas for determining relevance between your keyword, ad text, landing page and the user's search query. For the rest of this article, let's stick with calling all of these systems "Quality Score."
All of the major PPC search engines have instituted a quality based ad system for very particular reasons. Quality Score has helped boost paid search advertising revenues to all-time highs (especially for Google). Due to the way Quality Score rewards relevance, junk advertisers have found it difficult to maintain profitability with PPC. And at the end of the day, search engines really do want to enhance the user experience - satisfied searchers return and click on more ads, thus generating more revenue.
Differences Between Google and Yahoo!
For this discussion, let's focus on the Google and Yahoo! Quality Scores. There are some very obvious differences between these two search engines and their approach to Quality Score. The Google approach is extremely complex, shrouded in mystery and is all-encompassing of your AdWords account. Yahoo!'s system is less complicated and more straight forward.
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