The ROI Revolution Blog

New Google AdWords Quality Score Change – And How It Affects You

August 22, 2008

As if the AdWords Quality Score algorithm couldn’t get any more elusive and mysterious, Google announced a new groundbreaking change this morning to how it will determine the quality of keywords and ads in the future. And yes, it will affect you.

Instead of the usual static per-keyword quality score Google dishes out to advertisers, quality will now be determined in real-time each time a user searches, based on such factors as geographical location and the actual search query.

Gone are the days when your phrase matched term “swiss cheese” is nailed with a $5 minimum for being “irrelevant” due to a low CTR in the US, grinding your traffic to a screeching halt. Now, your keyword will still be active, giving you a chance for searchers in Canada searching for “fine swiss cheese”, which you’re not directly bidding on, to still see your ad. Since quality is determined in real-time on a per-query basis, the algorithm may determine that users in Canada click your ads more often, and click your ads when searching on specific queries.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Google will also take into account the quality on certain search networks. So while your ad may not pass the quality test to show up on, you can still show up in the search results for AOL and

Additionally, Google is doing away with the “minimum bid”, and replacing it with “first page bid”, which guides your bidding strategies a bit more effectively if you want to get on the first page, which is where all the highest quality ads hang out, fighting for that click. This bid is based on the exact match version of the search query, your ad’s quality score, and advertiser competition for that query.

These changes can either help or hurt you, depending on how you want to look at it. I can already see the frustration of checking what should be high-volume keywords, and seeing that they’re not receiving much traffic. They’re not inactive; they’re just not generating the volumes of traffic you’d hoped. You’ve been pegged with low quality. On the flipside, you may notice your clicks and impressions drop slightly, but the quality of that traffic is that much higher, giving you a boost in conversion rate and a drop in your cost per conversion.

According to Google, if you’re a high-quality advertiser (and you are a high-quality advertiser, aren’t you?) these changes should actually help you:

“Your ads will be more likely to show when they’re relevant and less likely to show when they’re not. This means that Google users are apt to see better ads while you, as an advertiser, should receive leads which are more highly qualified.”

Basically, high-quality advertisers will get shown more for high-quality, relevant searches. That’s only fair, right?

Since quality is determined in part by ad CTR and landing page quality, you should get crackin’ on a fresh rewrite of your ads, and increasing your landing page quality immediately.

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