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Quality Score and PPC Management

The argument has been made that in paid search Quality Score is just as important as the bidding. Position within each auction is based on the product of QS and the bid, so they're equally important, right? So why don't we spend more time talking about QS tips on RKGBlog? Because the fact is: it isn't very interesting, or very difficult. Quality Score is a weighted estimate of Click-Through Rate. CTR, in turn, is a product of two factors:
  1. The degree to which what you offer matches the user's intent. For example, the user who searches for 'Yamaha' may be interested in pianos, motorcycles or stereo equipment. They probably aren't interested in all three, so no matter which you sell, your CTR will be lousy on that KW.
  2. The relative attractiveness of your ad copy versus the competition's. This is a function of both the content of the selling proposition, and the phrasing thereof. A 20 percent discount is more compelling than 10 percent, and "20% Off Today!" will outperform "Twenty percent discount"
So, writing compelling copy, targeted to the KW is important. And, testing to find the phrasing that generates the best CTR without torpedoing conversion rates makes sense. Once you've been in the business a while, and done hundreds or thousands of copy tests, you develop a pretty good idea of how to phrase the messages, and which of the advertiser's particular selling propositions will resonate well. Certainly PPC managers should:
  • Test whether short term discount copy lifts CTR enough to offset the Conversion Rate and AOV hit taken by attracting more discount hunters.
  • Scan through your ads to find low QS ads and fix copy.
  • Test copy variations when the likely winner is hard to predict.
All these are good practices. All these are also fairly obvious, and don't take any particular brilliance to execute. Indeed, this is good work for an intern if they're reasonably sharp and attend to details. Yes, Quality Score plays just as important a role as the bid, but there is no complexity involved with QS strategy. You want the QS to be as high as possible always. That doesn't vary by season, or by time of day, or by category. It doesn't depend on stock positions, margin structures or return rates. Higher is better, and the mechanisms for making improvements are obvious. Moreover, a good, well-trained analyst will write very good, targeted copy the first time, and have a very hard time raising the bar from there. I heard some guy give a talk at a conference saying: "I hardly ever change bids anymore, I just manage by maximizing quality score." But, "management by QS" doesn't make sense. There's nothing to manage; get it right then move on to the stuff you can manage: the bids, the KW list, the match-types, negatives, syndication networks, etc. That's the stuff that separates the paid search managers from the pretenders.
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