Live Blogging SES Toronto 2009: Quality Score: “201, 301”

Anne Kennedy, SES Advisory Board & Managing Partner and Founder, Beyond Ink

Andrew Goodman, SES Advisory Board & Principal, Page Zero Media
David Sprinkle, Director of Paid Search, Acronym Media

Overview from the SES Day 2 Agenda:

How are ads ranked in the paid search auctions run by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft? Each keyword in your campaign is assigned a “quality score” based on past performance. Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. In any case, you must achieve high quality scores to keep your paid search costs in line. Expert panelists explain the workings of the latest algorithms, discuss case studies and testing techniques, and explain how to troubleshoot problems.

First speaker: A. Goodman

Evolution of Google AdWords and its pricing model:

  • v1.0. Original AdWords used fixed pricing. It was an unpopular program. Fixed CPM rates, few tools. It was the worst of old display ad technology, but at least you could target keywords.
  • v2.0: CTR rules now. Leapfrogs Overture’s pure PPC auction. Bid multiplied by CTR equals AdRrank. Now a more efficient auction. Ads priced on market demand. New tools mean more marketers are measuring ROI by keyword. Other incentives and tools introduced to test ads. (Notes that CTR is not the perfect proxy for relevancy, but it’s pretty close. Still, Google makes more money this way.)
  • v2.5: quality based bidding introduced in 2005. Google pursues multiple goals. Disincentive for lowball bidding on irrelevant terms. Chase away “annoying” advertisers (to enhance user experience). Addresses relevancy and quality with more factors than just CTR. Low quality score meant inactive keywords, or need to raise your bid above minimum. Side effect: increased revenue (higher CPCs) & profit margin for Google.
  • v2.6: landing page quality. Use response and consumer protection goals. Editorial approaches being automated. Google’s published guidelines. What is the weighting of these factors (e.g., Quality Score: ‘Poor’, ‘OK’). Landing pages: can check speed of landing page, etc.

States that in reality landing page score is probably not big part of Quality Score.

Increase quality score by having good account/campaign categorization, tight relationships of meaning: keywords, ads, landing page.

Accounts in Quality Score (QS) purgatory. Basic build problems: wrong campaign settings; no ad testing; jumbled ad groups, wrong keywords. Quasi arbitrage or unclear business model; urgent need to spend $X dollars (tens or hundreds of thousands) in one month; no understanding that it takes time to rank up QS

Sometimes if you have broad keywords and weak ads in a hot sector you get poor CTRs and QS out the gate. Using high bids to rescue an account with low QS doesn’t go too far. If QS is so poor across account, may want to try building new account.

Higher ad positions and better click prices: the classic recipe. Build a powerful account; “shape” QS. Strong brand, clear goals for a good head start. Smarter campaign structure using better keyword research, persona research. Ongoing attention to QS hygiene: delete loosely-targeting words

Second speaker: D. Sprinkle

Known factors for QS: CTR, query relevance, landing page “quality”, account history, geographical performance, maximum bid, bounce rate.

Smart campaign architecture: small, focused ad groups is the best; kill non-performing keywords (pause/delete); pause ads—don’t just edit existing ones; separate top performers; match types (recommends putting different match types into different campaigns [though, I personally don’t usually think this is a good idea].

Disagrees with previous speaker regarding consideration of landing pages by Google in Quality Score formula. Thinks it plays bigger role. Checks pages with Google’s site-related keyword research tool

Monitoring. Your bid management tool doesn’t cut it. Utilize available reports; create your own metrics; only use current data; give change time

Goal is to have landing page load in under 5 seconds. Free tool for checking: YSLow (for FireBug/Firefox)

All the above relates to Google AdWords. Yahoo & MSN have greater focus on CTR, CPC… ad relevance, landing pages, more literal than Google. Keyword being bid on needs to be in ad.

With new pricing models, Google gets more say in what you have to pay.

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