The rantings of some crazy men…

Following on from a recent forum question we read on Webmaster World Google AdWords Forum the question rose regarding ‘Keyword Quality Score Upgraded?’ – where advertisers Quality Score (QS) jumps from 6/10 & 7/10 to 10/10 overnight, with no real reason as to why Quality Score has jumped without any optimisation work happening on the campaigns.

Between us we have access to 100′s of Google AdWords accounts and have been monitoring changes in Quality Score for many years now…so this is our take on explaining some myths around Google Quality Score…

At the backend of AdWords advertisets accounts are grouped into tiers. Tiers 1,2 & 3. Now why and how AdWords accounts are tiered together Google doesn’t tell us, but at a guess…spend, conversion rate and potential growth…would be the main suspects. If you dont believe us and think we are talking ‘nonsense’, then let us refer you back to an article we wrote in May 2010 (has it really been that long???) called Google AdWords Back End Interface. In this article we showed a screenshot of what a Google Manager at the time sent us in regards to what Google employees see when they look at Google AdWords, here is the screenshot again…



On the above screenshot you will see boxes in red that are highlighting points we were making in our article back in May 2010, however, you will see a blue box as well which shows that the account that is being shown here is classified in ‘tier 2′ by Google.

In reference to the Webmaster World Forum question, we too have experienced times when our Quality Score in accounts has rapidly approved suddenly without any real explanation as to why, but we believe that this is because Google has changed the tier that the account sits in.

Think about it from Google’s point of view for a minute…

  1. If you have accounts that have the potential to grow, it would be in Google’s interest to give them better Quality Score to reduce their CPC’s (if that is QS and CPC’s have anything to do with one another, but that’s another story) as this will give them a better ROI on their advertising spend with Google and encourage them to spend more with them in the future and you put them in a higher tier.
  2. If you have an account that doesn’t have the potential to grow then you can move the account down a tier and reduce their Quality Score and increase their CPC’s ensuring that you are getting all the money you can from the advertiser and then also limit the amount of auctions they enter into, giving preferential auctions to advertisers in higher tiers that have the potential to grow.
  3. But here is the main thing…Google’s ideal situation in terms of Quality Score is to give advertisers the highest Quality Score possible. Why? Because if you have a QS of 10/10, you don’t optimise your keyword or your bids anymore, as you think you have reached the highest potential for that keyword. Therefore, you don’t spend your time trying to improve your landing page and trying to bring your bids then. And the reason is because if your QS does improve from 6/10 to 10/10 overnight, you’ll find your CPC remains the same as before (maybe slightly improved, but not much.)

Often we find accounts where advertisers are paying over the odds for their brand terms. Often they have max bids set higher than £0.50 and they have QS of 10/10 and end up paying an average CPC of £0.15-£0.20. Depending upon other competitors on the brand term, but if there are two or less then advertisers should not be paying more than £0.10 for their brand term. However, by Google giving advertisers 10/10 on their Quality Score, they do not try and bring down their Max CPC’s as they think that they are paying the least they can for their keyword. However, this is not the case, and if advertisers bring their Max CPC’s down from the original £0.50 to around £0.20, they will see that their ads still remain in position 1.1 but their average CPC drops from £0.15-£0.20 to around £0.05-£0.10.

Many advertisers live and die by this amazing Quality Score number that Google associates for keywords. But they should not. Quality Score varies according to every auction that an advert is entered into, so whilst the number against your Quality Score may say ’10′ this is just an average of all the auctions that keyword has entered into…ever wondered why you never see keywords with a Quality Score of 8/10???

Now whilst this is only speculative, we hope that we are wrong and that this is all utter nonsense. We’d hate to find out we were right and then it was discovered that Google’s Auction model isn’t actually a fair auction!

Brought to you by Black Hat PPC.


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  1. Dennis says:

    There are two Quality Scores, namely the real and the symbolic QS. The real QS is the one Google calculate with and is responsable for AdRank (CPC & Position). The symbolic QS (10/10) is just for signal purposes. Google did increase the symbolic QS, I don’t know why, but they didn’t change the real QS. So I see no impact on CPC or position for my clients.

  2. Jw says:

    Good article, seems to me you should optimise based on cpc and av. Position, QS is ballshit.

  3. RH says:

    QS is pure bullshit. Focus on CTR and you are done these days. period..

  4. RB says:

    I’m not sure that this tiered approach would be in Google’s best interest. I’ve modeled the Auction and run experiments on the model with assigning different quality scores to the advertisers. Based on my experiments I believe that lowering the quality scores of some advertisers doesn’t increase their CPCs, but rather it decreases the CPCs of the advertisers with higher quality scores. That means less revenue for Google. As a rule of thumb, again based on my experiments, the higher the average quality score and lower the standard deviation of quality scores, the higher the average CPC of all advertisers, all else (including bid amounts) being equal. That is, Google would rather have all advertisers at 10. What is the motivation to keep some advertisers lower?

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