What’s New With AdWords?


Google’s been busy with AdWords this summer, launching a number of new features. Here’s a wrap-up of six of those features as well as Google’s new advertising news website.

This tool, which is currently in beta, lets you test and measure changes to your keywords, your AdWords bidding, ad groups and placements. Basically you run your existing campaign alongside an experimental campaign.

You choose what percentage of auctions you’d like each campaign to participate in, and then watch what happens. If your experimental campaign is significantly more successful than your original campaign, you can decide to apply the changes to all of your auctions.

Google has added a new tool to the AdWords Opportunities tab that allows you to see how your campaign performance compares to the average performance of other advertisers. Google measures such indicators as click-through rate, average position, and impressions.

It shows these metrics for each of the different categories that represent your offerings. It can help you identify which aspects of your campaign are inferior to your competition, and then prompt you to improve those aspects accordingly.

Ad Sitelinks let you add additional links to pages within your site in your ads, provided your ads appear at the top of search results. The idea is that more people will click through to your site if you offer them more options. The feature was introduced in November, though this summer Google add a couple of new characteristics.

One new characteristic is that additional links can be condensed into one line of text (previously the only option was two lines). The other change is that advertisers no longer need Google’s approval to set up Ad Sitelinks for their campaigns. You can set up Ad Sitelinks in the Campaign Settings tab.

This new tool lets you see which of your pay-per-click keywords are currently prompting your ads to show, and why the other keywords aren’t spurring ads. You can access it from the More Actions drop-down menu within the Keyword tab.

If you want you can limit your diagnosis to a particular country and/or language. If you are seeing that certain keywords are not resulting in ads because of Quality Score issues, you might decide to resolve those issues. Or you might choose to increase your bids to get your ads shown.

This new AdWords management feature lets you create keywords that are more targeted than broad match and have a greater reach than phrase or exact match. To implement this feature, you put a plus sign (+) in front of one or more words in a broad match keyword. Each word following a (+) sign must appear in the user’s query exactly or as a close variation.

The words that are not preceded by a (+) sign will prompt ads on more significant query variations. This feature will likely drive more traffic for those switching from broad match, and attract more qualified traffic for those switching from phrase or exact match.

The AdWords Report Center is slowly being phased out as performance reports are moved onto the Campaigns tab. According to Google, it’s best to put performance information on the same page where you manage your campaign.

Reports include campaign reports, ad group reports, and account-level reports. They will specifically be stored in a new part of the Campaigns tab called the Control panel and library.

In June Google unveiled Google Ad News, a website that aggregates advertising news, including news related to AdWords. The site is organized into advertising categories, including search advertising; mobile advertising; and TV, radio and print.

For advertisers and advertising professionals with little time to sift through the categories, a top advertising news category provides Google’s most valued advertising-related articles. Articles come from such publications as The Detroit News, Business Week, and The Guardian.

PPC Tips for the Small Business Owner


The following tips provide the framework for developing a successful and cost effective pay per click campaign.

Time/Day Parting – Google allows advertisers to determine the day of week or even the time of day they want their ads to display. This can be a very useful tool for small business advertisers who know when their customers are most likely to look for their product or service. By setting your ads to display at only high performance times you increase the effectiveness of your campaign and reduce your costs.

Ad Scheduling.png

Match Types – Gone are the days of simply adding keywords that are all set to broad match and hoping for a return. Sure, casting a larger net brings in more traffic, but it also punishes your budget. The quality of that traffic might also suffer depending on the chosen keywords. Try using the available match types, especially exact match, to control costs and which searches are actually displaying your ads.

Negative Keywords – Selecting negative keywords to offset unwanted traffic is an absolute must for any campaign, large or small. For example, f a florist that sells only fresh flowers and plants might want to include the negative “artificial” to prevent traffic from artificial flower type keywords. Using negatives also allows you to pursue higher volume keywords without the exposure to unrelated searches.

Geo Targeting – According to a 2009 TMP/comScore report, 80% of consumers expect businesses in their search results to be within 15 miles of their location. This definitely doesn’t apply to all industries and regions, but it should provide a starting point with your targeting. It’s important to mention that with Google’s targeting granularity, you could potentially target your business out of traffic if it’s set so small that only a few people will see the ads.

Other Search Engines- Google has the lion share of the search market, but they also carry the highest bid prices. Bing and the like might not offer the volume that Google does; however, smaller search engines often have lower bid prices, which ultimately produce lower conversion costs. Test out a small budget on these other engines to start looking at your PPC efforts as a portfolio.

Keyword Development–The Google traffic estimator tool might show you that the keyword “new shoes” generates 1,500,000 searches each month, but that doesn’t mean it’s a quality keyword for your ad group. To maximize your budget, think locally and specifically. For example, if you’re in the printing business, expand past the generic and more expensive “printing” keywords;  pair them up with location identifiers to better define your product and audience. By using the keyword ”printing shops Denver 80202,” you pay less for a consumer that is further along in the buying cycle.

Introducing The All-Important Quality Score


Throughout this column, the phrase “Quality Score” has popped up on different occasions. Understanding Quality Score is fundamental for successful paid search campaigns, but can be a difficult concept for beginners to understand. So the time has come to cover this topic so you can use Quality Score to your advantage and not fall into its traps.

The early days before Quality Score

In the beginning of paid search, auctions existed in a purely capitalistic marketplace where the advertiser who was willing to pay the most for a keyword was awarded first place, the second highest-paying advertiser’s ads were second, and so forth.

It was an easy system to understand and it made sense. However, the ad space became a bit muddled. Advertisers with deep pockets literally took over the search engine results pages on keywords that weren’t necessarily related to their business. For example, a global soft drink company could start to take over terms such as rock and roll, skateboards, or even Britney Spears. These advertisers mostly weren’t trying to cause chaos—they were just trying to reach their target demographic. But in doing so, the sponsored search results for some keywords could potentially contain no results directly related to what a searcher was looking for.

The engines realized that this could be a problem. Google has long maintained that the best thing for its business is to keep results as relevant as possible—including paid listings. To improve the relevance of paid search ads, Google created the Quality Score. Microsoft and Yahoo soon followed with their own systems to improve relevance of ads.

So what is Quality Score?

Simply put, Quality Score is a numeric grade from one to ten (ten being best) assigned to each of your keyword/ad/landing page combinations. The score is updated frequently, calculated at each time your keyword is searched on to account for changes to your terms and creatives. So what’s the value of a high Quality Score? If your keyword is deemed highly relevant, Google will lower your cost-per-click and rank your ad higher than other competitors even if they’re bidding more for those terms. On the flip side, a keyword with a low Quality Score may mean you have to bid a premium price to even appear on a search result page.

How is Quality Score calculated?

We don’t know exactly what goes into the Quality Score black box but we do know that high click-thru-rates (CTRs) are a big piece of the pie. The engines probably correlate high number of clicks as “virtual votes” by past users for the advertiser and figure a good CTR means a relevant keyword.

Google does offer some insight into how Quality Score is calculated in the AdWords help area:

While we continue to refine our Quality Score formulas for Google and the Search Network, the core components remain more or less the same:

  • The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the keyword and the matched ad on Google; note that CTR on the Google Network only ever impacts Quality Score on the Google Network — not on Google
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
  • The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
  • The quality of your landing page
  • The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group
  • The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query
  • Your account’s performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown
  • Other relevance factors

Note that there are slight variations to the Quality Score formula when it affects ad position and first page bid:

  • For calculating a keyword-targeted ad’s position, landing page quality is not a factor. Also, when calculating ad position on a Search Network placement, Quality Score considers the CTR on that particular placement in addition to CTR on Google.
  • For calculating first page bid, Quality Score doesn’t consider the matched ad or search query, since this estimate appears as a metric in your account and doesn’t vary per search query.

What do you really need to know about Quality Score?

You’ll have plenty of time to test various tactics to improve Quality Score once the campaign starts, so don’t waste too much time worrying about it right now. The one thing you do need to take into account though is to make sure you keep your ad groups tightly focused. Because click-thru-rate is the biggest weighting factor to Quality Score, you’ll want to make sure that your ads are highly relevant to the keywords in each group so that you get the best CTR as possible. In my experience, as long as you’re getting a good percentage of clicks to impressions, the engines will consider your terms relevant enough to gain fairly high scores. After that, there are just a few things to keep in mind such as ensuring that your landing pages are loading at a good speed and you have some of your ad group’s keywords in your ad text. You do those things right and your Quality Score should be just fine.

Overall, my best advice is to not obsess over Quality Score. There are a couple hundred other factors to PPC success that are just as important. The important thing now is to just make sure you understand the concept fully and do some extra research if you feel you still need some clarification.

The premise that ad popularity and a high quality score leads to improved search advertising results may or may not be true….especially for B2B advertisers. I urge business marketers to challenge this assumption and understand the relationship between PPC quality score and ROI-based results.

Quality Score algorithms

In simple terms, ad position is primarily determined by how much an advertiser is willing to pay for each click (i.e. your bid) and the popularity, or click-through-rate (CTR), associated with your ad. Relevancy also plays a role… and very poor landing pages can lead to penalties.

More information can be found here on Google Quality Score, and Yahoo Quality Index. Details aside, Quality Score causes most advertisers to try and maximize response, or click-through-rate.

Note: Not surprisingly, this methodology also increases the click charges that go into the pockets of search networks!

Tips on PPC targeting

All advertisers should be deploying these PPC best practices to accurately target your audience:

  • Select very specific keywords and long tail keyword phrases
  • Utilize keyword match-types
  • Deploy negative keywords
  • Test geo-targeted ads (even for national brands)
  • Implement day-parting

This week’s question: ”What have you heard about Quality Score?”