Why I Optimize for Quality Score (and You Already Do Too)

“…QS is up to 200% more valuable in 2013″ -Larry Kim

Larry does a great job defending his statement above with facts and figures after studying billions in ad spend. I don’t have access to that kind of data but I do have a good story to tell about how I optimize for quality score and you probably already do it too.

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The Love/Hate Relationship with Quality Scores

In the pay per click advertising industry, you either hate QS, or you love it.

I obviously land in the “I <3 QS” camp while others fall into the “I H8 QS” camp.

And this is my attempt to convert all the haters out there.

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What does Google (or any ad network) do for you?

Google helps you find customers by driving visitors to your website through a variety of advertising products.

Most ad networks are performance based: pay per click ads. In other words, their primary goal is to drive visitors to your website on a cost per visitor basis.

Would you agree that if an ad network wants visitors to click on your ads then they likely want to focus on quality of an entire experience so they can maximize the lifetime value of that visitor for them? And if that is their goal to ensure their business thrives, wouldn’t it make sense for their business to maximize the margin of any advertiser by “penalizing” them if the quality doesn’t measure up to the expectations of their visitors and rewarding those who strive for the absolute highest quality experience for their visitor?

I’m confident that the ad networks almost always have way more data on a visitor than the advertiser does; at least for their primary goal of monetizing that visit to the max while ensuring that person will return again and again and again.

The advertiser is the peasant. The visitor is the king and the kingdom is the ad network.

What do you do for Google (or any ad network)?

You provide the cash that helps the ad network keep visitors happy.

How do ad networks keep visitors happy? By producing a high quality experience every time.

You fund the algorithms that drive quality by giving Google (or any ad network) an ad to deliver to their visitor to see if you can bring that visitor to your website. If that ad does not match that visitor as well as Google has profiled them, you usually get “penalized.” On the other hand, if your ad fits the quality of that visitor then you get tremendously rewarded.

You help shape the experience at Google and if you do a good job, then you earn a significant portion of your realm within the kingdom. Hah, I slid back into my King/peasant analogy. Yay!

The consequences of doing a bad job are less visibility, higher costs of business, and a lower margin no matter how you slice it.

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It’s about a dollar being a dollar being a dollar

One of the biggest arguments I hear against quality score is that it doesn’t matter to an advertiser because it’s all about making money even if it costs a little more to do it. I mostly agree with the sentiment and would say that if you are playing in a realm where you only command a 3/10 QS and it is producing a small return, then by all means keep doing it. At the same time, if it could produce a wider margin and it has a high enough volume, then optimize toward quality as much as you can.

Why I Optimize for Quality Score (and You Already Do Too)

I optimize for quality score because I think it is my duty and privilege to not only maximize returns for my business, but to do it by molding my business to the ad network’s optimal performance levels and then going to work on my business to capitalize efficiently and very profitably on that channel.

Does that make sense?

I earn my reward by helping another (the ad network) earn their reward.

It truly is the ultimate in win/win scenarios. By optimizing toward quality scores of the ad network, I am helping them with their goals. In return, it is fair to expect them to help me with my goals too. And they do, to the tune of millions upon millions in net revenue year after year after year.

Optimizing toward quality scores often means doing these things:

  • Testing ads regularly (and rigorously, if possible)
  • Organizing and reorganizing the account for optimal relevancy
  • Getting religious about negative keywords, placements, etc
  • Suggesting (or driving) landing page changes, destination url changes, and more

Almost every traditional “no I’m not optimizing for QS” move you make is probably directly impacting that very important QS pulse one way or another. I think that 80%+ of the time, advertisers are moving that pulse in a healthy direction. That is why I would argue that you’re probably already optimizing for quality scores.

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FAQs about optimizing toward QS (or How to Optimize for QS)

How does focusing on QS as a key performance metric help you?

I get more share of voice/impressions, I have a bigger margin than my competitors, I get premium ad positions at lower bids – often at 20%+ discounts compared to my competition according to the traffic estimator tool at AdWords.

Those discounts add up and translate into a nice slice of revenue that I know my competitors aren’t receiving and I sleep well at night knowing that if they tried to get it, it would cost them a lot more money.

The ad networks let me own that channel if I take care of them. I LOVE owning a channel for my business.

How do you watch out for number one: your business?

Naturally, you need to watch out for your business and do what is best for you. Make money anywhere you can. I’m not arguing against that at all; however, I do believe there is a trickle down effect. By focusing on mastering the quality of a few core terms, your entire account will reap dividends from it.

Start with the terms that are already profitable for you because you will likely earn even more out of those terms.

QS optimization takes time. It’s a time-based game, often lasting for 12+ months in any niche.

I think the biggest key to watching out for your business is to get dynamic with your website’s visitors. Test your landers like crazy and get them to a point that you can drive any traffic at x cost per visitor and know, without much doubt at all, that you will earn x+y per visit. That will be your biggest insurance against concerns about boosting click through rates with ad testing. The tighter you can control that, the higher quality your visitor’s experience will be in my opinion.

How do you optimize for QS?

My simple formula that I wash, rinse and repeat perpetually (it takes at least 12 months to get into a strong position for the long haul):

1) Start conversion optimizing your website like crazy.

Get the absolute best conversion or engagement metrics that you can. Get dynamic with it. Maximize the value of every visit and get to a point where your earnings per visitor variance is small enough that you can drive almost any traffic toward your site and as long as the cost per visitor is at x, you will almost always make money off of it if the ad network truly cares about the quality of their visitors too. Some networks are just junk traffic brokers.

2) Organize your account and pay attention to details.

I am a huge believer of single keyword ad groups; to the tune of 80,000+ ad groups for my head terms. :) I am not too critical about this on display, rich ads, or long-tail terms…but my strongest terms, even up to 100,000 of them, will likely be found in single keyword ad groups so I can focus on step 3 and see the rewards trickle into the rest of the account because of the organization insanity at the top.

Get as tightly knit as you can with your ad groups. You don’t need to be all single-keyword-insanity like me, but I thrive in that level of detail and have seen incredible value from it.

3) After you are comfortable with step one and two, start working on your ads.

Go insane on them. Try all the ad copy variations you can, scale as much as you can, test as often as you are comfortable with. The key to this step is to drive visitors because that is the ad network’s goal – it is your website’s goal to convert those visitors and if your site’s quality matches up, the conversions will flow in profitably after you have your best ads out there.

I almost always set my campaigns to optimize for clicks in Google. I’ll use enhanced cpc too and bid (using software) my way to my expected cost per click where I know I have margin to play with.

Your website should be so great from step 1 that step 2 is a breeze. It’s about the visit volume in step 3; satisfying the primary goal of the ad network!

That’s it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Now that you’re a believer, it’s time to get to work!

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TL;DR

You’re already optimizing for quality score if you test your ads, organize your account, and chip away at better performance on Google (or any ad network.)

About James Zolman

James ZolmanJames Zolman is the founder of QualityScores.com. He sold the Quality Scores website and pre-alpha-release software to Get Found First in April, 2013.

James has been advertising online since late 2003/early 2004, owned a pay per click advertising agency from 2005-2009, a full-time affiliate marketer from 2009-2011 and he currently does lead generation in hyper competitive spaces.

If you liked this post, get in touch with +James Zolman here!