Are your landing pages ready for Google’s Ad quality improvements?

Earlier this month, Google announced on its official blog (adwords.blogspot.com) that the ad quality would soon be changing to give the landing page more weighting when determining the Quality Score and Ad Rank i.e. ads with landing pages Google deems to be most relevant to a respective search query, will be able to rank higher for lower cost-per-click (CPC) bids. In August, the changes were tested in Brazil, Spain, Portugal and Spanish-speaking Latin America. Jonathan Alferness, director of product management on Google's ad quality team, said:

"What we've seen is that there are ads available in the auction that are as good a quality as the top ads. But the landing pages - the merchant sites, the advertiser landing pages - are of much higher quality than the ads that we see at the top of our auction."

This, says Alferness, means the user experience isn't what it could be. Hence the change to give more weight to landing page quality. "In the end, we believe that this will result in better quality experience for the users."

Over the coming weeks we should begin to see some changes in keyword Quality Score and typical ad position.  However, Google states that within a couple of weeks things should stabilize and most campaigns are not expected to see a significant change in terms of performance.  However, that said, Google has not released the results of the tests performed in August nor have we been given a rough estimate of the percentage of campaigns that will most likely be affected. 

Quality Score, what determines it

If you're reading this and are not entirely sure what I mean by Quality Score, let me take it a step back.  Google's Quality Score is a score assigned at the keyword level to determine the relevancy of your keyword to your ad text and to a user's search query.  The higher your Quality Score, the better your positioning in the search engine results page (SERP) and the lower your costs.  

Quality Score is determined by the following factors:

  • Historical Click Through Rate (CTR) of the keywords and the matched ad
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR and all of the ads and keywords in your account
  • The historical CTR of the Display URL 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 relevant factors ("secret sauce")

Therefore, landing page quality has always been a factor when determining Quality Score and Ad Rank, however, now it will play an even bigger role.  It's worth noting that landing page quality has generally impacted Quality Score in a negative way - as those with poor landing pages could expect their ads to be rejected, suspended or start the bid auction at a high price. 

With this update, we should expect to see the landing page quality as a positive value and in turn, push advertisers to ensure their landing pages are relevant to the keywords.

In remains to be seen if this change will indeed be a "positive" or if websites in which deep linking is not possible, will begin to see negative impacts to their Quality Score and Ad Rank.

Advertisers should take the new update as a reminder to build dedicated landing pages wherever possible

Advertisers should review their destination URL's in order to prepare for this change, and update any URL's so that the landing page takes users to the most relevant page on their site. 

As mentioned on the AdWords blog, the same basic approach to improving your results applies. Check out this link for tips on how to optimise your ads.

In my view, this update is a good little reminder of how certain elements of what makes up the Quality Score are not as important as others. When I think of successful paid search campaigns, one of the most important components is the landing page. In fact, part of Greenlight's best practice is to urge clients to develop dedicated landing pages specifically for pay-per-click (PPC).

This is vital for retailers wanting to make the shopping experience as short and easy as possible. It becomes even more important when an account is expanded to include more generic terms. Imagine a user searching for "red size 10 jumper" and ending up on the homepage? The chances of this user converting are decreased considerably because the more work they have to do, the less likely they will buy.

However, if a website is updated from having dedicated landing pages to no dedicated landing pages, will it find its Quality Score is impacted?  My guess is no. Google will most likely reward those with good historical CTR and a stable account history.  Also, we can't forget that part of the "secret sauce" is Max CPC.  Having said that, don't expect a Quality Score of 10 for irrelevant keywords just because you bid £100. 

My advice is to take this new update as a reminder to build dedicated landing pages wherever possible. The "worse" thing that can happen is you drive quality traffic with a higher chance of converting.

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