Smack in the middle
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photo credit: ogimogi

I haven’t made nearly the progress I had planned to make going through the Adwords training. What I have gone through, though, shows me that I understood more than I thought I did about how it all works. I’m still missing the trial and error practice that goes into getting good at it, but that’ll come in time.

One of the things that I realized I already know lately is something I see a lot of people on forums ignoring, and that’s the importance of the Adwords quality score.

The quality score for an ad is used to calculate the amount you’ll pay per click for a given ad position (or even if your ad will appear at all). The lower your quality score, the more you’ll have to pay to have your ad even show, let alone be in a high position. Gone are the days when it was a simple bidding war to get the top position. Now, the top position may be paying less than you are for position 10, depending on the quality scores of the ads.

So how is the quality score for an ad calculated?

Google uses some historical data for the keywords you’re targeting. That’s the same for everyone. They’ll also use the overall click through rate (CTR) of all your past campaigns (this is what bites me all the time, since I started using Adwords without knowing what I was doing, so my average CTR is very low).

Also important is the relevance of your ad text and keyword to the search query the user typed in. For example, if your ad is targeting the keyword “blue shoes”, and the ad text is relevant to buying blue shoes, and someone types in “Elvis blue suede shoes”, your ad isn’t particularly relevant. So it’ll show in a lower rank for that search query than if someone had typed in “buy blue shoes”.

The meat of the quality score, and what you have the most control over, is how relevant your destination page is to the keyword and ad text you’re using. This is really what kills most people.

Let’s say that you link to a merchant page listing all the shoes they sell, and you bid on the keyword “new work shoes”, thinking that anyone typing that in is prime for buying a nice pair of new shoes. But the merchant’s shoe page doesn’t have the term “work shoes” anywhere, so it isn’t particularly relevant for the keyword or the ad text. So you’ll have to bid higher to get your ad to show and rank well.

This is the reason that linking to merchant sites directly isn’t such a great idea. Instead, link to a landing page that you create that is highly relevant to the keyword and ad text you are using. That way your bids will be lower.

Single page landing pages are not enough, though. Google looks for the quality of the site itself, not just the landing page. You’ll need to create a full mini-site, complete with privacy policy, contact form, navigation menus, etc. That will boost the quality score for your ads, too, further lowering your cost per click and raising your ad rank. Basically, create a mini-site the same way you would a regular web site, and optimize it for your ad keywords in the same way that you would optimize it for those keywords in SEO terms.

So with all this extra work, how do you make the quality score work for you? Well, if you put in the extra work, all of a sudden you can bid less to maintain your ad’s rank, which means more profit for you.

As I experiment with mini-sites, I’ll report on the results and include any tips I come up with for optimizing them.

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