“…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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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!Read More
This moment is bittersweet. I have sold QualityScores.com to the amazing crew at GetFoundFirst.com!
I had a big hairy audacious goal for advertisement quality scoring, measurement and improvement here at QualityScores.com. The analytics side of the product was in the pre alpha stages and definitely showing promise. That product was housed here…and it is still here at QualityScores.com. It is simply under new ownership and management.
I couldn’t have asked for a more win/win/win situation than this. I’m incredibly blessed to be where I am right now but it is always hard to have to make the choice to cut a great project out in order to focus on other dreams.
That is why this is bittersweet. It is bitter because I don’t have the capacity for such a major undertaking when I am already on another project just as big, in my opinion. It is bitter because I finally came to the realization that to make the biggest impact in the space, I had to stop hanging on and let this go to a group who can make something big happen with it. It is sweet because I can now focus on my current project(s) without straying from those projects to push this along ever so slightly each time I touched it.
Quality can not wait a moment longer. Advertisers NEED the toolset behind QualityScores.com YESTERDAY!
The sweet part also comes in knowing that I am making the right choice for me, my family and my future. It also comes in knowing that the team I sold to is paying a fair price for the deal and I have wanted to work with Stuart Draper and his team for a long time. While I don’t get to work with them too much, I have committed to blogging a few times over the course of a year while striving to help them grow this asset by coaching a little here and there – and that is very exciting to me! It will be sweet to see this take off!
As for what I am doing now: I am focused on growing a business named Branded Holdings. We buy, build and brand million dollar exact-match domains (EMDs.) All of the domains are in-house and part of our portfolio. It’s a lot of fun!
I will be blogging more on my personal site and would love to connect with you there: jameszol.com.
Thank you & I’ll be catching up with ya’ll again soon!Read More
We’re pushing hard to release a pre-alpha version of QualityScores.com’s app by the end of August but it might be delayed into early September. Rest assured, however, that we’re working on something awesome.
The pre-alpha version of the app will be a “qualitative ppc management dashboard”.
Qualitative PPC Management Dashboard
At a glance, you should be able to visualize and drill down into your AdWords account from a quality score perspective. The goal is to help you identify quality problems in an account so you can address them as needed or according to your business goals.
Fine Tuning Reports and the pre-Alpha UI
We’re finalizing default dashboard views right now, fine tuning reports and navigation/drilldown ability, and striving to enhance the user interface so it is somewhat intuitive and useful out of the box.
I’m anxiously looking forward to releasing this and soliciting your feedback sometime in the next few weeks!
I wrote a couple controversial posts a year or two ago. Then, like scumbag Steve, I didn’t tell you what I recommended for truly automated solutions in the bid management space even though I promised I would.
A lot has changed since I wrote those blog posts. One thing that hasn’t is my opinion that certain things should be largely automated by machines. We just aren’t as smart or as fast as machines can be when managing thousands of keywords…there’s no way around that. Your argument is already invalid.
A few of the changes that occurred since I promised to write but didn’t write, in no particular order:
- Marin Software raises a lot of money and is the indisputable leader as far as annual ad spend managed by their software
- Acquisio acquires ClickEquations from, and a partnership with, Channel Intelligence who originally acquired Click Equations months before selling
You get the idea that this is an active space for some reason. Could it be the billions in ad spend flowing all over the place online?
I know I’m missing a lot of influential and relevant players in my list…but these are the ones I have tried to keep up with and seem to recommend to agencies, advertisers and others more than any others. If I’m missing some, it is largely because I don’t know about them or haven’t experienced their products or don’t know who’s behind them like I do the companies listed above.
Without further ado, here are my personal recommendations to any advertiser or agency looking at automating or scaling bid management:
(Enterprise) If you’re looking for more of an agency style partnership and expert service, then I highly recommend RKG for their in-house custom engineering, attribution technology and raw truly-automated bidding power. If I had a budget when I was shopping for a truly automated solution, I would have picked RKG. As soon as I have the budget, I’m going to pick RKG.
(Enterprise) If you’re looking for supplemental software to handle bid automation, then I highly recommend Optimine or Marin Software (has a “Pro” solution in addition to Enterprise). I’m a subscriber at Marin and if it weren’t for them providing such stellar service through a few rough down trends, I would probably hop over to Optimine pretty quickly to give them a shot because the guys behind Optimine are undoubtedly just as caring as the people at Marin Software. The bottom line is that the technology at each are above par, I have no doubt about it. I have also been a subscriber to Acquisio (also has a Pro side to them in addition to Enterprise) and their team is amazing & caring, their technology is great too and I would stand behind their product as well. I have not experienced, nor do I know much about, SearchForce but an agency filled with people I trust and respect recommends or uses SearchForce on several of their clients and that’s good enough for me to put them in this recommendation list.
(Non-Enterprise mostly) If the above options are out of your budget at the moment, then take a good look at Trada for agency-like crowd-sourced manual ppc management ($3k/mo minimum ad spend required last time I checked), WordWatch for supplemental bid help, and Clickable (maybe…I thought their pricing was public a while ago, now it appears to be hidden.)
(Non-Enterprise and/or Enterprise) If you manage everything in-house, then you should take a look at these supplemental tools for analyzing a variety of aspects of any account no matter the software you currently use: CertifiedKnowledge (I’m a subscriber), WordStream, Gazel (Excel Plugin), AdWords Editor, Microsoft adCenter Desktop, Microsoft Advertising Intelligence (Excel Plugin), and so many more.
I know I’m forgetting a lot of highly valuable services in this list…
What do you recommend? Please tell us who the solution is for too…Enterprise, Pro, Small biz, Agency, etc.Read More
You have a few ad rotation settings to choose from in a Google AdWords campaign.
1) Optimize for clicks: show ads expected to provide more clicks (this is the default setting for new campaigns)
2) Optimize for conversions: Show ads expected to provide more conversions
3) Rotate: Show ads more evenly
You can get to these settings in AdWords under any Campaign -> Settings -> Advanced Settings section -> Ad Delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping -> Ad rotation (click “Edit” and you should see something similar to the picture below. Click the picture for a bigger version.)
Why I Always Choose Optimize for Clicks or Optimize for Conversions (and NOT Rotate)
I have been running my campaigns on either Optimize for Clicks or Optimize for Conversions settings for years. It can be hard to simplify or strive to back business metrics into clicks or conversions but it’s well worth the effort, in my opinion.
Optimize for Clicks
Optimizing for clicks let’s Google automatically choose the ad that will produce the highest click-through rates (CTR) in the near term.
When uploading a new advertisement, Google will automatically test that ad with limited impressions over time to see if it will produce a better CTR than the current winning advertisement.
I love this option for rapidly testing ads; not to mention that it helps my quality scores and gives me a competitive edge.
Rapidly testing ads under this setting is easy – and this is my primary reason for NEVER using Rotate: Pause the current winning ad, clone it and unpause the clone – test your new ad against that clone and Google will give each ad a fair shot at producing a better CTR before choosing the most relevant ad as a winner. Google makes you more competitive in the marketplace by not having to wait on you to revisit the test to pick a winner by CTR. In other words, Google is giving an advertiser traffic that their competitors likely didn’t receive by automatically running the advertiser’s winning ad more heavily than other active ads in their ad group.
One should only choose this option if they are confident that the audience arriving through that campaign will satisfy the business goals of the advertiser regardless of the volume of traffic.
For example, I am confident that my landing pages for a specific niche should convert at 12% given a specific campaign’s existing keyword list, bids, ads and historical metrics. It is safe for me to drive as much traffic as I can to that website because the business metrics for this campaign are stable at any traffic volume the campaign can give me.
Optimize for Conversions
Optimizing for conversions let’s Google automatically choose the ad that will produce the highest conversion rate in the near term.
When uploading a new advertisement, Google will automatically test that ad with limited impressions over time to see if it will produce a better conversion rate than the current winning advertisement.
Testing ads under this setting is easy too – but depending on your conversion metrics or tracking, it may take a little bit longer to determine the winning ad: Pause the current winning ad, clone it and unpause the clone – test your new ad against that clone and Google will give each ad a fair shot at producing a better conversion rate before choosing a winner. Google can drive more converting traffic to your website quickly by driving traffic through an ad that is more likely to turn into a conversion. Letting Google do this automatically is smart because conversions are not lost in the hustle if an ad test is on Rotate and simply waiting for you to revisit and pick a winner yourself. Why would anybody want to lose conversions to a competitor?
One should only choose this option if they are able to prove value to the business for every conversion they are tracking through AdWords.
Rotate (Please do NOT choose this option!)
I don’t recommend this option unless you have the time or the technology to do this in a more efficient way than Google can with the above options, or you have a different business metric that you’re striving to optimize for – for example: a low bounce rate/higher engagement, profit per impression (PPI), or other metrics.
Most advertisers should NOT use this option for a few reasons:
- Waiting for a person to pick a winner is inefficient. One will either lose clicks or conversions if they are unable to pick a winner based on CTR or conversion rates.
- Most advertisers are not optimizing for PPI or other metrics. Even if one is optimizing toward PPI, money could be lost to costs due to lower quality scores on ads that might produce decent PPI but lower volume traffic and conversions. There’s almost always going to be an opportunity cost…but if you’re optimizing toward PPI on Search Campaigns, you likely already considered or tested the alternatives.
- AdWords recently decided to optimize this setting toward clicks automatically after 30 days. You might as well Optimize for Clicks now if you’re going to Rotate. Or you better carve out plenty of time in your routine to review hundreds, thousands or millions of ads each month – depending on how big your AdWords account(s) are.
You Have a Choice
It’s up to you as an advertiser or business owner to determine which metrics or settings will work best for your business model. Currently, AdWords gives us 3 options: Optimize for Clicks, Optimize for Conversions or Rotate.
I recommend running with Optimize for Clicks or Optimize for Conversions. Make either of those options work for your business and I’m confident that you will be on your way towards a high quality, highly relevant, and highly profitable Google AdWords account.