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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oh the Irony - New Guidelines for Questionable Products

Here's a screen shot of the cached text of YSM blog post entitled "New Guidelines for Questionable Products".

No idea how long that link has been there, I just noticed a few days ago. I notice YSM uses Wordpress - did that link make it in via a vulnerability of some kind?

If the YSM blog can't clean up there act I may have to pull them off my paid search resources list;-)


Monday, March 24, 2008

Paid Search Resources: The List

I get asked quite a bit about what paid search blogs, forums and other resources I read/recommend. I decided to put together this list of paid search resources which I will update from time to time. If you know of a resource that's primarily about paid search that I have not included please let me know in the comments and I will add it to the main list.

I would like this list to include frequently updated paid search resources that offer unique insights that will benefit those involved in the paid search community. I am not looking for links to paid search tools, paid search management company websites or sites that are primarily promotional in nature.

Here's the list...

Search The Sites in This List

AdWords Agency Blog

AdWords Learning Center

AdWords Online Support Center

Beyond the Paid


Brad Geddes

Brandy Eddings ~ PPC Category

Clix Marketing PPC Blog

Digital Point - adCenter

Digital Point - AdWords

Digital Point - Yahoo Search Marketing

Epiphany - Google AdWords

Google Groups - Google AdWords Help

Gordon Choi

Merjis Blog - AdWords Section

Msdanielle - PPC Related

Official adCenter Site

Official AdWords Blog

Official Yahoo! Search Marketing Blog

Online Marketing Blog - Pay Per Click Category

Pay Per Click Journal

PPC Advice

PPC Blog

PPC Book

PPC Hero

PPC Without Pity

Pure Visibility - AdWords Section

Quality in Search - Paid Search Category

RedFly Marketing

Search Engine Land - adCenter

Search Engine Land - AdWords

Search Engine Land - Yahoo Search Ads

Search Engine People - PPC Category

Search Engine Roundtable - adCenter

Search Engine Roundtable - AdWords

Search Engine Roundtable - Yahoo Search Marketing

Search Engine Watch - adCenter

Search Engine Watch - AdWords

Search Engine Watch - Yahoo Search Marketing

Search Marketing Sage - Pay Per Click Advertising

SEM Geek

Semvironment - General PPC

Semvironment - Pay Per Click Tips Series

Site Visibility - Pay Per Click Section

Small Business SEM - PPC Advertising

Sphinn - adCenter

Sphinn - AdWords

Sphinn - Yahoo Paid Search

Search The Sites in This List

Other Paid Search Resource Lists

25 Resources for Paid Search Strategies

26 Useful Paid Search Blogs

36 Totally Free PPC Learning Resources

Clix Marketing's Favorite PPC Blogs

The Big List of PPC Resources and Articles

The Grand Central Station of Pay Per Click Related Blogs

The Little Big List of PPC Blogs

This List Last Updated February 15, 2009


Monday, March 17, 2008

I assume this was a joke (SES NY)

"Search Relationship Organization (new concept?)– contact competitors to lower bids if you constantly can locate a competitor and hiking up each others bids."

I'm not at SES NY. The above quote is from an article I just read, Creating Compelling Ads at SES NY. I have to assume that was greeted with a little laughter when presented. I mean really, does anyone think that's a good idea or productive use of anyone's time? As a theory I could see how that would sound ok...that is until you thought about it and the potential implications for more than a minute. There are SO many reasons why that's a bad idea I don't see how anyone could suggest it with a straight face.

If anyone's using this strategy with success by all means, please share. There are some solid suggestions in the rest of the post, give it a read. It's worth the time.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

AdWords Quality Score FAQ

The AdWords quality score is a sore spot for some advertisers, a non issue to others and a mystery to others. I receive dozens of e-mails a week with paid search questions and more than half of them are in some way related to the AdWords quality score. Following is my own version of an AdWords quality score FAQ. Some of the answers are from Google documents or their help center and some are based on experience.

Question 1 - How can I improve my quality score?
*answers are applicable to search network quality scores

Before you jump head first into trying to improve your keyword's quality score I think it's important to understand what the quality score is and how it it's used. Head over and read Google's What is a "Quality Score" and how is it used? page. AdWords offers some suggestions that if implemented properly can help improve your keyword quality score. The full document is here. The main points from that page are:

- Identify Goals
- Organize Your Account for Maximum Effectiveness
- Choose Relevant Keywords and Placements
- Create Straightforward Targeted Ads.
- Optimize Your Website for Conversions
- Track Your Account Performance
- Test and Modify Your Campaigns to get the Results You Want

A lot of the items are more general best practices than they are specific actions that can be taken to directly influence your keyword quality score but they are important and do play a role. Out of all of the items listed on that page the following are the most helpful in terms of showing a relatively quick improvement to your quality score:

- Create highly specific ad groups.
I am a fan of one keyword per ad group. That allows for maximum control. I believe Google suggests 20 or so keywords per ad group and while i think in some cases that's ok, I'm still not convinced that there is any drawback to limiting ad groups to a single keyword. I sometimes go so far as to put singular and plural versions of the same word in their own ad group. Even if the one keyword per ad group is not the path you want to take, keep your ad groups small and tightly themed.

- Include your keyword(s) in your ad copy and headline/title
At minimum you should include your keyword(s) in the ad title. It doesn't hurt to include it in the ad text as well. If you can incorporate it into the url ( that's been a CTR winner in most of the tests I have participated in.

- Test multiple ads
Test, Test, test and when you think you have a winner test a lot more. As you identify winning ad elements incorporate them into future tests. You should always be testing ad copy. Always. CTR (click through rate) is a key element of a keywords quality score.

- Avoid duplicate keywords across ad groups
Including the same keyword in multiple ad groups causes you to compete with yourself. Don't do it. Here are some sample Google campaigns that show setups for single/multiple product scenarios.

- Use a high quality landing page
At minimum, try and incorporate the keyword(s) from your ad group in the landing page. According to the AdWords landing page guidelines your landing page should include relevant (in relation to your ad/keyword) and original content, be transparent in terms of that nature of your business, how your site will interact with a visitors computer, what data your site will collect and how your business will use that data. Your landing should also have straight forward navigation that makes it easy for a user to navigate your site and find what they are looking for.

By no means is this relatively short answer meant to be an exhaustive list of ways to improve your quality score. In addition to all of the points listed above here are some additional resources you should use to learn more about the AdWords quality score and how you can improve the quality scores of the keywords in your account.

AdWords Help Center - Quality and Performance Overview
AdWords Help Center - Quality and Performance Factors
AdWords Help Center - Ad Quality and Performance Troubleshooting
AdWords Help Center - Improving Ad Performance
AdWords Learning Center - Optimizing Ad Performance
Dave Davis - 10 Ways to Increase AdWords Quality Score
PPC Hero - How to Improve Your AdWords Quality Score
AdWords Search Engine - Improve Quality Score

Also, Google recently confirmed that in the not to distant future landing page load time will be an element used in calculating the AdWords quality score.

If you know of any other resources related to the AdWords quality score that would make a good addition to this list feel free to e-mail me or let me know if the comments.

Question 2 - How many quality scores are there?

There is a quality score that used to rank ads and one that's used to set minimum bids. Content and search networks also have different quality scores. The quality score types and formulas are explained here.

Question 3 - Will changing to a different keyword match type, for example from broad match to exact match, give me a better quality score?

No, match type does not have a direct impact on your quality score. While you may end up with a better quality score because you use a different match type, it's not strictly due to the match. In the above example, if you were using broad match with no negatives and had a dismal CTR you may have a poor quality score. If you changed to exact match which resulted in better targeting and therefore a higher CTR you could see an improvement in your quality score. That improvement is not a direct result of the match type, it's a result of the improved relevancy (CTR) of that keyword.

Question 4 - I have been told (and read lots of places) that when I first start a new AdWords campaign I should bid really high so my ad is higher on the page. That will give me a higher click through rate and that means I will have a better quality score. Is that good advice?

Simply put, no, it's not good advice. The quality score is normalized to account for differences in position. Google knows that as in higher positions will have a higher click through rate just like ads in lower positions will have a lower click through rate. Bidding higher to place higher on a page to improve your quality score doesn't work so don't waste your time.

Related - Google Normalizes Click Through Rate for AdWords Quality Score Scoring.

Question 5 - Having Flash on your landing page is bad for your quality score right?

No, Flash on a landing page is fine from a quality score point of view. Quality score aside you should be careful when using flash on your landing pages but in and of itself it's not going to hurt (or improve) your quality score...unless of course it's excessive and slows the loading of your landing page.

Question 6 - I get a lot of clicks from the Google Search Network. Does that help improve my quality score?

No, the search network does not influence your quality score. The quality score is calculated based on activity only. If you activate a campaign with search + search network the results in your account show activity for both. It's possible to have an incredible CTR but have a poor quality score. This happens when your ad is doing great on the search network but performing poorly on I usually start all new campaigns with the search network turned off.

Side note - Google, please let advertisers run search network only campaigns. Pretty please. Just like the content network, we'll find ways to make it work and probably end up using it more than it's used now.

Question 7 - Does using dynamic keyword insertion help my quality score?

Dynamic keyword insertion can help improve your ads CTR which would have a positive impact on your quality score....although even Google hints at the fact that a tightly themed ad group with well written, highly relevant "static" text ads can perform just as well and in a lot of cases better. There are cases where dynamic keyword insertion makes sense but in most cases I prefer to use static ads.

If someone asked me, my advice would be to try and use static text ads to start and rotate in ads that use dynamic text after you've established a baseline and want to do some ad testing.

Question 8 - Does turning off the content network help improve my quality score? My CTR is always a lot lower on the content network so I assume turning it off will help my quality score improve.

The content network uses a separate quality score and it does not impact/influence your search network quality score.

Question 9 - How can I find out what my quality score is?

See: How do I know what my quality score is?

Question 10 - I am the only person bidding on a certain keyword but my minimum bid is higher than I think it should be. If I'm the only one bidding how come my minimum bid isn't $0.01? My quality score is "OK".

Your minimum bid is determined by your quality score, not how many other people are bidding on a particular keyword. The AdWords team goes into more detail on this subject in the following two posts:

A Common AdWords Misconception Explained and A Common Misconception Revisited.

Question 11 - I just a made a lot of changes to my AdWords campaigns and to my landing pages to try and improve my quality score. How soon should I expect to see quality score changes in my account?

When new keywords are added Google calculates the quality score immediately to determine the minimum bid. Quality scores are updated based on how quickly Google can gather statistically significant data sets to calculate a new quality score. This can happen numerous times a day for high volume keywords and phrases whereas lower volume terms may have quality score updates applied a few times a week. The ad rank quality score is updated in real time and is based on historical data.

**See this September 2008 update regarding the real time calculation of the quality score**

In terms of updating the landing page quality score, Google says:

"The AdWords system visits and evaluates advertiser landing pages on a regular basis. Due to the evolving nature of the quality evaluation system, the frequency may change based on improvements to the system or the level of user traffic to AdWords ads and landing pages. We plan to visit pages at least once a month but may do so more often."

Question 12 - I just added a bunch of new keywords to my account and almost 1/2 of them received a poor quality score and minimum bid of $5.00 right away before I ever received a single impression. How the hell can Google say I have a poor quality score before my ad even gets a chance to run?

This is fairly common when you're using a keyword that Google does not have a lot of history for. Your initial quality score, at least for determining the minimum bid, is based on historical data. When I see this happen the best thing to do is nothing - let the keyword/ad run for about 24 hours. Google will show the ad even if says it's inactive to help measure the quality score. If your keyword/ad combo proves effective it's not unusual to see a quick improvement in your quality score as well as a significant drop in your minimum bid.

Question 13 - It seems like no matter what I do or try my quality score is always poor. Are there certain types of sites that just don't work well with AdWords?

Yes. In late 2007 Google announced via the AdWords blog that there are certain types of sites that may receive a poor quality score and there are other types of sites that will almost always receive poor quality scores.

According to Google these types of sites will receive a poor landing page quality score:

  • Data collection sites that offer free gifts, subscription services etc., in order to collect private information
  • Arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ads
  • Malware sites that knowingly or unknowingly install software on a visitor's computer
These types of sites may receive a poor landing page quality score:

  • eBook sites that show frequent ads
  • 'Get rich quick' sites
  • Comparison shopping sites
  • Travel aggregators
  • Affiliates that don't comply with our affiliate guidelines
Question 14 - Is there a site or something I can sign up to find out in advance about quality score updates before they happen?

No. In the past the AdWords team would sometimes post advance notices on the AdWords blog regarding quality score updates but starting in September 2007 they essentially discontinued this practice:

"Lastly, you may recall past Inside AdWords blog notices alerting advertisers about upcoming landing page quality updates. Since our systems frequently visit landing pages and update Quality Scores on a regular basis, we will no longer post advance notice of upcoming updates. We will, however, continue to inform you of any significant changes to landing page quality guidelines or the factors which are considered in calculating landing page quality."

This FAQ will be updated from time to time. If you have any questions related to the AdWords quality score feel free to contact me or leave your question in the comments.

Related: Quality Score Changes
Google occasionally makes significant changes to the quality score. Starting with the changes announced on August 21, 2008 I plan to link to all significant quality score change announcements from this post.

- Quality Score Improvements : August 21, 2008
- Slight Change to the 'Official Quality Score' - CTR on Partner Search Sites Matters in Certain Instances

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