Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
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Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
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Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing Change to Quality Score Factors

Change to Quality Score Factors

The overall Quality Score Factors haven’t changed in several years. Some of the weightings and algos have changed; but Google’s page about QS has remained relatively static.

There was one change in October of last year that pertained to landing pages and how they would receive ‘more’ weight; where ‘more’ is very undefined. Overall, most companies did not see a difference when this factor was changed.

I noticed that recently there is another change, and that is:

Your keyword/search relevance: How relevant your keyword is to what a customer searches for
Source: AdWords Help

This is an interesting change as it shows that if your keyword isn’t related to what they are searching for; then your QS can be lower. But, if your keyword was triggered – isn’t the searcher looking for something pertaining to your keyword?

This seems like a catch-22 and something is amiss.

Is this a match type problem?

On the surface, it might seem that this is a strike against broad match as in that case, you can often show for something totally unrelated to your keyword. However, Quality Score is only calculated when the query matches your keyword regardless of match type. So, that can’t be the issue.

Isn’t this against the point of search marketing?

Now, this new factor doesn’t care about the landing page or ad copy, just how related ‘what someone is looking for’ is to your keyword.

Isn’t the point of search marketing that the keyword is always related to the query?

To answer this question, we might have to think a bit more about keyword intents.

Search Query Intent

When you have a keyword such as:

  • Nike tennis shoes
  • Caribbean vacation packages
  • Chicago accountant

Then the query is quite obvious; but what about these words:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Lawyer

In those cases, you could be looking for TV repair, TV guides, Plasma TV, family planning lawyer, how to become a lawyer, Pandora, Spotify, or any number of items.

In this case, your keyword will rarely be related to the query.

Device Types Change Intent

If you search for ‘movies’ on a mobile phone; you usually want near by theatres and movie times.

If you search for ‘movies’ on a computer, you could be looking for online movies, movie reviews, or any number of various items.

This factor could help Google better understand how to serve ads by geography or device types.

Search or Display

Google doesn’t do nearly as good of job at breaking down Quality Score factors between search and display as they use to. It might be that this is only used on display and is part of the new display initiative to show you keyword level stats for display. In that case, it could be a way for them to start showing quality score information for display (which they don’t right now).

Displayed or Used Quality Score

You see the Quality Score in your account as its rolled up across all of the factors to a keyword. You don’t see the real time Quality Score. For instance, if you are advertising for ‘TV Repair’ you could have a QS of 7. However, if the query is ‘Chicago TV repair’ your QS might be 8; and when the query is ‘Fix my TV Set’ your QS might be a 3.

If this goes to the real time QS; then it makes a lot of sense. If it goes to the displayed QS; then there must be some bad matching or keyword selection happening that forced Google to add this change.


I didn’t see this change until today when I was examining some feed information. However, this change was made about a month ago.  In fact, it was made right around when the new display changes were taking place. That could be coincidence; but something to keep in mind if you saw some odd changes to display.

Yet, Google didn’t mention anything about the change. There was no mention by reps, agency newsletters, or even blog posts about this change. I did reach out to some reps, so I’ll see what they have to say about this change. If anyone else has any info – please leave a comment.

Regardless of the change – it isn’t earth shattering. It might cause lower quality scores on ambiguous keywords, or on words that normally have a different intent by device type or geography; but as a month has gone by and no one has seen anything crazy; the effect can’t be too drastic.

However, when you start working on Quality Scores and are wondering why certain words might have lower or higher scores than other keywords regardless of the CTR – this is a factor to now keep in mind.

No Comments

  1. lukealley
    April 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm · Reply

    I’ve been seeing and hearing of more performance fluctuations on the Display Network. In the last month I’ve seen traffic (not ROI) shoot up twice on my biggest DN campaigns, with no explanation from my Google reps. I also have heard from at least one other well known agency that their DN campaign is doing something funky.

  2. johnucciferri
    April 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm · Reply

    I’m guessing this is predominantly for broad matched keywords. Meaning your QS will be lower if Google deems the query not as relevant to your broad match keyword. So they’re trying to reward advertisers whose broad matched keywords are closer related to the query than others.

    If that is the case, it makes it tough on advertisers who use broad match to try to find additional queries. On the other hand, it will force more exact/phrase/MBM strategies which will drive up user engagement with ads which will drive up Google revenue.

  3. brad
    April 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm · Reply

    I really don’t think this can be just related to broad match as Google wants things to be as simple as possible for basic advertisers and I can’t imagine they’d launch something that just penalizes broad match.

    I think this is more likely related to broad keywords (TV, radio, etc) or display.

    I have heard of a few display fluctuations that started almost one month ago. That could be purely coincidental though.

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