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Understanding the Google Ads Auction: Quality Score

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Understanding the Google Ads Auction: Quality Score

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Google holds over 85% of global desktop search traffic and gets billions of searches per day. Google’s advertising revenue through Google Ads was $209.49 billion in 2021, the majority of which came from search advertising. 

Google Ads is very competitive and Google uses an auction system to decide which ads to show. When a search query is made with a keyword that has multiple bidders, Google Ads runs an auction to determine which ads are eligible to be shown for that keyword and their ad positions. Only ads that meet minimum quality requirements will be shown for a relevant search term.

With so much competition, how can advertisers improve their performance on Google Ads? In this blog post, I cover the importance of Quality Score in the Google Ads auction. For more details about the Google Ads auction process and Ad Rank, read my last post on Understanding the Google Ads Auction & Why Ad Rank is important.

What is Quality Score? 

Quality Score is Google’s estimate of the quality of your ads, as compared to those of other advertisers. It helps ensure that the ads that are most relevant to the search term are shown at a higher position in the search results, so it is based on the relevance of your ad to the search term, the likelihood that your ad will receive clicks when shown, and the user experience offered by your landing page. Every keyword in your account is assigned a Quality Score from 1 (bad) to 10 (excellent) and can be viewed in the keyword table.

Quality Score should be used as a diagnostic tool to improve the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages to increase ad performance, and is measured by the performance of three components

1. Expected CTR

2. Ad relevance

3. Landing page experience

Each of these components is given a rating of “Above Average”, “Average”, or “Below Average”. This rating is determined by comparing your ads with other advertisers who ran ads for the same keyword in the past 90 days. 

Why is Quality Score important? 

The Quality Score of your ads and keywords is important for the success of your Google Ads PPC (pay per click) campaigns, as they can impact: 

  • Whether your ads are shown — Quality Score determines if your ads are eligible to be shown at all in the results for a search query.

  • Your ad position — Quality Score is one of the main factors that is used to determine your ad position or Ad Rank on the search results

  • Your Cost Per Click (CPC) — Your Quality Score determines the actual cost per click (CPC) you pay for your ads. Ads with a higher Quality Score pay a lower CPC, while lower quality ads are charged a higher CPC which may be closer to their max CPC. 

  • Whether ad extensions are shown — Ads have to have a high Quality Score for ad extensions to be shown with the ads. Ad extensions provide additional business information and can include call extensions, location extensions, and site links. Ad extensions help to increase the clickthrough rate (CTR). 

  • Your ad performance — Higher quality ads and landing pages tend to have a higher CTR, higher conversion rates, and lower bounce rates.

  • How often your ads are shown — More relevant ads will have higher ad impressions on the SERP. 

How to improve Quality Score and ad performance

To improve your ad performance, and compete successfully in Google Ads auctions, you should focus on optimizing the three components of Quality Score. 

1. Review the Quality Score of your search keywords

The first step is to review the Quality Score of your search keywords in the keywords table. For each keyword, you’ll see the Quality Score along with ratings for expected CTR, landing page relevance, and ad relevance. If you get a rating of “Average” or “Below Average” on any of these components, follow the tips listed below to better optimize. If you get a “-” in the Quality Score columns, it means there aren’t enough clicks and impressions for that keyword to determine the values. 

Figure: Example of Quality Score(historical) columns in Google Ads keyword table

Note that the Quality Score status columns need to be enabled in your keywords table to show the values. For tips on how to enable the Quality Score status columns, refer to my post on Understanding the Google Ads Auction & Why Ad Rank Is Important

2. Select relevant keywords

Selecting the right keywords for each search query is essential for success with Google Ads. You need to make sure to select relevant keywords that are specific to the ads and match the intent behind the search query. Use the Keyword Planner tool in Google Ads to pick specific keywords based on search volume and competition.

Figure: Example of Google Ads Keyword Planner

Don’t use generic keywords, as they’ll result in your ad being shown for unrelated searches and that will waste your ad budget. For example, if you sell natural dog food, use “natural dog food” as the keyword in your ad, not the generic keyword “dogs”. You can also use long-tail keywords to target specific search queries.

3. Create ads with specific keywords 

Creating ads with specific keywords helps to increase ad relevance and expected CTR. Use the keywords from the previous step in your ad text, especially the headlines, to show that the ad is directly relevant to the search query and fulfills search intent. You can use dynamic keyword insertion to update ads with keywords from successful ads in your ad group. 

Figure: The top 3 ads that were shown for a search for “natural dog food”. Note that all the ads use the primary keyword in ad headlines and descriptions.

You can also add more headlines and descriptions. Responsive search ads, now the default ad format in Google Ads, allows you to enter up to 15 headlines and four descriptions, and uses machine learning to combine them into multiple ad combinations. Create at least 10 headlines and multiple descriptions so that there are more ad combinations available to show, and make sure they’re unique. 

If your ads are targeting a local area, mention relevant locations in your ads. You can use location insertion in responsive search ads to dynamically enter a city, state or country. Locations are selected from your campaign location targeting.

When creating responsive search ads, utilize the ad strength indicator to gauge your progress, and aim for ad strength of “Good” or “ Excellent”. Ad strength measures the relevance, quality, and diversity of your ads.

4.  Organize keywords into relevant ad groups

A Google Ads PPC campaign will typically contain several ad groups. Ad groups help to organize your keywords and ads by a common theme, such as the products and services that are being promoted in the ads. 

All the keywords in an ad group should be specific to the ads in that ad group. To increase ad relevance and keep your targeting specific, don’t have more than 20 keywords in one group. If you have ads targeting different search terms, you should create different ad groups for each target.

Since Google Ads is pay-per-click bidding, you can set a CPC bid at the ad group level, which would apply to all the keywords in that ad group. You can also set CPC bids for individual keywords. The CPC bids help to determine your ad position and the amount you are willing to pay for a click on your ad. 

Figure: Example of the Ad Groups dashboard
Figure: Example of keywords in the ad group for dog food

As seen in the examples, to advertise dog food and dog beds, I would create an ad group for dog food and a separate ad group for dog beds. Each ad group would contain only the keywords and the ads that are specific to that service.  

5. Use negative keywords

To build a targeted Google Ads PPC campaign that’s focused on your target customers, you need to exclude search terms that aren’t relevant to your campaign. Negative keywords increase ad relevance by ensuring that your ads are triggered only for the keywords you want to target and shown for relevant search queries. They also decrease unwanted clicks on your ads, which helps to reduce wasted ad spend and increases ROI.

When building a negative keyword list, you want to exclude search terms for items that you do not sell. However, it’s important to choose negative keywords carefully and make sure that they don’t overlap with keywords you are targeting, since they’ll prevent your ads from being shown for those terms. 

After your PPC campaign runs for a while, there will be search terms that you aren’t targeting that you’ll want to add as negative keywords. 

To add negative keywords to your ad group or campaign, or to build a list of negative keywords from search terms: 

  1. Sign into your google ads account

  2. Click “keywords” on the left dashboard

  3. Click “search terms” on the left dashboard

  4. Check the box next to the search term you want to add as a negative keyword

  5. Click “add as negative keyword” on top

For example, if I want my ads to show only to customers searching for dog food and not for dog beds, I would add “dog beds” to my list of negative keywords so that my ads are not shown for those search queries. 

6. Improve CTR

The expected CTR is one of the factors that is used to calculate the Quality Score of your ads. To improve the clickthrough rate of your ads: 

  • Use responsive search ads (responsive search ads can achieve up to 10% more clicks and conversions). 

  • Your ads should highlight a unique or compelling benefit of your product or service (extended return policy, one year warranty), which include seasonal and time-sensitive offers around holidays and special events. Always make sure the offer advertised is reflected on the ad’s landing page. 

  • Your ads should have strong CTAs (Buy now, Call now, Order now, Get a Quote). Ensure the CTAs and ads are consistent with the landing page as well.

If your ad meets the quality thresholds mentioned above, up to four ad extensions (links with extra business information) can be shown, so make use of these to improve CTR even more. 

Figure: Example of an ad from Google. Note the compelling offer, list of benefits and use of ad extensions for supporting information.

7.   Improve the landing page experience 

The landing page linked to the ad must be relevant and consistent with the ad, matching any offers. It should have high quality content, related images and a strong CTA. In addition, your website should be mobile-friendly, fast-loading, and easy to navigate to provide a great user experience. 

So don’t send all ad clicks to a generic home page. For example, if your ad is selling dog food, your landing page should be specific to dog food. If you also sell dog beds, create a different landing page with ads and keywords that are specific to dog beds. 

Always be sure the landing page follows optimization best practices, using an H1 header with a clear page title and the the main keywords used in the ad. Place the primary keyword towards the beginning of the title. 

Your business contact information should be easy to find on the landing page to help build trust with your customers and let them know how they can reach you. Also include trust symbols like industry mentions and awards to further build trust.

Figure: Example of a great landing page for dog food

The landing page shown for dog food above is a great example of a Google Ads landing page. I searched for “natural dog food” and clicked through from the Google Ad shown. The landing page is specific and relevant and continues the conversation from the ad. It has quality content, clear images, and a strong call to action which is visible above the fold. 

It’s filled with reasons why I should choose their dog food: “fresh, whole ingredients”, “powered by science”, “tailored to their needs”, “change you can see”, etc. If a consumer is still unsure, they add plenty of trust symbols at the end of the page to convince them. Their landing page speaks to their target customer, dog owners,  and will be effective in converting them. 

Conclusion

Google Ads is very competitive and Quality Score is an important factor in the Google Ads Auction. It is used to determine which ads are shown on the Google search results, how often the ads are shown, and what the ad ranking will be. It also determines how much you pay for a click on your ads. 

By improving the three components of Quality Score, you can improve your ad quality and performance in Google Ads. You can also decrease your CPC costs, increase your ad position, compete effectively with other advertisers, and better reach your target customers on Google.

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MARKETING

How to Cure “Lonely Marketer Syndrome”

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How to Cure "Lonely Marketer Syndrome"

If you feel lonely as a digital marketer, you are not alone.

According to an ongoing survey conducted by CareerExplorer, marketing managers rate their career happiness at 3.1 out of 5 stars, which puts them at the bottom 40% of careers.

Why would a job that involves the most entertaining and fun aspects of business, that being growth, change, and interaction between business and customer, lead to such an unsatisfactory rating?

Further, how could a job that is perfectly suited for remote working still rate so low?

Why Marketers Are Unhappy

There are lots of reasons why someone could be unhappy with their job, but for now, let’s focus on the five core factors that generated a 3.1 star rating for marketing management. We’ll expand it a bit to accommodate soloprenuers/consultants and marketing agency owners as well:

  • Compensation & Revenue
  • Meaningfulness
  • Personality Fit
  • Work Environment
  • Skill Utilization

Marketing Compensation & Revenue

Marketing Managers aren’t happy with their salary, even though they rate very high according to CareerExplorer’s survey. With an average of $135,000, marketing managers are the highest among similar careers like management consultants, investment fund managers, online merchants, operation managers, advertising managers, human resource managers, and project managers.

On the marketing business side, marketing agency revenue has continued to increase as well. According to Statista, digital advertising agency revenue grew from $5.69 billion in 2012 to $30.6 billion in 2022, an increase of 437% over 20 years (22% average annual increase).

Even so, they’re not happy!

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Meaningfulness

Do marketing managers find their work meaningful? Most of them don’t according to the survey. They ranked meaningfulness at 2.7 out of 5 stars.

Personality Fit

How about the personality fit of people who are marketing managers? According to the survey, marketing managers rank fit as 3.8 out of 5 stars. Not bad considering! Still not great.

Work Environment

What about the work environment of marketing managers? That’s not bad as well, with a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. Even so, it could be better.

Skill Utilization

Finally, let’s talk about skill utilization. Do marketing managers feel that they’re using their skills to an adequate degree? They have skill utilization a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Again, not bad but not great either.

Overall, marketing professionals are missing on a lot of the key factors that lead to job and life satisfaction. Could there be a root cause for the disconnection?

Why the Marketing Profession is Awesome

We now have some insights into why the marketing profession may not be ideal, now let’s examine why it’s a really, really good job for some people. Let’s use those same survey factors to discuss.

Marketing Compensation & Revenue

Marketers make GOOD money. The survey by CareerExplorer said $135,000 average, which sounded high to me, however, Salary.com confirmed the range with the median being $113,582. No matter how you look at it, that is a great paycheck.

Meaningfulness

This is an abstract measure, but I think marketers have a huge opportunity to find meaning in marketing. Your job directly impacts the success of businesses. Businesses provide goods and services for their customers, while also providing paychecks for 47.5% of the population of the USA. What’s more meaningful than helping 58.9 million people to get paychecks?

Personality Fit

The marketing profession is perfect for people who like networking, extroverts that like building relationships, number-heads who love analytics, creatives who like constantly creating new media, attention-seekers who love interacting with audiences, and business people who like money. If your personality fits into any of those groups, you can find a good fit with marketing.

Work Environment

Marketers to work pretty much anywhere, PLUS there are tons of networking groups, expos, masterminds, courses, and other events to attend all year long all over the planet. You can work from home, work at an office, travel to clients’ locations, or take your laptop to the beach. A marketer can create their own work environment if they want to!

Skill Utilization

Few professions utilize a more dynamic list of skills than marketing. From technical to analytical to creative to relational, marketing requires the utilization of vast, complex, and evolving skillsets. You will never get bored with a marketing career because you never know what you’re going to need to know next. Better yet, you have the opportunity to create entirely new skillsets that no one has even considered before!

Loneliness is Bad for Productivity

With all that said, why are marketers still unhappy? I believe that the majority of marketers are more socially-minded than your average person. They crave connection between people. That could be connection with other marketers, connection between companies and their customers, and connection between owners and marketing professionals.

Problem is that since marketers can work anywhere, they often default to working remotely. As of mid-2022, Linkedin reported that jobs offering “remote work” increased 457% year over year. Remote working for marketing roles working remotely increased 177% in just the first half of 2022.

What do you get when you have primarily “social” people working remotely? You get lonely, and loneliness hurts productivity, creativity, and health.

Research by Dr. Vivek Murthy showed that loneliness and depression cost employers $44 billion a year. A study of remote workers found that one in five said “loneliness” was their biggest struggle.

So, while marketers are generally well paid and provided with challenging work that engages their personalities, they are faced with loneliness which greatly impairs work satisfaction. How do we fix the issue?

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How to Fix Lonely Marketer Syndrome

The fix may seem obvious, but it is usually missed or approached too casually in most cases. Marketers need to become part of marketing communities. Not just any communities however, the ones that will truly impact their business and mindset will have the following characteristics:

#1: Formal Education Systems

Ideally, your community should have a proven set of frameworks that other marketers (preferably hundreds or even thousands) have used to succeed.

#2: In-Person & Online Events

Online events are great, but if there is no planned in-person event, you’re going to be missing an important part of connecting with others: seeing them “for real.” Your new community should have plans for in-person meeting opportunities, even if it’s just once a year.

#3: Broad & Narrow Specialty Groups

If you can find a network with a significant amount of people in your specific marketing niche, great! Just note that they should also be connected to broader topics so that you can learn more about interacting with entire marketing teams, not just people do the exact same work as you do.

#4: An Established History

Brand new groups are great, but there’s nothing worse than committing to a brand and having it disappear on you. Ideally, look for marketer communities that have been around for at least 5 years, but preferably longer.

#5: A Hierarchy for Ascension

The best communities provide opportunities for their members to grow and contribute, with the possibility of becoming a thought-leader, teacher, or contributor to the knowledge contained within an organization. Look for groups that have positions, awards, and prizes for top community members.

Where to Find the Right Marketer Community

Lucky for you, you’re already on the right website! DigitalMarketer has been growing their marketer community since 2008. With over 120,000 marketers completing courses, thousands of contributors, and over 1 million email subscribers, DigitalMarketer is the community of choice for marketers in over 60 different countries.

Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first certification with a Lab Membership, an agency owner looking to scale with our Certified Partner network, or a successful business owner looking to scale with the M3 Mastermind, DigitalMarketer is the place to be.

Beat Lonely Marketer Syndrome and join us today!


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