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9% of Survey Respondents Indicate Keyword Quality Scores is Their Biggest Challenge

I’ve been in the paid search marketing game long enough to remember when a high bid was all you needed to get listed in the top 3 paid search results. The deepest pockets won, and the user experience was awful. Google was smart enough to realize this and so Ad Rank was born to level the playing field, a little. Ad Rank is a value Google uses to determine your ad position (where your ads are shown on a search results page) and whether your ads will show at all. With Ad Rank advertisers that are superior at creating specific, relevant experiences for search users are awarded with higher average positions and lower costs per click.

Why is this important for our conversation about keyword quality scores? Because Ad Rank is calculated using your bid amount, the components of your Quality Score (expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience), and the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats. Before we get to the elements of quality score, let’s talk about how we give ourselves the best chance to excel at each. Hint, it starts way before you start crafting your ads and landing pages.


“Keyword Quality Score optimization should not be equated with search engine optimization. They are two different animals aimed at solving two distinctly different problems. If you aren’t using a customized landing page, optimized for your paid search targeted keywords, stop what you are doing and solve this problem immediately.”



If this isn’t a phrase you are familiar with, or one you use daily when targeting your marketing efforts, I recommend you learn it and live it in short order. Why? Because your prospect base may be large, but your in-market-now prospect base is what will drive your conversions and profitability today.

To help define exactly what I mean, let’s review a concept that should be at the core of every marketing effort you undertake.


The Buyers Journey

The beauty of paid search marketing is that it is what I call “Intent Marketing” and not demographic marketing. On a platform like Facebook we can target someone that looks like they fit our definition of a prospect. The problem is we have no idea if they actually are a prospect and have no indication of if, or when, they will be in-market for our product or service.

With intent marketing we cannot single out those that fit our profile of a prospect, but we can target prospects that are in-market-now based off the language they use in their search.

One of the biggest mistakes I see paid search marketers make is the keywords and match types they use are targeting prospects in the wrong spot in the buyer’s journey, or the wrong prospects altogether.

Let’s re-familiarize ourselves with the buyer’s journey, laid out here in graphical form. (image credit to Hubspot)



Ask yourself, what is the difference between someone searching for ‘cleaning carpets’ versus ‘carpet cleaning company’? I would argue the first is looking for some self help, and the second is looking for a service provider.

What about someone searching for ‘Microsoft SharePoint’ versus ‘Microsoft SharePoint services’? The former is in the awareness stage of researching a potential solution or general information, and the latter indicates a  prospect looking for outside help.

In order to get in front of in-market-now prospects you need to be targeting your keywords between the consideration and decision stage of the buyer’s journey. Only when you have exhausted all keywords in this stage do you move back between the awareness and consideration stage for an incremental lift.


Expected Click Through Rates

Increasing your click through rates is the first step towards improving your keyword quality scores. Targeting the search phrases with the proper intent is step one, using match types and bid strategies wisely is another.

In most cases the more restrictive your match type the more relevant the searches Google will match you up with. In practical terms this means staying away from broad match as much as possible. Any broad match keywords used must prove they are a valuable contributor, to the point that I often isolate them in a separate campaign for better tracking.

Exact match, phrase match and modified broad match are the search types that should bring the best results. Be sure to continuously monitor what Google is matching them up with and adjust as necessary to be sure you have the best performing mix of match types in your campaign.

Using these strategies will help you get in front of the prospects that show the proper intent. This will naturally increase your click through rate and limit your wasted spend by Google matching your targeted terms up too loosely. The net result is more clicks at a lower cost per click, and that is a great foundation for success.


Bid Types Matter

How specific, and how far into the buyer’s journey your keywords are, will have a direct impact on your ability to convert a searcher to a visitor. Luckily Google provides a variety of bid types to help us narrow in on prospect segments most likely to take action.

While I prefer manual bids to see if we can compete in the top three search results there are times when the keywords are just general enough and have a high enough level of cost and competition that the numbers just don’t work.

In these cases it is important to test other bid types like automated bids, enhanced CPC and others to see if you can bring your click through rate up and your cost per click down. It is a bit counter intuitive to use an automated bid and be listed in lower average positions, but sometimes Google gets it right and provides the results we need to get a boost in performance and quality scores.


Ad Relevance

This is one area where I am going to break with the herd mentality. Yes, if you incorporate your keyword into your ad (even more than once), it will count towards your quality score. After all, relevance right? While I think this can be useful and should be tested, it often is a zero sum game. Why? Because if every advertiser is using the same keyword driven ad, especially with character limitations and longer search phrases, the paid search results become homogeneous. Simply put, no one stands out, including you.

I recommend taking a good look at the search result competition and testing ads that go against the grain, even if that means they do not contain the keyword in the title, and sometimes even in the description. The net decrease in relevance can be outweighed by the increase in click through rate because we attract more attention and stand out from the crowd.


Keep Testing Your Landing Pages

The final tip we’ll give you to help you optimize your budget has to do with your landing pages. There isn’t enough room on this page to fit in everything you need to know about landing pages. So the short version is, use them.

Never, and I mean never, sit back and ride with one version of your landing page. Prospects at certain stages of the buyer’s journey respond to different information, layouts and sales strategies. Consistent testing will lead to improved results. Make this part of your ongoing routine and you will see improvements in your conversion rates.

The better you convert visiting prospects the higher your quality scores will be. As little as Google says about conversion in their quality score guideline I just don’t believe they don’t take it into consideration. The ultimate outcome of a relevant experience is the user taking action, and Google knows it.

Master the components of quality score and you will be rewarded in Ad Rank as well. It’s a win win proposition and should be a primary focus of your paid search marketing campaigns.


Where Do I Go From Here?

What we’ve covered here is the just the tip of the iceberg. If you are looking for more detailed strategies for increasing your keyword quality scores consider purchasing our affordable advanced guides. Each is chock full of the tips, tricks and strategies we employ to build successful programs for clients all over the country. Take the lessons we’ve learned and put them into practice to bring your paid search marketing program to the next level.

Think you might need more help? Why not reach out for a consultation with our resident paid search marketing consultants so we can review your specific needs and challenges and provide the solutions you need to move forward.

It is possible to solve your keyword quality score issues, and we are happy to help any way we can.

As a onetime special, we are offering you 25% off of any of our advanced guides if you make your purchase in the next 5 days. Simply use coupon code DIAGNOSTIC25 during checkout.

Solving your prospect conversion issue should be your biggest priority and I hope we’ve helped set you on a path to success.



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