POV

Google Landing Page Quality Score Update

Background

Quality Score (QS) has always been a significant factor in management of Google AdWords campaigns.  While it holds a lot of weight when it comes to measuring and optimizing campaign performance, it’s been somewhat difficult to assess because Google doesn’t directly disclose all of the factors and weighting it uses to determine QS. Prior to October 3, 2011, Google provided direction that keyword QS was determined by a combination of historical performance for that particular keyword across all advertisers and its click-thru-rate (CTR) for a particular advertiser. An advertiser’s domain (e.g. www.advertiser.com) also was given a QS, which was used as the primary indicator of QS for brand new keywords the advertiser had never bid on before.  Then, the individual keyword QS would take precedence over time as the keyword gathered engine performance data. In the past, landing page quality was only evaluated to determine if Google would give an advertiser the green light to advertise in AdWords. The reasoning used was that since a consumer can’t see the landing page before they click, it had no bearing on whether the searcher chose to click or not click on the paid search ad.

How it Works

This premise changed with Google’s announcement on October 3, 2011 that landing pages will now be evaluated on how relevant they are to the bidded keyword. The landing page’s quality will be assessed through the actual content on the page itself (i.e. Google will crawl the page) in combination with how often and how quickly searchers are bouncing back to Google upon arriving to the page. Google has expressed that they don’t expect a major impact as this is just one factor in 250+ ranking/QS factors, but in general, landing pages deemed highly relevant by Google should be able to achieve a higher ad position at a lower cost.

Resolution POV: Although Google has expressed that this change will have a minimal impact on QS, paid search advertisers should still reevaluate their current landing page strategy. Landing page audits/testing should be performed with an emphasis on finding a landing page that has content that is closely related to the keywords and ads associated with a particular Ad Group. SEO and website conversion optimization should also be considered as ways to help make landing pages as relevant and engaging to the searcher as possible.

While this should already be a best practice employed by paid search advertisers today, there’s always the possibility of finding a landing page with better content for a particular bucket of keywords and this change by Google will be added incentive to prioritize development and testing of new content.  In addition, we expect Google to continue this trend, such as evaluating whether or not tablet or mobile campaigns are driving to compatible landing page experiences.

Summary

Resolution will be closely monitoring the performance of its clients’ campaign to understand and make adjustments based on this change to QS. While QS is not fully transparent and we will never be able to tell if a change in performance is due 100% to this particular factor of QS, moving forward it’s important to consider landing page relevancy and quality as another lever that can be used to manage the performance of paid search campaigns.

For more information, visit the resources below:

  1. Google AdWords Blog Post: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2011/10/ads-quality-improvements-rolling-out.html
  2. Search Engine Land Article: http://searchengineland.com/google-tweaks-adwords-to-give-landing-page-quality-more-weight-95488