16 Common Quality Score Trends. Some should give you a raise and others get you fired

By Brad

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Quality Score

We launched the ability to graph out keyword and ad group quality scores and their subfactors a while ago.

Ever since; we’ve been looking at common Quality Score patterns and some of the reasons behind those patterns.

In this article; we’ll look at the good, the bad, and the truly confusing.

The Flatline

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The flatline never changes.

In some cases, this is always a 8-10 regardless of what the company does. It’s common to see this with branded ads. The company can constantly test and change ads and see their metrics improve; but the Quality Score remains the same. When it’s high, that is a good thing.

The issue though is when this is a 1-3. It’s common to see the flatline occur on very low Quality Scores as well. This is usually an indication that no one is doing anything in the account to try and improve it. Ads aren’t being tested, landing pages aren’t being improved; and that’s a problem.

The Crossover

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The crossover is one of the most deceiving patterns that exists. What you see if that your actual Quality Score didn’t change and it’s easy to miss the fact that movement did occur within the factors that make up Quality Score.

In this instance, the ad and landing page was changed. The new ad preformed terribly from a CTR standpoint, but the landing page was much better with the new ad. This client was testing ads and realized their new ad was losing to the old ones; and then upon digging into the Quality Scores realized what happened.

After tweaking the ad to use some elements of the old ad with the new landing page; the problem was corrected and everything now looks great.

The Steady Improver

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This is a great pattern to see. Someone is paying attention to Quality Score. They are testing ads, making landing page changes; and over the course of 6 months; took one of their best keyword’s Quality Score from a 3 to a 7.

You only see this pattern when someone is paying attention to their account, regularly testing ads; and making data driven decisions about what to do next to keep improving their information.

The  Death & Reboot

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We see this pattern the most often in seasonal businesses or ones that make offers and then forget they have an offer running. For instance:

  • March: Create a special offer in March that expires in March
  • April: Forget this offer is still running. Panic; pause everything.
  • Later in April: Figure out a new offer; and change the ads
  • June: Realize their new ads didn’t do as well as they wanted. Used multi-ad group testing analysis to examine how offers do across their system
  • July and forward: Tweak the ads; watch the offers, and finally start doing great with their keyword again

The takeaway from this pattern should be that if you are having problems rebooting offers, then get a good insight on how your various patterns, offer types (prices, discounts, free, etc) do across your account so you can take advantage of ad testing insights.

The Promotional Schedule

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Some companies never stop running promotions. Each promotion is different, rarely is one re-used, and the landing pages and ads are constantly shifting.

In these cases, you can learn a lot about your company.

  • What promotions do best in holiday vs non-holiday seasons?
  • What landing page layout and offer combination help Quality Score (and conversion rates) the most?
  • How do short term promotions work against ‘timeless’ ones that can always be evergreen in the account?
  • How do ad extensions play into your offers and ad experience?

When your Quality Score is constantly shifting, it can be difficult for your bid management software to always understand how your Quality Score is affecting your ad position; and this can sometimes cause erratic bidding as one of the bid and position variables is in constant flux.

The Steady Decline

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Outside of a flatline at a low Quality Score; this is one of the worst charts that exist. Every month you just get worse and no one is paying attention. This is why having alerts for Quality Score drops for your top keywords is so important.

These instances often occur when you have a set of ads you’ve not looked at in a long time and your competition is testing ads and improving them. If your competition is doing better from a CTR standpoint, then someone is doing worse. If that’s you; then you can easily get worse over time without making any changes to your account at all.

Walking Down the Stairs

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This is similar to the steady decliner in that your Quality Scores are headed downhill; however, it’s not steady. The changes occur on very specific dates. This is often self-inflicted; especially when it’s a landing page issue; by changing what is working. Sometimes you are forced to change what is working due to the clients having a new offer or some new tagline or legal issue that you must change.

Another common issue with this chart is ‘eyeballing’ data. Humans can find a pattern in anything; and when humans stare at numbers; we’re terrible at deciding if the data is random, statically accurate, or if we just need more to determine a pattern. As we’re impatient or need to show something to a client (or boss); we just make a change to the ads.

Making changes without enough data is dangers; and often your Quality Scores will suffer as a result.

The Expired Offer

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As I sit and write this in September; a search for ‘black Friday deals’ bring up many ads. One of them even links to a page with a prominent date of November 28, 2013. The page has been outdated for almost 4 years; but the date is still featured on the page.

That’s the danger of promotions that expire. You must pause them. Here’s a common example of what Quality Scores look like for these offers:

  • The deal is on: 10 QS
  • The deal expires: The expected CTR tanks
  • Someone realizes the mistake and fixed the ad: QS back to 10

In this case, it was a branded term. Moving from a 10 to a 8 on your brand term due to an expired promotion for a day happens. Having it run for 2-3 months is not OK. Be very wary of Quality Score drops on your top brand terms.

The Recovery

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This is a good example of someone paying attention.  The Quality Score was steady; then dropped fast. The person realized the drop; made changes; and the Quality Scores went back up right way. When you are paying attention to your trends and drops in Quality Score; it’s not that hard to recover if you notice it quickly.

When you’re really monitoring QS closely; you might see the dip even less of a time.

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The Cliff

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Everything looks great; you stop paying attention – and that’s the moment you drive off the cliff.

Once someone realizes the keyword’s fell; then you can start making changes; if someone realizes the keyword’s fell off the cliff.

The Confused

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Do you ever feel that Quality Scores are just random numbers designed to drive you crazy?

There actually was a pattern to this data once you segmented the CTRs by geography to realize the Northeast searched heavily for this term in early spring and the middle of summer and yet this terms was always relevant in the south. However, without digging into that data; this just looks like the Quality Score is there to drive you insane.

Fixing the Brand

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This brand was going along well; and then ran into some issues with their marketing. The team worked hard on ad testing and messages to help the brand get back on it’s feet. It took a while; but now life is good again.

The Truly Terrible: Should you be fired?

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If this is your quality score; you have a problem. The keyword was launched; it did terrible; and no one cared. A flatline at a 1 (this keyword could have 100k+ impressions a month) needs to be fixed – now.

The Rise & Fall

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If we had stopped this chart in May; we would applaud the management. The keyword wasn’t doing well. Someone made changes; it was doing well.

But then time keeps passing and metrics change; and the Quality Score dropped, had a brief respite (although the landing page was not changed – the QS did temporarily go up); then then just stayed down.

At this point in time; the PPC manager should look at what was changed early in the year to make the Quality Score increase, what was changed to make it decrease, and then using that information; make an action plan to improve it again.

Dynamic Pages

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We see this commonly with dynamic pages and occasionally with flash sales; the ad data (good or bad) stays the same and the landing page goes up and down every month. With dynamic pages, once the page has been read – the page exists. As Google recrawls the page; they see a different version and you get a different landing page experience (with flash sales it’s often about bounceback rates and not different crawls).

The Perfect

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This is how all your top brand terms should appear.

Quality Score Monitoring and automated recommendations. If you want to see graphs like these for your Quality Scores as well as get lots of automated recommendations and scans across your account; take a look at what Adalysis offers.

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