Supersize Your CTR and Quality Score on Brand New PPC Campaigns

by Xurxo Vidal

Launching a new PPC campaign? Here’s a way you can quickly boost your CTR and Quality Score initially while keeping traffic as targeted as possible and not blowing the bank. Don’t include any broad match keywords in your adgroups when you start. Focus on phrase and exact match only. This will help you keep your initial bids down since the traffic should be much more targeted and relevant, both in the eyes of your visitor and Google.

10/10 Quality Scores and Double Digit CTRs

We’ve experimented with this strategy on a number of new campaign launches in the last few months with astonishingly positive results. The quality score across most, if not all keywords tends to be anywhere from 7/10 to 10/10. And in several cases CTRs have held steady in the double digits for a relatively good amount of traffic.

Maintaining a solid CTR is critical to keeping your quality score high and CPC low and this is especially true when a campaign is new and has no history. Once you have some momentum built up, you can slowly begin introducing some broad match keywords to gain incremental traffic, but keep a close eye on the search query report to make sure that you filter out any irrelevant search queries through the use of negative keywords. I recommend checking this at least once a week for campaigns with larger amounts of traffic and at least once a month for smaller campaigns.

Expanded Broad Match – Or Almost Anything Goes

Google has been known to open up the floodgates in campaigns containing broad match keywords through their expanded broad match feature to the misfortune of unsuspecting advertisers. That said you’d be surprised (not pleasantly) to see what kind of queries some of your ads are showing up for because of this. All the more reason to watch the search query report like a hawk once you’ve got some broad match keywords in your campaign.

If you’re using Google analytics you can take things one step further and set up a custom filter to see the actual search queries that your campaign is triggering ads to appear on. Jason Billingsley has put together a really simple tutorial on how to do this on the Get Elastic blog.

Let me know how this tactic works out for you.

Filed under: Google AdWords, Tips & Strategies
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Older Comments (#11):

  1. Supersizing Your CTR On Adwords | Adwords Consulting says:

    [...] Supersize Your CTR on Adwords [...]

  2. Xurxo Vidal says:

    Hi Alan,

    No worries, playing devil's advocate is a great exercise because it forces all of us to think and go over interesting and useful strategies. Sometimes it's downright necessary because things are not always black or white – often it depends. For instance, in some very niche industries, you might introduce broad match a lot sooner because of the lack of search volume and data. So broad match keywords can help you discover what people are searching for related to your product or service.

    I double checked what Google says about quality score as I had not heard that QS was only calculated on an exact match search of the keywords in a campaign. Here's what Google says on their site: “A Quality Score is calculated every time your keyword matches a search query — that is, every time your keyword has the potential to trigger an ad.” So even the performance of irrelevant queries triggered by broad match (and phrase) get included in the QS calculation.

    I was able to find that for first page bid estimates however, “the estimate approximates the cost-per-click (CPC) bid needed for your ad to reach the first page of Google search results when a search query exactly matches your keyword. The estimate is based on the Quality Score and current advertiser competition for that keyword.”

    So it appears that for first page bid estimates, Google only takes into account the quality score of the exact match of the keywords in a campaign. Good to know.

  3. Hi Xurxo, I was under the impression that Quality Score is calculated for exact-matched searches only…so searches that are broad-matched to one of your keywords would do nothing to pull down Quality Score of that keyword, even if those broad-matched searches lower your CTR.

    I'm just playing devil's advocate and tend to agree you both: that it's better to start very focused and have all match types bidding at the same level until data is collected to prove otherwise. I think there are many possible routes and methods to achieve paid search success, and as long as they are valid and logical, I respect all of them.

  4. Xurxo Vidal says:

    Hi Alan,

    The one main reason why you'll want to avoid bidding lower on broad match initially is because of quality score. Since the floodgates are usually open on broad match keywords, it's likely you'll get more impressions. So if your ad is in a lower position because of a lower bid, your CTR is more likely to suffer and you may see your QS fall quickly.

    I know that Google claims to normalize the CTR by ad position so in theory ads in a lower position are not penalized as much for having a lower CTR, but I prefer not to take chances by leaving this in the hands of Google.

    Also you'll want to find out sooner rather than later if certain broad match keywords are worth keeping or not. This is more difficult to do if you lower bids to reduce the amount of clicks. You'll have a harder time telling why CTR is lower on broad match vs the other match types. Is it because there are a lot of irrelevant queries that Google is showing your ads for or is it simply because you've chosen to reduce your bids and your ads might be in too low a position?

  5. Thanks for the replies Christian and Xurxo.

    I would tend to start all match types on the same bids, like Xurxo, but my point is that if you know broad match will generally perform worse that exact and phrase, why not use this experience and start their bids a bit lower? If it's common knowledge that broad match opens the floodgates and throws all sorts of traffic at you, why risk starting broad match at the same bids as exact and phrase?

    I agree that some broad match keywords will perform very well, and agree that testing is key, but isn't it better to start low then increase bids on those keywords that are working well, rather than starting high and reducing bids on those that aren't?

    Of course, data by match type might be skewed, but surely a more cautious approach with broad match is better than ignoring broad match completely at the start?

  6. Xurxo Vidal says:

    Hi Alan,

    I have to agree with Christian that bid tactics are better made based on ROI rather than match type because there is no guarantee that an exact or phrase match keyword will outperform a broad match or vise versa without testing.

    Bid stacking might skew the data and lead to the wrong conclusions based on match types. For this reason I recommend setting the bid at the same level initially and then adjusting based on actual performance.

  7. Christian Nkurunziza says:

    It does make sense to lower bids for keywords that convert less. However, I wouldn't systematically bid less for keywords depending on their match types because in some cases “phrase-match” converts better than [exact] (and bring more traffic). In some rare occasion, especially for long-tail keywords, broad match will convert as well as the others. Conversion rate and ROI should dictate the bid a keyword deserves – testing is key.

  8. Completely agree that exact and phrase-match keywords often outperform broad-match. One other tactic I've heard is a bid stack, where exact keywords are given the highest CPCs, then phrase say 25% lower, and broad 25% lower still. I find this gives a nice balance between relevancy and traffic, and may be of some use if you need to use broad match for additional traffic.

  9. Christian Nkurunziza says:

    Hi Xurxo,

    It's a pleasure to share. I look forward sharing more and learning even more. Writing good ads could be a good subject to touch on.

    I have subscribed to the bog and will participate when I can.

    Chris

    PS – Thanks for the reply. I'm very excited to talking in person.

  10. Xurxo Vidal says:

    Hi Chris,

    This is an interesting twist on the strategy – where you introduce phrase match only after you've put in exact match to jimmy up the quality score a little more. Increasing the bids initially is also something we do to stimulate CTR early on to in turn help boost the quality score so I'd recommend that too – good point.

    For brevity's sake I didn't touch on writing killer text ads, but you're absolutely right, without them a campaign is sitting dead in the water with lots of potential through proper keyword selection and match types, but no action because of poorly written ads.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your insights, I look forward to future comments of yours!

    P.S. I got your email and we too are looking forward to meeting you.

  11. Christian Nkurunziza says:

    This is good advice. Personnally, I handle this a little differently. I only start with [exact match] and bid very high (between $1.50 and $3.00). I keep watching it closely. My first clicks will come in fast with a very high CTR (i've seen as high 30%). Soon as the first click comes in, I lower my bid to the the cost of that click, then when the second click comes in I lower again and so on…

    If my landing page doesn't infringe any of adwords guidelines, a new campaign usually starts with 7/10 quality score and using this strategy usually the next day (sometimes within a few hours) my quality score is 10/10 for that [exact match] keyword and my CTR stays high. From the tests I've concluded, a 10% CTR gets me 10/10 quality score within a day.

    Now when I add “phrase match” the next day, often times it will start with a 10/10 quality score.

    This has worked extremely well for me. Anybody who's reading should try it.

    But there's one thing missing that I haven't mentioned and is crucial to making this a killing… and that is writing ads that are sure to beat the competition. You need great ads to make this work.

    Chris

    PS – Xurxo, Martin, I hope you received my little email I sent in yesterday. Hope to get a positive reply and looking forward to meet you guys at MakeItBloom.