In the past few months, clients are often surprised when we notify then that some of their targeted campaign keywords in their AdWords account have become “inactive for search” despite implementing best practices and advanced optimization techniques. To make matters worse, Google in some cases requires them to pay upwards of $6 per click or more to have those keywords reactivated due to a poor quality score rating. They are even more shocked when we tell them that the cause of this is their landing page. Some people in the industry like to call this the Google Slap.
There used to be a time when PPC marketers could improve a campaign’s quality score mainly by restructuring and regrouping keywords and rewriting text ads connected with those keywords. This would make the adgroups and the campaign more tightly themed and relevant while driving higher click-through rates (CTR). This still remains a key and critical task when managing and/or optimizing a campaign, but in the early fall 2007, Google made some major modifications to their quality score algorithm, placing much more weight on landing page and overall website quality.
Basically, Google now says that an advertiser’s landing pages and website play a greater role in determining a keyword’s quality score and therefore minimum cost per click (CPC). The lower the quality score, the higher the CPC you’ll have to pay to stay in the game. In case you’re wondering why this change happened, one of the main reasons was to improve user experience on Google and its partner networks by cracking down on certain landing page tactics often used by affiliate marketers – unfortunately some advertisers were caught in the crossfire.
What can you do if this is happening to you?
The first step would be to check out Google Adwords’ landing page guidelines found here to review the general recommendations for better landing pages and quality scores.
Here’s the gist of what Google looks at when assigning a quality score based on your landing pages and website:
- Having relevant and original content associated with your keywords
- Being transparent with your visitors by clearly defining on your site what your business is about and how your site interacts with them
- Making sure your site makes it easy for users to find what they are looking for/what you are offering
How can I tell if I have a landing page problem?
If you’re not sure how to see the quality score of your keywords which will give you a heads up on keywords that are at risk of being deactivated because of landing page issues or because some keywords and ads not relevant enough here’s a quick walk through:
- First of all, keep an eye of keywords with a higher than usual minimum CPC. If you found one, from the adgroup level make sure that the quality score column is not hidden.
- Next you’ll notice a magnifying glass icon to the right of each keyword. If you mouse over this icon you’ll get additional data on the keyword such as whether the keyword is triggering your ads to show and what the quality score is. You’ll also see links for “Details and recommendations” where Google will provide you with more information on how you can improve your quality score.
Following these basic guidelines will help put you on the path to a more cost effective and better performing campaign.
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