Sep 232008

Early Read on Google’s Quality Score Changes

Google released their Quality Score Changes early last week.

Based on some early results we’re seeing minimal effects. "First Page Bid" (FPB) is often acting much like the old "Inactive for Search".

There were 3 changes in all, summarized in a previous post, but generally speaking it boils down to the following comparison: (new) User-Specific Keyword Quality Score and FPB, compared to (old) Static Keyword Quality Score and Minimum Bid (Inactive for Search).

Based on that comparison, here’s what’s playing out in the data:

  1. Ads shown for Broad Match search results; a real possibility (for better or worse)
  2. Limited number of ads now shown for Exact Match search results

For example, take the hypothetical keyword "ford f150 pickup", and let’s assume Google has determined that your keyword’s quality score and bid places you below their required First Page bid minimum. A prospective shopper searches for ‘ford f150 pickup truck’. Under the previous rules of ‘inactive for search’, your ad would have been excluded from the search results. Under the new FPB regime, your ad may now show for your keyword ‘ford f150 pickup’. Whether you would have preferred that the phrase remained ‘inactive for search’ and did not receive this broad match traffic is still unknown. We recommend keeping a close eye on conversion-rate data by actual user query, to gauge the impact of Google’s changes.

We’re also seeing a small amount of exact match results on and their partner networks, such as That is to say a search for ‘ford f150 pickup’ may now display your ad for your keyword ‘ford f150 pickup’ even though it did not meet FPB minimum bid requirements. We can only assume that the bid and quality score for the individual user is high enough to display the ad under the new First Page minimum bid qualification, now that quality score is determined by user specific data vs keyword static data. Albeit small in most cases, this is traffic that was not being received until last week, so we similarly recommend keeping it on your radar. (Full details of Google’s Quality Score Changes)

All-in-all, we’re not yet seeing many significant differences in Google’s self-proclaimed "quality score improvements". Short of the two scenarios outlined above, first page bid and inactive for search are operating in much the same manner. We, like many other agencies and advertisers, have asked Google to include detailed information about keyword quality score and estimated first page bid to their API and AdWords interface reporting. Giving agencies and advertiser more detailed information, allows them make smart, informed decisions. They’ve assured us those details are coming soon. Thanks, Google!

We’ll keep watching…


10 Responses to "Early Read on Google’s Quality Score Changes"
Andrew says:
Thanks Matthew for the QS update. I remember reading a post in the Google Groups AdWords API forum last year from Google saying they weren't planning on releasing keyword QS data via the API. Have you heard differently? (I hope so!!).
ShaneeK. says:
I've noticed a couple of abnormalites with the new QS. 1. I've had a decent CPC and QS and great position (actively accruing clicks), yet the Min Bid description is asking for $2.00 more! I've seen this across several accounts. 2. I've seen really strange and high min bids for first page, on keywords with good QS (7-9 range), like $100. These were also already accruing clicks and first page placement on those keywords (under $1 mind you). They are off to a good start, but I think that their are still a few kinks to iron out! I love your idea for increased reporting. Can never get enough stats!
Andrew, Thanks for your comments. I think (hope) what we're likely to see in both the AdWords Interface and API reporting will be the QS value on an X/10 scale. Currently, they've added this increased level of detail at the keyword level, and have hinted at the possibility of receiving this data in bulk coming soon. Shanee, depending on the keywords, it's possible that Google has determined it just isn't worth displaying ads for any advertiser, and they then generally elevate minimums (first page bids) to an astounding level. May not be fair to the advertisers, but in some cases, you could argue that they're trying to keep their search results (Natural & Paid) in line with what they believe is best for their user-base. Thanks for the comments!
Here is a wierd scenario.. I have a client that is ranked very high on a particular keyword for Organic Search. But for some reason same high ranked organic searches are POOR quality for adwords???? and adwords is saying that the landing page is the problem?? The same page that is ranked high for Organic?? Anyone else experiencing this problem??? Should I wait for the next Quality score BOT checkup?? or should I bitch??? Funny enough, this is ONLY with one client.. :-(
QS is no longer keyword static, but rather will vary by user query, geotargeting, etc. “Inactive for search” distinction goes away — every non-paused ad has the theoretical chance to be served, even if in practice low-QS low-bid ads never will. ----------------- Brukewilliams Viral Marketing
dan says:
I find geo-targeting an alarming trend. The power of the internet is that you can get information, products and services from around the world. Now Google is taking a big step back. It will give a preference to merchants or providers in my region, taking away the biggest benefit of the internet.
Dan, I hear you! Ultimately Google will choose the ad that generates the most revenue. That will depend largely on customer intent and retailer's perception of the value of the traffic. When someone types in "Oxford shirt" are they interested in shopping online, or finding a local store? That balance will largely determine which ads win out. Such an important topic, I think I'll devote a blog post to it. Thanks for the idea! George


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