11 Sep 2012

How To Use ‘Expected CTR’ to Improve Quality Scores

September 11, 2012PPC Advertising

When organizing any PPC effort, it’s important to brush up on the basics. Even if you’re feeling comfortable about where your campaigns are, just taking some time to examine your performance can be extremely helpful, especially in regards to improving your quality score.

If your keywords have low quality scores, your ads aren’t going to perform as well as those competitors’ with the higher numbers – that’s the bottom line. In fact, even seemingly small gaps in quality scores can result in huge decreases in performance. It can also affect the pricing of your bids and clicks. You may find it frustrating that it’s nearly impossible to go from a poor quality score to a decent one overnight, but there are things you can do to improve them.
Ultimately these quality scores have been put in place to ensure that relevant ads are being shown to potential customers. By displaying ads that fall in line with a user’s search queries, the ad is more likely to trigger a response and eventually a sale. It seems easy enough, but part of what makes quality scores so hard to examine is that they vary by account, and Google’s formulas for computing the score tend to fluctuate as well.
Google states that they determine quality score by using the performance numbers from your keyword and URL’s past CTRs. That said, they also note that they look at a number of determining factors related to your account. So, there isn’t a really cut and dry formula for advertisers to go by when trying to improve their quality scores. Instead of focusing on all of the so-called factors that Google is presenting, try focusing on your overall campaign. If you build a successful platform, they will click.
It’s no secret that CTR is the magic word in the quality score world. Most often the historical CTR data from a keywords’ performance is enough to form the skeleton of a good or bad quality score. However, Google recently stated that “expected CTR” will be used for new keywords that have not yet accumulated data. Google uses things like your overall account performance or the performance of similar competitor’s ads to try to predict how your ads will stack up. Over time, the “expected CTR” becomes a stronger decider than your actual historical CTR.
This is where you may run into problems. If you think you have a great CTR, then you might wonder why your quality score isn’t up to snuff. It’s important to remember that CTR is relative to the campaign as well as your competitors in the market. If another advertiser’s ads are more enticing, they may be snagging your clicks, even if your ad position is slightly better. If you have not taken extra time to target your ads, you may be missing out on relevant clicks as well. In other words, it can be any number of things affecting your quality score. It’s important to familiar yourself with the PPC platform to try to gain an understanding of where your ads may be going wrong, but don’t utilize tactics just to improve a quality score. You may need to just improve your campaigns by making your ad messaging more exciting for potential customers. Writing strong, powerful ads is the best way to get clicks, and that shouldn’t be any surprise.
Because there are so many things that could be negatively impacting your quality score, you should never underestimate the power of ad testing. If you stick with a testing schedule, you will begin to see which of your keywords are performing at better rates. Having this knowledge will impact your campaigns now and later for the better. Testing does take a certain amount of money and patience, but the insight you come out with on the other end will be helpful for years to come, especially since Google now plainly states that “expected CTR” is weighed heavily in the determination of initial quality scores for new keywords.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to make your quality score soar overnight. Improving your quality score is something that takes time, patience and experience. Reviewing ad performance reports and running regular tests is a great way to pinpoint why you are succeeding or not. Come to the table with an open mind, and try not to tailor your tactics to Google’s formulas. Instead, focus on writing strong ads and targeting your campaigns to relevant customers. Oftentimes, the simple changes that you can make in those regards are the most effective for your CTRs, which ultimately translate to your quality scores.