Troubleshooting your Google Adwords Quality Score

Posted on January 28, 2008
Filed Under Adwords and PPC Marketing | 6 Comments

I run several websites that I use Google Adwords to attract traffic to via PPC advertising.  I’m definitely an Adwords noob, and I’m learning as I make mistakes along the way.  One of my websites is in a very heavily advertised market, with CPC amounts upwards of $30.  Now this works out great for my AdSense account, as I get decent EPC for click-throughs, primarily via organic search results.  But on the Adwords side of things, it makes it a little tough to compete with the industry players when they throw millions at PPC advertising every month. 

When I started my Adwords campaigns, I did the usual keyword research using the Adwords keyword tool, a free trial at Wordtracker and also at which is ran by Trellian.  If I was big into Adwords, I’d definitely invest in either one of these tools, but for now, I can’t justify that kind of expense. 

Once I had a decent list of relevant keywords, I needed to include common misspellings of those keywords in the list as well.  I found a great free tool called Good Keywords v2 that saved me a ton of time generating my keyword lists.  You easily get carried away with your keywords using this tool.  They also offer KeywordPad and Keyword Explorer tools to help generate better long tail keyword lists.

Ok, so now I have my list of 721 keywords that I thinkare relevant to my PPC campaign, and I create my ads, geographically target them to the area my website is relevant to, and insert my keywords.  (By the way, using the Good Keywords tool above, you can copy all your keywords as exact match or phrase match directly from the program.  I usually just copy them into Notepad until my list is completely built, then copy directly into my Adwords keywords box.)  I generated a couple of ads, some with static text and a couple using the {KeyWord} tag, set my URL to direct the click to my landing page and set my click and budget amounts for the adgroup.

Now since I only use phrase and exact match keywords in my campaigns, my impression rate is limited to a fraction of what it would be if I used broad match keywords.  I ran my campaign for a couple of days to get a feel for what keywords were hitting, and after approximately 3,000 impressions, I had a grand total of 2 clickthroughs!  Wow, I was raking in the traffic!  Google had wonder what the hell I was doing wasting their advertising space!

As punishment for my lousy keyword selection technique and near-nothing CTR, you guessed it, the quality scores of my keywords plummeted.  Out of the 721 keywords in my campaign, 721 were “inactive for search”.  Every single one was rated as “poor” and my minimum bid rates were jacked up to $5.00 each.

What did I do wrong?  I thought I had good keywords!  They were sort of related to my landing page and the rest of my site!  (“Sort of” in a very broad sense)  Now that campaign was dead in the water, I figured I’d better do my homework on Adwords and find out what I was supposed to be doing.

In traversing the internet in search of the holy grail of Adwords quality score information, I came across some good information that gave me a little insight into how my Adwords campaigns were supposed to be structured.  Here’s the list:

These were just a few of the sites I visited when researching my Adwords quality score dilemma.  I probably need more relevant content on my landing pages, as they are targeted but they don’t have a lot of content on the page.  The pages are primarily affiliate javascript-generated links served dynamically when the page is loaded.  I also need to cut my keywords way down to just the very specific keywords and phrases that my landing page is built around.  In some different campigns I have some landing pages that are dynamically generated based on the referring URL from Google, and the keywords are still in the “OK” range, but I could probably improve the page content and streamline the keywords to improve the minimum bid in Adwords.

So much to do, so little time.  And I sit here blogging about it instead of correcting it… Geesh.


6 Responses to “Troubleshooting your Google Adwords Quality Score”

  1. Brent Hodgson on January 28th, 2008 4:56 pm

    Ouch! 721 out of 721 inactive!

    Not 100% sure what’s happening (I’m the type of guy who needs to poke around an account to learn for myself what’s going wrong) but javascript links (which are uncrawlable to Google’s spiders) could cause relevance problems. Having crawlable links to relevant content is very important to quality score. Particularly if the landing pages are lists of affiliate links.

    As for keyword quality – don’t forget about negative keywords. I’ve found that broad match + the right negative keywords can work better than exact match.

    To get your CPC down, I’ve been having some success with site placement ads.

    Good luck! (And thanks for the link!)

  2. Ryan on January 28th, 2008 6:55 pm

    721 out of 721? I thought batting 1.000 was a good thing! I have some new campaigns running so we’ll see where it goes from here. Can’t go much farther down, eh?

  3. Brent Hodgson on February 15th, 2008 10:43 pm

    Ryan – did your quality score pick up?

  4. Ryan on February 16th, 2008 12:00 am

    After the inital catastrophe, I went back in and tuned things up. I targeted my adgroups very specifically, and I probably only have an average of 10-15 keywords per group. I also started using more broad match keywords.

    I’m happy to report that all my new ads are running smoothly with all OK rating or better, even quite a few Great’s! Now I just need to work on getting my conversions up.

    CTR is low, but that’s OK at this point because I’m not trying to run through a ton of cash in AdWords. I’m working on a few sites that will allow my to get more focused on my campaigns, and then I’ll crank it up a notch and see what happens.

  5. Brent Hodgson on February 16th, 2008 12:16 am

    That’s great news!

    Speaking of broad match – I’m having some great success with using negative keywords + broad match lately. Email me and I’ll show you exactly how I’m doing it if you like.

    Also seeing CTR’s as high as 11.57% (on 1,000+ impressions) on some location-specific keywords which are also getting highly targeted leads…

    What I mean by location-specific is (as an example) – “web design nebraska”, “web design omaha” instead of just “web design”.

    Anyway, email me and I’ll show you the broad match + negative keywords trick I’m using.


  6. Erick on April 10th, 2008 7:03 pm


    It is better to use keywords sparingly, I actually try to have a max of five per AdGroup. For example, if you are making widgets, and gidgets, and doohickies have a separate AdGroup for each with the AdGroup using the keyword within the ad title text and display URL (without sounding spammy). Also, a good destination page with relevant text is good. Have a page for widgets, one for gidgets, etc.

    I guarantee Great quality scores every time.

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