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New Quality Score, same conclusion: don't optimize for it

Published: July 26, 2013

Author: Susan Waldes

Google announced today on the AdWords blog a change to the way Quality Score is reported inside the UI; this will take effect over the coming days.

There was a whole lot of emphasis on the idea that this doesn’t fundamentally change the auction-time QS metrics or ad-serving behavior but is simply a reporting change that gives additional transparency and weight to the 3 main QS factors (expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing-page experience).

So, what does this mean for advertisers.? Well, as an established QS naysayer, I have a few things to say. (Let me just get “I told you so” out of the way first. Okay, I feel better.)

  • As much as I may be down on QS, as Director of Client Services at 3Q Digital, I have major empathy for just about every SEM issue that comes up – especially those that make clients angsty. This means that for those of you tracking QS changes on an ongoing basis in your reporting – oops, Google just broke your data. I’m finding myself super-grateful today that this isn’t a key point with our clients. For the agencies where it is, there are going to be some hard client conversations next week.
  • Speaking of hard client conversations, the idea that this won’t impact the auctions or ad serving but will impact the QS number displayed – that’s a bit of a head-scratcher, no? If the old number was so directionally meaningful, why change anything? Also, if your automated rules or manual bidding formulas factor in QS, you need to take a look at all that stuff because it’s all broken now too.
  • Google says that this new QS is in “closer alignment” with the metrics that matter, yet it still doesn’t impact the actual auctions. To me, this validates that the old QS was not aligned with the actual auction behavior all that well, and though this new metric is “better,” it’s not completely aligned with the real algo.

Rather than pick the announcement apart further, I’ll just consider it validation that you should focus on the driving factors and not the arbitrary QS number – make that the new arbitrary QS number. Make relevant, compelling ads that drive good CTRs; make quality landing pages that are clear, topical, aligned to user intent, and easy to use; and keep testing and testing to make all this stuff better.

This way, the next time Google “improves” the QS reporting, you won’t be left questioning your reporting or optimization methodology, and you won’t be left answering tough client questions about why you have been caring about this “less-transparent,” “less-aligned” metric all along.

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