Quality Score Decoded?

by Craig Danuloff

Steve Baker at epiphany put up a very interesting post this week, in which he analyzed some quality score data to try and answer three questions:

  1. How high is a high click through rate?
  2. What is a decent click through rate for a given position?
  3. How do you know if your Quality Score is being dragged down by the Account Quality Score or your adverts?

These are things we’d all like to know, and his results are interesting, but I have some concerns about whether or not they really answer any of these questions in any way we can rely on. To be clear, I’m not sure – so I’m posting my thoughts here to hopefully further the discussion.

If you haven’t please go read his entire post.

There three thing that concern me about the methodology and the conclusions:

  1. A mistake concerning the idea that ‘quality score is only calculated on Exact Match’.
  2. The assumption that ‘visible quality score’ is quality score.
  3. The treatment of the relationship between quality score and bids and position.

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Welcome to week two of my mea culpa tour. Last week I revealed an error from an earlier post on how quality score takes search queries into account. Today I’ll talk about some new facts regarding the most popular post I’ve ever written – The Economics of Quality Score.

An Economist Walks Into A Bar…

The original Economics of Quality Score post describes the impact of quality score on CPC. What was interesting about it, I think, is that it included two tables that purported to quantify the actual economic impact of quality score – how much CPC decreases when a keyword earns a 10 and how much extra you pay if a keyword only gets a 3, for example.

The original calculation was based on visual quality score (see the guest post I recently wrote about visual quality score over at PPC Hero). Doing the math while assuming that quality scores are really whole numbers between 1 and 10 produced the tables included in the original post.

Working with these numbers resulted in dramatic results and a powerful graphic that has been borrowed and republished in many blog posts and used in quality score seminars. The story the numbers told was that earning a quality score 10 gets you a 30% discount on every click, while suffering with a quality score for costs you a 75% CPC premium – to take just two examples.

This calculation made the risks and rewards of quality score very clear. Or so it seamed.

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I was wrong. A couple of times.

The subject was ‘how quality score works’. And in both cases I wrote long detailed posts on this very blog, and I have come to learn that these particular posts were not accurate.

My revised world view was provided courtesy of our friends at Google. They have been kind enough to help me to better understand quality score – the gory details and the dark recesses – over the past six months or so, and I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned.

Actually, I’m going to share all of what I’ve learned, but only some of it will be here on the blog. For the full story, you’ll have to get yourself a copy of my upcoming book ‘Quality Score in High Resolution‘ which will be out in June.

If you’re a ClickEquations client, you’ll be getting a courtesy copy.

Otherwise you can pre-order your own copy for a limited time at a 46% discount off the not-so-tiny retail price.

Now on to my most recent mistake.
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I have a New Year’s Resolution this year. I would like to be done with quality score, at least as a primary PPC obsession. I’ve been too deep into it for what seems like two years, and it’s time to move onto something else.

I’ve even decided what that something else would be – bidding. Seems like the only bigger and deeper mess in the world of PPC. Perfect for me to stew in for a while.

But Quality Score isn’t conquered quite yet. Not for a lack of effort. For about 18 months I’ve been reading, discussing, thinking and writing about it. I’ve even got hundreds of pages of a book on it just about complete.

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