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Widespread increase in Keyword Quality Score

Colewood Internet lives and breathes Google Adwords, so when something changes we’re always amongst the first people to notice it.

Over recent days we have seen a dramatic increase in the quality score being attributed to thousands of keywords across many industries in which we operate. Many keywords historically sitting at a low or medium level of Google Quality Score (QS) have been increased to a maximum 10/10. This is a trend that we have noticed across various MCC’s that we own - even within accounts that we have not yet begun optimising, some of which are poorly structured and have never had any form of regular optimisation.

In truth, we always take the quality score metric displayed in Google Adwords with a pinch of salt, as through Google's own admission this is a “vague representation of the QS associated with the keyword” – to quote various members of the Google support team. We’re used to seeing quality score progressing and improving over time alongside the natural CPC reductions and the positions increases associated with higher quality score keywords. I’m sure that many of you reading this measure QS improvements in the same way - focusing on CPC and positions more so than what Adwords is actually telling you the QS is.

This recent increase in QS seems to have come about without any of the usual associated benefits, i.e CPC’s are the same based upon historic data, as are average positions. Having spoken with various support staff at Google both here in the UK and the US, there would appear to be no technical issues reported, so why has this sudden jump occurred?

Why the increase?

Without any measurable benefit to the advertiser for this sudden QS increase, we believe that this has been done with the aim of serving more ads for the lower QS keywords – the more ads that are served, the greater the chance of a click through the sponsored links. We’ve all seen that Google recently reported a disappointing drop in profits, so have they changed the quality score algorithm to increase impressions on the historically lower QS keywords? One thing that is certain is if a keyword has low QS it directly impacts on how often an ad is served for the associated keyword and the position in which the ad is displayed to the user. Will increasing the QS on these terms increase the frequency of which the advertiser's ads are served?

Increased impressions = increased clicks = REVENUE (for Google).

Of course, these keywords are target search terms selected by the advertiser, which are relevant to their business, so this will be benefiting them with the potential of increased targeted visitation. The problem, in our opinion, lies within the fact that this change will make it increasingly more difficult for advertisers to effectively assess and optimise the keywords within their accounts. If a keyword is showing a 10/10 quality score why would the advertiser try and optimise? In their eyes surely this cannot get any better? If the trend that we have noticed becomes widespread across the entire platform, it will become harder for advertisers to gauge keyword performance, especially if they do not have the time, resources or knowledge to correctly analyse and manipulate data from Adwords or Google Analytics.

Does this Quality Score shift favour the advertiser, or does it favour Google? Does it favour both?

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