What was life like before we could type a few words into the Google search engine and find answers to almost any question in the universe?  And what a tool for marketers to not only align with customers way down in your purchase funnel, but also to discover new ones with only marginally related interests.  But when it comes to Paid Search Ads, you are probably overpaying for some keywords on your list.  We are not talking here about hypothetical questions on out-bidding your competitors or the relative value of different clicks, we are talking about managing your low Google Quality Scores to avoid a Search Ad Tax.

You may be aware that Google assigns a Quality Score to keywords to understand whether they are relevant to particular search strings.  Relevancy is “rewarded” on a scale where a max score of 10 is the best based on a strong connection between keywords, ad copy, and landing pages.  When the Google algorithms deem the keyword was not relevant to the click, these keywords are taxed and the prices go way up to discourage marketers from gunking up the works.  (Gunking is not a technical term, but it’s descriptive, right?)  They don’t want to damage the user experience.  Unless somebody is willing to pay a ridiculous price to do it, and then it’s acceptable.  But I digress a bit.  MMi calls this the Google Search Ad Tax and it comes from Quality Scores below 5 which incur a cost-per-click penalty from Google.  It can be identified and quantified for your particular buys, and increase efficiencies once corrected.  

Allow me to provide an illustration using some simple math.

  • An advertiser has a keyword generating 1,000 clicks at $15 per click with a Quality Score of 1.  Total spend $15,000.
  • The advertiser adjusts ad copy and landing pages to improve the keyword Quality Score to a 2.  The cost per click drops to $12 (because Google algorithms find it more relevant to users searching it).  Total spend is now $12,000.
  • The advertiser just realized a savings of $3,000 for this keyword by addressing the low Quality Score and moving it up one point.  This previously taxed spend may be re-invested, or optimized, into the more effective and efficient keyword.

In addition, here is an MMi Quality Score Savings Opportunity Case Study.  

  • Improving Brand Exact Match keywords from a Quality Score of 3 to a 4 can generate $2,600 in savings via reduced cost-per-click.
  • Improving Generic Exact Match keywords from a Quality Score of 1 to a 3 can generate $11,230 in savings via reduced cost-per-click.
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Why might you have too many low Quality Score keywords?  As is the case with nearly every paid media channel MMi audits, the answer is stewardship.  Paid Search accounts require ongoing active management.  Costs accrue in real-time so lack of attention can exhaust advertiser budgets.  In addition to maintaining keyword lists and ad groups, make sure your agency is reviewing low scores and taking action to more closely knit together your keywords with ad copy and relevant landing pages.  Go ahead and ask them for a review of your keywords with a 1 or 2 Quality Score and discuss your options.  You will see the benefits of a more cost-efficient Paid Search buy.  And who doesn’t need more bang for the buck in paid media?