It’s been a huge few weeks for me – so I haven’t been able to spare much blog-posting-time. But since I’m in the neighbourhood, I wanted to drop by and talk about something I’ve been working a fair bit on lately
A lot of people have been commenting lately on Google Slap 3 – the latest change in the ad-serving algorithm at Google Adwords.
The “slap” is actually a tightening of Google’s Quality Score guidelines for Adwords, designed to weed out publishers who don’t offer something valuable to visitors in return for their “click” by raising the minimum bids they need to pay.
What this change affects…
Specifically, this change relates to landing page quality
These are advertisers who use scatter-gun keyword “targeting” to maximise traffic (even if it comes from irrelevant or only partially relevant keywords), and advertisers who send visitors to horrible sites which don’t provide the user with the type of information they’re looking for.
What Google wants…
Google wants to display the most relevant ads to users – under the premise that if you have a good experience clicking on an ad, you’re more likely to click another ad in the future – making Google more money!
…And that’s great news for legitimate advertisers.
Particularly if you’re trying to attract highly qualified traffic a competitive niche – because if you DO get your Quality Scoring right (and your competitors don’t), you end up way out in-front – paying significantly less than your competitors for similar ads.
Previous algorithm changes sent minimum CPC’s for advertisers skyrocketing – from a few cents per click, to $5.00 to $10.00 per click!
Although this change hasn’t affected advertisers with the same severity, I’ve already spoken with several advertisers who have noticed keywords “going bad” over the past few days.
I can smell a mammoth post coming along here – but here are some of the tips and insights I’ve shared with (or implemented for) some of my Adwords clients.
How to improve your Google Adwords, and lower your CPC…
PPC guru Perry Marshall revealed some of his insights on Quality Scoring recently.
Poor quality scores are largely caused:
- Having too many different types of keywords in one Adgroup;
- Having too many different Adgroups pointing to the same landing page;
- Thin (or not easily visible) content;
- Bidding on keywords which have a track record of low relevance ads, and;
- Ads, landing pages and keywords which Google thinks might not be closely related to each other;
As a result, good quality scores are caused by solving these problems - specifically:
You can largely solve these Quality Score problems by:
- Splitting the keywords in your Agroups into smaller groups, and sending underperforming keywords into their own Adgroups (so they don’t drag down the Quality Scores of otherwise good keywords in good Adgroups);
- Better targeted landing pages (ideally, keyword specific landing pages).
- Creating fresh new content for your site (ie – articles, blog posts, backissues of newsletters etc), and making sure the content is easily visible using good internal navigation, or a site-map (get an SEO to help you out here);
- Getting rid of bad keywords (slash out the cancer!);
- And making sure your ads, keywords and landing pages are all closely related.
It’s this last point I want to concentrate on – because it requires a bit of SEO-Fu.
1. Check your Quality Score
The first thing you want to do is check your Quality Score to find out which ads are (and aren’t) rated well.
It only takes a moment to find your adwords quality score – and it’s all pretty self explanatory. “Great” means your score is great, “OK” means it’s OK, “Poor” means poor. (Quick – someone go tell Dave Pasternack this PPC stuff isn’t rocket science! ;))
Also look at your minimum bid – the lower it is, the better.
Obviously you want as many of your keyword to be listed as “Great” as possible – because quality scores of “Great” are rewarded over quality scores of “Poor” or “OK”.
You’ll probably need scores of “Great” if you want the $0.05 clicks.
Quality scores of “Poor” might see your bids jacked up to $1.00 - or even $10.00!
Just a quick note: You’ll generally receive scores of “Great” when you first start an ad group. However, as Google gathers more data on your advertising, this can change [read:deteriorate] quickly.
2. Find out what Google thinks your landing page is about
Now that you know what your Quality Score is, it’s time to gather another piece of the puzzle – an insight into Google’s “contextual matching” systems…
…What Google thinks your site is about!
It’s a simple trick. You’ll need to open up Google’s Keyword Sandbox and click on the “Site-Related Keywords” tab.
Enter your landing page URL in the box provided and click “Get Keywords“.
Google will spider your page, and report back to you about what it thinks your page is about.
Do it again, but this time tick the box marked “Include other pages on my site linked from this URL“…
- This will give you the keywords that Google thinks your site is about (or at least the pages it can see linked off your landing page).
It’s fair to assume that the systems Google is using here are the same (if not, similar) to the ones the Google Adwords spider-bot uses to determine your site’s relevancy to certain keywords.
If some of the important keywords you’re targeting don’t show up in the list of keywords the Keyword Sandbox tool spits out, then you’re doing something wrong SEO-wise.
If so, go hire an SEO expert who knows what they’re doing when it comes to theming web-sites and web-pages…
…Or (at the very least) make sure your main keywords are mentioned in the page copy.
3. Point to relevant landing pages
This is wise from a Conversion Maximisation perspective – not just from an Adwords Quality Scoring perspective.
Send people to the most appropriate page of your site… the one which best addresses their needs - why they’re searching Google, or what they wanted to receive when they clicked on your ad.
– If there isn’t a particularly relevant page, create one!
It’s smart marketing, and Google will reward you for it.
4. “Think like a computer” when it comes to your keywords
Graywolf, a popular Search Engine Optimisation guru, commented a few weeks ago that some of his keywords were costing up to $0.30 per click…
This is despite the fact that the keywords were completely related to his site (ie – “Gray Wolf”, his name “Michael Gray” etc) and only two people bidding on these keywords!
The only logical explanation that I can come up with for this is Google’s keyword database figured “Gray Wolf” was a keyword for an animal, and “Michael Gray” was a keyword for a popular DJ, or an English Footballer.
That confused the computer, and it thought to itself:
“An animal and a DJ in the same keyword group? It looks like someone’s putting groups of unrelated keywords together in the same adgroup!
Take a penalty!…
…hang on – neither the animal nor the DJ relate to the content on this web-site.
Take another penalty!
That’ll fix yer!“
Google’s (sometimes misinformed) computer figured his ads weren’t relevant, and jacked up his minimum CPC – even though there was no economic reason in the Adwords marketplace for him to be paying $0.30 per click.
Computers are designed to take instructions very literally.
And even though Google has a team of smart developers constantly improving the instructions the computers use to make decisions, if the basis for the instructions is incomplete, or incorrect, then the computer is going to draw incomplete or incorrect conclusions about your site.
That’s why you need to think like a computer.
The English language has double-meanings, subtleties of speech, rules and broken rules – plus dozens of other that a cross-referenced database full of words and their synonyms might not pick up.
With every update, the system is improved, and some bugs are removed.
But until the system is “perfected”, you’ll still need to stop and think like a computer, and ask yourself “is there a way Google might misinterpret this keyword?”
5. Review your entire web-site content for relevance
Each “Google Slap” has seen squeeze page and affiliate selling sites hit by the hardest penalties.
This is because the “slaps” don’t just look at the landing page – they look at the overall quality of the site.
You see, the whole theory behind Quality Score is to create some sort of metric which can be used to measuring and rate the expected quality of the experience that a user will have on your web-site.
This number can then be fed into an algorithm so that consumers can be delivered a consistently good experience whenever they click on ads.
It’s part of the Search Engine Utopia:
In a perfect world, the best sort of experience a user could have with a web-site is they click on your ad and bang they’re on the page which provides them the answer they’re looking for…
(Or at least lets them quickly navigate to the page which addresses their specific needs.)
Squeeze-page and affiliate sites don’t generally deliver this – and as a result, they’re disfavoured by Google’s quality scoring.
Normally squeeze-page sites require the user to enter their e-mail address in order to access the information they need - and in Google’s eyes this is an unnecessary hassle, and a sign of a bad user experience.
If your web-site content is very “thin”, follow Perry Marshall’s tips (way above) and upload backissues of your newsletter as it goes out, or write some articles, or start a blog.
Link these pages off your landing page in the footer so that it’s still accessible to Google’s spider, but won’t affect conversion rates… Or, if you’re using long-form copy, put discrete links high in your copy (because Google’s spider seems to download only the first however-many kb of a page, and therefore may not find your links.)
If you don’t know what to write about, run your site through the Keyword Sandbox tool mentioned in point #1 and write on those topics.
6. Subscribe to forums, podcasts and blogs for the latest Adwords news
If you’re doing your own D.I.Y. Adwords Management, it’s worth spending some time each week going through the latest news which pops up on the radar about Adwords.
The information you discover is going to save you money in CPC’s (cost per clicks), and improve your conversion rates – I’m certain of it.
Oh, and finally – do yourself a favour and familiarise yourself with Google’s landing page and site quality guidelines: https://adwords.google.com/select/siteguidelines.html
Google’s not evil – they’re not out to hide information from you – most of the important information you need to know about successfully running an Adwords campaign they give you freely.
Just following their advice, and reading between the lines, will get you 50% of the way there. Blogs (like those above) will give you an extra 10% kick. The remaining 40% comes down to testing.