Tuesday 16th August 2016

Why am I seeing a dash where my beloved Quality Score used to be, helpdesk?



These changes haven’t actually been rolled out yet, but in anticipation of the MAYHEM that is sure to befall the PPC Helpdesk when the changes go live on September 12th, I’ve decided to answer this question in advance.

So, PPC marketeers of the future, don’t panic!

Google, tinkerers that they are, have gone and replaced the “default quality score” they introduced in July of last year for new and low activity keywords, which was 6/10 across the board, with a null value which excludes it from all reporting.

Why? ‘Cause.

Before the change, AdWords would set all quality scores at 6 while it gathered enough data to give you your “true” score, based on factors like landing page and ad relevance, competitor performance (and, according to Larry Kim, a bunch of secret metrics like account or campaign-level quality score). Keywords that never accrued any impressions typically stayed at 6/10 until they did.

The change affects the way keywords are filtered and aggregated, with AdWords ignoring these lonely keywords in its filters unless you tick a box to include them. So, for example, if you sort keywords by quality score, AdWords will no longer include these low activity keywords, presumably sticking them at the bottom of the screen somewhere so you won’t feel ill looking at their shameful performance.

The same goes for any automated rules and scripts that involve quality score, so these will need to be adapted ahead of the September rollout to ensure these continue to work.

The upside is that quality score as a metric will become an altogether more meaningful and instructive measure of how Google views your keywords. A 6/10 is now a “true” 6/10, and an account-wide quality score of 5.8 now only takes into account active, impression-weighted data. This stops you having to manually account for activity when aggregating top level quality scores and lets you identify areas of concern more easily.

Google assures us that the null value will not affect auctions or the way ads are served, so your long-tail keywords shouldn’t be any less likely to attract impressions than they were before. You won’t need to do anything with your keywords to account for the change unless you use scripts or automated rules that incorporate quality score (of course you do, you fusspot), but any previous analysis you’ve done of your quality scores could probably benefit from an update since Google’s strengthening of quality score values suggests it could play a greater role in auctions going forward.

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