It’s been a few weeks since Google announced changes to the Adwords Quality Score algorithm, and although PPC isn’t my main discipline, I can certainly see the effect that update has had on the five PPC accounts I’m involved with. Some keywords that previously had a Quality Score (QS) of 5+ have dropped to a score of 2+, and this has had a direct effect on their placement, despite the same amount of budget spend. I know there’s still a huge school of thought that insists that PPC and SEO are separate entities and never the twain shall meet, but the latest move by Google is forcing the gap between the two to close even further. So, what is Quality Score and why is it so important? Well, if you’ve ever had working experience of Adwords, you’ll know that Google uses QS to ascertain both the relevance of an ad as well as the relevance of the keywords and landing page of the destination URL of that ad. Other determining factors include a decent Click Through Rate (CTR) as well as the ad/campaign’s historical performance.
Why does this even matter? Surely throwing as much money as possible at a campaign will work just as well? Possibly, and that’s fine if you have hundreds or even thousands of pounds a day to fund a PPC campaign without any expectation of ROI. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Google wants to return only the most relevant ads to its users and will take any course of action it deems fit in order to filter out those ads that devalue the Google search process. Oh, and Google wants to make as much money as possible from its PPC division so that’s another huge reason to only serve the best ads (poor ads = no CTR = no revenue for Google).
So, we’ve established that a high QS is highly desirable for your PPC keywords but what does this really have to do with SEO? Well, if your QS is low and your SEO landing page isn’t performing as well as you think it should be in the SERPS, take this as a massive clue to how Google currently views both your paid and organic efforts. Now more than ever, it is absolutely vital that your landing pages are as optimised, user friendly, informative and as relevant as possible – which should result in high positions for both paid and non-paid SERPS.
Let’s have a look at this in action using a product very dear to my heart – the KitchenAid Mixer. I’m not involved in any campaigns targeting this wondrous piece of kitchenware (I wish) but I am in the market to buy (a bright pink) one so I do spend a bit of every evening searching through the results on Google for a bargain. Earlier today, I searched for the term ‘kitchenaid’ – with google.co.uk returning just under 39 Million results:
For the purpose of this article, I wanted to find a brand that was bidding on Adwords but not appearing on the home page, and identify reasons why they may not be appearing as high as they would undoubtedly like to. I found a great, if surprising candidate on page 2 – House of Fraser.
As a punter, I’d have expected House of Fraser to be higher in the ad positions – the brand is strong and would have a good historical record of bids and CTRs so why a second page position? Obviously, I don’t want to encourage any clicks on the ad from readers with no intention of buying a KitchenAid product so I’ll give you the destination URL here – http://www.houseoffraser.co.uk/KitchenAid/BRAND_KITCHENAID,default,sc.html and you can see the landing page for yourself. As landing pages go, it’s quite pretty and the meta data is chock full of KitchenAid type words but there’s a notable lack of content, strong call to action messages, or any kind of enthusiasm on the part of HoF to get the user to buy. I wouldn’t buy from this site and I’d trade my husband in for a KitchenAid so that’s saying something. So, what can HoF do better?: They could:
1/ Change the destination landing page – this one is much, much better
2/ Make sure that the stock is….er, in stock. They are currently hold 6 of the Blue KAs but none of the Candy Apples one – that can’t be helping their conversion rate much…..
3/ No issues with them a using a KitchenAid landing page but they need to guide the user to the different products in a much better way
And what difference will improvements to the PPC landing page make to the HoF SEO campaign? Well, the first appearance for that brand in the organics for the term ‘KitchenAid’ is at #32. Any improvements they make to improve the QS for their PPC campaign is going to pay dividends for their organic rankings too.
- It isn’t enough to be a brand or a ‘name’ – you are going to have to work just as hard as anyone else to keep a high QS and achieve a low CPC but high CTR. This goes for SEO too.
- Your PPC destination landing pages should always be optimised for the relevant keywords, products or services you are trying to sell. So should your SEO landing pages.
- Do not – please do not – link to your home page from your PPC campaign if you sell more than one product or service or more than one colour, size, price or any other variation of that service. The same goes for your SEO landing pages.
- Keep both your PPC and your SEO landing pages clean, concise, easy to navigate with good call to actions
- Keep an eye on load times for both PPC and SEO landing pages – both are very, very strongly rumoured to have an effect on QS and on SERPS