If you have ever managed PPC campaigns on Google Adwords, you will know that the quality score is extremely important and has a massive effect on the overall performance of a paid search campaign.

There are a number of factors that are used in the quality score algorithm, but click through rate (CTR) has always been critical.

An ad with a high click through rate, when compared to other ads that are shows for the same keyword, will be seen as very relevant to that search query and Google will give it a high quality score.

This is the underlying reason for split testing different ad copy – by running different versions of ads, you can monitor which messaging is more effective at attracting the attention of the user. Over time, you can eliminate poorer performing ads and ensure that you are achieving the best possible CTR which will, in turn, ensure that your quality score is as high as possible.

There is an interesting announcement on the Google Adwords blog detailing two key improvements to the quality score calculation:

  • ad position will be included in the quality score algorithm
  • only the best performing ads will appear directly above the organic results

By including ad position in the quality score algorithm, Google is acknowledging that most people click on ads in the top positions. Ads in top positions will invariably have higher click through rates than those lower down the rankings, so they will enjoy a higher quality score and effectively appear to be ‘better’ ads than those in lower positions. As a result, it can become very difficult to oust such ads from the top positions.

The change to accommodate the ad position in the algorithm should be a welcome change – a well crafted ad in lower positions should now be able to rise through the ranks much more quickly, as the CTR rate will be recognised as very high even if it is actually lower than that of the top ranked ads.

The second announced change is an interesting one. We are often asked why Google sometimes displays ads above the organic results and sometimes doesn’t. As indicated in the Google announcement, if the ad with the highest ad rank did not meet a certain quality threshold, then no ads would be displayed above the organic results.

The latest tweaks will allow lower ranked ads to move into that space if they have a sufficiently high quality score. The obvious question is why an ad with a higher quality score wouldn’t already be ranked in the top position anyway, so it is not immediately clear whether this is going to make a significant difference other than the fact that only the best performing ads will appear above organic results, which is essentially what happens already.

Only time will tell what effect these announcements will have on PPC campaigns and there is no actual commitment to when the changes are being rolled out. We wait with baited breath…