Posted October 31, 2008 10:16 am by with 15 comments

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I’ll admit it, I’m not a heavy user of paid search services, but today’s Google AdWords Quality Score changes have me picturing SNL’s Weekend Update team going “Oh really, Google?”

More precise Quality Score calculation
Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the most significant component of Quality Score because it directly indicates which ads are most relevant to our searchers. As you probably have observed, ads in high positions typically earn better CTR than those in low positions, because ads in high positions are more visible to searchers. To calculate the most accurate Quality Scores, it’s important that the influence of ad position on CTR be taken into account and removed from the Quality Score.

In the coming days, we’ll update the portion of the Quality Score algorithm that accounts for ad position. This will result in more accurate Quality Scores, ensure that ads compete fairly for position based on their quality and bid, and enable Google to show the most relevant ads to searchers by rewarding high-quality advertisers with better ad positions.

Oh really, Google? You didn’t previously think that ads that appeared higher on the page would receive an unfairly higher click-through-rate? Oh really? All the eye-tracking and click-tracking studies EVER conducted, just happened to escape your notice until today? Really? (see update below)

Teasing aside, if you’re a big AdWords user you’ll likely welcome the above Quality Score change–and pee your pants when you see the other major change announced:

Higher quality ads above the search results
We’re also improving the way we determine which ads show in the yellow region above the search results. These positions are particularly valuable to advertisers because they are prominently positioned on the page. Given their prominence, it’s especially important that these ads be high quality; we therefore place extra emphasis on quality when determining which ads to show in this location.

To appear above the search results, ads must meet a certain quality threshold. In the past, if the ad with the highest Ad Rank did not meet the quality threshold, we may not have shown any ads above the search results. With this update, we’ll allow an ad that meets the quality threshold to appear above the search results even if it has to jump over other ads to do so. For instance, suppose the ad in position 1 on the right side of the page doesn’t have a high enough Quality Score to appear above the search results, but the ad in position 2 does. It’s now possible for the number 2 ad to jump over the number 1 ad and appear above the search results. This change ensures that quality plays an even more important role in determining the ads that show in those prominent positions.

The new changes aren’t live yet, so keep an eye on your AdWords account.

UPDATE: A Google spokesperson explained that Google did take into account the ad position, but that the system is being improved with this update. Oh really?…OK, yes, really. 😉

  • Honestly, I’m not sure why but I thought Google was already adjusting quality score calculations based on ad position. Just last week I was explaining quality score to a co-worker and specifically described how an ad in the 8th position would not be judged against an ad in the 1st position. I guess I just assumed that each position had a relative CTR standard, and ads were judged against their position’s standard for quality score purposes.

  • Wei

    You can’t help but love tiny tweaks like this that makes millions more for the company.

  • Pingback: Google: Quality Ads or Quality Bottom Line? | A Media Circus()

  • PS3

    Blimey, not a move that will help ensure the right ads are displayed, as opposed to those with just the biggest budget!

  • This is a pretty bad decision so people who pay more will have a higher quality score which will keep them on top of the searches

  • I agree with the others in that I’m not sure how well this will work out. It just gives more incentive for top sellers to have higher ad positions and therefore get most of the clicks.

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  • Tweaks like these are always interesting. Only time will tell exactly how it affects PPC advertisers.

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  • “Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the most significant component of Quality Score….” — Because it makes Google MORE Money.

    The more clicks an ad gets the more money the advertiser needs to spend (Google’s Earning).

    Google came up with this fancy system “Quality Score” just to make sure that their earnings are secured.

    I’m not against QScore, But honestly I think CTR shouldn’t be the “Most Significant” metric for QS because a HIGH CTR doesn’t necessarily mean that the Ad/site is relevant to the search.

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  • LOL, “really?” yeah, Google’s a little late on that boat.

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  • Wow, Google are really working hard to continue to profit in an economic crisis 😛

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  • I’d agree with zurpit, now a bunch of high spenders will gain monopoly of the search results!

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  • cat

    As usualy who has more money they get more again and again

  • This is perfectly alright for people who are not very SEO savvy, and why not, when they are willing to pay for it?

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  • It is a great opportunity to take stronger position for top sellers. We’ll see what happens next.

  • Having click through rate normalized is the best way forward as advertisers have to work on improving other aspects of advertising such as better ads, quality landing page etc. Even better is more home work before jumping into paid search advertising.