How to restructure your adwords account without impacting quality score

22 August 2011

Topics: Digital News & Insights, SEM & SEO

Restructuring your Adwords account can significantly improve your account’s performance and can make it easier for you to manage your account moving forward. Indeed, at some stage you might need to restructure your account or you might inherit an account that requires restructuring.

Restructuring an Adwords PPC account can often result in a decrease in quality score which in turn impacts the performance of your account by driving up costs and reducing traffic to your site. In most cases the drop in quality score tends to recover after a few weeks but this can take several weeks and might be unacceptable to your stakeholders especially if the account is already under performing.

Outlined below is a simple approach to restructuring your Adwords account to minimise the negative impact on your quality score but, in order to understand why this approach works lets have a look at how quality score is calculated first.

Quality Score Calculation

The “visible quality score” that you see in your Adwords account is an estimate of the actual keyword quality score which is calculated on-the-fly each time your keyword is eligible to enter an auction. The quality score of your ad is in fact tied to several other quality scores including the ad copy and display URL quality score, and the overall account quality score.

A keyword’s “visible quality score” is the best estimate of the actual quality score we have and it is tied to the ad copy and display URL. This means that changing the ad copy or display URL changes or resets the quality score of the keyword. When this happens the Adwords system takes into account the historical CTR of the keyword and account to help determine the new quality score which tends to be lower than the original quality score but the quality score in re-calculated again once Adwords has enough data to determine the new quality score for the keyword based on the new ad copy.

The main factors that influence your keyword’s performance is the CTR of your exact matched keyword, the ad copy and display URL, plus the historical CTR of your account and the keyword. I should point out that CTR used for calculating quality score is NOT the raw CTR but is standardised against the ad position i.e. CTR  is adjusted to take into account that ads in a higher positions in the SERPs incur more clicks than ads in lower positions in the SERPs.

Restructuring your Account

Once you have determined the new structure of your account, move gradually to restructure the account one or two adgroups at a time so as not to “shock” the Adwords system into lowering your quality score on the premise that the account has been completely restructured.

Because a keyword’s quality score is tied to the ad copy and display URL it is recommended to copy the existing ad copy from the old adgroup across to the new adgroup and then copy the keyword(s) to be moved across to the new adgroup. Once copied, let the new adgroup run for a a few days before introducing a new and more targeted ad copy to run along side the old ad copy for at least two weeks depending on the level of traffic you receive. After a few weeks you can then decide on the best performing ad copy to keep. Note that not only is it possible that the more targeted ad copy may NOT out perform the old ad copy, running both ad copies side-by-side allows the keyword to retain its old visible and hopefully actual quality score during the transition.

When running the new and old ad copy simultaneously it is important to give it time before making a decision about which ad copy to keep because the old ad copy might have an unfair advantage haven already built up a significant amount of history whereas the new ad copy is treated with suspicion by the Adwords system and allocated a lower quality score. With that in mind, you might want to set the ad deliver method to evenly distribute both ads equally regardless of performance during the test phase allowing the new ad copy to incur significant impressions to gauge its true performance which should be based on it’s CTR and conversion rate.

It will make sense for Adwords to allocate the same ad quality score to both ad copies during the split test to avoid biasing one ad copy over another, but without Google coming out and making this absolutely clear we can not afford to assume.

There are some indications that increasing your bids for the first few weeks after the restructure might help improve quality score but I have no solid evidence to back this claim up. However, the more impressions you incur the faster the transition as the Adwords system will have enough data to come to a quick conclusion about your keyword’s new quality score.

It is also possible that by increasing your bids this confuses the Adwords system into attributing the increase in clicks to the new account structure and increasing the keyword quality score. Lets face it even the Adwords system can not be perfect.

By following this approach to restructuring you SEM account you are more likely to achieve a higher quality score and better account performance. Remember that if restructuring your account results in a higher CTR then your quality score is likely to increase.

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