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Afraid Of AI? Conquer Your Fears By Learning How It Can Boost Your Sales

It’s 2017, and the robots are here. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is nothing to be feared. In fact, AI will help boost your sales, increase conversions while ensuring that your business thrives and stays relevant in an ever-changing world. If you have resisted AI up until now because it sounded too complex, we’re going to explain how it can turbocharge your sales in plain, understandable English. We’ll be covering everything from chatbots, personal assistants to how AI can ramp up your email marketing efforts – as well as tighten up your security. As a business owner, this could be the…

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Afraid Of AI? Conquer Your Fears By Learning How It Can Boost Your Sales

Improve Your Quality Score From Ad to Landing Page: A Former-Googler Tells All

An ex-Googler gives an inside look at how AdWords Quality Score works. Image via Shutterstock.

As an Unbounce blog reader, you already know conversion rate optimization is a great way to drive more results from the money you’re already spending to acquire traffic to your site. So today I’d like to focus on another way to make more money from your marketing efforts; namely, ad optimization.

After a decade of building AdWords at Google, I cofounded Optmyzr because I found it was too time consuming to run best practice optimizations. And — considering that last year over $35 billion was spent advertising on Google (more than twice what was spent on Facebook) — there is tremendous value in making AdWords perform even a little bit better.

While there are many ways to improve your ad performance, one of the most pertinent is to improve your Quality Score (QS), particularly the subcomponent, landing page quality (LPQ).

But before I get into how to improve your Quality Score via landing pages, here’s some behind-the-scenes context based on my time at Google.

What is Google Quality Score?

One of the teams I worked on for seven years while at Google was the Quality Score team so I’ve written extensively on the topic. For a primer, here are some of my favorites:

Ultimately, Quality Score is Google’s way of using collective wisdom of many searchers to measure the relevance of a keyword. In short, it’s a measure of how good of a job you’re doing providing people with search queries with strong answers.

This is important because if you are the best answer to someone’s query with your ad and resulting landing page, Google gives you your clicks for less money because you’re helping provide a better user experience, which makes Google more money.

Quality Score impacts ad rank and costs

It’s fairly well known that Quality Score is one of the factors that determines Ad Rank. The other factors are the bid and the impact of ad extensions.

When you improve any of these three components, your Ad Rank increases, which leads to one of two possible outcomes:

  1. You win a better ad position (but pay the same or more for improved placement on the page), or
  2. The position of your ad remains the same, but you get a discount and pay less for any clicks you get.

In short: You can get a discount on AdWords by making your ads (and corresponding landing pages) more relevant!

This is because the CPC you pay is only part of what determines how Google makes more money.

Ad Rank now vs. then

To deepen your understanding of AdWords, I find it useful to take a quick trip down memory lane about the ad auction. Ad Rank used to be calculated like this:

Ad Rank (circa 2002) = Max CPC * CTR

Notice that Ad Rank is actually Cost Per Mille (CPM or cost per thousand impressions) in this equation! Over time, Google started to use a predicted rather than historical CTR, so we changed how we explained the formula and introduced the concept of Quality Score so we could stop talking about pCTR (predicted CTR).

Ad Rank = Max CPC * pCTR Ad Rank = Max CPC * QS

Then we refined the algorithm to deal with some weird edge cases and rather than just multiplying the factors, the formula became more advanced. We communicated it as follows:

Ad Rank (today) = function (Bid, QS, Extensions)

With this historical context, we see that the ad auction is basically a CPM auction where the way the CPM is calculated has evolved over time.

So even though advertisers place CPC bids, Google is awarding the best ad positions to advertisers who deliver the best CPM for Google (aka: those who provide more relevant ads that get the most clicks).

How Quality Score can reduce CPCs

As an example to show how this discounting of CPCs really works, let’s say there are two advertisers, Julie and Robert and they both bid a max CPC of $1. However they have different Quality Scores, a 5 and a 10.

Bid QS Ad Rank CPC
Robert $1 10 10 $0.51
Julie $1 5 5 $1 (or the auction minimum)

As you can see, Robert (who’s winning the auction) actually pays a lower CPC than Julie, because his Quality Score is better.

Effective CPC = Ad Rank of the ad to beat / this ad’s QS + the smallest monetary increment
Effective CPC for Robert = 5 / 10 + $0.01 = $0.51

This classic example oversimplifies the calculation of the CPC, however. For the example to be correct, we’d have to say that Robert’s CTR is twice that of Julie, and not just that his Quality Score number is twice that of Julie’s.

That’s because the visible QS number (between 1 and 10) is based on a non-linear assignment of a visible number to an underlying prediction of relevance.

To calculate the rank and CPC, Google uses a real-time prediction of CTR based on as many as hundreds of factors.

Real time Quality Score vs visible Quality Score

The Quality Score number between 1 and 10 that you see next to each keyword is simply an indicator and can be used to help prioritize what to optimize. After optimizations, it can be used to determine if improving relevance was achieved.

However, this number is NOT what is used in the Ad Rank formula.

Some indicators have more precision than others and there are also indicators that are linear and some that are not (the visible QS indicator is not necessarily linear).

The speedometer in a car and the signal strength bars on your cell phone are both linear, but the former is more precise than the latter. As you drive faster, your speedometer goes up precisely to tell you that you’ve increased speed. The bars on your cell phone, however, may take a while to go from one bar to two bars even though the signal strength has been gradually increasing for a while. Visible Quality Score is more like the phone’s signal strength indicator, except that there are 10 levels.

Articles claiming you can reduce your cost by 50% by doubling your QS number are oversimplifying, but they still make a valid point: that better Quality Score will lead to lower costs (assuming no jump in position).

The only way to reduce your CPC by half is by doubling your predicted CTR.

What factors go into Quality Score?

As an AdWords marketer, you want to get yourself a better Quality Score and a lower cost per click. There are several factors that go into Quality Score so let’s take a look at what those are:

  • Ad relevance
  • Expected CTR
  • Landing page experience

Ad relevance

Ad relevance is an indicator of how well your ad text matches your keywords.

It’s usually a good idea to include the core concept of the keyword in your ad text, and to also include some compelling unique value propositions that will make your ad stand out from competitors. Over the years I’ve personally noticed that even minor changes in word choice can have drastic impacts on how well the user understands the ad.

For example, when eBay changed their ads to say, “buy it on eBay” instead of, “find it on eBay.” Because the word “buy” implies ecommerce, this got a far better CTR than the word ‘find’ which didn’t directly suggest one could buy the desired item.

Expected CTR

Expected CTR is an indicator of how likely your ad is to be clicked.

At the most basic level, this requires choosing good, relevant keywords, and grouping them in logical ad groups so that you can write compelling ads that get users to click.

Landing page relevance

Landing page relevance indicates how well your landing page meets the needs of users, and there are many ways you can go about improving this.

As an example, Joe Khoei from PPC agency SalesX (where I serve on the board) says that using Dynamic Text Replacement on Unbounce landing pages for the Children’s Learning Adventure helped his client increase conversion rates (calls and form fills) from 1.4% to 3.3% over 8 months.

Generally, using personalization features like DTR will correlate to better Landing Page Quality (LPQ) because users are getting what they want and that is what Google wants too: happy users who continue to engage with ads.

In this example of a landing page for a music school, the instrument type is swapped out depending on which ad is clicked.
Want to improve your relevance (and thereby Quality Score) with especially relevant landing pages to go with your ads? Try Dynamic Text Replacement on Unbounce landing pages. See a preview of how DTR works here.

There’s an interesting tug of war between motives of landing page optimization; an optimization for conversion rate could hurt Quality Score, and Quality Score optimization could decrease conversion rates.

The trick is to find that right balance, and ideally aim to optimize where both QS and CR improve. Fortunately, they’re not mutually exclusive outcomes.

How to better track your Quality Score improvements

Once you make optimizations to your ads or landing pages with the goal of improving Quality Score, you’ll need to track if the changes are working. In this stage it’s critical you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, which is to grow your business.

No executive ever said their goal for the company was to improve their QS next quarter. So remember, it’s a useful gauge to see if you could lower costs, but it’s not a business KPI.

Up until fairly recently, the easiest way to track changes in QS required using an AdWords Script, or signing up for a tool like Optmyzr, but now the data is also available directly in AdWords.

Additionally, tools like Optmyzr still make it easier to get historical QS data.

Optmyzr’s Historical Quality Score tool

To get at the daily variations in AdWords, you have to do a few things:

  1. Use the old interface. The new one doesn’t include subcomponents yet.
  2. Look at the data with the segmentation for “day” turned on. Simply looking at the QS between two compared date ranges doesn’t get you the daily data because both fields will show the ending value.

To see how your QS has evolved based on changes to your landing pages, turn on the landing page component in the AdWords interface and then download the data with a daily segment.

You’ll end up with columns like this:

After exporting this data, you can use a simple spreadsheet formula that compares the current value to the historical one, e.g. =IF(A2=B2,1,0), so that the field will contain a 1 if the value has remained the same.

From there, filter these out and you’ll see only instances where the LPQ has changed. This will help you see where optimizations to your landing pages are positively affecting LPQ as a subfactor in Quality Score.

The purpose and importance of landing page quality

Landing page was the last component to be added to Quality Score and I was still on the team when we made this change. We had come to realize that it was too easy for advertisers to game the system by writing must-click ads, but then lead the user to a not so spectacular landing page, and in some cases even to a scammy site.

We had to start looking at what happened after the click, so we used both manual processes with the policy team and automated ones through the QS indicator to find sites that weren’t delivering a great experience.

What matters for landing page quality?

Here are some of the things Google cares about for landing pages:

  1. The page needs to deliver what the ad promises
  2. The user’s privacy and personal information must be protected
  3. The page should be transparent about its purpose
  4. The landing page should let users freely navigate the web
  5. The page should load quickly

Deliver what the ad promises

The first part should be the easiest to abide by. After all, if you want to drive conversions, you should be doing CRO and you should take users to landing pages that are relevant to what you offer in your ads.

Protect the user’s privacy

Privacy gets a little trickier.

What Google wants here is that you don’t share user’s information with third parties without their permission. So if you’re collecting leads and reselling these, you could be running into LPQ issues.

Be transparent about the page’s purpose

This also rolls into transparency.

If you’re a middleman, you need to be upfront about that. Affiliates who create thin landing pages and doorway pages are likely to run into LPQ issues because they usually add very little value and yet force the user to go through an extra step to get to where they wanted to go in the first place.

Allow users to freely navigate

Providing options is another tricky one for advertisers who deploy landing pages for their ads rather than taking the user to the most relevant page on their site. At issue here is that the user can do only do two things on most of these pages: instantly convert, or go away. Even a user who is interested in what you offer may not reach the comfort level needed to submit their info right away and if they can’t find more info by browsing the main site, their only real option is to go away and that is seen as a bad thing by Google.

While it can be a best practice to have a classic landing page perform only one goal and not include navigation or distractions, what I’m advocating for here is that you consider the allocation of your paid spend to a combo of the right, most relevant pages (whichever they may be).

That is – consider for each keyword or ad group which page on your site (or which landing page) may be best to serve up for a given situation. You may be pointing paid traffic to a landing page that is too high commitment for someone at the top of the funnel and this could hurt your Quality Score if someone’s only option is to convert or bounce. It’s a matter of their perceived readiness.

To ensure you’re not penalized this way, get strategic and point your paid traffic to highly relevant pages, either on your site, or build more valuable, relevant landing pages for each stage of the buying process to access via your ads. By having especially relevant landing pages that present the right offer at the right time, you should be able to avoid the issue of options as visitors will be served up the right option for them on their journey.

Again, if you have a great offer, and a decent site, the idea is that users should be able to get all their questions answered before being asked to turn over their details.

Landing page speed

And finally, the speed of your landing page is very important as a factor Google considers.

Just know Google is not actually that stringent and so long as your landing page is not an outlier in terms of slowness, you’ll be fine.

But you should still care tremendously about load times because as a 2017 study by Akamai found, a 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7 percent and a two-second delay in web page load time increase bounce rates by 103 percent.

Google’s Group Product Manager for AdWords, Jon Diorio, recently shared a stat from SOASTA that a 1 second delay in landing page load times can decrease retail conversion rates by 20%.

Pay close attention to signals about whether landing page visitors are satisfied

When I was at Google and I gave presentations at industry events about Quality Score, someone would always ask how we measured landing page quality. While I couldn’t answer that question directly then, and still can’t today, I recommend that you pay close attention to signals like bounce rates and time on site.

Google Analytics is a great way to track these signals which are fundamentally a measure of how satisfied users are with your landing pages.

If a user sees an ugly page, a page that takes too long to load, or one that seems off topic for what the ad promised, they will use the back button and try their luck at the next site.

Whether you’re using Unbounce or not, you are hopefully already paying close attention to these things. After all, this is part of CRO. If a user doesn’t stay long enough to consider your offer, they surely won’t have time to convert and your cost for the click to get them to your page will have been wasted.

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Improve Your Quality Score From Ad to Landing Page: A Former-Googler Tells All

5 Real-Life Popup A/B Tests That Will Help Boost Your Conversion Rate (Based on Actual Case Studies)

5 tests

Do you think your popups are converting at their highest potential? I’m guessing that unless you’ve been testing them to figure out what makes your audience tick, then probably not. Luckily, you can figure that out by, well,..testing of course :). And if you’re wondering what to assess first, I have some suggestions. As Head of Customer Success at WisePops, an intelligent popup builder, I’ve reviewed hundreds of A/B tests. Based on this experience, I’ll share 5 popup A/B tests which can make a difference for your future and existing campaigns (spoiler: one of our customers almost tripled the number…

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5 Real-Life Popup A/B Tests That Will Help Boost Your Conversion Rate (Based on Actual Case Studies)

How to Tailor Your eCommerce Payment Options for Teenage Customers

There’s an ecommerce audience that doesn’t get talked about much, but they’re buying online in massive and ever-increasing numbers. More than three-quarters of them buy online regularly. They flock to major brands like Amazon, but there are ways you can get in on the action too. Interested? I’m talking about young people. Under-18 teens are one of the most ecommerce-savvy populations out there – unsurprising when you consider that a person who’s 17 this year literally can’t remember a time without the internet. ‘They are the first generation to always have the internet at their disposal. They grew up in…

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How to Tailor Your eCommerce Payment Options for Teenage Customers

15 Steps to Create a Successful Event Marketing Campaign

event marketing

We know what events are. We know what marketing is. But when these two words come together, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Event marketing is a versatile and impactful marketing channel that is increasingly becoming more critical across various industries. According to Forrester Research, events make up 24% of the average CMO’s B2B marketing budget. This trend seems to be growing, with projections showing that 3.2 million global professional events will be taking place annually by 2020. Statistics like these should come as no surprise. In a digital age where consumers are inundated with multiple…

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15 Steps to Create a Successful Event Marketing Campaign

Science Has Spoken: Here’s Why Your Instagram Posts Don’t Get Engagement

You post image after image on Instagram, but can’t seem to get more than 25 or 30 Likes on each. Your comments are as inactive as a car broken down on the side of the road. You’ve tried every “hack” in the book, but nothing seems to work. Don’t give up hope just yet. A lot of marketers look for the “secret” to get floods of engagement. Well, the secret has less to do with a specific Instagram filter or tactic, and more about understanding how we see and process visual information. Figuring out what attracts a person’s eye to…

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Science Has Spoken: Here’s Why Your Instagram Posts Don’t Get Engagement

What You Need to Know About Visual Perception and Website Design

visual perception

There’s no lack of data to suggest how visual-oriented we are as humans. For instance, “90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text.” Or this:  “65 percent of people are visual learners, and one of the best ways to drive messages home is through visual content.” This data helps explain why visual marketing has really exploded recently, and visual-centric content such as infographics are so popular. Seeing is one of our primary senses by which we intake information and understand the world. Basically, it’s a big deal….

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What You Need to Know About Visual Perception and Website Design

Let’s Dispel Two Myths About Blog Posting Frequency & Word Count

frequency

Watch this video: Moz’s Whiteboard Friday – The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$#÷x Information has been floating around for a while that suggests you will rank better in search engines and / or get more traffic by: Blogging more frequently Writing longer blog posts (higher word counts) While we’ve noticed that both of these have seemed to be true in the past, at least anecdotally, this appears to no longer be the case. Myth busted? There’s Nothing Wrong With Posting Frequently You’re allowed to post as often as you’d like. There is certainly no rule against…

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Let’s Dispel Two Myths About Blog Posting Frequency & Word Count

In a Pinch? Here Are 4 Fast-Acting Methods to Meet Your Growth Goals Every Month

hit your goals

Want to make sure you never miss a monthly growth goal? Perhaps you need a boost right now to get the month moving in the right direction? Then you’ve come to the right place. Big companies like Facebook and HubSpot have lofty growth goals and continue to meet them every month. But how do they do it exactly? Planning of course! That is, consistently planning ahead to meet their goals and then planning for the occasional situation when they need to scrape together their resources and make ends meet. I call this having an ace in the hole. This is…

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In a Pinch? Here Are 4 Fast-Acting Methods to Meet Your Growth Goals Every Month

5 Standard Pages on Your Website That Almost Always Suck – and What They Could Be Doing for You

5 pages

Word association: Content marketing. You’re thinking ‘blog post,’ ‘infographic,’ maybe ‘video,’ ‘white paper.’ That kind of thing. Right? Not FAQs, 404 pages, About Us… The thing is, those pages are content too. Visitors read them to learn, understand and make decisions. FAQs are one of the most underused content marketing opportunities out there. About Us pages? They’re an incredible opportunity to tell your brand’s story. Put like that, it seems obvious – yet they’re often a lifeless formality. It’s the same with 404s, out of stock pages and thank you pages: in each case, you have a visitor’s attention when…

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5 Standard Pages on Your Website That Almost Always Suck – and What They Could Be Doing for You