Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Google Adwords Landing Page Quality Score

As we keep hearing, the lines between PPC and SEO are becoming increasingly blurry. On-site optimisation is now a major factor in the success of a PPC campaign - a marked change from the one-dimensional days when the only factor that counted was your bid. Nowadays, all the engines are incorporating a quality score system into their PPC landscapes, the latest of which is Yahoo (with the launch of Panama). Factors such as advert text relevance and click through rate play a key role in your positions in the listings, and the consequent CPC you will pay for that position. However, another factor is at work - landing page quality. How does landing page quality affect your PPC campaign? And what aspects of your landing pages are called into account? Find out below......

Landing page does not affect your position in the listings. That's the first thing. Yes, it's part of your quality score, but it does not affect your score in the same way CTR and ad relevance does. Rather, it impacts your minimum bid on Adwords. Thus, if you have a poor quality landing page, you can expect to have a high minimum bid. I've seen minimum bids of as much as £10 ($20), and it's solely down to the fact the landing page isn't up to scratch.

So what factors does Google's Adbot (the Adwords version of the organic search Googlebot) take into account when assigning a landing page a quality score? Below are the main ones:
  • Quality Content - as with organic search, it's vital to include your target keywords within your page content. By target keywords, I mean the search terms you're appearing for and also the main words within your ad text. It should all link up nicely. Note here that images with keywords in them don't count - Adbot will see an image as an image, not as text, so keywords within your images will not help you!
  • Basic on-page opimisation - although we don't know how much of a factor it is, it's likely basic SEO practices such as including decent meta tags on your page, as well as having a relevant page title, can help boost the perceived "relevance" of your page
  • Decent Navigation - as with organic search, you will be penalised if your landing page is an "island". It's vital that Adbot can navigate to other areas of your site once it lands on your PPC destination page, otherwise it will see your site as a whole as low quality and judge you as such. This factor harms lots of affiliate campaigns, where the affiliate has not properly linked up their custom landing page with the client site proper
  • Clutter-Free Zone - having too many ads on your landing page, or simply having a page with too much going on (Javascript, widgets, etc), is likely to lower your page score. Simplicity is likely to be favoured by Adbot, much as it is by Googlebot.
  • Robots are banned - if your site has a robots.txt file, make sure it doesn't ban Adbot from entering your PPC landing pages. If this happens, you'll automatically get a poor landing page score, as Adbot can't get into the pages to judge for itself.

These are the main factors Adbot will look at when scoring your landing pages. However, there are undoubtedly other elements in play here, such as whether your site includes the pages Google regards as key (e.g. Contact Us, Site Map, etc) and whether your page is viewed as an authority in the community. Just like the organic search algorithm, Google will never reveal exactly how they score landing pages in PPC. However, follow the above guidelines and you'll be on track to receive that oh-so-scientific rating of "Great" for the keywords in your Adwords account, and well on your way to lower minimum bids :-)

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