The one constant with Google is change, and recently it seems that it was Quality Score’s turn. We actively manage over 60 accounts; each month we analyze each account and report our observations to our clients. This allows us to see patterns that are not visible to the vast majority of people and this month what is very apparent is that quality scores are on the move. Quality scores are always on the move but not like this. Across dozens of accounts we saw point shifts of 2-3 and all in one direction.
In the bidding process Google treats quality score just like money and it is a good indicator of SEO problems with the site so it is high on our list of things to watch. Because of the way the math works a dip in quality score is the same as reducing your bids, which can put your ad in weaker positions. What we observed is that almost across the board there were 2-3 point reductions in quality score. In the past a 7 was an average keyword quality score, but it appears that 5 is the new 7. From what we can tell this does not seem to have impacted ad delivery because everyone took a similar hit to their scores.
While change can be upsetting, I have to admit that the Quality Score is getting better with this change. Although there are exceptions, generally speaking the relevancy fit of the new quality scores is better than it was before this change. This was not a simple change where they removed x number of points to readjust the center point of the bell curve. Words that were a 7 before ended up from 4-6 and the ones that got the 4’s generally were weaker than the ones that earned 6’s. Quality score in a very broad sense is reasonably accurate and fair and while you might want a higher score the real question is do you deserve it? We get calls every day from people wanting us to improve their quality scores but they almost never want to the hard work required to impact this number.
Our guess of what is happening is that they are moving the center of the curve toward 5 to give more room in the process. With the average sitting at 7 and reporting only whole numbers it gave very little room to show the finer details. In the long run this is better for the system for the center point to be at, well, the center point. Theoretically there may be a risk of losing positions if the change rolls into your account before your competitor. So far we have not seen any indication of that happening, but we are watching very carefully.
Adwords Quality Score and Organic Page Scores share lots of attributes so it is important for both sides of your web strategy team to watch these numbers and to learn from them.