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Testing External Factors for Quality Score

We can start this post with the basic concept that a higher AdWords quality score means that you save money with lower CPC rates, your ads are shown more often (more impressions) and will improve your Ads position.  The last point could be argued is not as much of an impact for a majority of keywords but if only a few ad positions are shown if can make the difference between having your ad show or not at all.

Also remember that a higher AdWords quality score forms part of the factors that allows your ads to show newer advanced options such as Ad Extensions where possible. The post is part theory and assumptions on how I believe you can use testing to find new ways to improve your campaign ROI and was partly tested to see if it was worthwhile doing a expanded test.

Can you influence by domain or url?
So one idea that I wanted to start examining for a while was how a keyword match domains and to some degree URL structure might be benefiting your competitors campaigns budgets with a lower cost and higher position in the paid results.  The second part of the idea around the using URL structure needs a followup test and should be covered in a future article.

How did I try to test quality scores?
I started by picking a very high traffic base keyword “Las Vegas” but focused on only 3 key areas and picked only a small and very relevant set of keywords based on the landing page webpage content.

The three AdWords campaigns were run over several days focused looking at a focus on impressions and not CTR or Conversion rates and were run on the Google search network only, not any search partners. The three trial campaigns covered travelers going to Las Vegas targeting:

  1. Las Vegas Accommodation
  2. Delta Flights to Las Vegas
  3. Las Vegas Tours

I used a landing page platform Performable to run the tests, which allowed me to quickly duplicate all the landing pages via iFrame which I could then run on subdomains, individual pages or sub directories.  The use of an iFrame to show the website should allow the test to the external factors with a limited impact on the landing pages quality score. I have estimated by using the same landing pages I might be able to help encourage you to test more and seek better understand how you might improve your AdWords quality score with a keyword friendly domain.

Sample Set – created based on my discussions with some people in the industry they helped me form what I would use as my sample set for the experiment.  I needed a keyword match domain, a fresh domain that has never had a campaign or content on it and finally my authority domain which most of your campaigns would be run with.

  • Las Vegas (keyword match)
  • NYC Gin (fresh domain)
  • The Lost Agency (subdomain)

URLs? I also wanted to explore a little more around the possible impact of a keyword friendly URL structure but it wasn’t the primary focus of the experiment and needs much more testing.  You can see later in the article on the authority domain there was a slight influence on quality score but most people know that sending all your AdWords traffic to the homepage is never effective.  The two tests used variations on my authority domain:

  • The Lost Agency (keyword match keyword file)
  • The Lost Agency (keyword match subdirectory)

Domain influenced hidden Quality Score

The test didn’t have enough data to make a definite statement but confirmed what other posts had discussed that Google’s visible quality score in your account didn’t appear to be as transparent as I would have hoped. Looking at the AdWords quality score there was no visible difference between some Ad Groups, but the keyword friendly domain would continue to be the preferred Ad Group to be shown by Google so other factors were influencing the campaign.

Beyond the public quality score the Las Vegas domain continued to be viewed by the AdWords platform as having a higher ranking showing a majority of the time.

Las Vegas domains keywords quality analysis

  1. Keyword relevance: No problems
  2. Landing page quality: No problems
  3. Landing page load time: No problems

Analysis: some of the other keywords which are technically using the same landing pages via the iFrame but sometimes showed that the keyword relevance was poor and AdWords advised me that the keyword would not be shown.  These other Ad Group keywords did not record any clicks and used the same Ad copy so should not have a different quality score if things are equal.

Campaign average AdWords quality scores

  • Las Vegas = 5.52
  • NYC Gin = 5.51
  • TLA Subdomain = 5.25
  • TLA Directory = 5.22
  • TLA Page = 5.21

Analysis: You see from the average quality score from the campaign that there was very slight benefit in using Las Vegas for the AdWords campaign based on quality score.  But I discovered that Google preferred to show the Ads a majority of the time ignoring the close quality score and it showed a clear advantage to running the ads on the Las Vegas domain.  The keyword domain had a majority of the impressions even on AdGroups or Keywords that had not received a single click or varied by any factor that Google claim influence your quality score.  I would say based on the short test campaign there was a slight advantage if you wanted your Ads to show by running them on the Keyword friendly domain or at least a sub domain compared to a page or directory on an authority domain.

Accommodation Campaign Scores

  • Las Vegas = 5.6
  • NYC Gin = 5.53
  • TLA Subdomain = 5.20
  • TLA Directory = 5.20
  • TLA Page = 5.20

Analysis: There is a slight advantage is using the Las Vegas domain ( ) but in time would have a much higher CTR than the non-related NYC Gin domain because of the Ad URLs relevance to the search query. This campaign would show the largest benefit in reduced cost because it also recorded the highest estimated average CPC values and highest advertiser competition.

Delta Flights Campaign Scores

  • Las Vegas = 5.40
  • NYC Gin = 5.50
  • TLA Subdomain = 5.00
  • TLA Directory = 5.10
  • TLA Page = 5.00

Analysis: There is a slight advantage is using the brand new domain NYG Gin, but it would be interesting to test how having a branded domain such as might skew the results back towards keyword domains.  The Las Vegas flights category didn’t have as much competition as the other campaigns but it also showed the largest benefits for using the keyword domain.

Las Vegas Tours Campaign Scores

  • Las Vegas = 5.57
  • NYC Gin = 5.50
  • TLA Subdomain = 5.43
  • TLA Directory = 5.36
  • TLA Page = 5.43

Analysis: Again there is a slight advantage in using a keyword friendly domain but the gap in benefit based on quality score wasn’t as large as the other areas.

Quality Score Costs You!

According to a nice little table produced by ClickEquations you can see how much of an impact improving your quality score can have on your campaign.  I suggest you start by trialling other domains in your AdWords campaigns to test if you are also able successfully use keyword friendly domains to improve your quality score.  I think that you will discover through testing that just the savings from improved quality score will likely pay for the purchase of a more suitable keyword domains.

Domain factors to explore on a future post or you can test on your own projects:

  • Impact on Click-Thru-Rate
  • Impact on conversion rate
  • Impact on transaction value

Perceived Benefits of using Keyword domain

  1. Slightly higher quality scores (initially)
  2. Re-enforce your relevance to search query
  3. Can technically show more than once in AdWords results

This was post was more around the theory of testing ideas using external elements that you can control in your AdWords campaigns such as the use of landing pages, subdomains or more suitable domains to see how you can improve your quality scores and achieve better ROI.  It may not be a suitable test for everyone but most companies have spare domains sitting around that aren’t being utilised so consider testing some of these. If you are not pushing to test your campaigns to try and improve your campaigns ROI you might want to consider looking for a new job.

Category SEO
David Iwanow Global Search & Traffic Manager at Travel Network

Starting in 2019 I’m now based back in Amsterdam working for Danone Early Life Nutrition as Global Search & Traffic ...

Testing External Factors for Quality Score

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