The Google Algorithm is History!

Reprinted with permission from the blog archives.
By: Dane Christensen

Wouldn’t you love to really understand the Google AdWords Quality Score Algorithm? I’m not talking about what Google tells you in their help files. I’m talking about knowing how the factors are weighted and how they affect each other, or knowing what those “other relevance factors” are. Having that kind of knowledge would be like having a license to print money.

Well, keep dreaming. There are probably just a handful of engineers deep in the bowels of the Googleplex who have that knowledge. The rest of us have to continue to share our notes and infer conclusions as best we can. While the following insight may not be a definitive Google Killer, it’s certainly more than a shot in the dark. As the manager of our search engine marketing budget and accounts, I’ve had the opportunity to observe a lot of data and I’ve arrived at a theory that I think you should factor into your SEM strategy.

Following are the first three components of the Quality Score Formula listed by Google:

  • The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the keyword and the matched ad on Google
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
  • The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group

Notice the one word they all share in common: History.

OK, so maybe the title of this blog is a bit of hyperbole. The algorithm isn’t all about history. But I believe the historical factor in determining quality score is more significant than most people realize.

I have observed that the required bid necessary to maintain a given position in Google steadily declines over time. Now it’s difficult to attribute these gains to any particular factor because I am constantly tweaking my pay-per-click campaigns. But I definitely have a sense of an “invisible hand” that pushes my PPC performance in the right direction over and above my tactics. This “X factor” applies to the high profile ad groups that I work on frequently as well as others that don’t get nearly as much of my attention. I’m afraid I can’t be much more specific than that, but my experience has convinced me that the fact that I’ve been running these PPC campaigns month after month contributes significantly to my results.

I don’t know if it’s designed to be a kind of customer loyalty program, volume discount, or just assigning credibility for being around for a while. Nor do I know how much it’s associated with longevity, number of clicks, or amount of spend. But the net result is that there are rewards for sticking with the program.

And the bottom line is this: Don’t be too quick to abandon a PPC account if you aren’t getting great results right off the bat. If you have a worthwhile offer and a well constructed campaign, positive ROI can come with effort and with time.