In our last installment we talked about PPC basics. In a nutshell: You bid on keywords and when someone uses them as search words, your ad pops up.
Simple, right? Well, not exactly. There are other factors at work. All three major search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) use a proprietary mix of algorithms and human analysis to arrive at a quality score. It measures how much the service provider trusts you to deliver effective ad content. Providers assign quality scores by account, ad campaign and individual keyword.
Remember how last time, we said you’d bid against other folks interested in the same keyword? Quality scores add a permutation: They modify the value of your bid from the provider’s point of view – and from your point of view, effective costs go up or down. The lower the quality score, the more expensive your bid’s going to be.
Let’s say I’m bidding on “used cars” against somebody with double my effective quality. If he bids 50 cents per click, I have to bid over $1.00 to match him. From the search engine’s perspective my money’s worth half of his.
Unfortunately, you can’t really tell if someone else has twice (or half) your quality score. Google and Yahoo provide abstract quality scores but keep the hard numbers to themselves. MSN doesn’t tell you anything about your quality score; you’ve got to infer it from bid prices.
Every search engine measures quality differently, so starting from simple principles, PPC unfolds into a subject with surprising complexity. PPC marketing professionals (like us!) navigate the process for you so that you get a cost effective campaign. When PPC works, it really works. When it doesn’t, you’ll find yourself paying through the nose for reasons you might not even understand. Drop by for the next part of this article to find out how to boost quality scores – and what major search engines hate.