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Jessica Malnik on November 26, 2019 (last modified on June 17, 2020) • 21 minute read
When you are investing money into Google Ad campaigns, you want to make sure you are getting a great return on investment (ROI) for your business.
Too often, Google Ads can become a money pit with cost per click (CPC) and customer acquisition costs that are higher than your customer’s lifetime value (CLTV). It doesn’t take a finance major to see how this can be a problematic model.
The best way to improve your ad performance is through your Google Ads Quality Score.
Google assigns a quality score – on a scale of 1-10 – to every ad. The higher your score, the lower your cost per click (i.e. CPC), and the higher your click-through-rate (i.e. CTR) will be.
We asked dozens of PPC marketers how they improve their Google Ad Quality Scores.
In this post, we’re sharing 18 proven tactics – as well as a handful of dashboards – to help you improve your ad campaigns.
Editor’s Note: Check out this Google Ads dashboard to quickly analyze your campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and engagement metrics to improve your return on investment (ROI)
There are three factors that Google uses to determine an ad’s quality score:
All of these factors are analyzed for relevance, search intent, and overall user experience.
Then, Google assigns your ads a score on a scale of 1-10.
The higher your quality score, the lower your cost-per-click (CPC), and the better your click-through-rates (CTRs) will be.
Across all of the PPC marketers that we asked, this was the top tip that came up dozens of times. Google Ads are all about consistency and relevance. They need to make sure they are serving up the most relevant content to people who are searching.
Stephen Browne from PIXUS likes to think of this as “a relevance triangle.” where ad copy, keywords, and landing pages each have their own corner. Once this is all integrated, you’ll see higher ad CTRs and quality scores.
Elizabeth from Fortress of Inca adds, “Quality Score = Ad Relevance to the user’s query + User Experience once they land on your site. In other words, an ad is only as good as the landing page it directs to.”
Reeva Cutting from Cutting Edge Digital says, “I can’t tell you how many times a simple change to the text of the ad vastly improves your quality score.”
“Building dedicated landing pages that closely match searcher intent is a sure-fire way to improve your Quality Score,” said Nick Maynard from Ridgeway.
With how little real estate you have with Google Ads, this can be easier said than done.
“A very easy way to improve your Google Ads quality score is to tweak the page title of your landing page to include the targeted keywords in your campaign,” Matt Janaway from Marketing Labs says, “If you have not yet built your landing page for your advert campaign, try sneaking an extra keyword or two into the URL for extra quality score bonus points!”
Luke Wester from Miva, Inc. agrees, “Continuity between keyword, ad, and landing page are crucial for high-quality scores. All three need to align and lead the searcher from one stage to the next while maintaining the searcher’s initial intent. The best way to do this is to create individual landing pages for each ad group.”
“Ensure the keywords you’re bidding on feature prominently on your landing page,” says Ben Cook from JC Social Media. “This improves the user experience because their transition from Google to your site is smoother, and they’re less likely to bounce. In turn, this gives Google confidence you’re sending its users to a relevant page.”
Chris Giarratana from StrategyBeam chimes in, “The most effective way to increase the Quality Score of your ads is to use the same keywords in your ads and landing pages that you are bidding on for each ad group. This tells Google that the ads are relevant to the user’s search intent, and this can quickly increase your Quality Score.”
In fact, Jordann Wilson from T3 takes this a step further by mirroring his ad copy with what’s on the website. “Your ads should give your potential customer a detailed view of what content they can expect to find when clicking on an ad, and what action they can take.”
Here’s an example of Shopify mirrors their ad copy to the exact keyword – in this case, eCommerce app.
In addition to the title of your landing page, Patricio Quiroz from Code Authority mentions improving the page structure can make a big difference in whether people convert or immediately bounce off your page.
TSL Marketing’s Keith Meader says, “Creating landing pages that are relevant, informative, and useful to the searcher, as it relates to your ad message, is very effective in increasing quality score. When this is done properly with a strong call-to-action, rather than simply forcing keywords on a landing page, you create a great user experience from start-to-finish, which also leads to increased conversions. When your ad message is consistent with the landing page experience, you will have already included the most important landing page elements that increase quality scores, because they will “naturally” include the right message and key phrases in the content.”
In fact, one of the biggest traps that many fall into is creating clickbaity ad copy that isn’t backed up with proper and relevant information on the landing page.
For example, McCall Robison works at Best Company, a review site that ranks business loan companies.
Robison mentions, “In our ad copy, if we mention something like, “Who offers the largest business loans?” but yet we didn’t put any information about that on our landing page, it would be confusing for users coming to our landing page looking for that specific information. Because of that, we have bullet points that appear next to every company on our landing page, where we specifically state “Max Loan Amount: $5” so users can easily scan our landing page and find the company that has the loan amount they’re looking for. This creates an enjoyable user experience because our landing page copy works well with our ad copy.”
In order to create relevant ad campaigns, you need to understand your target audience.
Ramey Miller from Text Request says, “Look at the current trends and suggestions. But most importantly, listen to your audience, what are they searching, what’s working and what isn’t.”
Keyword research is the foundation of a great ad campaign.
“The first step towards improving your Quality Score is to get the initial keyword research phase correct,” says Paul Granger from Website Promoter. “Always focus on the most appropriate keywords for your campaign in order to improve relevancy. Remember also to consider long-tail keywords, as these can bring significant traffic that is highly targeted.”
Many of the PPC marketers we interviewed talked about the importance of prioritizing keywords based on relevance and search intent. As you can see in the chart below, most prioritize based on either high search intent or branded keywords (i.e. keywords directly related to your company’s name).
Chris Ellis from Digital 22 says, “Keep it relevant. People are too quick these days to get caught up in automation or dynamic this and that and often neglect the basics of account management & structure.”
Greg Trahan from Digital Ads Optimism says, “One effective way to improve your Quality Score on Google Ads is to ensure that your ads have consistency with the keywords you are targeting. If the ad you’re showing has little relation to the keywords it’s tied to, users are less likely to click. This harms your click-through rate and quality score. The best way to accomplish this would be to categorize your keywords into ad groups, ensuring the right ads show up for the right queries.”
You may start to notice a trend. Improving your quality score is all about improving ad relevance.
Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers agrees, “To improve your quality score, you want to create AdWords ads that are high quality. The copy needs to be descriptive and enticing people to click on it. For instance, you can list the main benefit to click on the ad and add power words as CTAs. This way, your CTR will be higher, and your quality score will automatically improve.”
For example, Emod Vafa from VerticalScope Inc. shares, “When a user is searching for, “Red High Heel Shoes, Free Delivery,” they expect to see an ad that reads: “Shop Red High Heels Shoes | Free delivery,” and they expect to land on a page that only shows “Red High Heel Shoes” for sale with “Free delivery.”
Improving your quality score is all about surfacing the most relevant content that people are searching for when they want it. This all starts at the keyword level.
“One way to effectively improve your quality score is to use your highest value exact match keyword somewhere in your copy,” says Jennifer Long from Shero Marketing. “Similar keywords help, but don’t replace the effectiveness of using the exact match keyword in your ad copy.”
Nada Pupovac from No Bounds Digital agrees, “You wouldn’t have a high CTR without keywords that are covering search terms intended for your ad. Furthermore, Google Ads platform is encouraging you to use your keywords in the ads. You can see this when creating Responsive Search Ads. Your ads could go from Average to Excellent if you make sure you use the keywords from the ad group in your headlines.”
And Brett Stone from BSDA recommends taking this a step further and using your highest converting keywords not only in your headline but also in your description and extensions.
Stone adds, “Part of this strategy includes creating multiple ad groups to segregate different keywords, thus ensuring if someone searches for something like, “orthopedic knee surgeon,” they’re not shown ads for “orthopedic shoulder surgeon.” Doing this will not only improve your GAQS, but it will also improve your CTR for each ad group.”
Editor’s Note- Check out this dashboard to be able to see your highest converting ad campaigns and keywords quickly.
Ellie from Whoever You Need recommends, “Keeping a close eye on your Google Ads campaigns is crucial to improving your quality score. Not only can you add keywords to your list from day-to-day searches, but you can also build up your negative keyword list as soon as you see a search term that isn’t what you want to be appearing for. By doing this every day, you can save a lot of money from wasted clicks to your ads and become more confident that your ads are appearing to a more specific audience of people who are really looking for your product/service. Google also provides its own Campaign Optimisation Score within your ads dashboard that rates your campaign quality score out of 100% with recommendations for you to complete in order to help your campaigns to perform better.”
Jeremy Redlinger of Concrete Internet Marketing agrees, “Monitor your search terms for negative keywords. Adding negative keywords to your account will improve your Quality Score by eliminating clicks to your website that are irrelevant to your ad or landing page.”
Helen Freeman from Impression says, “To ensure your keywords have maximum ad relevance, it’s important to structure your account well. If possible, it’s a good idea to plan your campaigns and ad groups around your website structure, ex. A clothing retailer may choose to have different campaigns for different brands, which contain ad groups for different types of clothing. As a result, the keywords within the ad groups can be quite specific and then used in the ad copy.”
Many, including Freeman choose to follow the SKAG structure.
“To help with this, you could choose to follow a SKAG (single keyword ad group) structure.” Freeman says. “This structure provides a level of granularity which ensures your ads can be highly relevant & adjust your bids based on highly specific data.”
Randi Grant from Smile Marketing agrees, “It starts with a clean account structure. If your ad groups are organized in a way that makes sense, you can create ads that correlate better with the keywords, thus improving your relevancy and quality score.”
Jim Lastinger from Deep Field says, “The best way to improve your Quality Score is with very focused ad groups, ideally SKAGs (single keyword ad groups). Focused ad groups allow you to write a hyper-focused ad copy that includes the keyword, which leads to better Quality Scores.”
“Yes, this can result in a lot of ad groups. However, the benefits to your quality score make it worth it (plus you can manage creation and editing of SKAGs in Ads Editor – it’s way easier),” says Emma White from Multi Layer Media. “SKAGs mean that every ad can be super relevant to the particular keyword that ad group is targeting, in turn giving your quality score a nice boost.”
If you can’t use the SKAG structure because of your existing setup (for example, an extremely large ad account), the next best option is to create small, focused ad groups.
Navah Hopkins from WordStream says, “Make sure your ad groups are centered around a single theme, so the keywords and ads have the highest chance for relevance. All too often, advertisers will try to use ad groups as “catchalls” as opposed to focused champions for budgets. If the strategic focus of the ad group is compromised, so to will the quality score (although more importantly, conversion rates and ROAS).”
In fact, Max Runge from RocketWM takes this approach a step further. He likes to separate his keyword list into different ad groups. Each group contains similar keywords or keyword variations. This makes it easier to write more relevant ads.
“You can also move keywords with lower quality scores to a separate ad group,” says Ruba Aramouny from SOLID. “This lets you keep all related keywords with high-quality scores in their own ad group so you can manage bids for keywords with high and low-quality scores separately without having to set bids at the keyword level.”
Regardless of whether you use a SKAG structure or just stick with focused ad groups, it is a good idea to analyze your ad groups on a regular basis.
Alan Gruntz, of Barkley REI, says, ““When auditing an account to improve quality score, I always look towards how the account and its campaigns are structured. Many times, the quality score can be dramatically improved by restructuring. Having multiple ad groups per campaign with their own set of keywords, ads, and specific landing pages is a great first step. When it comes to keywords, it’s important to keep them unique to each ad group. It’s better to have 10-15 unique keywords per ad group than 50+ overlapping keywords.”
John Reinesch from Beacon Digital Marketing has seen a lot of success with single keyword ad groups. “Single keyword ad groups have had the biggest positive impact on our quality scores,” says Reinesch. “With this structure, we are able to closely match each keyword we are bidding on to the ad copy and landing page. This allows us to create the best experience for a user for each individual keyword, and it ultimately drastically improves our quality score. This type of campaign and ad group structure is more work upfront in the setup phase, but the extra effort pays off quickly. We have seen our CTR improve, and our cost per lead and cost per click decrease from implementing SKAGs for all of our clients.”
Phil Mackie from TopSailDigital ran an experiment a few months ago and concluded, “I took all the keywords with Quality Scores between 5-7, and I labeled them using labels in Google Ads. For each keyword, I made sure that each keyword cluster or family had a devoted landing page and a freshly written ad in the account. As a rule of thumb, I always have at least three ads for each Ad Group, but If I wanted to nurse these struggling keywords, I had to get writing. After creating new PPC only landing pages (rel=canonical to original pages since they are going to be very similar) and wrote new ads, on average, I saw 1 to 2 point increases for most low-quality score keywords!”
Noelle Del Grippo from Sagefrog Marketing Group recommends taking the time to learn how to use all of the Google Ad Extension.
“By adding compelling extensions to your ads, you can increase the number of users who will click your ads and helping improve CTR,” says Del Grippo. “There are many different types of extensions that can be added to ads to help improve the information given to the users from the ad.”
One of the biggest mistakes that PPC marketers make is undervaluing Google’s Landing Page Experience metric.
In fact, Paul Farmer from Riverwood Cabins says, “Too often, people make the mistake of investing huge amounts of energy and time on their ad, leaving very little for the landing page. Your landing page is just as important as the elements in your ad.”
“Landing Page Experience” is the least understood component of Quality Score,” says Andrew Miller from Workshop Digital. “Many people mistakenly call it “Landing Page Relevance,” but Google does not actually consider the relevance of a landing page as it relates to the search terms or ad copy.
Relevance is crucial to keeping your visitors engaged and moving through your funnel, but Google rewards landing pages with structured content, transparent messaging, privacy policies, fast load times, mobile responsiveness, and other factors that create a better user experience.
When in doubt, follow the money. Google earns searchers’ loyalty (and more ad revenue) when they direct people to a great landing page that engages rather than a crappy landing page that detracts from their experience.”
In fact, Shameer Sachdev from Growth Gorilla shares the two most important factors to consider when optimizing your ad landing pages.
One way to create a better experience is to create dynamic landing pages. This is what Freeman from Impression uses.
“At Impression, we use dynamic landing pages to ensure the best experience for users who visit our site via ads. Dynamic landing pages use dynamic insertion to become specialized for each user, changing to meet their needs. For instance, if you offer a nationwide removals service, then you could use dynamic landing pages to produce a highly specific landing page for users searching for “removal service in Halifax.”
Mitchell Kelly from Pathfinder Alliance says, “From our experience, the best way to get an uplift on this is to improve dwell time. Adding video to support copy is a great way to do this, as is including more informational copy on the landing page to make sure all of the major pain points of your prospects are adequately addressed.”
Another tip courtesy of Riah Solomon from IronCore Labs is to incorporate your keywords directly into the meta description of your landing pages. You don’t want to overdo this and get into keyword stuffing. If incorporated naturally, Google will take notice of it, and it can improve your landing page experience metric and in turn, your quality score.
You can have the most relevant ad copy and target keywords, but if your landing page takes 10 seconds to load, it won’t matter.
“Optimizing your hosting environment and website for fast loading speeds can improve your landing page and quality scores. It’s important for conversion rates too,” says Robert Rand from JetRails.
Sachdev says, “A great starting point to reducing load times is to visit Webmaster Tools, Page Speed Insights and GTMetrix. These are great tools to give you an indication of not only how fast your page is loading, but also contributing factors that are slowing it down alongside what actions to take.”
Some of the biggest factors that lead to slow load times are meta refreshes, slow redirects, multiple redirects, interstitial pages, slow servers, and large page sizes.
Salva Jovells from Hockerty recommends adding at least one responsive search ad into your campaign. This allows you to test new headline and description combinations.
“If you can fill the 15 different headlines, it is much better than having 10,” says Jovells. “Why will it increase your quality score? Your most appealing combinations will get more impressions, and CTR is one of Google’s favorite metrics.”
Anand Iyer shares another key reason to use these ads.
“Use expanded search ads to add more headlines and description fields so that you can maximize the real estate on a Google ad,” says Iyer. “Google allows up to three headlines and two 90 character description fields to provide more information about product and services.”
Chas Cooper from Rising Star Reviews recommends using Google’s Seller Ratings Extension. While this is free to use, you need to have at least 100 reviews within the past 12 months and 3.5 or higher star rating to qualify to get it.
“This extension shows your Google review star rating in your ads, which significantly increases click-through rates (CTR), which are the #1 factor in Quality Score,” says Cooper. “Showing review stars in ads increases CTR for two reasons: First, the stars attract more attention because of their visual prominence, especially when competing ads don’t show star ratings. And second, a high star rating based on a high number of reviews gives searchers the confidence in your business they need to click on your ad.” The seller rating extension costs nothing.”
When you have a large ad account, monitoring and reporting on your ad campaigns can take up a large amount of your time,
Dan Reeves from Dandy Marketing likes to use automation to make this process more efficient.
“I use scripts to help me keep track of areas I can improve on, especially helpful if you have a large account,” says Reeves. “This one will help you track quality score over time, and highlight what areas you are weakest in. This one will email you (daily, weekly) and alert you to keywords that are below a certain score. You can set this to whatever you think is low. These two scripts should help you pinpoint areas of priority when it comes to quality score optimizations.”
Finally, it is not just about current ad campaigns. Google launched a Historical Quality Score metric in 2017 to gauge ad performance over time.
“Historical performance factors into Quality Score so don’t hesitate to cull poor performing campaign elements (ex: keywords and ad text) that aren’t driving conversions or helping you meet your target KPIs,” says Nicole Mears from Shape.io.
In sum, these are 18 proven tactics that you can use to improve your Google Quality Score and in turn, your ad campaign performance.
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