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When it comes to PPC advertising and Google Adwords, the one metric that will make or break your campaign is Quality Score (QS). Every single one of your keywords has its own Quality Score, so when you’re stuck with a low Quality Score problem and you’ve done everything you can to ensure relevancy between the landing page, ad copy, and keywords, then it’s usually easier to just increase your bids and move on to bigger and better keywords. In some cases, however, it is worth taking the time to troubleshoot a few of your keywords, especially when there’s potential for high conversion value.
In April 2012, Google updated the Quality Score dialog box with new Quality Score indicators: Expected clickthrough rate, Ad relevance, and Landing page experience. This dialog box is accessible by hovering your cursor over the dialog box icon in the status column, which pops up a tooltip that includes these indicators. While Google uses these factors and several more to determine your Quality Score, clickthrough rate is considered to be the most important factor—after all, if your ad is relevant to the targeted keyword, then a large percentage of those searchers should be clicking on your advertisement. But what do you do when both your CTR and your landing page are non-problematic, yet you’re still getting a low Quality Score?
With these aforementioned changes to Google’s Quality Score indicators, you can now discern whether or not your ad copy is what is causing your low Quality Score. For example, when you open up the dialog box of a low QS keyword, the ad relevance indicator might say, “Below average,” and now you know the low QS is most likely due to a perceived mismatch between the ad copy and the keyword.
Sometimes this perceived mismatch is not apparent to us and is only apparent to Google’s algorithms. Sometimes, even when you use keyword insertion, making your ad copy include the exact same keyword the searcher typed in, you are still presented with a low Quality Score. This is because there are other words besides the actual keyword itself that can affect the QS. Discovering and adding these semantically related keywords can boost your Quality Score in many situations. Today I’m going to show you 3 simple techniques to find semantically related keywords to include in your ad copy in order to fix your low Quality Scores issues.
1. The Tilde Operator
The tilde command is an advanced Google search operator that searches for synonyms of your keyword along with the actual keyword itself. You can tell what these synonyms are by looking at the bolded keywords on the search engine results page.
E.g. Your search query is: ~yacht
Some of the bolded keywords on the first couple of pages are: yacht, yachts, yachting, boats, boat, and sailing.
Now let’s take this one step further and add the same keyword, but as a negative search term.
E.g. Your search query is now: ~yacht -yacht
Now you can see ONLY the synonyms of the keyword “yacht.” Not only do you get to see terms that you may not have seen in your first search, but you also get an idea of which keywords Google considers to be the same as the keyword “yacht,” such as “yachts” and “yachting,” due to the fact that they haven’t shown up.
Now that you know the search terms that Google considers related to your keyword that are not the keyword itself, you can start making a list of keywords to consider including in your ad copy. Furthermore, you can string out your search query multiple times, each level giving you more and more related keywords.
E.g. ~yacht -yacht -boat –sail
Not only can this technique help you fix your low Quality Score, but it’s also great for SEO purposes and gives you insight into Google’s Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) for specific search terms.
2. Google Sets Feature in Google Docs
Google Sets was a Google Labs tool that was shut down in September 2011, but it is still available as a feature in Google Docs spreadsheets. In order to use the feature, simply type in 3-5 related keywords down one column, highlight them, and then Ctrl + drag the corner down to generate a list of related words. This is a great method to build a wide set of keywords for keyword research purposes, as well as for generating a list of related keywords for your ad copy troubleshooting.
3. Contextual Targeting Tool
With Google’s Contextual Targeting Tool in Adwords, you are able to generate related keywords by entering one or more seed keywords. Not only that, but the tool also generates these keywords and organizes them into themed ad groups.
While the tool is intended to be used to help you build display campaigns, it also provides another level of insight for finding what Google considers to be semantically related keywords—something that is especially important with new search terms that pop up which have not existed before, due to the fact that Google has less data to go off of. In cases like these, it may be beneficial to go ahead and check for what Google “knows” about a particular keyword because it’s still going to affect Quality Score if there’s a perceived lack of relevancy by the engine, even if we as humans can see that our ad is relevant to the keyword.
While it would be too time consuming to use these techniques for every single low Quality Score case, these are great options for making the most out of the current keywords in your Adwords campaigns and improving your QS by including semantically related keywords in the ad copy. Use all three methods in conjunction with each other rather than relying on any single one. By using all three methods, you’ll be able to find reoccurring keywords and patterns that will allow you to make better decisions about how you should change your ad and the direction you should take when creating fresh ad copy.