How Does the Search Alliance Quality Score Work?

Guest post by Marianne Pratt

The Search Alliance is a working partnership between Yahoo and Bing (Microsoft), created to help them compete more effectively against Google in the paid advertising marketplace.  The Alliance calls their program AdCenter.

The Search Alliance Quality Score is similar to a Google AdWords Quality Score in that your ads receive a 1-10 numerical ranking.  But AdCenter uses a very different formula to determine that ranking.  Also unlike Google, the Search Alliance Quality Score does not determine ad placement or affect bid prices.  It is meant as an educational tool to help advertisers achieve better results.

How it works

Your overall Quality Score is based on separate scoring for keywords, your ad and your landing page.  This is good because it allows much greater analysis, but potentially dangerous because if one component fares poorly that could lower your overall Quality Score, relevance and ultimately your ROI.

Keyword scores indicate how well they fit your campaign’s perceived purpose but also their relevancy to the rest of your campaign.  You’ll get the best score by using keywords that directly relate to your products and services.

Searchers look at your ad before clicking on it to see if it’s really relevant for them.  The Search Alliance Quality Score system does essentially the same thing.  So make your ad copy match your keywords.  Use fewer keywords if necessary to stay focused, or employ a broader match strategy for your ad copy and landing page than for keywords themselves.

Your landing page is critical, because the Search Alliance cares about consumer-oriented performance.  Landing page relevance is based on original content, content relevance to your ad, location and layout.  The Alliance looks for pages that consistently match your keywords and ad copy and also provide on-point content and easy functionality (called “user experience”).  AdCenter publishes Relevance and Quality guidelines for landing page creation and user experience, and your score shows how closely you’re following the guidelines.

AdCenter determines overall “rank score” separately for each market, since markets all function a bit differently.

Ad placement is determined by relevance, landing page experience, historical click-thru-rates (CTRs) and your bid amount.  CTRs count toward your overall Search Alliance Quality Score because results matter — a low score indicates you could be on the wrong track.

Advantages of the Search Alliance Quality Score

In effect, the AdCenter system forces you to create better quality ads.  But it also facilitates that by providing useful feedback.  You can evaluate your overall campaign but also a wide variety of details that determine your campaign’s success, including:

  • You can separately track keyword, ad copy and landing page relevance plus landing page user experience.
  • Subscores within the three categories provide even more information.  For instance, keywords are rated “good,” “no problem,” or “poor” to give an idea which ones are working well and which need work or elimination.
  • You analyze detailed performance results to gain deeper insight and actionable responses.
  • Immediate feedback enables you to see how your changes are affecting your Quality Score.
  • Historical reports track data over time for daily, seasonal or other time-related perspective.

Better tracking facilitates more effective improvements and, ultimately, greater sales conversion, ROI and profitability.  And since your Quality Score doesn’t directly determine ad ranking, you can be more comfortable taking into account all factors when evaluating your ad campaigns.

The Search Alliance was created to provide a better experience for advertisers and also for consumers.  Tina Kelleher offers a number of valuable tips on how you can improve your own advertising experience, whereas some industry experts, including Rimm Kaufman’s Mark Ballard, think the Search Alliance Quality Score still needs work.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jencu.

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