Google’s Quality Score Failures

To refresh everyone’s memory, Google rolled out “quality score” for its paid search network in August 2005. The 2005 quality score algorithm evaluated the relevance of keywords, ad text and click through rate.

Google revised the algorithm in February 2007 to incorporate landing page relevance when determining an advertiser’s minimum bid price for each keyword. This was Google’s official statement on the update’s purpose:

Simply stated, we always aim to improve our users’ experience so that these users (your potential customers) will continue to trust and value AdWords ads.

To the other search engine marketers reading this, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much has the introduction of landing page quality score improved the user experience?
  2. Has landing page quality score moved advertisers who provide little or no value to the searcher at least off the SERP?

If you’re unsure of your answer to these questions, search around. Just because Google has taken the position of a search engine that strives to boost the user’s experience doesn’t mean it does. If quality score was meant to improve the user experience, then why are the following sites still able to use these landing pages?

Click-research.info is designed to generate revenue by taking advantage of Yahoo’s search network via clicks from Google sponsored listings. Click-Research.info gets paid each time a user clicks on one of these ads. Browse the site yourself and take note that most of the links on the site are outgoing.

Click here for a screenshot of the site in Google’s sponsored listings. Below is a screenshot of their landing page.

Property-Search-Guide-Web.com is another example of a website getting traffic through Google PPC ads. This site is also designed to make money by taking advantage of Google’s search network advertisers. Its Google’s responsibility to make sure these types of advertisers aren’t able to spam the SERP. Back in February, I was under the impression the “new” quality score algorithm would do this.

Remember, in each of the examples above, two parties are making money. The first is obviously the advertiser (Click-Research.info & Property-Search-Guide-Web.com), otherwise they wouldn’t bid on Google search advertising. The second is the provider of the sponsored search results (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc). In these specific cases, Yahoo also gets paid for a portion of each click; the remainder is paid to the publisher (Click-Research.info & Property-Search-Guide-Web.com). If you’ve never heard of this practice, it’s usually referred to as click arbitrage.

Anytime a searcher lands on an irrelevant page, they have three options. 1) Click the back button, 2) Navigate through the site to find better content, or in these cases 3) To click on a relevant sponsored ad. In my opinion, this process produces a poor user experience.

Google has the power to determine how much traffic is directed to landing pages featuring sponsored search results. Google has the choice to either allow advertisers to use these types of landing pages, or not. It’s really that simple. Most of the ads in the sponsored links section can also be found on Google’s original SERP. Eliminating these advertisers would improve the searcher’s experience, while reducing competition for the advertiser.