(AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

The quick and easy way to access millions of eyeballs that search the Web every day, PPC (pay-per-click) marketing is still one of the best forms of online advertising. Even better, Google’s 2012 updates have opened organic and PPC opportunities for small to medium insurance businesses, translating to great opportunity for agents.

The best argument for PPC is one you already know: When people search the Web using keywords, they are looking for something very specific. They are looking to answer a question or fill a need. In other words, they may very well be a prime prospect.

In this article, we will look specifically at Google’s AdWords Quality Score; what it is, how to find it and how it influences your PPC campaign. Improving your Quality Score is one of the best ways to make money with Google PPC advertising. In a market like insurance, where there is a good deal of competition for a few key terms, a high Google Quality Score matters tremendously.

What is Google’s Quality Score?

Before embarking on a Google PPC campaign, it’s a good idea to pay a computer programmer or SEO expert to provide a harsh review of your website. The reason for this is that the score is determined, both directly and indirectly, by the quality of your website, including the following:

  • the quality of the landing page
  • how quickly your pages load
  • how often your site is updated
  • how many broken links exist
  • how much unique content is on the site
  • the quality of the code
  • how long your site has been in existence
  • how long viewers stay on the site
  • who the host server is (includes the quality of the other hosted websites on that server)
  • the number of sites that link to you, and the quality of those referring sites

Google looks at all these metrics — and many more — to assign your Quality Score, which can range from 1-10 (1 is low; 10 is high). Google can be fairly generous with their Quality Scores at first, which is one of the main reasons to improve your site before you invest in PPC advertising. Google is generous with your score until they compare your CTR (Click Through Rate) to other competitors in your field. Once compared, unless your CTR is high, your score can fall off a cliff and it can take 3-6 months or more to get it back.

Once Google has determined your AdWords Quality Score they then use this score (among other things) to determine how much you will pay for ads, where those ads will be placed and how frequently your ads will run. Theoretically, if you have a high Quality Score, you will pay less for ads, your ads will be displayed more often and your ad placement will be stronger.

See also: Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords: Who wins?

How does Google determine your Quality Score?

Google has explained in general terms how it determines the Quality Score of an account, though the exact algorithm remains secret. That said, these are the things that are currently important to Google’s Quality Score:

Heavily weighted

  • The CTR of a particular Adword + the other AdWords in your group, as well as how long the keyword has been in your account and its past CTR
  • The relevance of the keyword to the search by the viewer

Weighted

  • The quality of the landing page and website
  • How well you matched the keyword and your group of AdWords to the wording in your ad and on your landing page. The more closely they match the better, as long as there is no keyword stuffing.
  • Quality content/ad space ratio on landing page

Lightly weighted

  • Your account history
  • Geographic relevance and performance of the keyword and your group of AdWords
  • How well your ad performs across platforms (cell phones, tablets, desktops). Platforms are calculated separately now, and this can translate into platform advantages for competitive terms in certain markets.

As the list above suggests, your CTR is the most important thing to Google. They want ads that will get clicks. Concentrating on CTR is one of the best ways to improve the Quality Score of an account and thereby lower PPC costs.

How to locate a keyword Quality Score

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. To locate a keyword Quality Core, first go to your Google AdWords account. Once there, select Campaigns, then the keywords tab. Finally, click on the white bubble next to each keyword to see the breakdown of the Quality Score. Each keyword has a score for expected click through rate, ad relevance and landing page experience.

In conclusion

Having a good Quality Score makes your ad eligible for display whenever the keyword is searched. It also determines how much you pay (cost-per-click, or CPC) when someone clicks on your ad. Finally, a good Quality Score determines how well the ad is positioned (called ad rank).

Once your account gains a good Quality Score (6-10), the cost of particular AdWords goes down. This is critical to competing in the online insurance business, where words like “health insurance” and “life insurance” are very expensive. Quality Score matters, so spend time evaluating yours and working to improve it. Implementing these tips can make this very effective form of advertising more affordable for small companies.

For more from Lisa Pluth, see:

LinkedIn groups: free marketing tool or time-suck?

3 ways to target the high-net worth market online

Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords: Who wins?