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Earlier this week, Google announced an enhancement to their quality score initiative on their Inside AdWords blog. The changes were two fold: 1) quality score would now apply to the Google content network; and 2) Google would put an increased focus on landing page relevancy in this new and improved algorithm.
Folks who religiously read this blog will know that I am generally against Google’s quality score, mainly because of the lack of transparency and the opportunity for Google to make decisions about who shall and shall not show up for a particular ad, without any recourse for the advertiser. In Google’s defense, however, I must admit that this new Quality Score update does address one of my major critiques – that Google cared only about quality on their own site, and not on their content distribution partner sites.
But all of this is not the point of this post. Here’s what I find most interesting about this latest Quality Score improvement – the timing. The new Quality Score went into effect on November 6th. What’s so special about that date, you ask? No, the answer is not that it occurred a day before mid-term elections (though I wouldn’t put it past Google to try to influence the elections . . .).
November 6th just happens to occur almost exactly between two special events for Google – Google’s Q3 earnings announcement, and Thanksgiving, the start of the Christmas shopping season. Why is this such great timing? Let me explain.
First, announcing after the earnings report helps Google to bury this news. No pesky questions from analysts about why they are attacking “bad advertisers” instead of “click fraud”, or whether their lack of transparency in Quality Score could potentially create anti-trust problems for them down the road. By the time the next earning announcement comes around in January, this Quality Score enhancement will be old news.
Second, and more importantly, the fact that Google is launching this right before the holiday season is evidence that Quality Score did it’s job – it helped Google make more money! My guess is that a lot of the people being impacted by Quality Score are the “uber-professionals”, the folks who can figure out how to buy clicks for $.10 and turn around and make $.15 on that same click.
Note that while “Made for Adsense” sites fall into this category, that is not the only business this applies to. It also applies to smart advertisers who are really good at targeting, ad text, and conversion and who know how to drive a consumer through a conversion funnel at low costs. That includes arbitrageurs, lead generators, and affiliate marketers. Once Google’s bread and butter . . . once.
These are the types of advertisers Google doesn’t like so much anymore. They are far more demanding and clever than Fortune 500 advertisers, who care less about “ROI” and more about “Lift” and “Brand Perception.” And guess what? If you remove the smart advertisers through Quality Score, while simultaneously increasing your broad matching functionality, the result is a win-win for Google and big advertisers – higher CPCs on tail terms and more clicks for the big guys (though less ROI, but who cares, right?)
So with the holidays fast approaching, and Google now beholden to the almighty earnings call, what better way to drive a few more dollars of revenue than to cut the smart guys out of the content network and replace them with Ford, Procter and Gamble, and McDonald’s? (Google’s Lovin’ It!)
Long-term, I still don’t like Quality Score. It never seems like a good idea to me to alienate your smartest advertisers with a non-transparent system designed to benefit big dumb advertisers. Short-term, I guess I have to say that anyone shorting Google is in trouble. Expect a Quality Stock Score in January.