More than a year ago, former 3Qer Susan Waldes and my friend Larry Kim offered up a series of dueling blog posts about the importance of considering Quality Score in PPC account management. Although I didn’t want to air a view that contrasted with a colleague’s, I found Larry’s argument and data much more compelling (and aligned with what I was seeing in my slate of accounts).

However, Larry concluded that keywords below a certain Quality Score threshold should be shut off (or just used for retargeting), which was, for me, not a particularly realistic scenario. If Quality Score was low but the keywords were still relevant, I still felt I had to keep the keywords in the campaign, adjusting the bids to a level that meet my CPA goals. However, the process of adjusting keywords within the Google UI based upon the moving target of Quality Score was particularly daunting and was one that couldn’t be done manually.

In the back of my mind, I thought…what if there is a better way? Can I do some easy automation based upon Quality Score to make low-QS keywords profitable?

If you’re working with Marin, you can. Marin pulls Quality Score into its platform, which allows account managers to work with it like any other data point.

Please examine the following bidding folder screenshot from a new Marin Account I’m launching (which hasn’t been running long enough for me to do segmented bidding):


No bidding rules are set up in these folders except for the Boost %.

Here is my process:

1. I moved all the Bing Keywords into their own folder. Because Bing Quality Score isn’t ported into Marin, this exercise is limited to Google keywords.

2. I defined “Low Quality Score” as “Less Than 4”. This, as well as the Negative Boost Percentage I’ve chosen for the Low QS Folder, are somewhat arbitrary. While I’ve used “Less Than 4” in every account where I’ve created such folders, I’ve done Negative Boost percentages as small as -20%, and this is the variable I change frequently depending on account performance. Also, there isn’t any reason you can’t do staggered QS folders with different Boost %’s.

3. The Main Campaign contains all keywords with Quality Score “Greater Than Or Equal To 4”.

Here are your expected results:

1. With the proper settings, your Low QS Folder should be profitable. I’ve actually made these folders VERY profitable…so much so that I lessened the Boost Negative % in order to drive more traffic into these folders.

2. Your “Main Campaign” should also be more profitable because the performance of the high-QS keywords isn’t being dragged down by a poor performing sub-segment. With low-QS keywords removed, folder performance will increase, resulting in more money flowing into the folder, more clicks coming from it, and more profit for the client.

If you’re using Marin properly, your bidding tab won’t look as naked as the one in the screenshot above. Almost all the Marin accounts I work with have over 30 bidding folders…with one over 100. So, if you wish to put this practice into action and you already have a mature bidding folder setup, you will need to go to the Group Tab and segment all Google Groups with a low Quality Score into their own folder.

Creating this workflow has made me realize how dynamic Google Quality Score is. The process I’ve just outlined can’t be done only once in order stay effective; I’ve found that I need to update it every couple of weeks. During this interim time, you will see a decent number of keywords fall below the Quality Score threshold and others rise above it. I also see a correlation between turning the Low QS Folder into a profit center and an increase in the low quality scores within this folder, though I can’t prove causation.

The Marin platform has extraordinary functionality for advanced PPC account management, but in my experience of taking over new accounts, it’s very rarely utilized to its fullest. When I see clients missing out on the power of the platform, I sometimes wish to assign out a course of this to whomever is managing the account.



  1. wesley parker January 15th, 2015

    Fantastic article, I agree with you with regard to not removing low quality score keywords if they are relevant and profitable this should always take priority over quality score in my opinion. I am thinking of starting to use Marin with some of my clients soon so I will try out this strategy

  2. Jon January 20th, 2015

    I bet you could do something similar if you used Adwords Scripts. I would combine the Quality Score Tracking script and a Quality Score Bid Adjustment script.

  3. Tucker March 5th, 2015

    Loved the article, really helped me get my mind around some new ideas for QS and bid folders. I’m also a big fan of Larry, so it was good to see your approach vs. his!

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Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz, who has been with 3Q Digital since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.