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Microsoft’s Quality Score: More a Report Card Than an Influential Metric

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Microsoft recently announced that keywords within the adCenter platform will soon be assigned Quality Scores similar to those assigned to keywords within Google’s AdWords platform. But, unlike Google and other platforms, Microsoft says its Quality Scores (QS) will not directly affect how ads are ranked. Instead, the new metric will score a keyword’s past performance within the marketplace.

Screenshot via Microsoft

Historically, QS has been associated with Google and its AdWords platform. The metric has long been associated as a relevancy gauge of a keyword’s qualitative relationship to searchers’ queries that trigger an advertiser’s ads. This metric is important as it is directly tied to Google’s algorithm and thus plays a subsequent role in determining cost, position and performance. AdWords combines a keyword’s QS with set bid prices to calculate the keyword’s position and cost-per-click (CPC).

Microsoft QS, which formally rolls out later this spring, is fundamentally different from the common industry interpretation as established by Google. A key difference is that Microsoft’s QS will not directly impact positioning or CPCs in any capacity. Instead, the primary purpose of adCenter’s QS is to serve as a performance “report card.” The metric will let marketers know how competitive a keyword is within the marketplace – and, as a sub-layer, the score will give advertisers feedback as to how relevant their keyword and landing page are in relation to a searcher’s query.

If Not Quality Score, What’s Behind Microsoft’s Algorithm?

While Google has long used QS in its algorithm to determine a keyword’s position & CPC, Microsoft utilizes Quality-Based Ranking (QBR) to impact those figures. Much like Google’s QS, Microsoft’s QBR is determined by an algorithm that assesses the quality of landing page, ad copy and other factors. A good QBR coupled with a strong bid could bring favorable positioning and CPCs.

Microsoft will continue to use its current QBR system to determine a keyword’s position and CPCs. The new QS metric will not factor into QBR, but monitoring and improving can be a new gauge to make a positive impact on a campaign’s performance.

How Should Marketers Use Microsoft’s Quality Scores?

While a keyword’s QS will not directly impact performance, the factors that go into QS are similar to the metrics that go into QBR. After Microsoft activates QS this spring, 360i recommends that advertisers establish benchmarks, monitor these figures, and test its measurement on real performance. If a keyword registers a low QS, advertisers can interpret that as a sign to optimize. Furthermore, advertisers should evaluate the sub-layers of QS to determine where the potential opportunity resides. Improving the fundamental elements driving the score could not only increase a keyword’s reported QS, but also increase the term’s QBR – and that really hits the bottom line.

-Kenny Hamner, Media Supervisor, and Bruce Williams, Associate Media Director