Monday, September 22, 2008
Quality Score As Captor: Our Willing Role In The Google Super-Equation
By Kendall Allen As the bar rises on the virtual science of ad relevancy, we hear more reference to "life in a Quality Scoring world," managing your search media "in the kingdom of Quality Score," and other such deference to the QS. Quality Scoring and its new science have become a gating reality. It's a fact: you must play, plan, design and build to Quality Score if you hope to prevail in the search marketplace.
On premise, strong search marketers have always appreciated the art of planning and optimizing to quantified consumer demand, crafting their approach based on real, investigated query activity. They vet their offering against live demand. Then, leading with this reconnaissance, they build and manage campaigns according to what the market reveals.
But, in a Quality Score reality, mastery of this method is incremental. QS has been rolling out to its full splendor for some time now. New factors are gradually introduced to the equation -- and sometimes we get a BIG one handed to us.
August '08, this just in: QS will no longer be static, the "inactive for search" designation has been nixed, and minimum bids have been replaced by a first-page metric. Yes, campaign and ad group historic performance will be considered, but now the relevancy situation is predicted at query time. This aggregate factor does maximize opportunity for marketers. And it boosts the probability of accuracy. These are positives.
But of course it also massively opens the revenue opportunity for Google, in which we are all active participants. The estimations on what this scale of dynamic factoring will do for Google's numbers are astounding. This is where the conspiratorial mind starts to wander. This announcement got me pondering yet again the super-equation that we all fuel.
Recently in the heat of all this, I presented on a panel with those seasoned in all things search, to a global search marketing community that convenes a few times a year. These are practitioners. Most crucial to the assembly are practical tips on the game. And while you present these tips to this group, the blogosphere ignites as stenographers record all of the advisory panel content and broadcast it verbatim. The practices of mastery are core to the conversation all day long. The economic implications and marketplace conspiracy theorizing are for cocktail hour.
Here are some of the things we discussed about mastering the emergent QS in August, before cocktails:
Pre-dawn, Practical Applications of Relevancy
Able search marketers have always focused on relevancy. Beginning with an opportunity assessment, they diligently research consumer query volume as it relates to their offerings, messaging - the very way they are marketing to sell online. Then titles and descriptions are crafted for tight call-and-response, serving up as nearly as possible what is queried, perhaps even using dynamic keyword insertion. Next up, mapping landing pages and boosting the relevancy quotient of the content that lives on each page on the path.
Relevancy within smart search marketing used to be about well-drafted and deployed campaign assets - and then optimization, to boost path to conversion. Very practical. And, this measured way of marketing essentially was a precursor to the QS in its current emergent bigness.
The QS Comes of Age: From Assets to Equation
If you had always been doing this, earliest iterations of the QS were a natural. As a search marketer, hooked on measurability, you were by nature into optimization. As The Score got rigorous about historic portfolio and group performance, it still made sense. Then, what?
I would suggest that it is when we were told to get serious about landing page factors -- content, layout, usability, navigability -- and the load time, that it became a full-fledged equation with which to contend. Suddenly, very tactical site-side enterprise collaboration was an imperative.
Beyond The "Deep Link"
The starting point of landing page relevancy is taking the query deep, past the homepage. Down to the product page, the most relevant content area, or elements you want consumers to engage with. This basically requires we collaborate with content management, editorial, ad sales, merchandising. But the advanced QS gets at content and layout, usability and navigability, as well as load time. There is now a higher standard for clarity, robustness, uniqueness, usefulness, descriptiveness, transparency to nature of business and use of personal data. To get this dialed in, much more concerted collaboration of interests is required: sales and editorial, visual design and SEO, marketing and IT, your suite of agencies. Often an unnatural act.
As the Quality Score intensifies, this assurance has always been offered: your efforts will be evaluated over time. You can evolve. But, the new at-query dynamism really opens the scope of this whole thing.
As researchers of consumer search behavior, as consumer marketers, as designers, the reality of the QS requires our active involvement at a whole new level. As one who carries the flag on such deep collaboration, it's fundamentally a welcome reality. But, there is no denying what our captive collaboration represents to the architects of the super-equation. Big business. So, as a student also of monetization of consumer markets, I fully recognize I am feeding a heady reality. Time for another cocktail.
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Kendall Allen is currently advising clients and partners on digital marketing and convergence media. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, a boutique digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.
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