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Don’t Forget: Quality Scores Are Still Device Specific

Posted on Monday, August 5th, 2013 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, SEM


One of the most significant changes associated with the recent shift of Google AdWords to enhanced campaigns was the combining of desktop and tablet devices into a single segment. In a recent blog post, we speculated that tablet and desktop CPCs had not converged after the migration deadline, as expected, because the new campaigns still calculate separate quality scores for each device. Understandably, this might have come as a surprise to online advertisers who failed to notice this detail during the chaotic transition. In the AdWords help section “About Enhanced Campaigns”, Google only vaguely alludes to device-specific quality scores within enhanced campaigns. Here’s the pertinent portion:

Quality Score is a measure of how relevant and useful your ads are and helps to determine your ad’s position and CPC. The way Quality Score is determined does not change in enhanced campaigns. Quality Score is calculated every time your keyword enters an auction and takes device into account [emphasis added]. In AdWords, your estimated Quality Score is represented on a scale of 1–10 and reflects each keyword’s overall performance across all the devices on which it is serving.

Google clarifies this point more explicitly in the AdWords help section on quality score. In a list of the factors used to calculate quality score, Google includes:

Your targeted devices: How well your ads have been performing on different types of devices, like desktops/laptops, mobile devices, and tablets—you get different Quality Scores for different types of devices.

With this, Google makes it clear that even though enhanced campaigns combine bidding for desktops and tablets, keywords and ads for each device still maintain separate quality scores.

Perpetuating this device distinction is peculiar, especially considering Google’s rationale for merging desktops and tablets in the first place: that searcher behavior across both device types is essentially the same. Unfortunately, advertisers won’t be able to receive insight into the different scores, by device, and won’t be able to adjust desktop and tablet bids independently in response to these differences.

This is a precarious position for Google to be taking, but it does allow for flexibility in future auction pricing. In the meantime, don’t expect your desktop and tablet CPCs to remain in lockstep—then again, they very well may be. At this moment of contradiction, it seems fair to ask: Have we truly entered a post-device search world, or are divergent quality scores an admission that two different things can remain harmoniously different after all?

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13 Responses to “Don’t Forget: Quality Scores Are Still Device Specific”

  1. Ted Ives says:

    Matt – great observation, I think most of the industry has missed this important point.

    A separate mobile QS would argue for bidding high on mobile initially to establish a good Quality Score History.

    This brings up the question – if you bid -100, then later decide to start bidding on mobile, have you ruined your chance for a good Quality Score, at least initially, requiring weeks or months to overcome a bad history? In other words, does -100 really mean -100, or does it mean “off”. Or does it reset your mobile QS history, making it a sneaky mechanism one could use for that?

    I guess it all depends on who the three people in the room were at the critical point with the whiteboard over at Google. Certainly the misstep of allowing only Campaign-level bid adjustments, and later backpedaling & allowing Adgroup-level ones does not inspire confidence…

    Also, if Google now has separate bids for mobile, and a separate QS – where is the separate keyword research data? Or is there some mobile targeting setting I’m missing in the keyword tool?

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