Can You Really Artificially Pump Account Quality Score?

4 Comments Written on October 12th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords, Keyword Research

I’ve been debating about whether to post on this or not, as it’s pretty much giving attention to quackery, but what the heck:

There’s a persistent ‘grey technique’ that’s been mentioned offline a number of times that centers around the theory that you can artificially pump your account-level quality scores in Adwords by paying a ‘QS-tax’: bidding on and directing traffic straight through to the top Adwords advertisers that have the lowest possible (read .01c) minimum CPCs on their brand terms.

The idea works like this:

-You create a new search campaign in Adwords that has one or two keywords and one adgroup only.

-Next, bid on [expedia] or [] in your only adgroup in that campaign. (Or any of the top Adwords spenders for that matter)

-Write an ad that exactly matches the one the already uses brand uses for it’s own search term, i.e:

expedia adwords ad text

-In the destination URL, put the site’s usual URL (In this case, and send the traffic directly to the brand.

-Set your campaign’s daily budget to like $50/day and let it rip.

Why On Earth Would You Do This?

Why would I buy ads for Expedia and send that traffic to them for free?  The theory is that doing this can raise your entire account’s Quality Scores.


Well, obviously is going to get a 10/10 for the term [expedia].  And of course there’s different minimum bids for a 10/10, but in this case, you’re looking at a .01 minimum bid.  Pretty well as low a bid as you’ll ever see on Adwords.  Your CTR on the exact match brand term with the exact ad that the brand uses is likely to be in my testing about 45% +.  That nice CTR is about as good as you’ll find on Adwords as well.

Proponents of this technique suggest that the account Quality Score lift that you get from paying this $50 daily fee or “Quality Score Tax” makes it more than worthwhile.

Does It Work?

Simply put: No.  While it’s true that above-average CTR and keyword Quality Scores across ALL of your campaigns can lead to a better account-level Quality Score, artificially simulating this type of performance in your account via this technique isn’t going to move the account Quality Score needle.  It’s just not.

Unless you only have one other campaign in your account to influence upward with this approach, one campaign with one adgroup, keyword and ad isn’t going to have a significant enough impact to move your entire account up the account Quality Score ladder.

Additionally, account-level Quality Score is only ONE of a number of Quality Scores that are in effect in your account. For instance, it’s particularly important to consider that many metrics in the auction are connected to your domain itself, not just your account. Save your $50/day and spend that on keywords that actually make you money, not Expedia:)

If anyone can conclusively prove that this technique definitively moves the needle in terms of raising account-wide Quality Scores, ping me and I’ll post your proof.

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4 comments “Can You Really Artificially Pump Account Quality Score?”

Nice one. Now why would you do that and not create a brand campaign with one or two keywords for your site or your client’s site? The result would be exactly the same (above average CTR, etc) and you won’t have to send traffic and/or potential customers to expedia or any other site….

I agree this doesn’t work, but you can get incredible CTR and CPA’s by pointing to a strong branded site and having your product among those listed.

I completely agree with the findings above, nice article. Only two points to consider:
– I believe that there is something like a campaign quality score. So if you ever try to cheat (I wouldn’t), don’t put the hightraffic keyword in a separate campaign, but in the one you want to pimp.
– As a PPC agency we often have to compete with the inhouse team. I believe that it makes a difference if you are allowed to bid on the brand even if you do not get paid for the sales, for the reasons mentioned above. You might consider this when you negogiate the terms of contract …

Hey Geordie – Just stumbled upon this one. I have to disagree with you on this one. I can’t provide proof, but I’ve been shown accounts where it was done, and more importantly, from a ‘how quality score’ works point of view, why wouldn’t it work? Account CTR history, if long and strong enough, is super-powerful. I think that’s the problem with the trick, most people can’t afford and don’t have the patience to do it adequately.

Even though I only chimed in with an opinion, can you show any proof that ‘domain’ attributes are considered in anything related to quality score, outside of landing page and other banning penalties? 

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