In the last article, we did an in-depth analysis of 6 specific search ads for residential solar and we showed how the search engine ad itself can impact the eventual cost per lead, based on the click-through rate of the ad. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into Google’s Quality Score and how this impacts the campaign cost per click and thus the overall cost per lead.

Google Quality Score is a critical concept to understand because by having ads with different Quality Score, one can be bidding on the SAME keyword, for example, “best solar contractor Huntington NY” and have two companies that have a cost per click that is vastly different.

The cool thing about the Quality Score is that Google will provide an estimate of the quality score BEFORE you run the ad.

If you’re currently running PPC campaigns and not getting the results you’re looking for, check the Quality Score first. This will be a great leading indicator. If your Quality Scores are low, this is a good place to dig in.

A bunch o’ free resource to dig deeper into Search Engine Marketing for residential solar.

Search Engine Marketing Optimization

Due to the fact that solar is extremely competitive and CPC rates are high, it’s absolutely vital that all website landing pages, copy and conversion options are optimized. Copy on landing pages, design, forms and calls-to-action should have ongoing conversion optimization tests running for all website visitors. You wouldn’t want to pay to get someone onto your website and then bounce off due to a poor user experience, so it’s key that they are able to easily find what they are looking for and take the appropriate action.

There are three critical variables that will impact Quality Score to increase SEM optimization.

  1. Ad Relevance. Ad relevance is described by Google as “How well your keyword matches the message in your ads. For example, if someone searches for your keyword and your ad shows up, would your ad seem directly relevant to their search?” In practice, this means that someone sees an ad that is very closely related to what they want to see.
  2. Landing page experience. The landing page experience is a function of two critical factors:
    1. Landing page relevance. Landing page relevance is similar to ad relevance. Does your landing page copy and design match the message in your ads? If someone clicks on the the copy/offer in your ad, does the landing page continue to tell this story? The more it matches, the better landing page experience, the higher Quality Score your ad will have.
    2. Landing page design. The landing page should be designed for conversion so that it has:
      1. A compelling offer, that the user really wants.
      2. A clear call-to-action, to entice them to act and sign up easily.
      3. A clear phone number to call, in case they want to speak with someone before signing up.
  3. Expected CTR. The expected CTR means how much Google anticipates users will click on your ad versus the number of people that see it. A higher expected CTR means a higher Quality Score and thus lower CPC and cost-per-lead.

When creating an ad, Google will rank the ad and tell you its Quality Score. Here’s what this looks like for a solar campaign in the UK.

This is really useful because it provides you with recommendations on what you can do to increase the Quality Score of your ads.

Quality Score is important for SEM campaigns, because of the higher Quality Score, the lower the cost-per-click and the lower the cost-per-lead. The chart below from 2013 shows the impact of Quality Score on an ad’s expected CPC.

In fact, with a Quality Score of 5, Google will neither provide a discount nor penalize your ads. However, with a Quality Score of 1, the ad would cost 64% more, but with a Quality Score of 10, the price is discounted by 80%.

An Example of Quality Score

To give you an example of how these three variables impact a user’s search, let’s go through a specific example. In the section below, we’ll show the differences between bad, good and great ads.

Step 1. User searches: “MA solar incentives”

If a user searches for “MA solar incentives”, an ad with a high relevance will have the EXACT keyword “MA solar incentives.”

Step 2. The user sees these four ads

You’ll see that none of the ads have the exact search term in the ad itself. The first ad has the closest match to what the user searched with “Massachusetts Solar Rebates”.

The second ad’s copy is really about “solar panels”, “solar cost” and “lease versus buy solar options”. The second ad likely doesn’t have a high ad relevance because it doesn’t contain the same keyword as what the user searched for.

Regardless, let’s assume we clicked on the second ad — the ad with the green arrow pointing to it.

Step 3. User clicks on this landing page:

This is what the user would see on a desktop screen if they did not scroll. There’s one main issue with this landing page related to the search.

The user is specifically searching for “MA Solar incentives” and the landing page says nothing about MA Solar incentives or solar incentives in general. The landing page content is much more targeted towards the affordability of solar and buying options. It’s not that this is a bad landing page, but simply that it’s less relevant to what the user is searching for. A great landing page will speak to exactly what the user is searching for.

This landing page has a few good parts. It’s very clear on what is being sold. There is a very clear call-to-action form. However, the page does lack a phone number to call, which is especially important for mobile searches.

The landing page experience for this ad is, at best, average, or perhaps below average.

Key’s to Remember

  1. Quality Score has a LARGE impact on cost-per-click and thus cost per lead, all else equal.
  2. If you’re having problems with search campaigns not working for whatever reason regardless of if it’s internally or externally managed, check Quality Score first.
  3. Google looks at the entire flow of the user to calculate Quality Score, so it’s important you look at the entire flow of the user.

Here are a few free resources for you to keep learning more